As the 2006 State of the Union address unfolded last January, President George W. Bush rattled off a litany of initiatives in alternative energy research that he said could help break America’s “addiction to oil.” He might have accomplished much of the same thing just by telling everyone to take a look at the research being done at NC State.

From turning forest products and crop wastes into ethanol to harnessing clean and renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and nuclear power to developing technological innovations like smaller batteries and more reliable electrical transmission systems, NC State has been a force in energy-related research for years. “The University has always been strong in engineering and agriculture and forestry,” Vice Chancellor of Research and Graduate Studies John Gilligan says, “and these are the areas where the next breakthroughs in energy research will happen.”

Through his Advanced Energy Initiative, Bush proposed spending an extra $243 million this year alone on research that could help reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil by 75 percent over the next 20 years. Industry powerhouses like BP also are committing hundreds of millions of dollars to university research on clean and renewable energy sources that could benefit them in the future.

The shift in federal and corporate funds offers NC State a prime opportunity to bring its various energy-related research programs under one umbrella to attract more attention and support, Gilligan says. “Research on energy is very distinct. There’s not much crossover between something like biofuels and nuclear energy,” he says. “At the same time, we need to present a coordinated effort so people understand our ability to offer an array of solutions.” Proposals have been put together to create a center for energy sciences that would focus on new materials and technologies for producing, distributing, and storing energy. The proposals also incorporate outreach programs through the North Carolina Solar Center to help move the ideas into the marketplace.

This issue of RESULTS focuses on many of the research efforts that might be included in such a center of excellence.