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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > Nanotechnology and Zero Net Energy Housing > Nanotechnology and CNG: An Answer to the Global Energy Crisis?

Brandon Engel

Abstract:
The combination of nanotechnology and compressed natural gas could help solve the many problems around the world resulting from petrol dependency.

September 8th, 2014

Nanotechnology and CNG: An Answer to the Global Energy Crisis?

Much has been written about the various degrees to which Nanotechnology can boost sustainable living practices on earth. In light of recently reported gas price hikes as a consequence of political turmoil overseas, the developed world is forced to consider, once again, whether or not it's ready to start looking at safer, more affordable energy sources. What's more: Nanotechnology might help.

One largely desirable alternative source of transportation fuel is natural gas. Compressed natural gas (CNG) is an odorless, non-toxic fusion of hydrocarbons (chiefly methane). It already constitutes about of the energy used in the United States, where it is used primarily for central heating, cooking, producing electrical power, and other industrial uses. Less than 1% is currently used for transit.

Although some communities throughout the U.S. have made headlines for powering their mass transit fleets using CNG (like the Sun Tran Fleet in Tucson, Arizona), the infrastructure for common users simply doesn't exist at this time. And beyond issues of infrastructure and the need to completely redesign how energy is consumed.

In his book Nanotechnology: Ethical and Social Implications, author Ahmed S. Khan examines the potential utility of combining CNG engines with nanotechnology. As Khan outlines, CNG itself could reduce environmental emissions considerably: carbon monoxide by 70% to 90%, and nitrogen oxide by 75%-95%. Kahn also suggests that exhaust systems for CNG vehicles could be developed to filter particulates and block them from escaping into the environment. This could, Kahn theorizes, also reduce particle emissions by as much as 90%. Kahn summarizes thusly: "the use of CNG coupled with nanotechnology has the potential to revolutionize transportation vehicles for promoting sustainable economic development."

The is also aggressively pushing to make advancements in that arena. Recently, it was announced that they had won a $4.6 million contract with the Advanced Research Project Agency Energy (ARPA-E) to design a gas tank for CNG-fueled vehicles. BlackPak is experimenting with carbon for the tanks and a nano-porous sorbent will serve as the actual fuel container within the carbon tanks.

Beyond the advantages of using nano-tech in the development of the hardware itself, Nanotechnology could prove to be extremely helpful when it comes to natural gas extraction in a place like Utica, Ohio, where pollutants from energy mining already present major issues for many residents. Nanotech could help to equip Ohio gas companies with cleaner energy sources, thereby reducing damage to the environment wholesale. Hydraulic fracturing technology has itself led to environmental issues, such as methane contaminating drinking water.

From the development of more energy efficient fuel systems, to the intricacies of energy mining itself, it is becoming abundantly clear that nanotechnology is a great resource to have at our disposal, should we be wise enough to use it.

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