Energy is the blood stream in our modern lives. We consume huge amount of energy, yet most of this energy comes from fossil fuels. Humans have been using fossil fuels as the main source of energy for centuries. This heavy dependence on fossil fuels left us with enormous environmental and consumption issues. These issues need to be solved by finding new methods of producing, transporting and consuming energy. The achievement of secure and long-term energy supply is the biggest challenge in the 21st century. Another challenges include efficient transportation and usage of the produced energy. These challenges can be overcomed by new technologies which can introduce promising solutions. Nanotechnology represents the key which opens the door into anticipative solutions for energy problems. Nanotechnology brings new nanomaterials with extraordinary properties. These properties if applied into energy applications may change the way of energy production and consumption that we know.
Before talking about the possible energy applications that nanotechnology can resolve; let’s explore some of these materials and see how they illustrate extraordinary properties. One of the nanomaterials that exhibited high research interest in the last two decades is carbon nanotubes (CNT). CNTs were discovered in 1991 by Japanese scientist Sumio Iijima. They are tiny tubes that consist of carbon atoms covalently connected in hexagonal cylindrical shapes. There are two types of CNT; single walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) and multi walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT). CNTs show excellent strength,elasticity, electric and thermal conductivity properties. These properties if applied into energy sector can bring cheaper, easier, and more efficient methods for the production, transportation, and consumption of energy.
Another new nanomaterial that was discovered recently (in 2004) is graphene. Graphene consists of covalently bonded carbon atoms in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice. Like CNT, graphene show excellent physical and chemical properties which makes it very interesting material for energy applications. A lot of studies are conducted to adjust graphene in energy applications. Some of these studies are focused in the efficient transportation and storage of electric energy.
In addition to CNT and graphene, there are various nanoparticles that find outstanding applications in energy field. Nanoparticles are the particles that have size dimensions at the range of 1-100nm. These nanoparticles have high surface areas which increase their chemical activity. Moreover, they exhibit excellent optical and conductivity properties. Harvesting energy from renewable sources such as solar energy is one of the main application where nanoparticles are highly used.
Other materials at the nanoscale show also numerous excellent properties. In addition, energy field is wide and the introduction of nanomaterials can be achieved in different uses. In the following blogs we are going to discover the applications of these nanomaterials in; solar energy, hydrogen technology, energy storage, fuel cells, energy transportation, and energy consumption. We will see how the introduction of the nanomaterials in the mentioned fields could transform the way of our energy consumption.