The Energy sector worldwide is in a transition stage from fossil-based sources to renewable ones in response to the need for clean, low-cost and reliable energy supply. Considering that the world energy consumption will increase by 53 percent between 2008 and 2035 and the environmental concerns regarding the use of fossil fuels, renewables are currently the fastest-growing source of world energy, with consumption increasing by 2.8% per year, offering a green energy alternative to fossil fuels.
The challenges in the international energy sector are basically threefold: Energy Independence, i.e., moving away from the dependence on oil imports (in the E.U., almost 50% of the energy requirements were fulfilled by oil imports in 2006); Environmental Sustainability, i.e., reduction in the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, whose primary source is fossil fuel; Economic Opportunity, i.e., reduction in the high cost of imported energy by creating the next-generation of clean energy technologies. Meeting the challenges will require new technologies for producing, storing and using energy with performance levels far beyond what is possible now; such technologies will spring from scientific breakthroughs in new materials and chemical processes that govern the transfer of energy between light, electricity and chemical fuels.
The realization of the new energy landscape will, therefore, be based on the development of new/improved energy conversion technologies and adoption of new energy carriers, as well as on energy storage and management concepts. Research activities in the field of Energy aim at designing and developing technologies and processes in the context of renewable sources. At FORTH, taking also into account the national needs, the adopted approach involves enabling (nano)materials and their optimal incorporation in units and systems. Current projects in the field of energy materials and technologies with funding from national and EU sources include the development of fuel cell systems for earth transportation and space applications, efficient use of resources in energy converting applications, innovative materials for solar cell design and demonstration, fractionation of lignocellulosic biomass for hydrogen and methane production, development of nanostructured materials for Li-ion batteries. In addition, FORTH has been providing technology awareness reports concerning the energy sector to the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises for the last four years. Moreover, recently INNOVATION.EL and HELLAS, networks of laboratories based largely at FORTH (IESL, ICE-HT), have been included in the National Roadmap for Research Infrastructures.,,
Three axes are especially important, if not necessary, for the achievement of real leaps and simple steps towards achieving the safe and sustainable energy future: new advanced materials allowing the complete control of the chemical changes, advanced instrumentation for the characterization of the structure and dynamics in the nanoscale and over extended time scales, and advanced theory and computer simulations for the understanding of the behavior and for the knowledge-based design of processes and devices.
The Energy Workpackage is organized in a way that it lends itself to opportunities for both supporting early stage researchers already employed by FORTH as well as for training and education of young scientists at different levels from design to implementation. The approach, that is followed, offers strong prospects for future exploitation of the devices to be produced. Representative research activities to be partially supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in this Workpackage include:
- Fuel and photoelectrochemical cells: for improvement of efficiency and durability through novel electrolytes and for efficient production of hydrogen from organic wastes.
- Li-ion batteries and supercapacitors. Energy storage devices, such as Li-ion batteries (including polymer electrolyte batteries) and supercapacitors, will play a key role in future energy networks relying on renewables and also for energy storage in electric vehicles.
- Incorporation of nanomaterials in energy intensive processes: membrane separation, desalination; and production of biofuels using biological and thermochemical methods.
- Computer-aided simulation of hybrid processes for the reduction of energy load in water treatment processes. This activity is ideal for knowledge-based design, software development and attraction of young, talented scientists for coding and exploitation.
- Materials/thin films to be utilized in smart windows (thermochromics, eectrochromics, self-cleaning) for energy efficient buildings
- Materials for photovoltaic systems and solar inverters: organic photovoltaics; third generation photovoltaics based on micro/nanoelectronic devices based on III-V semiconductors, SiC and 4G nanowire-based materials; metamaterials
- Carbon-based materials (graphene, carbon nanotubes) and other 2D structures for thermoelectric energy harvesting for zero consumption electronics
 International Energy Outlook 2011, U.S. Energy Information Administration, DOE/EIA-0484(2011), September 2011, http://220.127.116.11/forecasts/ieo/pdf/0484(2011).pdf
 New Science for a Secure and Sustainable Energy Future, Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC) Report, 12/2008, http://science.energy.gov/~/media/bes/pdf/reports/files/nsssef_rpt.pdf
 http://www.gsrt.gr/News/Files/New987/road-map-web_version_final.pdf, pages 58 and 59
 A relevant project on Research Infrastructures (NFFA) with involvement of FORTH (IESL) is funded by the EU Horizon-2020 Research Infrastructures programme.
 A relevant project on Research Infrastructures (LASERLAB Europe) with involvement of FORTH (IESL) is funded by the EU Horizon-2020 Research Infrastructures programme.