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Nanotechnology can Combat Climate Change in the Future

by | Apr 12, 2022 | Sustainability, Utopia

The relatively unexplored world beyond what the human eye can see. The potential of working on a microscopic and nanoscopic level, a level a billion times smaller than average scales. This is nanotechnology, which means any technology on a nanoscale that has applications in the real world. It is the science of building extremely small objects.

Nanotechnology refers to our ability to study and engineer technologies at a nanoscale that ranges from one to 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter or one-millionth of a millimeter. Let’s try to put this from a different perspective, a human hair is around 75 000 nanometers wide. If each person on earth was the size of a nanometer every single person on the planet would fit into a single Hot Wheels car.

This technology involves the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular or supramolecular scale. We’re talking here about designing particles as tiny as one-billionth of an inch in size with the goal of arriving at stronger, cheaper or more environmentally friendly materials.

With the advent of nanotechnology, scientists can manipulate individual atoms and that takes us into the realm of quantum mechanics which is the science behind how matter behaves on the atomic and subatomic scale. Nanotechnology is responsible for great advances in physics, biology, chemistry, engineering and material science. It’s responsible for the new age of modern technology that will help civilization reach stars and much more.

It is a technology that will undoubtedly be the basis for much technological innovation in the future. Nanoparticles are manufactured to be extremely small and some of these materials can interact with human biology. The most common are energy applications. Small nanoparticles can store energy and be used in batteries or energy-efficient LED lights. Other applications of nanotechnology include solar cells, energy storage and green technology.

The concept of nanotechnology has broad applications, from creating better transistors to producing more efficient solar panels. In fact, nanoparticles exist in nature. For example, milk contains nanoscale droplets of fat and each cell in our body relies on tiny protein complexes to function.

Hence this brings us to the question, can nanotechnology help combat climate change?

In fact, it may already be helping the fight against climate change. Scientists are already using nanotechnology in building and insulating solid-wall buildings. Researchers from Frost & Sullivan are looking into how nanotechnology can reduce CO2 emissions in buildings. This could potentially reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2-3 million tonnes per year in the UK alone.

The building industry will change as a result of the use of materials that are more durable and energy-saving. Research indicates that nanotechnology promises to make thermal insulation more efficient, less reliant on non-renewable resources and will be an important strategy on the pathway to green buildings.

The application of nano insulation materials to limit the wall thickness is one of the greatest potential energy-saving characteristics for existing buildings.

The largest potential impact of nanotech on greenhouse-gas emissions will be on fuel additives. They can reduce carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions from vehicles. Another example of this is molybdenum disulfide nanocrystals, which are used in the production of hydrocarbon fuels.

Nanomaterials may also help improve the efficiency of fuel combustion. The third generation of nanocatalysts, Enercat, uses oxygen-storing cerium oxide nanoparticles to improve fuel combustion and reduce fuel consumption. This technology can reduce friction and wear on engine components. This, in turn, leads to a decrease in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The use of nanotech to perform delicate processes on a smaller scale makes it a valuable tool for clean energy and carbon capture technologies. Researchers have already tried carbon-based and metallic nanoparticles as anti-CO2 solutions but these haven’t yet reached an industrial scale.

Nanoparticles are already being produced in large quantities for a variety of applications. Sunscreens, for example, contain titanium dioxide nanoparticles to provide transparency. Additionally, nanoparticles are widely used in clothing, sports equipment and telecommunication infrastructure.

Using nanostructured materials to make solar cells and batteries will increase efficiency and reduce costs. It will also improve the durability of batteries, reducing their environmental impact and improving their energy performance.

lots of solar panel on roof top
Photo by Jeroen van de Water on Unsplash

One of the biggest contributors to climate change is the clothing industry. Estimates indicate that it is responsible for about 10% of total carbon emissions. That’s more than international flights and maritime shipping combined. The clothing industry uses synthetic fiber when making garments.

The process of making a T-shirt from polyester emits more than twice as much carbon as making it from cotton. And the phenomenon of fast fashion where new designs appear every few weeks has exacerbated the problem. Each garment is worn less before being disposed of and this shorter lifespan means higher relative manufacturing emissions.

There will be continued growth as the middle class expands and purchases increase to match this demographic shift. Hence, nanotechnologies offer other paths to addressing the issue of clothing’s contribution to climate change. This new field could vastly reduce the dependence on synthetic fibers made from fossil fuels.

Perhaps the most pervasive application of nanotechnologies will be programmable matter materials endowed with the ability to change their physical properties such as shape, density, conductivity or optical properties, in response to signals or sensors.

In the future, we may not have to rearrange our closets seasonally. The same garment might provide us with warmth in the winter and relief from the heat in summer. It could even change color in response to the temperature outdoors. The MIT Self-Assembly Lab holds that clothing that you can wear whatever the weather is no longer a sci-fi dream.

wine splashing on a white nanotechnology clothe
Image by Kaur Reinjärv from Pixabay

Researchers have created a smart material that works just like the pores on human skin, expanding and contracting depending on the surrounding temperature. The material tightens in cold weather to provide insulation and loosens as the temperature rises, thus allowing for air to circulate.

Nanotechnology can improve solar energy production is the development of graphene, a single-atom-thick layer of mineral graphite that is 100 times stronger than steel. This technology will also allow the development of extremely lightweight, rigid wind turbines.

These wind turbines will be able to generate electricity at lower wind speeds than normal, making them more efficient, stronger and lighter. And nanotechnologies promise to offer cheap, biodegradable substitutes for plastic to avoid polluting fisheries with tiny, harmful particles, which harm wildlife and may enter the food chain.

We all take water for granted. Based on the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), by 2025 two thirds of the global population may experience water scarcity. And that’s because of global warming-driven droughts. Supply cuts are looming and water is fueling wars across the world.

There is a lot of desalination plant around the world and a lot uses nano-membranes making seawater drinkable in minutes. Applications of nanotechnology have great promise in water treatment, remediation, sensing and pollution prevention.

Scientists are pondering how to best reap the benefits of nanotechnology while avoiding the risks it may bring. It is set to revolutionize the water industry, but several questions remain unanswered.

While nanotech is widely thought to have a number of direct benefits for the environment, it is not without risks. It is a great tool for improving health and reducing global warming, but there is a need for careful regulation. As with any new technology, there are potential dangers to be considered.

While there are many direct applications for nanotech, there are also numerous potential unintended consequences. It is unclear whether nanoparticles are benign or harmful. Researchers must assess the effects of nanoparticles and their long-term effects on human health.

As these new technologies grow, we should be vigilant of the potential negative effects and ensure that they are studied before they are commercialized. If these developments are successful, nanotechnology could change our world forever.

Many industries will be affected by nanotechnology, resulting in new products and processes. Many jobs will be lost in the process, so it’s hard to estimate exactly how much the world will benefit. However, this new technology will also open up new business opportunities and create jobs in the process.

While nanotech may not be the answer to all of our problems, it has the potential to improve many things. The possibilities are endless. By implementing these innovations, the world can become a more sustainable place. So, we should harness the power of nanotechnology and make it work for our benefit.

As a result, there is still a long way to go before industrial-scale nanotechnology can combat climate change. If scientists can harness the power of nanoparticles to make these materials, the world will be a greener and safer place.