Nanotechnology and the hydrogen economy

We keep hearing about the goal of a hydrogen economy, but when you dig into the idea there are loads of problems. Nanotechnology to the rescue! Michael Berger of Nanowerk has prepared a quick layperson’s overview of the issues and prospective nanotech solutions. Excerpts:

And here is the dirty little secret: while politicians and the energy industry talk about the clean future of the hydrogen economy, the DOE’s Hydrogen Energy Roadmap foresees up to 90% of hydrogen production coming from fossil fuels – coal, gas, oil – the rest mostly from nuclear power plants (why do you think the oil companies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into hydrogen technology?). In other words: although hydrogen fuel cell cars themselves may emit nothing but water and heat, the process of powering the fuel cells with hydrocarbons will continue the economy’s dependence on fossil fuels and leave behind carbon dioxide (sequestered or not), the primary cause of global warming…

Nanotechnology’s major contribution to the clean production of hydrogen lies in its application to solar cells and the catalysts used in water electrolysis. The holy grail here would be a highly efficient device that you fill with water, put in the sun, and get hydrogen without using any outside source of energy.

For a discussion of more advanced nanotech energy scenarios, join us at the Productive Nanosystems Conference. Foresight donors will shortly be receiving an email with a discount code worth $200 on registration. If you donate now — at least $25 for students or $50 for others — we can send you the code too! —Christine

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