Tag Archives: Nanotechnology

One Year of Blogging

One year has passed since we started this blog with Steve Job’s famous commencement address.

Less than one month later a post on LinuxMCE made it to the front page of Digg, and got 25.000 visits in one day!

Since then, we have spoken about iPhone, Android, Mobile Internet, Mobile TVIPTV, Internet TV, the economy of freenetbooks, WiMAXclouds, pipes and even nanotechnology. We have also echoed from great entrepreneurs as Guy Kawasaki, Tim Ferriss or Martin Varsavsky.

It has been close to 200 posts, 250 comments, 139.000 visits and 260.000 pages.

Thank you for being there.

Note: Did I mention we also wrote about iPhone?

Wireless Energy Transmission for my Laptop

When will my laptop be totally wireless, even to recharge the battery? The future might be sooner than we thought, and Nanotechnology will be part of it.

There are many types of Wireless Energy Transmission although none of them have gone further than a prototype. For home use, powerbeaming could be the technology to free our portable devices from wires. Powerbeaming works based on a Laser system at one end that beams to a Solar Cell at the other end that transforms light into a DC current.

Current lasers have a 30-60% efficiency that combined with a 40-50% efficiency of solar cells, brings the overall efficiency at a maximum of 30%, still not too bad compared with electric bulbs. But Nanotechnology might boost these efficiencies at both ends.  

Solid-state lightning  promises up to 100% efficiency to convert electricity into light, once that we have atomically precise manufacturing technologies to arrange light-emitting building blocks in a controlled manner.

Today’s CIGS, CdTE or thin-film silicon are bringing down prices of Solar Cells. The ability to manufacture defect-free nanomaterials would improve efficiency at an exponential rate. With laptops foreseen to be equipped with solar cells in less than 10 years, solid-state lightning beams could be a wireless replacement to a wall socket.

 Picture from Wikipedia: NASA prototype of lightweight plane powered by a laser beam and a solar cell.

It Is Time for Renewable Energy

The high prices of oil in the seventies stimulated the research for alternative sources of energy. Nuclear power plants emerged as a very cost-effective energy source, though always controversial. Windmills and solar plants were in their infancy and too inefficient, while hydroelectric plants, apart from the high environmental impact, only can cope with a small percentage of the energy demand. In the eighties and nineties oil prices went down, and with cheap oil the progress on renewable energies slowed down.

Now, the high oil prices have returned driven by the increasing demand for energy in the developing world (specially China and India). The high price is making economically viable to extract oil from other sources, such as tar sands or liquefied coal. This means oil reserves will still last for a while, but oil will remain expensive.

Add the concerns on global warming, and this time renewable energies are here to stay. Many governments in developed countries are considering to tax emissions of CO2. This tax on coal, oil and gas power plants, with high oil prices, would start making renewable energies a cheaper alternative. It is what Google.org calls RE<C, or renewable energies cheaper than coal. Google’s initiative will focus on areas such as solar thermal, wind, and geothermal, that promise utility scale energy production.

Solar technologies are one of the most promising option to power the planet cleanly. New thin-film photovoltaics with mixtures of new materials (cadmium telluride or CIGS) are bringing costs down and built on top of steel and crsital, the cells can be part of the roof structure of buildings or vehicles. The efficiency of this new solar cells is lower than bulk silicon cells, but the efficiency is improving at a pace close to Moore’s law in computers, with big names, as IBM, getting involved. With the promise of nanotechnology bringing new techniques and materials, like carbon nanotubes, expect an efficiency boost in the coming years.

If Internet made the network decentralized, solar cells will also make power generation a distributed process in 20 years.

Related reading:
Another silicon valley? From The Economist print edition Jun 19th 2008

The Nanotechnology Revolution Is Coming

Nanotechnology aims a the fabrication of a wider range of materials with atomic precision. Advances in nanotechnology will have a huge impact in solving some of the challenges of today, such as global warming, sustainable energy, new cures for diseases, more powerful computers or ultra-high performance materials.

Some of the immediate applications we will see in the coming years include:

  • Nano-enabled fuel cells and solar photovoltaics
  • Anti-vital, cancer agents
  • Nano-Biosensors
  • Electric Nanomotors
  • Post-silicon computers, including Petabit memories and exaflop processors
  • Solid State Lighting. OLED and LED could provide close to 100% thermodynamic efficiency, compared to 22% or current artificial lighting

In computing, nanotube transistors would enable faster microprocessors, data storage could be based on DNA structures, and optical transmission would use Optical Waveguides that replace glass by atomically precise crystalline structures that would eliminate the irregularities that cause signal loss.

A bright future that requires atomically precise manufacturing (APM) capabilities to be mastered. Atomically precise productive nanosystems (APPN) are nanoscale APM systems to fabricate nanostructures. APPN exist in nature, such as a ribosome that “manufactures” proteins. Advances in Atomically Precise Technologies, and in particular in APM and APPN, in next years will be key to enable the Nano-Industrial revolution.