Transport - Overview - About the Sector - Text

Transport is defined here as an energy-consuming sector based on vehicles whose purpose is transporting people and/or goods via the air, rail, road, water and space[1]. The sector can be divided into two main areas, vehicles and infrastructure.

Vehicles used for the transportation of people and/or goods include

  • cars (automobiles), buses, trucks, lorries
  • trains
  • ships, boats and barges
  • aircraft (aeroplanes and helicopters) and spacecraft
  • motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles

Vehicles whose primary purpose is not transportation (such as bulldozers) are excluded.

Transport infrastructure[2] includes roads, rail (for trains), railway stations, bus stations, airports, tunnels and aqueducts, bridges, waterways and canals, trucking terminals, refuelling depots (including fuel docks and fuel stations) and seaports.

Nanotechnology is being employed as a current and potential means to improve the performance of vehicles, for example: to reduce the weight of vehicles (through lightweight nanocomposites), improve road handling (via the use of nanomaterials in tyres), to monitor engine systems and optimise their parameters, as catalysts in fuels and to reduce maintenance (by protecting vehicles from dirt and wear). Organic light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are also expected to grow in use for flexible, high-resolution and low-energy consumption displays and vehicle lighting. Other energy applications of nanotechnology include batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and solar cells for next-generation vehicles, as well as wide application potential in autonomous vehicles. Many of the developments around vehicles initially took place in the aerospace industry, gradually filtering down to road vehicles, or in the area of competitive, high-performance vehicles (bicycles and cars) for racing.

Nanotechnology is being applied to the transport sector to improve performance and safety and to reduce cost and environmental impact. Nanotechnology is also being used to improve the infrastructure for transport, through improvements in roads, bridges and tunnels as well as in better traffic monitoring and management systems. In asphalt, nanomaterials are being considered as a means to reduce the costs of repair and maintenance by improving thermal performance, water-proofing and anti-corrosive properties.

The nanomaterials being used or explored for transport applications include, for example, carbon nanotubes (for increased strength, reduced weight and water-repellence); oxide nanoparticles (as fuel additives to improve combustion and reduce soot emissions); nanoclays (in asphalt binders); nanoparticles in paints and films (for vehicle bodies); and thin films and nano-polymer coatings (for concrete, timber or steel infrastructure).

[1] For further details about the definition of the transport sector see the NACE European Nomenclature of Economic Activities :

[2] Fulmer, Jeffrey (2009). "What in the world is infrastructure?" PEI Infrastructure Investor (July/August): 30–32