European conference focuses on nanotechnology as alternative to fossil fuels

European conference focuses on nanotechnology as alternative to fossil fuels

ScienceDaily points us to this news release from the European Science Foundation about the recent Nanotechnology for Sustainable Energy conference. Nanotech pathways to a sustainable energy economy are generating a great deal of interest in Europe. From “Europe rallies behind nanotechnology to wean world from fossil fuels“:

Nanotechnologies can be used to develop sustainable energy systems while reducing the harmful effects of fossil fuels as they are gradually phased out over the next century. This optimistic scenario is coming closer to reality as new technologies such as biomimetics and Dye Sensitised solar Cells (DSCs) emerge with great promise for capturing or storing solar energy, and nanocatalysis develops efficient catalysts for energy-saving industrial processes. Europe is ready to accelerate development of these technologies, as delegates heard at a recent conference…

The conference focused on solar rather than other sustainable energy sources such as wind, because that is where nanotechnology is most applicable and also because solar energy conversion holds the greatest promise as a long-term replacement of fossil fuels. Solar energy can be harvested directly to generate electricity or to yield fuels such as hydrogen for use in engines. Such fuels can also in turn be used indirectly to generate electricity in conventional power stations.…

The key point to emerge from the ESF conference, though, is that there will be growing choice and competition between emerging nanotechnology-based solar conversion technologies.…

One highlight of the ESF conference was a presentation by Angela Belcher, who played a major role in pioneering nanowires made from viruses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. Bizarre as it sounds, there is a type of virus that infects E.coli bacteria (a bacteriophage) capable of coating itself in electrically-conducting materials such as gold. This can be used to build compact high capacity batteries, with the added advantage that it can potentially assemble itself, exploiting the natural replicating ability of the virus. The key to the high capacity in small space lies in the microscopic size of the nanowires constructed by the viruses — this means that a greater surface area of charge-carrying capacity can be packed into a given volume.

The true test of enthusiasm will be whether the European Science Foundation and their partners follow the conference with expanded research programs to develop nanotech alternatives to fossil fuels.

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  1. SenatorMark4 October 16, 2008 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    It is beczause of reports like this that I first offered up the idea of the Hydrogen Rodeo. If there were a competition, quarterly, with multiple hydrogen-based events we would be making progress. As any old rodeo rider knows, when you have a jackpot rodeo, the winner takes it all. Just finding the right place, like…say…Texas World Speedway..then getting entries for the three events we could watch the evolution every few weeks. 1) a hydrogen powered motor race where the cars must seat four people. Loud I hope! 2) electrical generation from hydrogen…but it must fit in the back of a pickup; and 3) hydrogen generation from the back of a semi. Any takers at a $5,000 entry fee?

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