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 February 15, 2007
An end to global warming found in Carbons Nanotubes?

 (by Andrew Mitchell) - Last week the Intemational Panel on Climate Change released its latest report on global warming and, as predicted, the news isri t good. The entire report is available online at The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , but basically the scientists are predicting rougher storms, unpredictable weather, rising sea levels, increased drought and desertification, substantial loss of polar and glacial ice, and all the fun stuff you'd expect when you crank up the global thermostat.

The good news is that the answer to global warning is not as far away as you might imagine and could one day allow us to do away with fossil fuels almost entirely.

It won't be hydrogen - too difficult and expensive to produce, too challenging to safely store.

It won't be biofuels-finning is too fossil fuel dependent for this option to ever make economic sense other than as an agricultural subsidy and it could never realistically do more than reduce fuel consumption by 5 to 10 per cent. It won't be natural gas or propane both limited resources and greenhouse gas producers.

In fact ifs not going to be any land of combustible liquid, gas or solid. The only reason we use fossil fuels to begin with is that its relatively easy to unleash the stored energy inside - a controlled flame to heat our water and am or a series of explosions inside our engine blocks.

Those days of fossil fuel dependency are numbered. In about five years, if Discovery Magazine is correct, the first ultracapadtor batteries will likely become available for consumer use.

The problem with conventional batteries is that they're not very good at storing energy - even the best lithium Ion and Nickel-Metal hydride batteries available today are relatively inefficient It takes hours of charging to get a few hours of performance, and energy is lost in the recharging process and by the fact that capacity diminishes over time.

Enter a group of scientists at MIT led by Joel Schindall, who developed an ultracapacitor last year that uses carbon nanotubes to store electrons.'Ihese ulwacapacitors can be recharged almost instantly and can conceivably hold about 20 times as much energy as a conventional battery. You'd be able to charge a laptop in under a minute, and your cell phone in seconds. After a few more years of research and development, you just might be able to charge the batteries of your electric car in about 10 minutes.

And if you think the idea of electric cars sounds larm you've obviously never heard of Tesla Motors, which has produced a line of stylish, high performance electric cars that can go from zero to 80 km/h in about four seconds. A charge lasts for about four hours or 250 miles, and a recharge will cost about one centpermile-the equivalentof 135 miles per gallon of fuel.

These ultracapacitor batteries will also usher in an era of solar, wind and tidal power like the world has never seen, as utilities and homes will also have the ability to store power indefinitely:. Some regions and applications will use fossil fuels to generate power but that will make less sense . economically as renewable energy technology becomes more efficient and affordable, and people are given the means to take matters into their own hands. Who wouldn't invest in a few solar cells to power up their house at night, or to fuel your car for free?

And if Tesla can make a high-performance car by optimizing gearing and the efficiency of power recovery and transfez then why can't we develop battery powered prop planes, helicopters, buses, trains and ships, lined with photavoltaic cells? At thevery, leastwe can expect industrial machinery to be powered by a mix of fossil fuels and batteries, cutting those emissions drastically.

The promise of ultracapacitor batteries in the future doen't mean we shouldn't tahe steps to reduce our fuel dependence sooner rather than later. It will be at least a decade before ultrampadtortechnologybecomes affordable for cars and other applications, and tens of millions of combustion engines will remain on the road for probably the nen 20 years or so when you factor in the lifespan of some vehicles and their growing use in the developing world.

Phis, the IPCC scientists were quite dear that the time to take action on climate change was yesterday. Airy further delays and we risk setting in motion an irreversible chain of events that are beyond our control. For example, more glacier melt uncovers- more dark earth to trap more solar radiation, leading to more melting and more warming. Warmer oceans melt sea ice, changing currents in a way that leads to further warming and changingtheway oceans influence climate. Warmer weather also results in the gradual melting of permafrost, increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and leading to further warming. And these are just a few examples how warming the air and oceans becomes a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

IPCC scientists estimate we have about a decade to turn things around, that is, if we haven't passed the point of no return already.

So drive less, eliminate unnecessary air travel, make your home effiaent, and keep your chin up - ultracapacitor batteries are on their way.

To see how Klean Industries is developing Nano Carbon Technologies please click here.