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WGS 2016: Nanotechnologies can lead to ground-breaking innovations in renewable energy

09 February 2016


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Dubai-UAE: Leading a discussion on the future of renewable energy at the fourth World Government Summit (WGS 2016), Justin Hall-Tipping, Chief Executive Officer of NanoHoldings, talks about the need to make use of nanotechnologies and encourage government officials, leaders and future generations to embrace new thinking of sciences.

He said: “With the earth’s population reaching seven billion, we currently need 3.5 cubic miles of earth’s resources, including energy, to sustain our lives. We get these cubic miles from oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear energy and burning wood among other methods, but none from renewable energy. Tipping said that 30 years from now, we will need seven cubic miles to sustain our environment, which may seem impossible to produce, but with innovation and ground-breaking technologies, humanity can face these challenges head on.”

Commenting on the ground-breaking nature of nanotechnology, Tipping said: “When considering the building blocks of the universe, the smaller you go, the more energetic a material or element becomes. Nanotechnology changes the structure of devices and materials to produce new properties and provide new opportunities to innovate. By harnessing properties at the nanoscale, you can take something that is not traditionally energetic, such as aluminum, and shrink to make a more energetic property.”

Tipping focused his discussion on the innovative ways the science community has controlled the building blocks of the universe and changed their structure to create properties and materials that are energy efficient. For example, hydrogen generation, the preferable base used to replace fossil fuels, can be produced more efficiently by splitting water into constituents through electrolysis.

“We need a catalyst to split water. We have been taught, however, that carbon materials do not have the capacity to effectively serve as a catalyst. But if you look at carbon on a nanoscale, then you can take carbon from a pencil, for example, change the structure and pass electricity through it. By upping the voltage, carbon can act as catalyst and accelerate hydrogen generation. All you had to do was change the structure of your pencil.”

Tipping said that these types of innovations should inspire the science community to question what they are taught in school about catalysts and about the rigid rules of elements and properties.

He pointed out that we need to look for more efficient ways to make cement and concrete, a process that releases a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere. By using fly ash, a residue generated by coal combustion, at the nanoscale, scientists can rough up the edges of the ash, make a sticky like Lego box and stick them together to make a super hard concrete material, a method that releases almost no CO2. This process, however, costs 40% more than existing concrete, thereby limiting its usage.

“Without a government that supports a transition from a polluting to a non-polluting economy, then we will continue to encounter issues in resource depletion and inefficiency in energy production. With 10% of our world population living within 50 miles of the sea and many directly affected by large natural disasters, we need to find innovative methods of producing energy that is environmentally sustainable.”

Tipping was optimistic about the abundant amount of possibilities and opportunities in energy with ground-breaking innovations just around the corner.

“The question is how do we facilitate and speed up the process of innovation. How can we change the mindset of scientists and leaders in the energy industry?”

NanoHolding’s Magenta data base is a recipe book that streamlines the innovation process by translating a set of questions that help scientists quickly and effectively find new combinations of elements and materials needed to develop new technologies. The data base can help scientists develop innovative solutions to today’s energy efficiency problems without making a single thing in a lab.

“We want to help the scientific community find things that could change the world and alter the scientific mindset.”

Such data bases are not enough, however, as the world of funding for scientists needs to be greatly modified. Nearly 9 out of 10 grants are turned down. Even after a grant application is accepted, funding can stop once research goes south.

Concluding his session, Tipping said: “Government officials, scientists, and thought leaders have to be bold, embrace the desire to change science as we know and encourage the generations of today to discover the innovations of tomorrow. If governments and leaders see a 2050 vision of a greener economy and build towards it, then we can implement life-changing technologies. We can’t think about immediate returns on investment. We should instead take a leap of faith, invest in ideas we haven’t thought of and do the unimaginable.”

The World Government Summit convenes over 3,000 personalities from 125 countries. The summit has lined up more than 70 topics through keynote speakers and major interactive sessions, drawing the participation of world leaders, ministers, decision makers, CEOs, innovators, officials, experts, entrepreneurs, academics, and university students. A number of initiatives, reports and studies are also being launched during the summit and throughout the year. WGS 2016 will concluded on February 10 at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.