Sunggyu Lee on the Future of Energy Technology

Sunggyu Lee on the Future of Energy Technology

Author: John Uhlrich

Professor Sunggyu Lee
is Director of the Sustainable Energy and Advanced Materials Laboratory in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio University, USA. He is also the Russ Ohio Research Scholar in Syngas Utilization and has served as consultant and technical advisor to a number of national and international companies in the fields of petrochemicals and energy. He has recently taken up the role of International Advisory Board Member for the new journal Energy Technology.

Professor Lee talks to John Uhlrich, for ChemViews magazine, about where energy technology is heading, the role of governments in its development, and his latest research.

What do you see as the future trends in energy technology?

First, the world will move toward adopting multiple solutions to its energy demand. These solutions will vary quite widely depending upon regional strengths, technoeconomic factors, technical innovations, resource utilization and availability, environmental regulations, and societal demands, to list a few.

Second, fossil fuels and associated technologies will still be an important driver on the global energy marketplace. The R&D efforts in the CO2 mitigation will be continuously active and new, efficient, and advanced technologies will be developed.

Third, many of the energy technologies of the previous century that were deemed economically unfavorable will have to be seriously re-evaluated based on the higher competitive fuel prices and further enhanced with modern technological tools that were unavailable at the time.

Fourth, great opportunities exist in the utilization of renewable energy sources and technological innovations in this field will be actively pursued and practiced. Sustainability will be an important factor for the energy and environmental policies.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for energy technology research in upcoming years?

Too many unsubstantiated ideas and efforts may distract the progress of genuine scientific developments and dilute the focal attention given to the more worthy efforts. Society needs to see many successful technologies fully develop to their commercial exploitation and come to fruition in a timely manner.

What do you see as the role of the new journal Energy Technology within the applied energy research community?

Energy Technology certainly provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for applied scientific and technological energy research, which is guided by an international advisory board of world-renowned energy researchers, and this is already an immense contribution to the energy research community. By using the advice and feedback from top-notch international experts through the peer-review system, the effectiveness and insightfulness of such a forum will attain the highest quality in the field.

Energy Technology will assist applied energy researchers in achieving their own goals and milestones by publishing meaningful technological data of the highest quality, and providing a valuable venue for discourse within the community.

What is unique about the journal Energy Technology?

Energy Technology is playing an important role within the energy research community by providing a platform for high-quality, applied research that is not far from being realized in industrial or domestic applications. The aspects of interdisciplinary design and process synthesis in energy research are currently underrepresented in other journal offerings, and I anticipate that Energy Technology will very quickly grow into one of the more attractive places to publish within the applied energy research community.

How do you see the relationship between fundamental and applied research as it relates to energy technology?

Inter-relation between fundamental and applied research is crucially important for developing efficient energy technology. Innovative energy technology cannot be established simply from conventional wisdom only. It requires an ingenious combination of fundamental and applied research results in order to overcome a number of fundamental and common barriers, as well as to unlock immense opportunities using the developed technology.

How much do you think that governmental policy and economics should play a role in energy research?

Governmental policy and economics play an important role. However, in my opinion, energy research should be driven primarily by the private sectors and the government should only play a supporting role as a policy maker and facilitator.

Please tell us a bit about how your career and research developed.

My research interest and involvement in the energy technology field began with my doctoral research work in coal gasification. Since my graduate studies, I have had various academic positions at four different state universities in the US, viz., University of Akron, Ohio, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, Missouri, and Ohio University, Athens, Ohio.

What is your research focused on?

For the past 35 years, my research interests and areas of expertise have evolved and expanded, based on both the societal demand and acquired experience, to the fields of methanol synthesis, dimethylether synthesis, synthesis of alternative transportation fuels, oil shale technology, coal cleaning technologies, waste-to-energy, biomass conversion, reactive utilization of carbon dioxide, and hydrogen technology.

What fascinates you most about your research?

Inspiration and fresh insight gained from working closely with my students, real-life application of lab experiences directly into classroom discussion and learning, and always juggling new research ideas and pondering over solutions in my mind even during idle time.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

Doing maintenance and repairs on my old cars, antiquing with my wife, following Cleveland (Ohio) sports teams, and long-distance driving through Midwest USA.

Thank you for the interview.

Sunggyu Lee, Ohio University, USASunggyu “KB” Lee earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering from Seoul National University, Korea. He received his Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, in 1980 and joined the University of Akron, Ohio, USA, as Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering shortly after. He was promoted to full professor there in 1988. Lee spent several years at each of the University of Missouri, and Missouri University of Science and Technology, both USA. Since 2010, he has been the Russ Ohio Research Scholar in Syngas Utilization and Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, USA.

His areas of research include alternative fuels and renewable energy, advanced and functional materials, as well as chemical reaction and process engineering. He has 33 US patents and over 80 international patents in addition to more than 500 archival publications that include over 150 peer reviewed articles. He is the author of nine books in the fields of energy and green chemistry. He is the Editor of Encyclopedia of Chemical Processing and a member of the International Advisory Board of Energy Technology.

Selected Awards

  • Ohio Research Scholar, 2010
  • Fellow, American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), 2009
  • Outstanding Teacher Award, Missouri University of Science and Technology, 2007
  • Member, National Academy of Engineering of Korea, 1999
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, College of Engineering, Seoul National University, 1994

Selected Publications


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