Issue: How can growing energy demand be met safely and efficiently?
The Millennium Projects annually publishes the State of the Future report (with few pages in print and vast information on CD) and has an extensive webpage (http://www.millennium-project.org). Concise information about this global challenge as well as the Executive Summary of the 2011 State of the Future report can be accessed online at http://www.millennium-project.org/millennium/Global_ Challenges/chall-13.html and at http://www.millennium-project.org/millennium/ SOF2011-English.pdf. The following quotations from the Millennium Project webpage on Global Challenge 13 give a glimpse on the points touched by the futurists:
The world energy demand is expected to increase by between 40 and 50% over the next 25 years, with the vast majority of the increase being in China and India.
G20 leaders pledged to phase out fossil fuel subsidies in the medium term.
The World Bank estimates that countries with underperforming energy systems may lose up to 1-2% of growth potential every year, while billions of gallons of petroleum are wasted in traffic jams around the world.
Massive saltwater irrigation can produce 7,600 L/ha-year of biofuels via halophyte plants and 200,000 L/ha-year via algae and cyanobacteria, instead of using less-efficient freshwater biofuel production that has catastrophic effects on food supply and prices. Exxon announced its investment of $600 million to produce liquid transportation fuels from algae.
CO2 emissions from coal plants might be re-used to produce biofuels and perhaps carbon nanotubes. The global market value for liquid biofuel and bioenergy manufacturing is estimated at $102.5 billion in 2009 and is projected to grow to nearly $170.4 billion by 2014.
Innovations are accelerating: concentrator photovoltaics that dramatically reduce costs; waste heat from power plants, human bodies, and microchips to produce electricity; genomics to create hydrogen-producing photosynthesis; buildings to produce more energy than consumed; solar energy to produce hydrogen; microbial fuel cells to generate electricity; and compact fluorescent light bulbs and light-emitting diodes to significantly conserve energy, as would nanotubes that conduct electricity. Solar farms can focus sunlight atop towers with Stirling engines and other generators. Estimates for the potential of wind energy continue to increase, but so do maintenance problems. Plastic nanotech photovoltaics printed on buildings and other surfaces could cut costs and increase efficiency. The transition to a hydrogen infrastructure may be too expensive and too late to affect climate change, while plug-in hybrids, flex-fuel, electric, and compressed air vehicles could provide alternatives to petroleum-only vehicles sooner. Unused nighttime power production could supply electric and plug-in hybrid cars. National unique all-electric car programs are being implemented in Denmark and Israel, with discussions being held in 30 other countries.
According to the Millennium Project, Global Challenge 13 will have been addressed seriously when the total energy production from environmentally benign processes surpasses other sources for five years in a row and when atmospheric CO2 additions drop for at least five years.
Opportunities: Contribution of Green Nanotribology to meeting the energy demand safely and efficiently.
Energy is one of two global challenges identified by the Millennium Project where optimized tribology can substantially contribute. Opportunities regarding this challenge comprise renewable fuels, the use of waste energy and more efficient energy conversion systems. Regarding Green Nanotribology, energy management, wear management and self-healing coatings are of high potential.
Biofuels still have major unresolved tribological issues related to their hygroscopic properties and related absorption or adsorption of water, leading to microbiological activity, corrosion and fuel instability. These issues need to be addressed with tribology on all length scales. Furthermore, underperforming energy systems, MEMS energy harvesters and wind energy plants need to be tribologically optimized. Green Nanotribology can provide its share in all these areas.
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Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.