Challenges come in all sizes. Arun Majumdar embraces one that is larger than most. He wants to change the way the world generates, stores and uses energy.
Majumdar is the director of Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Congress created the agency in 2007 to invest in projects aimed at developing new energy technologies and reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
The agency awarded its first contract in 2009 after receiving $400 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As of last summer, the agency had invested in 121 projects ranging from $400,000 to $9 million.
The agency goal is to “enhance the economic and energy security of the United States.” Or, as Majumdar likes to say, he wants to create a “Sputnik moment” for the Obama Administration.
Majumdar will be a keynote speaker for the 2012 Public and Land Grant University Conference on Energy Challenges: The Next 50 Years. The conference will run from April 29-May 1 at the Blackwell Inn at The Ohio State University. Majumdar is scheduled to speak at 8:45 a.m. on Tuesday, May 1.
Born in Calcutta and educated in Mumbai, the former Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of California, Berkeley, has been at the helm of ARPA-E since it was created.
The agency harvests the finest ideas of scientific America looking for revolutionary ways to produce energy. The work of his agency can take a minimum of four years per project and lead to many dead ends before the investments of effort bear fruit.
Majumdar understands the challenges it takes to help create a world powered by sustainable energy.
“When oil prices go up and gas prices go up, we hit the panic button, and when oil prices go down we hit the snooze button,” Majumdar says. “That really is not a long-term, sustainable way to run any nation.”