Important emerging technologies for the 21st Century
By Anthony Capkun
February 14, 2012 – The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies has just released its list of “Important Technologies” that are expected to have major social, economic and environmental impacts in the years ahead—and several are directly related to an energy-hungry world. For example:
High energy-density power systems
Better batteries are essential if the next generation clean energy technologies are to be realized. A number of emerging technologies are coming together to lay the foundation for advanced electrical energy storage and use, including the development of nanostructured electrodes, solid electrolysis, and rapid-power delivery from novel supercapacitors based on carbon-based nanomaterials. These technologies will provide the energy density and power needed to supercharge the next generation of clean energy technologies.
Society is deeply reliant on electrically powered devices. Yet, a significant limitation in their continued development and utility is the need to be attached to the electricity grid by wire—either permanently or through frequent battery recharging. Emerging approaches to wireless power transmission will free electrical devices from having to be physically plugged in, and are poised to have as significant an impact on personal electronics as Wi-Fi had on internet use.
Nanoscale design of materials
The increasing demand on natural resources requires unprecedented gains in efficiency. Nanostructured materials with tailored properties, designed and engineered at the molecular scale, are already showing novel and unique features that will usher in the next clean energy revolution, reduce our dependence on depleting natural resources, and increase atom-efficiency manufacturing and processing.