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Nanocatalysis is beginning to alter the economy

from the here-and-now dept.
TimHarper writes "Nanocatalysis is one area of nanotechnology that is already beginning to alter the economics of energy production, and billion dollar deals have already been signed. The shift away from dependence on oil from the Persian Gulf region also has implications for the bargaining power of OPEC, and provides significant opportunities in the energy sector for both Russia and China. In the post-September 11th world, desire to reduce dependence on imported energy is hot topic both in Washington and Brussels, and nanocatalysis is starting to make this possible."

"As you may know, we at CMP Cientifica have a couple of new reports out at the moment, an updated White Paper on Nanotechnology available free from our site (the link on the Foresight page should still work -same url), and an in depth report into the effect nanocatalysis is having on the energy markets – extended executive summary at Nanocatalysis and fossil fuels: Executive Summary. Hopefully this will open a few peoples eyes and help them realize that nanotechnology is not like nuclear fusion, always 30 years away, but already here & now."

"Time mentioned the Energy report this week at It's The N-Generation: Nanotechnology, which offers super-small solutions to some very big problems, may be coming of age"

"Also from Panel: Nano effort needs broadening, 'The Department of Energy should do more within its nanotechnology programs to include the science of catalysis, or modifying chemical reactions, the agency's Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee said Tuesday.'"

5 Responses to “Nanocatalysis is beginning to alter the economy”

  1. Saturngraphix Says:

    Invisible Progression

    I believe that in these early days of production nanotech, it will alter many aspects of large manufacturing industries in a very silent way. The Space program could be likened to it in that most people dont know what the space program has ever given to us (except for the moon landing) however one can find with a little research just how many application and advancements have been accomplished by the silent work of NASA,
    Nanotech in the early days will be similar…quietly changing our economy and ways of manufacturing to where the average consumer has not a clue of the immense changes it has brought over time…just thinking its some fancy sci-fi word and some lab experiments that has never benefitted humanity to date, until a little research is done.

    Would I be right in this? Does anyone see the "launching of a satellite" mark happening for nanotech thereby alerting your neighbor of its usefullness (creating a full blown assembler does not count as that is on the same level as a personal spaceship…)

  2. RobertBradbury Says:

    CMP Cientifica promoting problems, not solutions

    Commenting on the CMP Cientifica abstract.

    "As with other technological shifts, control of the direction and magnitude of the effects lies in the hands of the controllers and adopters of the technology."

    Huh? Certainly the overbuilt telecom sector or the lack of public enthusiasm for Microsoft's .NET paradigm would argue against the "controllers" being able to steer the development path.

    "help shift greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles to more centralized locations"

    Coal liquification technology (the main thing a report on nanocatalysis would seem to be pushing) doesn't shift the emission location! Cars and trucks still consume the resulting liquid fuels at distributed locations.

    "ultimately pave the way to a hydrogen economy"

    How precisely? Just because you have fuel cells doesn't mean that you have a hydrogen manufacturing and distribution system in place. Installing a hydrogen distribution pipeline system requires macroscale technologies not nanoscale technologies.

    CMP even admits "Nor are we about to see a major improvement in emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants". Well then why are they pushing the technology!?! This is yet another example of promoting short sighted corporate greed at the expense of the survivability of humanity.

    "the potential for exploiting the bulk of the world's gas reserves, which are currently uneconomic. There is even a distant possibility of tapping a source of methane … in the form of methane hydrates sitting at the bottom of our oceans".

    What a bunch of hype! This is like electricity from nuclear power that is "too cheap to meter". There is no consideration here for the risks posed by an uncontrolled melting of the methane hydrates significantly raising the level of greenhouse gases beyond their already unprecedented (in many millennia) levels. Even were global warming not to trigger an uncontrolled melting, CMP seems to be suggesting we should further acerbate the potential global warming situation by using the bulk of the gas reserves or the methane clathrates as fuel!

    Once we have robust molecular nanotechnology it will be relatively easy to solve the environmental damage that is most likely promoting global warming. Until that time we should be drenching the vampires holding up nanoscale technologies likely to make the current situation worse in holy water. We only have one planet. Promoting further corporate shortsightedness and recklessness is irresponsible.

  3. TimHarper Says:

    Re:CMP Cientifica promoting problems, not solution

    Lets take a reality check and forget about the diamondoid age for a while, probably quite a while, whilst the industrialization of countries like China & India involving a fifth or the worlds population makes the current US/European environmental impact look like a pinprick on an elephant.

    We are not suggesting that coal liquefaction is a panacea for all the worlds ills, but lets look at the facts. Diesel is a nasty, dirty filthy energy source, but if you look at the environmental havoc wreaked by the former communist countries of Eastern Europe burning brown coal or lignite, I think you will agree that moving to diesel is a step in the right direction. A small step, but one that makes both economic and environmental sense ñ a powerful combination.

    Perhaps you are suggesting that we all sit & wait for 'robust molecular nanotechnology' to solve all our environmental problems. The sooner we start to use the practical aspects of nanotechnology, and I'm not talking about MNT here, I'm talking about technologies that affect companies bottom lines right now, to move in the direction of sustainable development then the less mess there will be to clean up if hordes of MNT devices ever get to the stage of being of any assistance.

    Lets concentrate on taking the tiny steps in the right direction with the technologies we have now rather than pinning our hopes on 30 year time horizons ñ 'A stitch in time saves nine' as the old proverb goes. You might also want to take a peek at http://nanotechweb.org/articles/column/1/8/1/1

    Nanocatalysis is an area already worth billions, and energy is the largest market on the planet ñ not hype, just reality.

