The paper explores Nanotechnology and Energy giving attention to energy generation technology change, distribution, and storage. According to Bhushan (2017), once the technology is utilized in many ways, nanotechnology has been found to significantly increase and enhance the energy efficiency and development of modern ways and solutions to power generation. For instance, Nanotechnologies holds the ability to improve energy reliability in economic sectors by making the production of renewable energy economically viable as it incorporates optimized and modern technologies. Nanotechnology inventions has a potential to positively contribute to the value-addition in the production, supply and storage of the energy.
The Process encompasses enhancement of existing materials like aluminum and copper used in the generation, storage, distribution, and consumption of electric energy. The material components targeted include the cables, solar panels, storage batteries, and bulbs. For instance, transmission cables need to be manufactured and coated with nanotechnology materials, use of silicon to improve its ability to absorb and converts the lights into electric current. Others include using the nanoscale materials to protect the blades from heating or wear and tear. Besides, it consists of the use of Nano technological techniques to optimize the superconductors leading to zero loss of current during conduction. Lithium-ion technology can be significantly improved through heat-resistant, new ceramic, and electrode materials.
The Current Situation in the Energy Sector
The global demand for energy is rising consistently due the increased population and industrialization. Currently, International Energy Agency forecast that the demand to rise nearly fifty percent by 2030 (Bhushan, 2017). Presently fossil fuels such as oil provide over eighty percent of the total global energy demand. However, the biggest challenge to relying on the fossil fuels is the possible depletion of the reserves presenting new challenge in getting new sources. Nuclear energy provide better alternative to the fossil fuels since the current studies show that they do not have any significant impact on the environment. Nevertheless, its supply will also run out in the some decades to come thus the need to start exploring a revolutionary technology to fill the gaps when energy sources run out (Bhushan 2017).
The emission of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere has environmental impact lie greenhouse effect which makes fossil fuels dangerous in long-term. Additionally, the sources of the oil and other fossil energy can get depleted present a new challenge in energy sustenance. Therefore, the only way to ensure sustainable energy supply in the future is through using alternative methods of power generation that have minimal environmental impact. The energy restoration via renewable options such as the solar, wind power, hydro-power and biomass will help in fulfilling the global energy needs (Asafu-Adjaye, Byrne & Alvarez, 2017). However, these sources are currently expensive and inefficient making them unsuitable for large scale energy production and supply. Nonetheless, the fossil fuel prices are still expected to continue going up but will fall in areas that uses the renewable sources. Currently wind, sun and hydro-power have proved to be economically viable in some parts of the world (Hussein, 2015). The production of electric cars and trains will also lower the demand for the oil products as primary source of energy in running the automobiles.
However, solving the energy problem while addressing environmental concerns requires not only involve the proper utilization of the alternative sources to fossils but also optimizing the chain of value-addition. An example includes generation, conversion, transportation and storage area all way to the point of consumption. It is also paramount to consider Innovation and to heighten efficiency and lower the level of consumption in every sector- both commercial and domestic, to achieve the targets within the time frame. Minimizing energy consumption is critical in ensuring sustainability since the world’s population and industries are fast growing leading to increase in demand for power. Nanotechnology is critical since it present a scientific breakthrough in the power generation and supply hence substantive contributions to product efficacy, sustainability, and commercialization. The application of Nano in energy covers a wide range that includes gradual, brief, and medium-term advancements in more efficient and reliable use of predominant and green energy sources. It also bring new approaches in the long-term energy use and recovery (Hussein, 2015; Bhushan, 2017).
Many scholars and scientists in the field of Nano Energy are offering information on the viability of technology in the sector. The objective is to describe the technical solutions applicable today and the ones only possible in mid-term or long-term. These innovations and inventions can be triggered to enhance invention of more reliable technology, and procedures urgently required in the society to provide a source of energy. According to Curtiss & Amine (2016), Nanotechnologies has the potential in developing the current energy sources such as oil, nuclear, geothermal energy solar energy, wind, and biomass. Coating the drills with Nano-materials help in optimizing the life expectancy and productivity of the systems in the exploitation of the deposits of oil and natural leading to lower cost of production of the oil products. Nanotechnologies are critical, especially in the tapping of solar energy into electricity using the photovoltaic systems. The photovoltaic systems can be achieved by using antireflection layers which yield more light.
