This Issue of Materials Today sees a slight shift in emphasis from materials science to applications technology - specifically in the renewable energy area. With the Kyoto Protocol requiring developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by around 5% below their 1990s levels at the latest by 2012 renewable energy technologies will inevitably play an important part. And materials science will be a key enabler for almost all the commercially viable technologies.

Most technologies for renewable energy generation are well established - for instance the fuel cell is over 100 years old - however. the challenge now is to making them cost effective for large scale use. Materials science has a major role to play in this - as described by several articles in this issue. In his feature on Fuel Cell Materials George Marsh looks at the latest materials developments in all areas of fuel cell technology from membranes, electrolytes and catalysts to bi-polar plates and storage. The hydrogen
economy will be a key one in the 21st century, he says, and materials science developments such as polymers for use in proton exchange membrane fuel cells, a thin planar SOFC electrolyte which can reduce both production cost and operating temperature of the cell, and even the possible development of carbon nanotubes as hydrogen storage media, will help the technology become commercial reality. The
renewable energy theme is also taken up by Jean-Franscois Nierengarten and colleagues who report that organic semiconductors may offer greater promise in photovoltaic devices than previously explored conjugated polymers.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(01)80100-0