Alternatives

Energy - Alternatives - About The Sector

This sub-sector includes the non-fossil fuel energy sources: wind and wave energy, marine, ocean and tidal energy, geothermal energy, hydroelectricity and biofuels, inter alia, wherever they can benefit from the use of nanotechnology (with solar energy and hydrogen energy excluded as they are addressed as separate sub-sectors).

Nanotechnology (e.g. in the form of carbon nanotubes) can be applied as high-strength, lightweight materials for the rotor blades of wind and other turbines. They can also be used to lubricate bearings, to reduce heating and to provide enhanced wear resistance in turbine applications. Nanostructured materials could also help in countering eddy-effects and improving the effectiveness of the blades as they move through the air. Nanotechnology can be used in a similar way in river and ocean environments, where nano-textured surfaces can, in addition, reduce bio-fouling of blades by making it difficult for contaminants to become attached.

Nanotechnology is being researched with the aim of optimising the conversion of biomass into energy. It is also already being applied as sensor technology in agriculture and manufacturing (e.g. in optimising biofuel processing and in limiting the use of pesticides and fertilisers in the production of biomass). Algal biomass is being seen as a vast, untapped source of energy from the sea that will not take from food production. Nanotechnology research is looking to address the challenges of effectively harvesting algae (e.g. using clay and sand nanoparticles to extract the oil content without damaging the algae, making the resource a renewable one) and as a catalysis in the processing of the crop to be used as algal biofuels.