3/5/2013 12:33:50 PM
Forbes: Nanotechnology: Expanding Clean Energy and Easing Fuel Shortages
Science and technology are at the heart of expanding the universe of clean energy options and increasing the efficiency of transmission and generation. One word says it all: Nanotechnology, which is a fancy process that could positively affect both industry and the environment.
The science is already being commercialized and most notably in the area of green energy technologies. Its most far-reaching implications are still unknown but the tools have the potential to ease fuel shortages and ecological threats that are now in such sharp focus. While some promises have fallen flat, the push to advance nanotechnology remains strong.
Nanotechnology is an evolutionary science — not something that has just magically appeared in recent years. About 50 to 100 years ago, devices were assembled at the macro level but through advancements in technology, they have been substantially reduced in size to the “nano-level” where components can be more effectively manipulated. Scientists can thus create new building blocks that produce materials with the exact properties they desire, which are smaller, stronger and lighter than the current technologies.
According to Pradeep Haldar, vice president of clean energy programs at the College of Nanoscale Science at the University of Albany in New York State, nanotechnology can be viewed along two lines: evolutionary science and revolutionary science.
The former already exists but scientists are trying to understand it better and to enhance performance. The latter is at least a decade away. The field of nanotechnology is about building devices from the ground up and one atom at a time — something that could create a monumental impact on mankind and on the energy world in particular.
“At some point, both of these arrows will converge,” says Haldar, who spoke earlier with this reporter. “I would not say this is a lot of hype. I would say there are a lot of ifs and buts.”
Carbon nanotubes, for example, are the most conductive materials known and could be used to modernize the transmission system to save a lot of power. However, mass-producing those nanotubes for such purposes is still problematic. Improvements, though, are forthcoming.