The first step in developing the photovoltaic system is coming up with an alternate cell types like thin-layers cells using silicon, copper or selenium. Additionally, other solar cells that are currently in use also stand a chance to benefit from the nanotechnologies. Using Polymer (organic) solar cells presents a greater potential, especially in the portable electronics, due to its low prices and it is easy to develop. Moreover, the organic photovoltaic solar cells are easy to design to fit specific condition of use. The mid-term targets include having an efficient (around 10oerceng efficiency) photovoltaic system with ability to last for several years (Curtis $ Amine, 2016). On the other hand, the long-term objectives include having an organic nanostructures like quantum dots quantum dots that can make it easy to attain solar cell efficiencies with more than 60% (Wolf, 2015).
Use of Nano Technology in Energy
Energy Conversion
Energy conversion refers to the changing of primary resources of energy into electric or kinetic energy. This process requires and others such as kinetic energy requires extreme efficiency to minimize the losses and amount of carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere. As noted earlier, carbon emission causes greenhouse effect and global warming. The efficacy of high voltage power plants depends on the high temperatures which in turn require heat resistant materials for the turbines. Currently, improving the heat resistance of the materials is only possible through Nano-scale heating and is commonly used protecting the power blades in power plants and other systems that heat fast like the aircraft engines. The protection of these surfaces improves the efficiency of the system since I allows them to operate on relatively high temperatures or use of lightweight materials like titanium aluminides (Fulekar, Pathak & Kale, 2014).
Nano-optimized surfaces extends the range of possibilities for separating and storing carbon dioxide without harming the environment. The climate-neutral carbon dioxide can then be used in power production and similar technology in coal plants used for electricity generation to minimize emissions. The sustenance of this environment friendly system of power generation is possible through the use Nano-structured catalysts and electrodes which makes it economically viable for use in the automobiles, electronic gadgets, and buildings. Particularly, the conversion of thermoelectric energy into electricity looks promising, especially in lighting systems technology. Additionally, semi-conductors with Nano-structures are easily fitted with optimized layer during design to improve their reliability thus making them usable in human body, vehicles and textiles (Mott & Maenosono, 2015).
Energy Distribution
Reducing the energy losses during transmission- often resulting from the resistance of the conductors, will soon become possible through the use of nano-materials such as the carbon nanotubes (CNTs) (Mott &Maenosono, 2015). The superb thermal conductivity, electrical and mechanical properties of the CNTs make them suitable additives to different structural materials used in damascus steel, making golf clubs or basketball bats. Particularly, the high thermal conductivity and low resistance makes it ideal for use in electronic appliances as cords or even power lines. Moreover, there are existing nano-technology that makes it possible to optimize superconductors resulting to zero loss of current during transmission. The losses often results from the resistance of the conductors hence reducing it makes the material an excellent conductor. However, the long-term solution to the current losses would possibly be through wireless transportation of energy using electromagnetic resonance. In future, the distribution of power will need electrical power systems that provide a reliable load and fault management. Furthermore, the energy market might have demand-driven energy sources (especially for renewable sources) that have flexible pricing system. Nanotechnology will play a pivotal role in making it possible to realize the vision via power-electronics and nan-sensory apparatus that can cope up with the incredibly sophisticated monitoring and control of such power grids.
Energy Storage
Nanotechnologies can be utilized to enhance and improve the storage of electrical energy such as super-capacitors and batteries. In fact one of the biggest challenges in the world today is not the power generation but rather storage of the energy. The Lithium-ion technology is considered one the greatest breakthroughs in energy storage since it has high voltage cells. Nanotechnologies has a potential to significantly increase the capacity and safety systems using the lithium-ion power packs. For instance, this can be achieved through heat-resistant, new ceramic, electrode materials, and adaptable separators. Companies in the energy business advocates for full the capitalization of such methods in electric application and hybrid automobiles, stationary energy storage locations (Chu, Cui & Liu, 2017).
