June 16, 2003
Volume 81, Number 24
CENEAR 81 24 p. 9
ISSN 0009-2347


Enabling New Sources Of Energy Production


Of the top 10 problems humanity will confront over the next 50 years, the supply of energy ranks number one, says Nobel Laureate Richard E. Smalley, who is a professor of chemistry and of physics and astronomy at Rice University. He was speaking at a symposium titled "Changing the Landscape of U.S. Energy: Nano and Micro Technologies Making a Difference," at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

There will be 8 billion to 10 billion people living on Earth by 2050, Smalley said, and "hopefully, over the next two decades, we will find the energy necessary [to sustain] 10 billion people." He said the "energy revolution" that is needed will have to produce 30 to 60 terawatts of energy per day.

"Where can you get energy of that magnitude?" Smalley asked. He said it would need to be developed as solar, wind, and geothermal energy, among other sources.

The nanotechnology revolution, Smalley said, will provide enabling technologies for the feasible use of alternative energy sources. Among the nanotech developments for energy usage: photovoltaics, direct photoconversion of light and water to produce hydrogen; new fuel cells; better hydrogen storage; new and better batteries; and power cables built of superconductors or quantum conductors. From the "garden of the physical sciences, we need miracles to happen," he said.


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