Emerging technologies consulting firm Lux Research has published a new research report ("Nanotech's Answer Key to the Energy Problem") suggesting that 6 different nanotechnologies could project energy efficiency savings and energy consumption reductions that are the equivalent of shutting off all the coal-fired power plants in the United States. In fact, Lux Research suggests, these technologies could help reduce aggregate energy consumption across the United States, Germany and Japan by up to 12 percent.
The report's author, David Hwang, writes:
"A full adoption of all six nanotechnologies listed could reduce total energy consumption by 12 percent, which would be comparable to shutting down all the coal plants in the U.S. A more realistic adoption scenario could see a 1.6 percent drop in consumption that, while less impressive, is still substantial compared to the potential impact of energy consumption or renewable energy generation."
So, what are these magical technologies identified by Lux Research? The answer is that come from several different segments and will show up in several different industries over the next decade. Their potential impact will depend on the country in which they are applied. The technologies to watch are:
- Low-friction tribological coatings in automotive engines
- Nanofiber air filters
- Nano-enabled insulation
- Lightweight nanocomposite automotive parts
- Thermochromic windows
- Quantum dot enabled light sources
For the United States, the nanotechnologies that could have the most impact when it comes to cutting energy consumption are related to the automotive sector. Low-friction coatings and lightweight nanotechnologies could help cut the energy required to run an automobile by 1.8 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. We also have a lot to gain from quantum-dot-enabled lighting. The savings from that technology across commercial, industrial and residential applications is about 2.5 percent by 2020.
For me, this report is another eye-opener and a reminder that energy efficiency gains are possible through actions that aren't immediately obvious. Of course, the Lux Research report doesn't immediately address whether these actions will cost a lot of extra money, which could be a potential downfall for adoption. Still this is an another example of how technology innovation might change the energy landscape through energy efficiency, not necessarily generation.