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Resource- and energy-efficiency

​​​Nanomaterials, a variety of applications

Published on 30 January 2017
Reducing energy and raw-materials consumption is a priority for many industries. despite substantial R&D spending, manufacturers are bumping up against the limits of what today's technologies can achieve.

Disruptive innovations leveraging breakthrough technologies are the only way to push back the current limits and deliver greater energy-efficiency and smarter use of raw materials. Manufacturers will need access to these kinds of innovations to continue to reduce their greenhouse gas and other emissions and make more economical use of resources. At every link in the value chain, innovation has become vital. And today's innovations are, to an increasing extent, focused on advanced, multi-functional materials obtained through nanostructuring techniques. New technologies like additive manufacturing (3D printing) that make better use of raw materials are also playing a key role.


Efficient, responsible management of energy resources now means replacing fossil-based energy with alternative carbon-free renewables that produce less pollution than fossil fuels. The shift to renewable energy will depend heavily on the development of nanomaterials for: 

- Primary energy production: solar PV energy requires technologies like silicon, thin-layer materials, excitonic and quantum-dot cells; thermal solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, the photochemical production of hydrogen (water splitting), fuel cells, and geothermal energy will also draw upon advances made possible by nanomaterials.

- Storage of intermittently-produced renewable energy: electrochemical storage requires supercapacitor and battery technologies; chemical storage, whether in the form of hydrogen or methane, requires catalysts, physical adsorbents, and lightweight high-pressure containers; mechanical and hydraulic storage systems will also require new materials. 

- All of these systems must work together seamlessly for effective distribution via smart grids; this will require communicating sensors to distribute demand among large power plants, local production units, and storage systems.

- Energy "savings" and, especially, energy-efficient buildings, will depend in part on nanoporous insulation materials, smart glazing, phase-change materials for smarter energy use, better-performing lighting like LEDs, and a host of other new solutions.