Additionally, hydrogen is also a potential energy storage medium for environmentally engineered energy resource. Besides the vital nanostructure adjustments and modifications, the effective hydrogen storage is undoubtedly an essential factors that contributes to the successful hydrogen management for energy use. Currently, the materials used for storing chemical hydrogen are insufficient to meet the needs, and requirements of the automobile sector industry, that requires storage capacity of nearly ten weight percent. Nanomaterial like the Nano porous metal-organic compounds are potentially viable economically in operating fuel cells in movable electronic digital devices (Kalisman, Nakibli & Amirav, 2016).
Kalisman, Nakibli & Amirav, (2016) further adds that storing thermal energy is one of the areas that is also necessary for sustainability. The demand for energy from all sectors such as industries, properties, and domestic use can reduce by using period materials like such as latent heat storage systems. Essentially, the economic perspective includes the stores for adsorption on the surfaces of the nanoporous materials such as zeolites, which are then used as electric stores in different regions or sectors.
Energy Usage
To Hussein, (2015) achieving sustainable and lasting energy supply and resource, and its development from the existing options, depends on improving the efficiency of energy consumption and minimizing unnecessary energy intake in both the industrial and domestic sector. Nanotechnologies present various energy saving methods. For example, reducing energy used in automobiles by using lightweight engineering materials derived from Nanocomposites. Optimization in electric energy and gasoline in combustion can be achieved through, lighter engine unit components, wear-resistant, and nanoparticular power. For instance, using additives to make optimized wheels with minimal resistance to movement. Adding tribological layers to the mechanized parts of the machines and power plants also significantly contribute in energy saving. Building technologies also have excellent ability to enhance energy savings- thus reducing the cost, by using the Nano-porous materials for thermal insulation.
Revolutionary Material Under Trial
The paper has explored the various dimension of energy that can be achieved through the use of nanotechnology. In respect to this, there are a few exciting methods that are under study using nanotechnology in generating, storing, and distributing electric energy through a more efficient and cost-effective power for use in the economy. An example includes Generating heavy steam from sunlight. Researchers and Experts have demonstrated that solar energy, can produce high energy steam when concentrated on a nanoparticle surface, it is possible to commercialize the resulting energy. The solar steam is designed to solve power problems in areas of and regions of in expanding countries which face electricity deficiency for applications such as water purification for drinking and disinfecting oral instruments (Curtiss & Amine, 2016).
Another group of experts are researching on the nanoparticles that can use light from sun to generate steam usable in running power plants. Energy production, distribution, and storage are some of the techniques used to increase efficiency and sustainability of the energy. However, at the domestic and industrial level, there is a need of using high-efficiency light bulbs and other electric gadgets to save power (Bhushan, 2017). Some energy-saving light bulbs utilize a polymer matrix which is a product of nano-engineering. The primary advantage of these is that they are shatterproof and as double efficient as the fluorescence tubes. In other spheres, researchers are designing and expanding the ability of LED using plasmonic cavities- a Nano-structure. The concept is developed with a purpose of improving the incandescent light bulbs through introduction of a conventional filament that has crystalline material capable of converting the infrared radiation into light (Soljačić, 2016).
According to Fernandes, Patel, Kothari& Miotello, (2017), increasing the electricity produced by windmills is also another objectives to ensure sustainable energy generation g. An epoxy made up of carbon nanotubes is being evaluated to be used to in the manufacture of windmill rotor blades. Nanotube-filled epoxy is used often used in making stronger but light blades used in windmills. Long and strong blades enhances electricity generation by the windmills.
