Lithium buckyballs to store hydrogen?
: Roland Piquepaille provides a perfect example of how nanoscale technology differs develops, going from a realworld problem through computer models to reality. "The clusters they've designed -- by using computer modeling -- are composed of 12 lithium atoms and 60 carbon atoms, are very stable and can store up to 120 hydrogen atoms in molecular form. .. But why did the researchers choose to study this particular kind of material to store hydrogen?
There are two classes of materials: one where large amounts of hydrogen can be stored, but it is difficult for hydrogen to desorb (e.g., CH4), and the other where hydrogen can desorb easily, but not much of it can be stored (e.g., carbon nanotubes). An ideal storage system would be one where hydrogen binds molecularly but with a binding energy that is intermediate between the physisorbed and chemisorbed state. We show that coating of C60 fullerenes with suitable metal atoms may lead to the synthesis of novel hydrogen storage materials. In particular, we show that the unusual ability of Li12C60 to bind 60 hydrogen molecules stems from the unique chemistry at the nanoscale."
It's still a long way from this technology to the pollution-free fuel cell in your car; but model-driven nanotech gives us tools to systematically aproach our targets for technological development. 11:44:05 PM
Wind Blade Technology
: I started looking into sustainable energy in 2001, and found an active community that was open to sharing its findings and that was starting to use the internet to communicate. As I learned about RSS and weblogs, I thought that this area, like many in the IT world, would see weblogs grow, and with them a spontaneous division of labor to speed the spread of new developments would emerge. Blogs from universities, corporations, development institutions, non-profits, and from motivated independents would identify and highlight findings that mattered in specialized areas, and others who would otherwise search original sources would save time and effort by reading their blogs.
In the last 12 months, that dynamic has taken hold in sustainable energy. Starting in 2001, I kept a blog collecting important results I discovered in emerging energy technologies
and developing country energy
options, but now I find others are keeping close track and I can just follow their investigations. They include venture capitalists
, investment companies
, and independent engineers
The Wind Blade blog (above) from six employees of Owens-Corning is an advanced example. They work in different countries, but all concentrate on the materials from which the blades of wind turbines are built. They write: "We accept the value of renewable wind energy as a given and we are
committed to helping it become more cost competitive and widely used." They work in a specialized but critical technology. Why? Well, the output of a wind turbine is proportional to the area swept by its blades, which is the square of the length, so even small increases in blade length matter. Longer blades need materials that are strong, light, and rigid enough to turn in moderate winds while flexible enough to bend rather than break in strong winds. New materials for blades continue to make wind power more economically compelling every year.
It will be interesting to see if these bloggers find an audience among other engineers, and if they retain their corporate backing. 11:21:18 PM