Nanotechnology has been hailed as promising to fix many of the problems we face in the world and the demands placed upon the environment by modern society. A number of these promises are visionary dreams for the future, in other areas nanotechnology is able to help us right now. One of these areas is reducing the consumption of energy.
Vehicle Efficiency and Power
Specially adapted nanotech enabled coatings are currently being applied to race cars and will soon be used in passenger vehicles. These coatings are designed to control heat transfer in a manner that increases horsepower and when applied to engine components. It can also be applied to the air conditioning system in order to further reduce fuel consumption.
This system from Industrial Nanotech has been successfully used in racecars in Australia and the USA and is expected to be adopted in the near future by BMW and Porsche for their sports cars and by one of the “Big Three” American Automakers.
The use of catalysts is a traditional method for reducing energy requirements in the production of chemicals. Nanotechnology is now being used to create nanocatalysts that are even more efficient than before.
Nanocatalysts tend to work simply on the fact that the tiny particles have greater surface area this giving a greater area for the catalytic reactions to occur.
Lighting is an essential part of our lives but it is also incredibly inefficient. An incandescent bulb only uses around 10 percent of the input energy to create light, the rest is wasted as heat. Compact fluorescent and LED based bulbs are already increasing lighting efficiency, but lighting based on quantum dots is expected to be close to 100% efficient.
Screens and Monitors
Household heating and cooling are the largest users of energy within the home and after that come appliances and entertainment. Appliances are not used constantly but television screens can be on for hours at a time. Numerous methods are being developed for the next generation of flat panel display screens and almost all of these methods incorporate nanotechnology in the form of carbon nanotubes or other components. Manufacturers who are developing these screens all talk of the large reductions in energy usage they expect to achieve.
Insulation and Window Films
Thermal insulation materials tend to be bulky do to the way they trap a layer of air to provide their insulating properties. In some applications a thick insulating layer is undesirable and so efficiency is lost. Nanotechnology has now been used to develop an insulating material that can be spray or painted on to a surface as a thin film. The insulating effect of this material exceeds most traditional insulating materials. Transparent films are also available for coating windows. These nanotechnology enabled solar control films reduce energy consumption by filtering solar heat and insulating windows.
No discussion on energy efficiency would be complete with a brief mention of energy generation itself. One of the great promises of nanotechnology is the development of cheap yet highly efficient solar cells for the generation of electricity. Substantial developments are being made in this field with solar cells being developed that are made from cheap, low toxicity materials through to electricity generating films that can be painted onto almost any surface.