By Dr. Russell Chianelli, The University of Texas at El Paso, Materials Research and Technology Institute
We are all familiar with the recent difficulties experienced by the U.S. auto industry. In an interview in the Energy Quarterly section of the March issue of MRS Bulletin, GM’s Alan Taub talks with David S. Ginley and Arthur L. Robinson about the future of the auto company, and the significant role that advanced materials will play in a reinvigorated GM. Taub talks about the changing customer demand, especially the emerging market in China.
Part of the process in developing solutions to new market trends was to make the isolated GM research laboratories more aware of emerging consumer demands. This process involved co-operative research with universities, national laboratories and other organizations. Fundamental research was particularly emphasized in collaborations with universities. This process also involved globalization of research, with GM opening laboratories outside the United States.
Taub particularly emphasizes new methods that are available to materials scientists, such as computer simulation of materials design at the atomic and molecular levels. Novel materials for energy storage are also a focus. This approach is consistent with GM’s desire to make advances in vehicles that use renewable energy. Hydrogen storage materials, fuel cells and catalysts are high on the list of important materials areas. Biofuels are also discussed in detail. The interview is highly recommended for materials scientists who want to impact next generation of transportation.