In 1837, separated by an ocean, Charles Wheatstone and Samuel Morse both invented electrical telegraphs. On February 14, 1876, Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell separately filed for a U.S. patent on the telephone. In 1902, German meteorologist Richard Assmann and French scientist Léon Teisserenc de Bort independently discovered the stratosphere.

All of these are notable examples of a phenomenon known as multiple discovery—which occurs when a scientific advancement or development is made independently, but nearly simultaneously, by different scientists or laboratories. This has occurred throughout history, as distance hindered collaboration or made scientists in the same field unaware of each other’s work.

But today, with near-instant communication uniting Wheatstones and Morses around the world, collaboration on research and development can now reach across cultures, languages, and countries, sparking scientific discovery.

And that becomes more important as we work to tackle climate change.

A good example of this kind of close collaboration came with the stroke of a pen on June 6, 2013, when the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE)’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the Brazilian Coal Association (BCA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Florianópolis, Brazil. By signing the MOU, both parties agree to work together over the next five years to assess the potential of CCS in fossil fuel–based systems, as well as the development of clean coal technologies applicable to Brazilian coals. The memorandum also covers the development of other technologies to reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuel production and use.

The new MOU follows on a 2007 agreement signed by NETL and BCA, which resulted in valuable scientific exchanges and several joint publications. This success prompted BCA to approach NETL to continue the collaboration and request a new agreement.

By forming a bridge that makes trans-continental collaboration possible, the two agencies can work more efficiently to advance the technical, environment, and cost performance of fossil energy technologies. Multiple discovery becomes mutual discovery, and the world benefits.

Source: National Energy Technology Laboratory