‘Research, development, and demonstration’ cycle applies to any project that involves an element of novelty (and hence, uncertainty). It is required where no ground has to be broken. However, currently this applies especially to the future energy needs of a green world. The main thrust is on ensuring the availability of energy resources for the foreseeable future to the viability of comfortable life on this planet. This also means preservation of the echo system as it is today, if not as it was yesterday. Industrialization has already damaged the environment a lot, giving rise to global warming with all its serious consequences.
This cycle consists essentially of three parts: Research an idea; develop an application; and demonstrate its viability. Some wise people add the fourth natural stage- deployment, that others consider obvious.·Research and Development-Research and Development (R&D) are somewhat intertwined activities.
Theoretical research, investigation, and analysis indicates possibilities. This part should draw on the sum total of human knowledge to achieve the best output. As an example, take the case of storage of energy. Considering various options in power-to-energy conversion, electrolysis of water for generation of hydrogen has always seemed very attractive. However, electrolysis of pure water is very slow. Over the decades various schemes have been developed to speed up electrolysis at the low voltage of a silicon solar junction. Catalysts have also been used which were developed from very costly metals like nickel and cadmium. But efforts continued and only recently scientists have discovered ways of producing effective catalysts using nano particles of iron and zinc which are much cheaper. This development has obviously resulted from use of diverse branches of knowledge, old and new, and including mathematics and simulations.
These catalysts are still at the laboratory level, and success of pilot projects have not yet been announced. Further, R &D is an uncertain unpredictable activity, quite like discovery of ‘India’ by Columbus. You set out to do one thing, almost lose hope, and by chance discover another thing one many times more useful.
Most R&D in the renewable energy area is geared towards finding innovative solutions to technological hurdles based on scientific and engineering principals and brainstorming, so as to develop novel energy resources which are green, cheap, abundant, and reliable. Short and near-term objective is to move ideas and lab models to pilot scale. Long-term aim would additionally involve developing new knowledge in the relevant field and developing applications.
·Demonstration and Deployment
Demonstration is proving the economic and practical viability of a certain idea. A process may be very sophisticated and may utilize cutting edge technology, but it may not be economically feasible. It will fail. Similarly, a product or process that is not bought by the consumer will not be sustainable in a competitive commercial environment. The purpose of demonstration is to secure funding and the purpose of deployment is to actually launch it into widespread operation. This activity is rather non-technical, but nevertheless essential. Many a brilliant idea has remained dormant until it was brought to a commercially acceptable form. Effective marketing is a very important part of this activity.