Luc Henrard / Professor

University of Namur / Physics

The translation of this testimony was generated automatically by a translation program. Thanks for your understanding.

In a typical experiment, material scientists study the response of a system in controlled (simplified) conditions. Their know that, intuitively, a human being thinks that a small change of the stimulus will give a very predictable, small change of the systems. But scientists learned that this is no more true for complex systems out of equilibrium.
Think about the white rooms to growth silicon for semi-conductor devices. One ‘wrong’ atom (an impurity) on 10 billions will spoil your device. Everything should be under control. It takes 50 years and millions of ‘test’ experiments to reach that level of control. We are putting our planet (a complex system) out of equilibrium very fast (CO2 concentration has never changed so fast). And we have only one try.
Material sciences already gave many responses (photovolaic cells, efficient batteries, less demanding screen, energy conversion devices,…). They will probably give more solutions in the future, including materials to replace elements that are difficult to access (because of geological, geopolitical and human right concerns). But technology will be only a small part of the solution. The first reason is that nobody can tell what technologies will be ‘on the market’ in 20 years. Indeed, 20 years ago, nobody could have told about the importance of smartphone or database in our today live.
Personally, I have chosen 15 years ago to live at a short distance from my workplace to avoid the daily use of a car. My first worry at that time was to thermally insulate my house. I preferably chose train for medium range private and professional travels and the large part of the food of my family is local and organic.
Such individual actions are promoted by many speeches but not much by the ‘systems’, even if there has been some shy tries in the last years. The most worrisome is, for me, that new laws, the planning of new infrastructures or territory development only consider the true issues (climate change, air pollution, food quality, …) as adjustment variable after the core of the project is decided. It should be the first priority

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