"Spicy world of NanoScience" since 2007
I was reading some research on battery technology and asked to express my opinion so I thought I would do it on this blog.
I'm not an expert in battery technology but will make the following comments. I believe effective means to store energy is one of the most important challenges we will be faced with in the next century. Currently most electrical power distribution requires power suppliers to have enough power plants to provide for the peak energy requirements. Even a small disruption to the power distribution system can result in serious problems. Blackouts can be triggered such as the one that hit New York city a few years back. A hurricane or tsunami can disrupt electrical power distribution. The power distribution grid is very fragile.
I believe what is needed, is a more robust energy distribution model. This should involve every user of electricity having enough electricity to supply them with at least three days worth of electrical power. Some places will want a week, others like a hospital may require 2-3 weeks or more. If a power disruption occurs in your area, you just switch to being more conservative with your electricity. Power companies would only need to supply the average demand for electricity not the peak demand. Excess power would flow into the distributed network of power storage units. This would also resolve many of the problems with alternative methods of energy production such as photovoltaic solar and wind. The key to this would be moderately priced electrical power storage units at every residence and place of business.
A good candidate for this type of storage would be an advanced battery. People might have a refrigerator or air conditioner sized unit at their home that would store electrical energy. The key to this type of storage is advanced battery technology that can be charged rapidly and provide high power output when needed. Nanotechnology will likely play a key role in developing these advanced battery technologies. The large surface area of nano-materials will allow for greater energy storage density. The research referenced above is interesting because it makes use of the area where nanotechnology really starts to shine in the "middle" region between bulk materials and solutions which are separated at the molecular scale. I think this represents some of the powerful potential of nano-scale materials.
Of course it is a long and difficult journey to go from research to a practical competitive product and there will be many failures and roadblocks along the way. Nevertheless I am convinced that advanced battery technology based on nano-materials will become a major solution to our energy issues in the next couple of decades.