We here at the Nanotechnology Law Report like to think that nanotech is the "next big thing." Many think that another "next big thing" is the concern and discussion over global warming and greenhouse gases (GHGs). Last week these two big things came together in two very interesting ways.
First, the United Kingdom’s Department of Food, Environment, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), released a report entitled "Environmentally Beneficial Nanotechnologies: Barriers and Opportunities." The 95-page report (appendices here), outlines the opportunities nanotechnologies may provide in combating global warming through cutting the use of non-renewable energy. The report focuses on five areas: fuel additives, solar cells, hydrogen, batteries & supercapacitors, and insulation. A full press release on the report is here, and the report was compiled by Oakdene Hollins, a sustainability consultant.
In a second GHG development, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, has "gone green." While more details are here, the Project decided to offset its GHG emissions to zero, thereby eliminating is "carbon footprint." The Project is offsetting approximately 93 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions through The Climate Trust for travel emissions and the Solar Electric Light Fund for electricity emissions. "Offsets" are those projects that have the effect of reducing the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere through activities such as carbon capture, increased use of renewable energies, or increased efficiencies at existing GHG sources. The Project, therefore, is funding, through the purchase of offsets, these two organizations’ efforts to reduce the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere.
While both of these developments are relatively small compared to the larger body of work on both nanotechnology and global warming, they show that the two are not necessarily distinct. I suspect we will see more overlap between the two fields are more is learned concerning nanotechnology’s ability to impact energy sectors.