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Article:Nanoparticle coated electrodes and carbon nanotechnology

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Carbon nanotechnology is a key to our clean energy future. From vastly increasing efficiencies in solar power to reducing costs of hydrogen generation, the alternative energy sector is seeing a range of nanotech developments. Reducing the amount of raw product necessary for technology production, carbon nanotechnology cuts costs and conserves our precious non-renewable resources. The current state of nanotechnology development, although advanced, leaves much to be discovered and many applications to reveal.

by Daniel Bowers and Joy Cernac
for Pure Energy Systems News
Aug. 13, 2008

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are one of humanity’s smallest building blocks. [1] Being long, thin carbon cylinders, CNTs are approximately 1/50,000 the width of a human hair. With a bonding structure stronger than that of a diamond, they have a range of other unique properties including exceptional electrical and thermal conductivity.

Carbon nanotubes can improve the efficiency of many alternative energy technologies, including dye sensitized solar cells. The cost of desalination systems can also be reduced through the integration of nanotechnology. [2] Achieving significant particle size reductions, nanotechnology can improve efficiencies and reduce production costs of alternative energy technologies, across the board.

There are many advantages to replacing silicon conductors in solar cells with carbon nanotubes. [3] While silicon is very brittle and easily shattered, CNTs are strong and highly resilient. Electrons can flow through carbon nanotubes ten times faster than in silicon-based circuits. Additionally, carbon nanotubes can carry 100 times the current and dissipate 20 times the heat of circuits made with silicon. These nanotube properties have much to offer the future of solar energy.

Carbon aerogel [4], an excellent superconductive material, can be used for improving electrolysis and hydrogen storage. Traditionally achieved through reverse osmosis or electrodialysis, electrolysis uses 10-20 times less energy per gallon through carbon aerogel electrochemical purification. As worldwide sources of fresh water diminish from explosive population growth, such advances in saltwater purification become essential to humanity’s future. Additionally, more developments in carbon aerogel could play a critical role in realizing a hydrogen economy.

One company leading the alternative energy nanotech revolution is Quantum Sphere, a manufacturer of advanced nano-catalysts. These catalysts are providing clean, renewable energy for batteries, fuel cells, solar power, and hydrogen generation. Although Quantum has achieved significant nano breakthroughs, it still has but only scratched the surface of what future technological improvements will unveil.

Carbon nanotubes can be utilized to increase the efficiency of microelectronics and reduce their weight by replacing copper backings on microchips. [5] CNTs are a direct replacement for copper in this regard, as they conduct heat just as effectively. Additionally, they are more flexible, resilient, and lighter than any other known cooling material.

Klean Industries is one of the more sustainable and innovative companies producing carbon nanotubes. The company has developed a pyrolysis technology to produce CNTs from recycled tires. This example of creating value-added commodities from garbage will serve to reinvent the way in which industry approaches “waste?, and will provide more creative momentum behind other future production methods of carbon nanotubes.

Many more nano-technological developments are being made in thermoelectrics, optoeletronics, nanophotonics, and other fascinating fields which will revolutionize the way in which we create and harness energy. The NASA Ames Nanotechnology research center is leading efforts to further develop these and other renewable energy fields. [6]

Most recently, NASA awarded Rice University's Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory an $11 million contract to produce a prototype carbon nanotube power cable. This type of wire would be manufactured and used for electromagnetic superconductive energy storage and superconductive high power transmission. [7] Traditionally, the use of high magnetic field levels in energy transmission has been restricted due to the exorbitant cost of superconducting materials. A high performance, relatively low-cost carbon nanotube cable would enable the utilization of higher magnetic fields. This development would create even further breakthroughs in the fields of high energy physics, magnetic fusion, and energy storage. [8]

Among other government-funded CNT research projects is an Air Force grant recently awarded to develop wires and cables made from carbon nanotubes. Nanocomp, the company behind the development, recently reveled in creating “the world's largest sheets of carbon nanotubes?. This initial grant will determine feasibility of the company's manufacturing concept, and if deemed viable, could catapult the carbon nanotube industry to heights that today are only imaginable. [9]

Much is left to be discovered about how nanotechnology can further integrate with other alternative energy technologies. With these exciting prospects on the horizon, carbon nanotubes and aerogels could prove to be the most important components of future alternative energy development.

Carbon is the new Silicon!



See Discussion page

Nanotube Efficiencies

On August 15, 2008, New Energy Congress member, Daniel Bowers wrote:

Image:Nanotube efficiencies nanoener jp70.jpg distributes the tubes from Klean industries.

I am not really too interested in getting into the structural differences of each type of carbon nanotube. I.E. single wall and multi wall structure and the different applications of them.

What I will say is this, plasma assisted chemical vapor deposition is the most effective means of making nanostructures.


  • Carbon Aerogels and Ultracapacitors - This technology will improve ultracapacitors by swapping in carbon nanotubes. In turn, this greatly increases the surface area of the electrodes and the ability to store energy since the amount of energy ultracaps can hold is related to the surface area and conductivity of electrodes. So.. since they have a extremely high surface area, carbon aerogels are used to create ultracapacitors with values ranging up to thousands of farads. (Greg Allen; April 13, 2008)

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