Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Nanotechnology and Power Engineering

Nanotechnology is poised to strongly influence virtually every area of technology and engineering. Electric power engineering is no exception.
discoveries in nanotechnology have led to what many consider the next generation of solar technology: ultra-thin amorphous silicon, organic and inorganic solar cells derived from nanocrystals that convert sunlight into electricity at a fraction of the cost of silicon-based solar cells. They are also more flexible, less brittle and can even be painted onto structures, allowing more possibilities for building integrated architectural design. Greater research investment in these technologies is yielding continually higher sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiencies, bringing them closer to full-scale commercialization.

Fuel cells also benefit from nanotechnology. While the ability to store adequate quantities of hydrogen molecules has remained a serious dilemma in developing the technology for large-scale use, nanotechnology has the potential to put hydrogen storage in the fuel cell directly using nanostructures of carbon, zeolites or stacked clays. Nanoengineered electrodes in the form of cathodes and anodes are currently being manufactured and incorporated in solid oxide and polymer electrode-based fuel cells that provide higher efficiency and performance. Nanotechnology applied to fuel cells enables more efficient and reduced use of precious metals - such as using platinum nanoparticles for high surface area and low volume - along with improved membrane function and durability.

Also see this article, that discusses the exciting quantum level effect called multiple exciton generation (MET), which is being studied in silicon nanocrystals/quantum dots. These crystals can be capable of generating more than one electron per absorbed photon.

Improved storage batteries and supercapacitors will also come from the application of nanotechnology research to electric power.

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Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:49 PM  
Blogger al fin said...

I suspect that this graph is probably fairly accurate.

Electricity consumption per capita has a different pattern which is interesting, but I haven't given it a lot of thought yet.

US total energy consumption probably includes US military energy use, which would certainly skew the figures considerably, since currently the US military is functioning as the world's peacekeeper--more or less. This peacekeeping of the world's trade routes etc. allows all nations a better chance to acquire wealth through trade--even the enemies of the US.

I suspect there are other areas where the US is blamed for energy consumption where it is actually providing significant service to the world economy.

8:05 PM  

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