  4. RobertBradbury Says:

    Re:CMP Cientifica promoting problems, not solution

    With respect to the industrialization of China (per capita GDP $3,600) or India (per capita GDP $2,200), it will be many years before they reach a level of development (even at 3-7% annual growth rates) that a significant fraction of their populations will require Western levels of fuel or electricity. So we do have time to invent better solutions than coal liquefaction.

    I would not propose that we "sit & wait" for "robust molecular nanotechnology". Instead I would propose an aggressive program to use bionanotechnology to produce sustainable solutions. We have the gene sequences in public databases for photosynthetic harvesting of solar energy (and atmospheric carbon dioxide). We also have the gene sequences that enable the production of alcohols and methane. These should enable the production of solar pond bioreactors that produce energy resources in a sustainable fashion. The use of technologies that require offsite manufacturing plants (e.g. to manufacture nanocatalysts) are the slow growth path. The rapid growth path requires the properties of self-assembly and self-replication. Sustainability would be better if the property of self-repair were present as well. One only finds these properties at this time in bionanotechnology, e.g. engineered bacteria.

    These "practical aspects" of bacteria have been used by humans for thousands of years. Given our current knowledge of the genetic programs we have the possibility of developing "whole genome engineering" and engineering bacteria to solve our energy and sustainability problems. Without a clearly defined solution to the greenhouse gas emission problem I will assert that coal liquifaction based on nanocatalysis is not a sustainable approach and should be discouraged.

    The use of bacteria to harvest atmospheric carbon dioxide, convert it into methane which can be distributed using existing natural gas pipelines, which can be further reformed into hydrogen at fueling stations, or in vehicles, potentially using nanocatalysis, is a sustainable path that we could begin to work on now.

  5. TimHarper Says:

    Re:CMP Cientifica promoting problems, not solution

    I'll leave the last word on this to http://www.cmp-cientifica.com/cientifica/framework s/generic/public_users/tnt_weekly/archive_2002/wee k_31.htm

    We guess we have to respond to this somewhat feverish piece of
    criticism, but we'll try to keep it relatively brief ("ha!", we hear you
    say).

    Firstly, don't judge a book by its cover. Much of the criticism here
    would be answered by reading the report. That said, let's take a look at
    the criticism anyway.

    On the first point, about controllers and adopters, we think it's enough
    to point out that we said controllers and adopters, not just
    controllers.

    On shifting emissions from vehicles to centralised locations, if the
    vehicles consume hydrogen (some time away yet) then they produce no
    greenhouse gases. If the hydrogen comes from fossil fuels then that
    greenhouse gas is still produced but in the conversion plants rather
    than every vehicle (which facilitates sequestration). There is clearly a
    misunderstanding here that we were implying that coal liquefaction
    technology would lead to this shift. We don't see any reason why this
    should have been assumed. Certain liquefaction technologies could play a
    part in such a shift, though, through the extraction of hydrogen from
    synthesis gas.

    On paving the way to a hydrogen economy, the issue of the lack of a
    hydrogen distribution system and the prohibitive cost of developing one
    is well known. Another issue is the lack of economically viable
    technologies for using the hydrogen once it's available. The lack of the
    former has been used as an argument against being able to get the latter
    introduced. However, there are several well-documented scenarios for
    allowing technology based on using hydrogen as a fuel to proceed without
    having such a distribution system in place, such as local generation of
    hydrogen from fossil fuels or renewables such as solar energy. Natural
    gas distribution systems are well developed in many countries and, if
    used for this, would facilitate a shift away from oil-based vehicle
    fuels, with a consequent reduction in CO2 emissions (natural gas
    produces less CO2 than oil). Additionally, some hydrogen distribution
    may be able to piggyback on natural gas distribution systems.

    "Well then why are they pushing the technology!?!". The report is not a
    policy document but a description of developments that could have some
    major geopolitical impacts (global warming is a serious issue, but there
    are other important issues in the world). If the consequences for CO2
    production were negative then this would have been stated. They are,
    however, likely to be neutral or, potentially, quite positive, though
    this depends on other factors, many political, in what is a complex
    dynamic.

    The methane hydrates issue is highly speculative – no one yet has a
    clear idea whether we could tap this potentially massive resource, but
    the possibility does need to be mentioned. Nothing is being advocated or
    promoted here – this is not the function of the report. The release of
    methane from methane hydrates through global warming is an unconnected,
    and also very speculative, issue.

    On the final comment, although we approve of drenching vampires in holy
    water (the combination of the agonised screams and that sizzling sound
    is particularly satisfying) we're not sure that people would take us
    seriously if we started shouting it from the rooftops. We do actually
    believe that the governments of the world are not doing enough to tackle
    issues such as global warming and are not investing nearly as much as
    they should in renewable energy technologies, but such opinions have no
    place in a report that is designed to inform about the way this part of
    our world is changing and to help people to make rational decisions as a
    result. We will save exhortations about what we think should or
    shouldn't be done about the problems the world faces for TNT Weekly and,
    to be honest, we don't think that telling people that a "robust
    molecular nanotechnology" will easily solve the global warming problem
    is going to do anything to encourage lower CO2 production. It would
    probably do quite the opposite, in fact, and would thus be thoroughly
    irresponsible considering the speculative nature of the proposition. But
    then we doubt anyone would listen anyway.

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