Against the double-whammy backdrop of an energy challenge and a climate challenge it is the role of innovative energy technologies to provide socially acceptable solutions through energy savings; efficiency gains; and decarbonization. Nanotechnology It may not be the silver bullet, but nanomaterials and nanoscale applications will have an important role to play. This article provides an overview of the issues and nanomaterials and applications that are being researched in the field of energy.
Since the first 'Scotch tape' method - i.e. mechanical peeling - of making graphene was reported in 2004, researchers have come up with a variety of techniques for producing graphene. Since simply using the as-produced graphene flakes is not good enough for use in sophisticated applications, intricate patterning processes are essential for the development of the required graphene structures for use in nanoelectronic and optical devices. Usinf a novel method, researchers have now successfully grown graphene from neat polystyrene regions.
Putting some of the rising amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to good use again, researchers are looking for ways to convert atmospheric CO2 emissions into industrially relevant, valuable chemicals and fuels; ideally powered by clean, renewable energy sources to make the whole process carbon-negative or at least carbon-neutral, i.e. by using at least - if not more - CO2 than is created in the process. New work demonstrates that current, state-of-the-art renewable energy sources can efficiently power large-scale CO2 conversion systems.
Researchers have demonstrated a novel, low-cost substrate processing procedure to achieve rapid, efficient synthesis of millimeter-sized single crystal graphene. One of the greatest challenges in commercializing graphene is how to produce high quality material, on an industrial scale, at low cost, and in a reproducible manner. The quality of graphene plays a crucial role as the presence of defects, impurities, domain boundaries, multiple domains, structural disorders, or wrinkles in the graphene sheet can have undesired or unexpected effects on its electronic and optical properties.
Among others, a significant area for nanopaper applications are sensors. Paper-based sensors promise to be simple, portable, disposable, low power-consuming, and inexpensive sensor devices that will find ubiquitous use in medicine, detecting explosives, toxic substances, and environmental studies. New work describes various nanopaper-based nanocomposites that exhibit plasmonic or photoluminescent properties that can be modulated using different reagents. These can be used for simple, disposable and versatile sensing platforms.
An international research team has designed and demonstrated novel self-powered human-interactive transparent nanopaper systems, utilizing transparent nanopaper as base material. This nanopaper system is based on an electrostatic induction mechanism and a dielectric material. That makes them self-powered, i.e. able to operate without the need for external power. The basic working mechanisms of the resulting devices are electrostatic induction effects caused by the retaining charges.
Researchers have developed a simple double-transfer printing technique that allows them to integrate high performing electronic devices - featuring state-of-the-art, non-planar, sub-20nm FinFET devices - fabricated on novel flexible thin silicon sheets with several kinds of materials exhibiting complex, asymmetric surfaces including textile, paper, wood, stone, and vinyl. This process utilizes soft materials to integrate nonplanar FinFET and planar traditional MOSFET devices onto various wavy, curvilinear, irregular, or asymmetric surfaces.
Researchers have been looking to design catalyst materials that can significantly enhance the performance of oxygen evolution reaction (OER), a key eletrode reaction that is an enabling process for many energy storage options such as direct-solar and electricity-driven water splitting and rechargeable metal-air batteries. However, OER suffers from sluggish kinetics - but a novel material inspired by the pomegranate might change that.