Computation, Energy and the Planet


These scenarios present four competing visions of the year 2041. Each provides a different account of how emerging technologies will help meet ever-increasing demand for computation and the energy it requires.

Our scenarios will seem realistic to some and implausible to others. They may be controversial. They are designed to provoke future-focused thinking, conversation and strategy development.

Developed with input from Imperial’s world-leading academic experts, we hope they will prompt the question, ‘What would it mean for us if this came true’?

Dive in and explore some possible ways that technological innovation could drive forward societal and economic change.

Skip forward for some expert deep dives below.

An Introduction from Julia Zanghieri – Associate Director, Engagement Services




Traditional energy – Classical computation
Energy management by small-scale optimisation



New energy –
Classical computation

Energy management by environment optimisation



Traditional energy – New computation
Energy management through grid optimisation



New energy –
New computation
Energy management by bottomless generation


The opportunities of AI-assisted molecular chemistry: Professor Claire Adjiman

Professor Claire Adjiman introduces us to molecule discovery using artificial iIntelligence (AI) a process to computationally and quickly filter through millions of molecular combinations. These discoveries may revolutionise the development and manufacturing of chemicals behind the next generation of pharmaceuticals and materials.

The future of energy distribution: Dr Oytun Babacan

From smart grids and smaller, interconnected supply chains through to automated changes to factory production, manufacturing and data management, discover how machine learning applications for energy distribution, aligned with user behaviour, can ensure our consumption demands are satiated without further compromises to the environment.

The freedom of wireless energy transmission: Professor Bruno Clerckx

Professor Bruno Clerckx reveals his work to bring ubiquitous ethereal computing closer to reality through Wireless Power Transfer. Today, wireless data transfer at short distances is common. Complementary energy transmission will be enable a new generation of consumer and commercial applications.

Smart grids and energy management: Dr Jeff Hardy

Dr Jeff Hardy, from Imperial’s Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, explains how smart grids and developing technology for energy production is set to revolutionise the capacity for individuals and major generators to deliver on-demand energy that is better for the planet.

The power of quantum: Professor Myungshik Kim

Imperial’s Professor Myungshik Kim explains how quantum computing can completely disrupt our way of working – with fundamental paradigm shifts in our understanding of classical computation and programming. Find out how Imperial’s leading researchers and graduates are developing the training and technology for the quantum revolution.

Making nuclear fusion a reality: Dr Robert Kingham

In this video Dr Robert Kingham takes us inside nuclear fusion; its nature, the fuel that feeds it and its potential to solve the increasing global hunger for zero carbon energy. In the future this takes us from energy poverty to energy abundance.

The science and application of memristors: Dr Nilhoufar Raeis-Hosseini

New materials and components are set to herald a new dawn of computing. True brain-computer interfaces can be made possible by memristors, which replicate the efficiency of memory-recollection of the brain with the reliability of a computer.

How symbolic AI differs from machine learning: Professor Alessandra Russo

Professor Alessandra Russo explains the features of symbolic AI over data-trained machine learning, which is another part of our ability to have AI facilities in very small, low-power devices that exist at the network edge or stand alone in the future.


Interested for more? Want to find out how those long-term visions might pan out in the short and medium term? We spoke with two of our experts for more in-depth exploration…

Professor Mimi Hii, Director of the Centre for Rapid Online Analysis of Reactions (ROAR), is at the forefront of deploying emerging and breakthrough technology for the benefit of chemistry, with a view to its application to design Industry 4.0. As computing power increases and the cost of technology decreases at scale, utilising this technology across an entire production or manufacturing chain. Further advances in materials, made possible through more sustainable use of resources and optimisation throughout the process, will lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of improvements.

Cheap, abundant, reliable and secure energy is a pipedream for many, and the political landscape of 2021-2022 suggests that it’ll remain so through to 2041. However, with the right technological interventions and effective policy decisions, not only can the current scenarios be proved short-sighted, but the future can be more prosperous for the planet and people’s pockets. Hear from energy expert Dr Jeff Hardy, from the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, on ways in which governments and industry can act now to improve infrastructure, architecture, the economic model and the technological possibilities for energy in the future. 


Extend Robotics: Human-robot interface technology at distance and scale

Helping power the future of human-managed automation, Extend Robotics has developed immersive technology to ensure that humans can maintain control over high-precision tasks carried out by robots at scale and distance.

Monolith AI: Artificial intelligence for manufacturing and industry

Find out about applications of AI to improve design and production across a range of industries, such as automative, industrial and heavy manufacturing from Imperial College London-founded startup Monolith AI.

Sitigrid: Smart energy networks for peer-to-peer buying and suppling

Imperial College London-founded startup Sitigrid leverages its peer-to-peer trading technology to back local micro-energy generators to benefit from the decentralisation and digitalisation of decarbonised energy markets.


Download our short ebook which explores in greater depth each scenario and its creation

Designed to help you better understand how emerging technologies will combine, and to answer the question ‘How will we support the increasing demand for computation, and provide enough energy for it, in twenty years’ time?’