Report Links Nanotechnology to Fight Against Climate Change

A report released this past Thursday by Britain's DEFRA, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, investigated the benefits and potential hurdles to the application of nanoscience in the areas of photovoltaics, insulation, electricity store, engine efficiency and the hydrogen economy. The general conclusion that was drawn from this study was that nanotechnology could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 2 percent in the short term and by up to 20 percent by 2050 with similar reductions in air pollution.

Nanoparticle additives were shown to increase the fuel efficiency of diesel engines by close to 5 percent in the study, an improvement that could reduce greenhouse gas output by close to 2 to 3 million tons of carbon dioxide. Nanotechnology may be able to significantly reduce the cost of solar cell production, making it accessible to more households. The researchers who carried out the study estimate that a solar generation grid that met 1 percent of Britain's electricity demand could save close to 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions on an annual basis.

Hydrogen generated via renewable energy or by using carbon capture and storage could power vehicles and eliminate all road emissions, resulting in 132 million less tons of carbon dioxide emitted. If incorporated into batteries and supercapacitors, nanotechnology could drastically lower charge time for electric vehicles, bringing it to less than 10 minutes, which is comparable to the refuelling time of cars. While cavity and loft insulation provide a relatively cheap and effective solution to most insulation needs, insulating solid walled buildings, which constitute an important percentage of most countries' housing stocks, remains a challenge. An effective insulation with similar properties to standard cavity insulation could be provided by nanotechnology, which would also decrease carbon dioxide emissions and reduce heat loss.

The report comes with many caveats, however, including the primary stipulation that much more money needs to be poured into research and development to make these goals attainable. Forging alliances with multinational businesses and other countries and creating domestic markets for these technologies are some of the other strategies suggested by the researchers.

Speaking at the Royal Society, DEFRA's Chief Scientific Adviser, Howard Dalton, said:

It is hard to conceive of a greater challenge than that of combating climate change. Today's report indicates the key areas where nanoscience may help lessen its effects and contribute to achieving society's ambitions for a sustainable future. However, the report draws particular attention to the need for government, industry and scientific communities to work together in answering some of the fundamental questions regarding the behaviour and toxicity of nanomaterials.

::Can nanoscience help in the fight against climate change?, ::Environmentally Beneficial Nanotechnologies: Barriers and Opportunities
See also: ::Big Reports for Teenie Tiny Products: LCA and Nanotechnology, ::Green Nano: What you don't know..., ::NanoNanoNano

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