News from across RSC Publishing.
Instant insight: Harnessing nano power
11 June 2009
Andrei Fedorov from the Georgia Institute of Technology (US) and Mildred Dresselhaus from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) and their colleagues explain how nanotechnology might solve our energy crisis
The global demand for energy is set to double, if not triple, by the end of the 21st century - harnessing that energy is one of the most pressing global challenges we face. More than 80 per cent of our energy comes from the carbon dioxide-emitting fossil fuel trio of coal, oil and natural gas. Only a small fraction is provided by renewable sources, such as geothermal, wind and solar power, and biofuels. But with the current explosion in economic development and population growth, particularly in China and India, to meet the rising energy demand we would need to increase fossil fuel use to levels that would pose a grave environmental threat. We acknowledge now that a major scientific and societal change is upon us, to convert from a fossil fuel-based energy economy to a sustainable one.
Nanoscale design is critical to the next generation of energy carriers
Creating a sustainable energy generation, storage and distribution infrastructure requires massive global investments in research and development. Putting in place a new energy generation, storage and distribution system quickly and on such a large scale will require major scientific discoveries and engineering developments in the next 10-20 years. This is shorter than customary for discovery to technology transitions. These new technologies must provide sufficient energy with minimal environmental impact, and little economic and societal disruption. Solar, thermal and electrochemical energy conversion, storage and conservation technologies are being investigated. At the heart of this revolution in energy technologies are nanoscale science and technology.
Several aspects of nanoscale design are critical to the development of the next generation of energy technologies. For example, studying the manipulation and control of the fundamental energy carriers - photons, excitons, electrons/holes, phonons, and molecules/ions - emphasises the importance of these nanoscale interactions. These studies should enable us to make the greatest impact across the entire spectrum of nanotechnology-enabled energy conversion, storage, and conservation technologies.
Nanotechnology research will play a critical part in these developments and will make the systems more efficient and cost effective. The strategic recommendations discussed above should provide a focus for future research activities. What is also clear, though, is that in addition to these breakthroughs, science and engineering research communities, working with industry and policy makers, will have to educate the next generation's workforce and the general public to preserve our planet's environment for future generations.
Read more in 'Nanoscale design to enable the revolution in renewable energy' in issue 6, 2009, of Energy & Environmental Science.
Enjoy this story? Spread the word using the 'tools' menu on the left or add a comment to the Chemistry World blog.
Link to journal article
Nanoscale design to enable the revolution in renewable energy
Jason Baxter, Zhixi Bian, Gang Chen, David Danielson, Mildred S. Dresselhaus, Andrei G. Fedorov, Timothy S. Fisher, Christopher W. Jones, Edward Maginn, Uwe Kortshagen, Arumugam Manthiram, Arthur Nozik, Debra R. Rolison, Timothy Sands, Li Shi, David Sholl and Yiying Wu, Energy Environ. Sci., 2009, 2, 559
Also of interest
15 - 17 June 2009, London, United Kingdom
Revisiting old research may hold the key to creating a portfolio of affordable solar energy materials
New regulations mean labs will have to become greener - but the benefits could be financial as well as environmental