Report: 6 nanotechnologies could offset negative impact of coal

Report: 6 nanotechnologies could offset negative impact of coal

Summary: 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.

SHARE:

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:

  1. Low-friction tribological coatings in automotive engines
  2. Nanofiber air filters
  3. Nano-enabled insulation
  4. Lightweight nanocomposite automotive parts
  5. Thermochromic windows
  6. 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.

Topics: Emerging Tech, Hardware, Processors

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

9 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Questions for the readers

    It looks to me like the quantum dot approach lets you make a white LED without yttrium. This would greatly reduce our reliance on the the Chinese government's good will for lighting. Does anyone know if this is yttrium elimination is true? Does this reduce the cost of a white LED?
    Bill4
    • RE: Report: 6 nanotechnologies could offset negative impact of coal

      @Bill4 Quantum Dot is a substitute for HID lighting not LED lighting.
      rklein@...
  • RE: Report: 6 nanotechnologies could offset negative impact of coal

    If we had all these technologies, why would we still burn coal? Isn't this like Western Union phoning you to tell you they have a telegram for you? Just who benefits here? It ain't us.
    progan01@...
  • RE: Report: 6 nanotechnologies could offset negative impact of coal

    Hmmm looks like the coal producers are hiring science fiction writers. Get back to me when the engineers have produced something ;-)
    tonymcs@...
  • Synthetic oil can increase mileage by 1 mpg

    I've read one report from a consumer organization that claimed using synthetic oil available today instead of regular oil in an engine can increase mileage by 1 mpg. If so, it could pay for itself. For example, if you go 8000 miles between oil changes, and go from 20 mpg to 21 mpg, you will save about 19 gallons of gas between oil changes. That should pay for the synthetic oil while saving the environment (but I don't know the added carbon cost, if any, of creating and disposing of synthetic oil).

    Of course, the savings are a lot less for cars that are already high mpg, and so it may not be worth doing. Such cars also have fewer/smaller cylinders, and so might not see the full 1 mpg bump.
    wilback
    • RE: Report: 6 nanotechnologies could offset negative impact of coal

      @wilback The bigger question you should be asking is, what is the lifecycle analysis of the new synthetic oil?
      Did it cost more energy than the standard oil to produce before the tax net distorted the true cost?

      That is the truly global question to ask.
      Steve__Jobs
  • RE: Report: 6 nanotechnologies could offset negative impact of coal

    This fails to meet the giggle test inside the first quote. Sorry folks, coal accounts for WAY more than 12% of our energy generation. What else does this report have wrong?
    zclayton2
    • giggle test

      @zclayton2 I agree with you. The figure is nearer 40%<br>The author is implying US Coal sourced energy is equivalent to 12% of the total energy consumption of the US, Germany and Japan.<br><br>The numbers do not add up. Here are some figures that may be out by a few % but not significantly.<br>USA TOTAL CONSUMPTION=29.26 PWhr/yr Coal= 42%<br>GER TOTAL CONSUMPTION= 3.96 PWhr/yr Coal= 49%<br>JPN TOTAL CONSUMPTION= 0.253 PWhr/yr Coal= 28%<br><br>Total Energy= 33.473 PWhr/yr<br>US coal energy= 0.42 x 29.26 PWhr/yr = 12.289 PWhr/yr<br>US coal energy/Total Energy = 37%
      Steve__Jobs
  • RE: Report: 6 nanotechnologies could offset negative impact of coal

    ?and NONE of these does anything to fix the environmental damage from mining coal.
    sheepguy42