Professor Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus addresses participants of The Combustion Institute Members’ Meeting during the 36th International Symposium on Combustion in Seoul, Korea on 1 August 2016.

The combustion of natural resources has played a fundamental role in the advancement of human civilization. Since the earliest times of recorded history, fire and flames have been used to build, heat, feed, and illuminate the world’s societies. Ancient cultures used the chemical reactions of combustion to form the materials for great buildings and homes. The combustion of vegetable oils created the first carbon-based inks for writing and communications. In the modern era of the development of electric vehicles, solar cells, and wind turbines, it is dangerous to assume the combustion age has ended when that research continues to form the foundation for scientific research and technology development.

In the perspective paper, Clean combustion: Chemistry and diagnostics for a systems approach in transportation and energy conversion, Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus discusses some specific developments in the field of combustion. As a multidisciplinary field that connects chemistry, fluid dynamics, metrology, and high-performance computing with a variety of practical applications in energy, transportation, and industrial production, combustion science is well positioned to assist the development of new technologies for sustainable future energy systems.

Combustion is not synonymous with ground transportation, and is vital to a multitude of human endeavors. It is common knowledge that low-tech combustion causes dangerous emissions and associated health hazards. Advanced combustion processes beyond power generation and transportation, however, are required in the manufacturing of glass, ceramics, steel, concrete and other materials for the continued benefits of societies around the world. The perspective paper discusses how combustion advancements must be wisely pursued to lower emissions and develop better aftertreatments while researchers simultaneously develop sustainable energy systems. Combustion research will contribute to integrating and coupling such different technologies and processes.

Future energy systems in many parts of the world are being developed toward sustainability that will continue to integrate fluctuating energy sources such as solar and wind technologies. Cleaner combustion processes will be an important component in such energy systems in the foreseeable future.

Combustion science is well positioned to make current energy processes cleaner, as discussed in the perspective paper. The international combustion science community has developed knowledge and tools that are immensely useful for future integration of multiple energy sources. As solar and wind energy continues to fluctuate, energy storage and chemical processes as energy carriers are needed, and will be provided by the combustion community, to ensure sustainable energy systems.

The beneficiaries of clean combustion science discussed in the perspective paper include educators, policy makers, and representatives of scientific and industrial communities. The professionals who plan and develop clean energy processes, sustainable fuel manufacturing, sustainable transportation, and efficient heat and energy use in industrial production will benefit from the future of clean combustion practices. As the world’s energy communities continue to make scientific advancements, it is important they view the immense role of energy and associated transformative processes not in a compartmentalized fashion, but with a fully integrative view.

To learn more, The Combustion Institute encourages readers to download the full perspective paper, Clean combustion: Chemistry and diagnostics for a systems approach in transportation and energy conversion. Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus is a professor of physical chemistry at the Universität Bielefeld, Germany, and a leading researcher in the field of combustion chemistry and laser analysis of reacting systems. Professor Kohse-Höinghaus is also a former President of The Combustion Institute (2012-2016).