Can Nanotechnology Help the Biden Adminstration Tackle Climate Change?

Nanotechnology is at the leading edge of advances in green energy production, a stated concern of the Biden administration for affecting both environmental impact and economic development in The United States.

"We have the opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable economy — one that will put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050 " according to the Biden transition team webpage on climate change.

In one example the administration states that it wants to "…provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options through flexible federal investments."

Fuel cell powered transit buses are one option that could make public transportation more environmentally friendly. Nanotechnology is helping to improve fuel cells by developing ways to store hydrogen in nanoporus materials such as Metal-Organic-Frameworks (MOF) or graphene. This would reduce the weight of storage containers over that of metal tanks. Nanotechnology may also reduce the cost of fuel cells by using nanoparticles to reduce the amount of platinum needed to catalyze the reaction of hydrogen with water to produce electricity.

Battery powered transit buses are another option. Nanotechnology is helping researchers to explore improved battery technology using nanoparticles in battery anodes to reduce the charging time and increase the storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries, as well as developing next generation battery types.

Biden’s administration has also vowed to "move ambitiously to generate clean, American-made electricity to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. "

One way to make electricity without generating pollution is by using solar cells. Nanotechnology is helping to reduce the cost of solar cells by using innovative materials such as graphene.

Carbon capture is another way to reduce or eliminate carbon pollution from existing power plants. Nanotechnology is helping to develop methods of using nanoporous material called metal-organic frameworks to capture carbon dioxide and convert it into useful chemicals.

The President’s agenda includes initiatives to "drive dramatic cost reductions in critical clean energy technologies, including battery storage, negative emissions technologies, the next generation of building materials, renewable hydrogen, and advanced nuclear – and rapidly commercialize them, ensuring that those new technologies are made in America."

One approach is to improve building materials such as insulation using a nanoporous material called an aerogel. This material reduces the thickness required to insulate walls. Aerogels can also be used to insulate windows, reducing heat loss while still providing light.

Improving battery storage technology helps the electrical grid to store electricity generated at non-peak usage times by using non-polluting generators, such as windmills and solar cells, and then releasing the stored electricity during peak usage times. Nanotechnology is helping to improve battery technology using nanoparticles in battery anodes that reduce the charging time and capacity of lithium-ion batteries, as well as enabling the development of next generation battery types.

For more information see

Nanotechnology in Building Materials

Nanotechnology in Batteries

Nanotechnology in Fuel Cells

Nanotechnology in Solar Cells

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