Lowering the power losses by the transmission wire is another challenge facing the energy sector in the world. Researchers and experts in the industry are working on wires with carbon-nanotubes to significantly lower resistance compared to cables currently in use. The utilization of nanotechnology will revolutionize the electricity transmission systems by introducing a material with near zero resistance. The innovation can be of great success to the upgrading the current wires used in long-distance power transmission with insignificant losses. Besides, the technology is being used in manufacturing devices for storing power like batteries in (Fernandes, Patel, Kothari & Miotello, 2017).Having systems that can store a lot power will help in minimizing the losses resulting excess generation.
Enhancing Battery Performance
Currently, companies using nanomaterials to develop electric batteries with high storage capacity. These batteries are rechargeable faster than the regular ones and last longer thus boosting the efficiency. Additionally, they minimize the cost of fuel cells which is one of the key objectives. Nanotechnology primarily used in reducing the cost of catalysts in the fuel cells. The catalysts make hydrogen ions from organic compounds like methanol. Nanotechnology is further used in enhancing the effectiveness of fuel cells in separating the hydrogen ion from other gases.
Nanotechnology has made it possible to efficiently produce fuels from recyclable like organic materials. The technology addresses the fossil fuels’ shortage as it makes it to produce them from low-grade materials which is both economical and environment friendly. It is also possible to use Nanotechnology in increasing the engines’ mileage and making it efficient to produce energy from ordinary raw materials.
Aichouni & Messaoudene, (2018) argues that tapping sun rays using the technology is under trial. In respect to energy production, Nanotechnological trials focus on the renewables sources, particularly solar power. Over 30 studies have been conducted on the application of nanotechnology to solar powered energy generation. The primary challenge with the solar power devices is their inefficiency. Even with innovative methods they still absorb only a fraction of the inbound radiation and convert only a portion into electric energy while the rest are lost inform of heat and reflection.
Solar-power generators utilize solar cells fitted with long thin silicon crystals that convert sunlight or natural light into electric power. These have enhanced capability because they easily absorb nearly 48 percent of all inbound solar radiation rays. In other words, nearly a half of incoming solar radiations are converted into electric power.
However, recent study by Magdi, El-Rifai & Swillam, (2018) indicate that nanotechnology can be used to increase the absorption rate of the solar panels simply by using nanostructured silicon instead of the crystalline silicon. Currently silicon “nanocones” and “nanowires” are being developed to enhance the absorption nearly 90 percent of inbound solar heat at appropriate angles and perspectives of occurrence. When this is achieved, this is almost double the absorbable amount and assimilated by old thin-film solar cells.
Solar panels made using the Nano-technology are likely to be more efficient and have better aspects. The researchers have designed prototype solar made of nanowires, which they found capable of absorbing more than 96 percent of radiation. Use of carbon nanotubes as a coating in silicon makes it possible to incorporate an incredible 99 percent of the infrared light that hits reach the surface. Devices that use liquid as a medium of absorbing solar energy are potential beneficiaries of nanotechnology too. Adding nanoparticles to liquid significantly increases its ability to absorb solar energy. Consequently, “nanofluids” have become great interest for researchers in solar power in the recent years. There are already some solutions under use are overwhelmingly positive from the beginning of the decade. Substituting the fluid found in solar panels with nanofluid enhances thermal efficiencies of the devices thus increasing it to about 88 percent. In the cases of higher temperature, the productivity can rise to about 200 percent at higher (Magdi, El-Rifai & Swillam, 2018).
Hydrogen is an abundant element on the planet, and can be used in generating electricity in fuel cells with water as the only by-product. Burning clean hydrogen is nearly 2-3 times more effective source of energy compared to gasoline or oil and other sources. Therefore, it is among this century’s most intriguing new energy technology and solutions. However, the hydrogen energy cells still have some major weaknesses that prevents commercial roll out of the technology.
