"Green nanotechnology" in energy generation

Let me invite you to stroll along beautiful Mediterranean streets strewn with flowers and decorated with baskets of fruit and vegetables. Stop for a while. Perhaps you feel like tasting some grapes, a fig, or a juicy watermelon? What do you feel? Is it refreshment with a deep hint of sweetness? Do you wonder what it is that makes the sweetness of fresh fruit give us so much energy, so that we can function properly? What if we provided the same energy to our smartphones, laptops, cars, or planes?

The fruit we eat every day mainly contain water, sugars and vitamins. Sugars are nothing more than carbon atoms combined in an appropriate way with oxygen and hydrogen atoms. Let us carry out synthesis which consists in creating new chemical bonds between the carbon atoms, resulting in their simultaneous rearrangement. The formed arrangements of chemical compounds will largely resemble graphene structures, i.e. six-membered rings with delocalized bonds.

The question is how to relate this to energy

Such nanostructures are able to attach hydrogen in a reversible manner – they act as energy stores. Hydrogen released from the structures reacts with oxygen to give us a portion of energy which we can use to power our cars or aircraft.

We obtain cheap hydrogen from excess energy produced by wind farms. It is then possible to power water electrolysis which yields pure hydrogen and molecular oxygen.

How can we power our smartphones or laptops using green energy?

Synthesized nanometric carbon structures called graphene quantum dots can be used to build transparent and flexible photovoltaic cells. These cells can achieve twice the efficiency of the current best silicon cells. Their additional advantage is their low manufacturing and recycling cost.

How to store the obtained solar energy?

Imagine that the same carbon structures could form the electrodes of modern lithium-ion batteries whose capacities could be even up to three times higher than those currently used. Such batteries could be recharged in less than twenty minutes and their life span could reach many thousands cycles.

Thus, the extract of any fruit that is picked can be used to synthesize carbon nanostructures which will help us convert solar energy and produce hydrogen from excess energy generated by wind farms, which will then be stored in arrangements of spatially oriented graphene quantum dots. Energy from the sun, on the other hand, will be converted by ultra-thin transparent materials and further stored in batteries also built from similar arrangements of carbon structures.

I invite you to a laboratory. Don't forget to take some fruit for lunch, so that we have energy to work together.