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Nanotechnology Applications In The Energy Sector

written by: Rafael • edited by: RC Davison • updated: 11/26/2008

New nanotechnology applications are underway in the energy sector. Better energy production, storage, transmission and usage are possible with nanotechnology.

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    Nanotechnology refers to any technology that includes components that are smaller than 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. A single virus measures approximately 100 nanometers. Science and engineering are working to develop new nanomaterials in the energy sector that may improve energy efficiency, storage, conversion, consumption, and better renewable energy sources

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    Currently, the large number of used batteries and accumulators represent an environmental problem. Nanomaterials could help develop batteries with higher energy capacities or rechargeable batteries and accumulators, which will help with the disposal issue of batteries. For example, Researchers at Stanford University have found a way to use silicon-based nanowires to increase significantly the capacity of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that currently power-up electronic devices such as laptops, video cameras, cell phones, and many others. In fact, the new technology, known as Li-ion, can increase 10 times the capacity of traditional Lithium batteries. Also, nanotechnology can reduce the possibility of batteries catching fire by providing less flammable electrode materials.

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    Environmentally Friendly Energy Systems

    Nanomaterials like nanotubes, zeolites or alanates are under investigation to develop more friendly energy systems. Hydrogen fuel cells with the catalyst consisting of carbon supported metal particles with diameters of 1-5 nm will improve hydrogen storage for better hydrogen energy cells. Also, nanotechnology can help reduce of combustion engine pollution by the use of new nanoporous filters, which will remove pollutants more efficiently.

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    Reduction of Energy Consumption

    Reduction of energy consumption is an active area in nanotechnology. Energy reduction using nanotechnology targets the development of more efficient lighting, better combustion systems, and or use of lighter and stronger materials in the transportation sector. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or quantum caged atoms (QCAs) are interesting applications for energy consumption reduction.

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    Better Efficiency for Energy Production

    Commercially available solar cells are of very low efficiency. Nanotechnology could help increase the efficiency of light conversion. For example, a research group in China Has found two new dyes that improve significantly the optical absorption coefficient of the stained nanostructured electrodes, incread thus the efficiency of energy conversion. This happens at an increase in cost of only 10% according to the new study

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    Environmental, Health, and Safety Risks of Nanomaterials

    Over the last years a debate has grown in intensity regarding the potential environmental, health, and safety (EHS) risks of nanomaterials. This is an issue that should carefully be addressed for us as society to take advantages of this new technology. Part of the problem with assessing risks for nanotechnology and nanomaterials is that the real risks of these can not easily be evaluated due to a lack of data, the complexity of the materials, and the difficulty in measuring those risks. However, until know, the public’s outlook on nanotechnology seem to be on the positive side despite a lack of knowledge.

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    New nanotechnology applications are underway in the energy sector. These will undoubtedly impact our society. Better energy production, storage, transmission and usage are possible with nanotechnology.


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Nanotechnology and electronics

Nanotechnology is changing significantly the field of electronics, especially in regard to computers, telecommunications and optics. This series of articles deal with nanotechnology applications for electronics.
  1. Nanotechnology Applications for Electronics. Part 1-Introduction
  2. Quantum Computing: Incorporating Nanotechnology into Computers
  3. Nanotechnology Applications In The Energy Sector