Fernandes, Patel, Kothari & Miotello, (2017) argues that the major challenge in using the hydrogen energy is the storage space and area. Molecular hydrogen must be stored in a system that makes it easy to quickly release it whenever there is need for power creation. Recent researches show that spherical “core-shell” from nanoparticles makes a perfect medium for storing hydrogen energy sources. Hydrogen atoms are forced to diffuse into the center of the nanospheres due to the extreme small size of the sphere compared to their large surface-area-to-volume proportion. In this regard, the stored atoms are relatively close to their surface which makes it possible for the release whenever there is need for power generation. Nanostructures like carbon-nanotubes, “nanoblades” and carbon-nanofibers are efficient mediums for storing hydrogen that are effective when necessary. Manufacturers have begun to use nanoscale for the storage and retrieval of the energy with promising results (Fernandes, Patel, Kothari & Miotello, 2017).
Discussion and Conclusion
The paper explores nanotechnology in the energy industry and how it has been used to improve the output. In the light of the debate, the demand for energy is increasing exponentially and the fossil fuels used today will not serve the demand for power in the future. The fact that these fuels cannot cover the expected demand call for innovative ideas to produce enough electricity for consumption. Therefore in this regard, nanotechnology provides a revolutionary technology to fill the gaps when energy sources run out. Above this, the current methods of generating, distributing and consumption have myriads of bottlenecks that need to be addressed using the technology in the generation, distribution, storage, and usage. The issues include emission of carbon dioxide, loss of power through transmission, inefficient battery storage, and unnecessary usage of electricity. These issues can be solved through the use of nanotechnology. Some of the techniques include improving the battery, use of hydrogen energy, and improvement of solar power panels. Nanotechnology may soon be used to make objects that can harvest energy from environment. Modern nano-materials highly capable of producing energy from human activities such as movement are currently under scientific trials. Others include light, variations in temperature, and other resources with high conversion efficiency.
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are one of the nanomaterials that are used in making electronic appliances due to its thermal and electrical properties. Additionally, the material has a relatively great tensile strength making it suitable additive to other materials in the engineering sector. CNTs belong to the nanotube family which are primarily members of the fullerene structures. Fullerene are carbon molecules that appear in a hollow ellipsoid, spherical or in tube among other shapes. The spherical fullerenes are known as Buckminsterfullerene (also called Bucky balls due to the resemblance with balls. The cylindrical fullerenes are the carbon nanotubes that are often used in making electrical appliances.
One interesting to note is that fullerenes have some structural similarities with graphite which is also a non-metallic good conductor of electricity. Graphite is basically made of graphene sheets that linked in a hexagonal rings. Currently, graphite is used in different electrical appliances and also the preferred material in making the electrodes of a batteries. However, the material has a relatively high resistance which results in energy losses as current flow through it. The possible depletion of the sources of fossil fuel and the increasing demand for energy for both domestic and industrial use- due to the growing global population, makes it necessary to have superconductors that minimize the energy losses. And this where nanostructures like the carbon nanotubes come in.
Both the mechanical and electrical properties of the carbon nanotubes makes it one of the perfect materials for use as a conductor in electrical appliances. CNTs are the stiffest and toughest material with respect to elastic modulus and tensile strength respectively. The strength of the materials result from the strong covalent sp2 bond that forms between the carbon molecules. The elastic modulus and tensile strength makes CNT one of the preferable materials in making critical parts of power plants considering they are lighter than metals.
Unlike graphite, CNTs have near excellent electrical conductivity since they have two attributes depending on the band structure. CNTs with 6,0 or are zigzag have metallic features whereas those with 10,2 are semiconductors. In either way, the electrons flow through the tube’s axis making them one-dimensional conductors.
Nanotechnology offers the future of sustainability of energy by maximizing the production, expanding storage and minimizing wastage. Currently, fossil fuels like oil and natural gas are the leading source of energy- especially in running automobiles. However, the sources for these fuels are likely to run out in the near hence the need to develop alternative sources of energy like solar, wind power and hydro-electric. The major weakness of using these renewable sources of energy is lack of power storage facilities since the existing systems do not have the capacity to store large amount of power. Nanotechnology through heat-resistant, new ceramic, electrode materials, and adaptable separators can help in storing a relatively larger capacity compared to lithium-ion which is currently in use. Additionally, the use of nanostructured silicon as a layer on the panels is more effective in tapping and converting the solar energy into electricity compared to the crystalline silicon.
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