Nanotechnology 'fertile' for energy breakthrough

June 30, 2006

Thinking small may help solve one of the world's biggest problems -- the need for alternative energy sources -- according to scientists attending the first Energy Nanotechnology International Conference held June 26-28 at MIT.

"Energy is one of the greatest challenges of the century," Claude Canizares, MIT's Bruno Rossi Professor of Physics, told attendees of the conference produced by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' (ASME's) Nanotechnology Institute. "We need significant breakthroughs in science and technology. The promise of nanotechnology provides fertile ground for such breakthroughs."

Nanotechnology's potential impact on solar energy in particular was addressed at the conference.

"I think we'll see the peaking of oil and natural gas sooner than most of those in the fossil fuel industry think," said David Carlson, chief scientist at BP Solar. "By 2035 photovoltaics could produce about 10 percent of the world's electricity and play a major role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions."

Photovoltaics is the technical term for generating electricity from light.

MIT's Vladimir Bulovic said that nanotechnologies such as nanodots and nanorods are potentially "disruptive" technologies in the solar field. That means they could cause a major switch in a primary energy source, potentially proving more efficient than the silicon used in most solar energy devices today. Bulovic is fabricating quantum dot photovoltaics using a microcontact printing process.

"If 2 percent of the continental United States were covered with photovoltaic systems with a net efficiency of 10 percent, we would be able to supply all the U.S. energy needs," said Bulovic, the KDD Associate Professor of Communications and Technology in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The technical conference included invited and contributed presentations from academia and industry. Among the speakers were Michael Graetzel, professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, and MIT Institute Professor Mildred Dresselhaus.

Dresselhaus gave a talk titled "Addressing Grand Energy Challenges Through Advanced Materials."

Other talks centered on nanowire-based dye-sensitized solar cells, heat transfer enhancement in nanofluids, hydrogen storage and electrochemical conversion and storage.

"With this conference we want to put into the scientific area what nanotechnology can do for large-scale energy applications," said Gang Chen, conference chair and a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Manuscripts submitted to the conference will be published in a future issue of the ASME Journal of Heat Transfer.

Source: MIT

Explore further: Nanotechnology: A risky frontier?

Related Stories

Nanotechnology: A risky frontier?

November 5, 2009

Inside a cramped back room at Rushford Hypersonic, a start-up headquartered in southeastern Minnesota, sits a cube-like machine that throws a mean atomic fastball. At the push of a button, the reactor hurls atoms toward a ...

Recommended for you

Dielectric film has refractive index close to air

October 12, 2015

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a dielectric film that has optical and electrical properties similar to air, but is strong enough to be incorporated into electronic and photonic devices - making ...

Have your drug nano-delivered via microbubble

October 12, 2015

"Colloidal delivery system" and "nanoparticle" are probably not terms you find yourself using in day-to-day interactions, but for UC's Yoonjee Park, assistant professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science biomedical ...

Gold nanomembranes resist bending in new experiment

October 9, 2015

The first direct measurement of resistance to bending in a nanoscale membrane has been made by scientists from the University of Chicago, Peking University, the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Department of Energy's ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.