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How is nanotechnology contributing to the Clean Growth Grand Challenge?

Posted on 05/07/2018

HiPerNano 2018: Nanotechnology for Clean Growth brings together researchers and industrialists to discuss opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

This year’s event had a strong theme around Clean Growth, with the event split into four topics: resource efficiency, environmentally friendly nanomaterials, clean mobility and clean energy. Clean Growth is one of Grand Challenges of the Government’s Industry Strategy which aims to increase productivity whilst improving people’s lives and protecting our planet’s resources. This event discussed how nanotechnology can play a key role in UK’s Clean Growth ambitions.

Ravi Daswani of Global Nano Network and one of the event speakers, discussed how nanotechnology can be used to extend the life-span of products whilst helping to solve environmental challenges by reducing demand on natural resources. From anti-scratch screen protection for mobile devices to renewable batteries for electric vehicles, the company is working with researchers to bring new products and services to the marketplace.

Dr Alvin Orbaek White from Swansea University presented his research project which involves the upcycling of plastics, primarily from waste food packaging, as a carbon source for making carbon nanotubes, a nanomaterial with strength, conduction and high surface area properties. He said: “Instead of plastics ending up in our water – as microplastic in our sea salt or in our food – or ending up in landfill and polluting our natural environment, we should consider this material as a reservoir of highly purified carbon sources that could be used for other purposes.”

Dr Krzysztof Koziol, founder of FGV Cambridge Nanosystems spoke about their patented industrial process, which takes methane gas and turns it into graphene, a material dubbed ‘black gold’ for its wide-ranging properties and applications such as batteries, coatings and composites.

He said methane gas was more harmful to the atmosphere than CO2 and often methane was flared in oil and gas operations to reduce the harmful impact of the gas. The company has been able to use methane as the feedstock in the conversion process, enabling larger scale production of graphene.

DZP’s Dr Zlatka Stoeva gave a talk about potential application of non-carbon two-dimensional materials for energy storage applications, in particular Lithium ion batteries, which have the potential to allow for fast charging of electric vehicles and increase the range and power density.

Innovate UK’s Advanced Materials Lead, Dr Ben Walsh, said that he had seen first-hand how the nanotechnology industry has moved on over the past ten years in the development of clean technologies. “There’s a real opportunity here and sense of enthusiasm and clearer route to market that wasn’t necessarily there before. We’re also seeing graphene and 2D materials have a greater impact in this space.”

Watch the highlights from the event below.

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