July 02, 2006

NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: Maybe I'm being too "Pollyannaish," but this sounds encouraging:

"Energy is one of the greatest challenges of the century," Claude Canizares, MIT's Bruno Rossi Professor of Physics, told attendees of the conference produced by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' (ASME's) Nanotechnology Institute. "We need significant breakthroughs in science and technology. The promise of nanotechnology provides fertile ground for such breakthroughs." . . .

MIT's Vladimir Bulovic said that nanotechnologies such as nanodots and nanorods are potentially "disruptive" technologies in the solar field. That means they could cause a major switch in a primary energy source, potentially proving more efficient than the silicon used in most solar energy devices today. Bulovic is fabricating quantum dot photovoltaics using a microcontact printing process.

On the other hand, this brings things down to earth a bit:

"If 2 percent of the continental United States were covered with photovoltaic systems with a net efficiency of 10 percent, we would be able to supply all the U.S. energy needs," said Bulovic, the KDD Associate Professor of Communications and Technology in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Two percent is a LOT of land. Though we wouldn't have to replace anywhere near the whole U.S. energy budget for it to be worthwhile.

UPDATE: N.Z. Bear does the math. Anybody know how many square miles of rooftop there are in the United States? Not that many, I suspect.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Allen S. Thorpe observes: "don't be surprised if the environmentalists don't turn out to be all that enthusiastic."