Masdar Institute organizes seminar on global sustainability megatrends and future technologies

Addressed by Dr. Thomas Mestl, Project Manager at Det Norske Veritas’ (DNV) Research and Innovation Unit, the workshop at the Masdar Institute’s futuristic Knowledge Centre was attended by more than 20 members of the faculty, students and post-doctoral researchers. The event was part of Masdar Institute’s initiative to host international thought-leaders and opinion-makers in advanced energy and clean future technology to motivate today’s students and adequately prepare them to be able to face tomorrow’s challenges.

The ‘Technology Outlook 2020’ report by Elisabeth Harstad, Managing Director of DNV’s RI Unit, aims to exchange views and stimulate discussions about global sustainability megatrends and possible future technologies towards 2020 that could have significant impact in the energy and maritime sectors.

Dr Joe Cecchi, Provost, Masdar Institute, said, “Masdar Institute frequently hosts renowned thinkers and top corporate leaders to share their expertise with today’s graduates. Dr. Thomas Mestl’s experience in the research field makes him one of the distinctive experts who could effectively illustrate the role of research and its relevance to various industries. The seminar on the ‘Technology Outlook 2020’ report offered the participants fresh perspectives on what future holds for the humanity if technology continued at the rate of today’s rapid advancement. We are confident the students will immensely benefit from the predictions in the report and will dovetail their research suitably to meet the requirements resulting from the growth in various technologies.”

Dr. Thomas Mestl has been working with the DNV Research and Innovation for almost 15 years, mainly in the area of information and computer science. He has been involved in the preparation of various Technology Outlooks since 1999, and was the project leader for Technology Outlook 2020 as well as the previous one. Dr. Mestl has a Ph.D. in Mathematics and a degree in Precision Engineering.

Dr. Mestl said, “DNV believes that seven global megatrends will affect technology developments towards 2020. These trends include out of balance populations that is set touch 7.5 billion, a global economy that continues to move away from dollars and euros to Asian currencies, old structures of governance that struggle with new challenges, predictions that Moore’s law may still be valid beyond 2020 in information technology, energy industry that may see a decade of transition towards low-carbon, natural resources that are under increasing stress, and climate change.”

According to Moore’s law, the price of computing power keeps falling approximately 50% every 18 months.

The trend descriptions are based on DNV’s interpretation of a wide variety of material from sources outside DNV. The report foresees that the seven megatrends have an enormous potential for impacting on the development and uptake of new technologies.

Dr. Mestl added that technological evolution is more likely than technological revolution, but technology may be used in new areas like nanotechnology that will be important for developing renewable energy. Information and Communication Technology is set to permeate all technology, he added.

The Technology Outlook 2020 report predicts that increasingly more advanced subsea oil and gas production systems will be used for separation and boosting, and drilling, while intervention technology will diversify, apply smarter monitoring and increase efficiency. It has also forecast that unconventional oil and gas, mainly dominated by shale gas, will form a sizeable ratio of the energy mix, while future refineries may face stricter emission requirements, and have to be far more ‘intelligent’ then they are today.

Among the renewable sources of energy, the report predicts that while the size of onshore turbines will remain in the 3MW range, offshore turbines will increase to 10MW. Onshore turbines will probably be tailored for each specific location/terrain, while offshore turbines will be installed further from shore, requiring new solutions with respect to access and maintenance. The report also states that with the arrival of cross national super grids, offshore transmission grids will bring wind energy to onshore, while smart grids and managing variable output due to integration of renewables will all be part of the solutions for tomorrow’s needs.

According to the Technology Outlook 2020, the development of thin-film photovoltaics (TFPV) will bring solar power generation costs down to $0.2/W by 2020, which will drive solar roof installation from 10 million in 2009 to 100 million rooftops by 2020. Also, crystalline PV, currently enjoying 80-90% market share, will increase its efficiency to an estimated 32%, while passive solar building design can decrease energy costs for heating, cooling, or lighting by 20-50%.

Concluding the presentation, Dr. Mestl said that the future will witness the application of more environmentally friendly fuels such as LNG and biofuels to some degree. While N-energy may initially struggle to get wider public acceptance, hybrid electric ship, which is described as ‘the Prius of the Seas’, may become a reality in commercial shipping by 2020.

DNV Research and Innovation is the strategic research and innovation arm of DNV, focusing on new knowledge and services with a time horizon of about five years. The unit executes research and innovation within six strategic research themes – energy, maritime transportation, ICT, bio risk, arctic and multifunctional materials and surfaces.

DNV (Det Norske Veritas) is an independent foundation established in 1864 with the purpose of safeguarding life, property, and the environment in Norway to inspect and evaluate the technical condition of Norwegian merchant vessels.

Established as an on-going collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, Masdar Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change.

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