Carbon-capturing crystal latticeThese 3-D synthetic DNA-like crystals have a sequence of information which is believed to code for carbon capture. The discovery could result in a new way to capture heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions. (Credit: CNSI, UCLA-Department of Energy Institute of Genomics and Proteomics)

Discussions of energy often bring to mind giant structures, such as coal and gas plants, wind towers and arrays of solar cells. Yet even enormous coal-fired plants rely on nanoscale combustion of carbon-containing molecules to produce power. Nanoscience provides a powerful way to measure, analyze and improve the efficiency of many of these processes. Catalysts made from metal-organic frameworks, nanostructured lattices of metal and organic molecules, improve efficiency and reduce unwanted byproducts in refineries as well as chemical plants. They can also be used to capture carbon emissions from power plants. Nanoscience is plays a critical role of many green power sources. Scientists have shown they can improve solar cell efficiency with quantum dots and nanostructured semiconductors. Nanoscale engineering has enabled researchers to build batteries that last longer, recharge faster and hold more power. Such batteries could power electric cars or store renewable energy on the electrical grid. Several teams have demonstrated synthetic plants that use sunlight to produce chemicals and some types of fuel directly from sunlight and carbon dioxide. This technology produces liquid fuels that utilities could store for months or years at a time. Ultimately, synthetic plants could recycle the same carbon dioxide produced by liquid fuel combustion, creating a fully carbon neutral system.

Fueling Up: How nanoscience is creating a new type of solar power

Sep 02, 2015

Three leading nanoscientists — Peidong Yang, Thomas Moore and Ted Sargent — discuss a groundbreaking demonstration of artificial photosynthesis that turns the sun's energy into fuel. The remarkable new technology makes a sustainable energy future a very real possibility.

The Future of Nanoscience: Three Kavli Nanoscience Institute Directors Forecast the Field’s Future

Jan 09, 2015

The directors of three Kavli nanoscience institutes – Paul Alivisatos, Paul McEuen, and Nai-Chang Yeh – discuss what makes the nanoscale so important, the field’s grand challenges, safety challenges, and their thoughts on funding, training and the future.

Introducing the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute

Aug 29, 2013

The Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at Berkeley (Kavli ENSI) was founded to unravel the most intimate details of nature's energy secrets and use them to build fundamentally new types of energy systems.

The Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute: Discussion with the Director & Co-Directors

Aug 27, 2013

The new Kavli ENSI was founded to learn how nature manages energy at the nanoscale – sustainably and often with exceptionally high efficiencies – and to develop entirely new ways to capture, store, and harness energy for the world’s growing population.

Solar Power: Is It Time for the Big Push?

Jan 23, 2013

Solar power seems poised for a breakthrough. Over the past four years, prices for solar panels declined 75 percent. Recently, four experts discuss how we move solar technology from the lab to commercial reality.

Charging Up the Auto Industry

Jan 27, 2012

The 2006 documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car," suggested that electric cars would forever be just around the corner, never fully arriving in the U.S. market. But electric and hybrid vehicles are now available from a slew of major car manufacturers. 

The Future of Computing, from Extreme to Green

Aug 18, 2010

In September, 2010, leading scientists across several disciplines will gather for the next Kavli Futures Symposium to discuss what science needs from computing. In advance of this meeting, four of the participants discuss those needs, how current computing advances are impacting research, and how the future of computing is not only looking extreme and green, but is moving closer to how the brain computes.

Exploring the Energy Frontier

Nov 15, 2009

In an effort to spur the development of new energy-related technology, the federal government has established 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers. Scientists affiliated with the Kavli Prize or Kavli Institutes play leading roles in three of these EFRCs. 

John Bowers, Efficiency Expert

Oct 29, 2009

John Bowers is the Fred Kavli Chair in Nanotechnology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He also leads UCSB’s Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE). Founded in 2008, Bowers has helped the Institute get off to a fast start.

Frontiers in Nanoscience

Jun 25, 2007
The molecular abacus. (Courtesy of Jim Gimzewski, University of California at Los Angeles)

In the 21st century, scientists will not only use molecules as building blocks for creating vital new technologies, but possibly as the basis for creating synthetic life.

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