Nanotechnology and “Green Growth” policies: Economist “Game Changer”

Abstract: The UK’s Green Construction Board recently announced only a “heroic effort” would allow the built environment sector to realise its carbon emission targets of 2050. Such a wan declaration heralds a downward spiral to carbon austerity if the UK’s Carbon Budget is to be balanced. Policies are now required to support the development of a range of low-carbon and high-efficiency technologies within a pressing timescale. Greater focus is required on what the OECD labels “Green Growth” policies, including developing innovative solutions to environmental challenges. One such enabler is nanoscale technology, where structuring very small-scale novel materials can provide technical solutions across a spectrum of carbon abatement measures from the CO2 sequestration and storage to energy efficiency. Nanotechnology is used in a range of sustainable energy applications such as energy harvesting and recycling, energy storage and improving energy generation. One report by Lux Research calculated that if the US, Germany and Japan were to fully adopt six nanotechnologies (low-friction coatings in automotive engines, nanofibre air filters, nano-enabled insulation, lightweight nanocomposite automotive parts, thermochromic windows, and quantum dot light sources) then the energy saved would be enough to close down all the coal plants in the US. To put that in perspective, coal accounts for over 40% of US electricity generation.

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