Nanotechnology Is the Future of Renewable Energy

Nanotechnology is advancing so rapidly these days that it seems there is a new nanotech breakthrough being reported on a daily basis.  Top researchers from around the world are using nanotechnology to solve problems once considered impossible, and are even discovering new and interesting properties in our material reality along the way.

2011 alone has seen some major advances in nanotechnology applied to the energy sector, and the promise nanotech holds for renewable energy is exactly what the budding market needs to eventually overtake fossil fuels as the energy generation mode of choice.

Super Efficient Solar Nantennas

University of Missouri researcher Patrick Pinhero and collaborators have developed microscopic antennas called, “nantennas,” that capture sunlight in both the visible and near-infrared spectrum as well as heat energy to create a thin-film solar sheet capable of 90 percent efficiency—far better than the 20 percent efficiency offered by current solar panels.

Energy Generation from Sound

Researchers at Sungkyunkwan University have created microscopic strings of zinc oxide that when exposed to sound vibrate between two electrodes, thus creating a charge. “Sound power can be used for various novel applications including cellular phones that can be charged during conversations and sound-insulating walls near highways that generate electricity from the sound of passing vehicles,” says lead researcher Dr. Sang-Woo Kim.

Energy Transmission Via Nanotubes

A never-before witnessed energy effect has been observed by MIT scientists working with carbon “nanotubes.”  Apparently, heat waves travel through these microscopic tubes up to 10,000 times faster than normal while picking up ambient charged particles along the way, thus creating and electric charge.  This offers untold potential in energy transmission.

Focusing Energy with Nanocones 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has created microscopic zinc oxide cones, dubbed “nanocones,” that exhibit the unique property of focusing and intensifying energy at the cones’ tips.  The nanocones have been applied to solar cells to boost efficiency.

Storing Energy with Nanosponges

University of Texas researchers have created carbon nano-supercapacitors called “nanosponges” which are capable of storing static-electric energy in their sponge-like pores.  Like traditional supercapacitors, nansponges can deliver energy faster and more efficiently than chemical-based batteries, but at a far higher capacity.  Currently, the nanosponges can store the energy equivalent of a lead-acid battery, but material improvements could put them on par with lithium-ion very soon.

Source: Nanotechnology Is the Future of Renewable Energy | Energy Digital

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Can NanoTechnology Help Treat Alzheimer’s – Ileana Varela

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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. It takes a devastating toll on patients and family members, who are usually the caregivers. Current drugs only treat symptoms of AD, not its causes.

FIU researchers are studying a new approach to treating Alzheimer’s using nanotechnology aimed at reducing the inflammation in the brain.

“Current drugs affect neuro-transmitters in the brain. However, inflammation is still clearly present in patients with AD—and seems to be a root cause,” says Madhavan Nair, associate dean for biomedical research and vice president for nanotechnology at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s; someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 66 seconds; and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States – killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.

Nair and his team will target brain cells called microglia and will use his FIU patented MENs (magneto electric nanoparticles) carrier system for the specific delivery and sustained release of two
anti-inflammatory drugs, Withaferin A and CRID3, into those cells.

“We are hoping that this will inhibit the neuroinflammatory response in microglia and thus help to improve cognitive function in AD patients,” Nair says. The study is funded by a $224,643 grant from the Florida Department of Health.

Although scientists are not sure what causes cell death and tissue loss in the Alzheimer’s brain, they suspect plaques and tangles are to blame. The plaques form when protein pieces called beta-amyloid clump together between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.

Investigators in Nair’s lab are using sophisticated technology –bioinformatic tools and 3D structure of beta-amyloid – to find the binding site of these anti-inflammatory drugs on beta-amyloid. These studies could translate into new therapies in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

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