Weary of high utility bills and gas pump sticker shock? You'll be
glad to hear that nanotechnology is being used in several applications
to improve the
efficiency of energy generation or develop new methods to generate
The Application of Nanotechnology to Energy Production
Here are some interesting ways that are being explored using
nanotechnology to produce
more efficient and cost-effective energy:
Generating steam from sunlight. Researchers have
demonstrated that sunlight, concentrated on nanoparticles, can produce
steam with high energy efficiency. The "solar
steam device" is intended to be used in areas of developing
countries without electricity for applications such as purifying water
or disinfecting dental instruments. Another research group is developing
nanoparticles intended to use
sunlight to generate steam
for use in running powerplants.
Producing high efficiency light bulbs. A
matrix is used in one style of high efficiency light bulbs. The new bulbs
have the advantage of being shatterproof and twice the efficiency of
compact fluorescence light bulbs. Other researchers developing high
efficiency LED's using arrays of nano-sized structures called
plasmonic cavities. Another idea under
development is to update
incandescent light bulbs by surrounding the conventional filament
with crystalline material that converts some of the waste infrared
radiation into visible light.
Increasing the electricity generated by windmills. An epoxy containing carbon nanotubes
is being used to make
and lower weight blades are made possible by the use of nanotube-filled epoxy.
The resulting longer blades increase the amount of electricity generated
by each windmill.
Generating electricity from waste heat. Researchers have
used sheets of nanotubes to build thermocells that generate electricity when
the sides of the cell are at different temperatures. These
could be wrapped around hot pipes, such as the exhaust pipe of
your car, to generate electricity from heat that is usually wasted.
Storing hydrogen for fuel cell powered cars.
Researchers have prepared
graphene layers to increase the binding energy of hydrogen to the
graphene surface in a fuel tank, resulting in a higher amount of
hydrogen storage and therefore a lighter weight fuel tank. Other
researchers have demonstrated that
nanoparticles can effectively store hydrogen.
Clothing that generates electricity. Researchers
have developed piezoelectric
nanofibers that are flexible enough to be woven into clothing. The
turn normal motion into electricity to power your cell phone and other
mobile electronic devices.
Reducing friction to reduce the energy consumption.
Researchers have developed lubricants using inorganic
buckyballs that significantly reduced friction.
Reducing power loss in electric transmission wires. Researchers at
Rice University are developing wires containing carbon nanotubes that would have significantly lower resistance than the wires currently used in the electric transmission grid. Richard Smalley envisioned the use of nanotechnology to radically change the electricity distribution grid. Smalley’s concept these upgraded transmission wires, which could transmit electricity thousands of miles with insignificant power losses, with local electricity storage capacity in the form of batteries in each building that could store power for 24 hours use.
Reducing the cost of solar cells. Companies have developed nanotech solar cells that can be
manufactured at significantly lower cost than conventional solar cells. Check out our
Nanotechnology in Solar Cells
page for the details.
Improving the performance of batteries. Companies are currently developing batteries using nanomaterials.
One such battery will be as good as new after sitting on the shelf for decades.
Another battery can be recharged significantly faster than conventional
batteries. Check out our
Nanotechnology in Batteries
page for details.
Improving the efficiency and reducing the cost of fuel cells.
Nanotechnology is being used to reduce the cost of catalysts used in fuel cells.
These catalysts produce hydrogen ions from fuel such as
methanol. Nanotechnology is also being used to improve the efficiency of
membranes used in fuel cells to separate hydrogen ions from other gases,
such as oxygen. Check out our
Nanotechnology in Fuel Cells page
for the details.
Making the production of fuels from raw materials more
efficient. Nanotechnology can address the shortage of fossil fuels, such as diesel and
gasoline, by making the production of fuels from low grade raw materials economical.
Nanotechnology can also be used to increase the mileage of engines and
make the production of fuels from normal raw materials more efficient.
Check our Nanotechnology in Fuels page for details.
Earl Boysen of Hawk's Perch Technical Writing, LLC and
UnderstandingNano.com. You can find him on