Nobel Prize-winning chemist Richard Smalley has called upon the nanotechnology research community to focus on ways to make renewable energy cheap and ubiquitous.
Scientists would need to use nanotechnology to create home storage systems for hydrogen as well as a new material to replace copper wiring and allow electricity to be sent great distances. Smalley and his fellow researchers at Rice are working on a new carbon "spinning" process that would create a polymer material that will be one-sixth the weight of copper with the same conductivity and have the same strength as steel. [...] Smalley described how nanotechnology can also be used to create "super batteries" for storing hydrogen at homes or businesses to avoid using the electricity grid at peak times of demand. [...] Smalley believes that finding a replacement for fossil fuels is essential to solving the world's top 10 problems, which he said include poverty, hunger, water, the environment and terrorism.
Smalley's call for action took many nanotech enthusiasts by surprise, not because they don't think that this is an important issue -- they do -- but because Smalley is well-known as a skeptic about nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology may not deliver on all of its promise, but advances are happening fast. It's one of the reasons I'm ultimately an optimist about our ability to build a sustainable world. Getting to a bright green future will take revolutionary innovation -- and nanotechnology looks like a good candidate for just that revolution.
Couldn't agree more that nano's part of the mix, here, for creating wholesale replacement of our energy system.
But what I really wanted to say was: "Smalley believes that finding a replacement for fossil fuels is essential to solving the world's top 10 problems, which he said include poverty, hunger, water, the environment and terrorism. Affordable energy would also help to reduce the economic imbalance between have and have nots." -- why don't I have a personal list of the world's ten worse problems? Need to remedy that...
Has a rather good list. Not uncontroversial from what I remember.
Smalley is skeptical about Molecular Engineering, not Nanotechnology. Molecular Engineering is a subset of Nano. It is about structures that are atomically precise. Nano in general has nanometer scale features/complexity, but is not necessarily atomically precise.
MC, agreed. Smalley's criticisms sometimes veer into assertions about nano-scale chemistry which rule out some nanotechnologies other than molecular engineering, however, as this link suggests. The bigger point, though, is that, even despite his misgivings about how to do it, even the most widely-recognized nanotech skeptic thinks that nanotech is critical for building a greener future.