We've commented a few times over the last year that the next secular bull market (as opposed to the current cyclical variety) will probably be based on advances in material sciences brought about by nanotech. Here are some of the current approaches.
The next three to five years will see the initial commercialization of some amazing stuff and I'm not talking Bloom Energy. That's more of a marketing/hype coup for Kleiner, Perkins than a truly disruptive technology.
When most people think about changing the way America uses energy, they imagine new ways of generating electricity like solar farms or new nuclear reactors.
But at an innovation summit organized by the Department of Energy’s high-risk, high-reward research branch, ARPA-E (modeled after Darpa), it’s not just power generation that’s getting a makeover. The companies hawking their ideas there, which all received grant money from ARPA-E or were finalists, are trying to reinvent the entire energy system. Everything is getting a technological re-evaluation from the actual wires that power is transmitted on to the waste heat produced in industrial processes.......Graphene Energy
Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, but graphene, the one-atom thick configuration of carbon atoms, is every nerd’s favorite form of C. Researchers can already imagine all kinds of wonderful applications for the stuff — like bendy electronics — but it might come in handy for energy storage, too.
Graphene Energy is developing ultracapacitors based on the material. Ultracaps are considered a very attractive technology because — unlike your laptop battery — they can be cycled many times over and they can also provide big bursts of power. The problem is that they don’t have anywhere near the energy density. Graphene Energy’s technology is based on the work of the University of Texas’ Rod Ruoff. Ruoff has claimed that graphene could double the capacity of existing ultracapacitors by increasing the amount of carbon surface area that’s actively storing energy.
The existing power grid has received a lot of attention because it loses some of the electricity that’s pumped into it. New, long transmission lines would also be required to get power from windy and sunny places to where people live if those renewable technologies are going to provide large amounts of power in the future.
While many people are focusing on new meters or other “smart grid” ideas, Superconductor Technologies is trying to reinvent the actual power line. Not the idea of it, but the wire itself. They claim that by replacing the copper and aluminum wires in the grid with a ceramic, high-temperature superconductor, the lines could have five times the capacity and waste less electricity.
...Wildcat Discovery Technologies
New materials have driven the power industry for decades, as better heat- and pressure-resistant materials allowed electrical plants to grow larger and larger. Now, there are all kinds of new materials that would be nice to have. Better batteries, carbon capture and photovoltaics all depend on the material science, yet it’s still a very trial-and-error science. Wildcat Discovery Technologies is trying to bring high-throughput automation to the discovery and synthesis of new materials. Their technology is one way to bring the accelerating advances in robotics and computing to bear on the energy problem.
Also at Wired: "Flipping Off Cops Is Legal, Not Advised"
HT: Big Gav at Peak Energy