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Nanotechnology as a key technology lies at the foundation of sustainable innovations in the energy sector and circular economy.
Lithium-ion batteries are the most popular rechargeable batteries today, as they have become the primary power source for many applications such as portable electronics, power tools and hybrid / all-electric vehicles. While tremendous effort has been put into investigating the electrochemical performance of many active lithium-based materials, current rechargeable batteries exhibit energy density, longevity and safety well below theoretical capabilities. None of the current rechargeable batteries can fully meet all the challenging requirements for our current energy storage.
New research directions aimed at understanding ionic diffusion and electron transport and the regulation of reversible electrochemical reactions are crucial for developing batteries with greatly improved energy storage and longer life. Nanotechnology and advanced materials, including innovative techniques to create and shape the materials, are the key technologies as they enable interventions on a critical nanolength scale. In addition, research will include the use nanotechnology for the reusability of materials, more sustainable use of energy and the development of alternatives to plastics and insulation materials.
In the field of sustainability, people will have to adapt to new standards. The Paris (climate) Agreement provides guidelines that will not be achieved without the innovative contribution that nanotechnology offers us. A more conscious and efficient use of energy shows that other forms of energy flows are needed. The sector will work on standards that have a positive impact on people and nature.
The entrepreneurs and ministries in this sector are joining forces to achieve this and there is great willingness to invest in high-tech solutions. The technological maturity for some innovations is already fairly high and current applications are starting to emerge. However, the size, complexity and dynamics of the field also require more in-depth research to achieve the desired results. Because the program is embedded in an ecosystem of knowledge institutions and companies (large and small), the flow of results will proceed smoothly. In addition, it is linked to a number of large and partly ongoing initiatives, which will make the most of the results.
How will we ensure a sustainable energy supply in 2050? Can we increase efficiency to say 50% with nanotechnology? Can we reduce the capacity and weight of batteries by a factor of 5 or 10 so that electric flying may also be possible? Or should we seek out radically new nanoquantum concepts such as “spin batteries” that can in principle be charged and discharged infinitely often with almost unlimited energy content?
Closer to home are innovative nano-electrochemical breakthroughs to make highly efficient hydrogen from sunlight or electricity. A completely different area is that of Brain Inspired Computing, where the unimaginable energy efficiency of the human brain serves as an example for completely new innovative calculation concepts with which we can break through the trend of increasingly energy-guzzling data centers.