Nanotechnology vs. climate change

Engineering News tells of a study by Frost & Sullivan on how nanotechnology can make a difference in addressing the issue of climate change:

The report looked at five areas where nanotechnology could be helpful, which included the areas of fuel additives, solar cells, the hydrogen economy, batteries and supercapacitors, and insulation.

In terms of fuel additives, nanoparticle additives could increase the fuel efficiency of diesel engines by about 5%, which would result in a maximum of as much as three-million metric tons a year of CO2 in the UK.

But the study cautioned that the benefits to the UK diesel-powered fleet had to be tempered by concerns about the health impact of free nanoparticles in diesel exhaust gases.

Solar cells were also a promising area since nanotechnology could help decrease the cost of production of solar cells, enabling more cells to be used.

“If a distributed solar generation grid met 1% of our electricity demand, approximately 1,5-million tons a year of CO2 could be saved,” the study said. The major impediment was incorporating nanotechnology into the solar cell and programmes had to be developed for getting fundamental research out of the laboratory and into the commercial arena.

While deployment of a hydrogen economy was some 40 years into the future, nanotechnology was expected play an important role in terms of hydrogen storage for vehicles, for improving the efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells, and for developing a method to produce hydrogen.

Electric cars would also benefit from nanotechnology by helping advance the battery technology used in these zero-emission vehicles.

Nanotechnology could provide a remedy for the charge time problem by allowing electric vehicles to be recharged faster.

Nanotechnology could help improve insulation for solid-walled buildings, Frost & Sullivan noted, adding that if an effective nanotech insulation could be found, CO2 emissions could be reduced as much as three-million tons a year.

Beyond these options, we have the possibility of much cleaner manufacturing via productive nanosystems. I spent today nailing down the program for the conference this fall launching the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems. Don’t miss it! —Christine

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