Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Nanotech conference offers up big plans for tiny things

Some of the world’s top innovators in nanotechnology descended on the Cable Center July 21 for the first annual Nano Renewable Energy Summit.

Rahmat Shoureshi, dean of DU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, told the assembled crowd of educators, researchers, government leaders and business professionals that at least seven countries were represented at the two-day conference. The event focused on the nexus where research on a molecular level — nanotechnology  — meets the quest for renewable energy.

“There is tremendous activity around here related to renewable energy,” said Sean Murdock, executive director of the NanoBusiness Alliance. “And the Colorado Nanotech Alliance was already engaged in the business of renewable energy. The support from the state of Colorado has truly been phenomenal.”

Potential uses for nanotech breakthroughs in renewable energy cover a wide range, including:
•    New methods of producing biofuels
•    New materials to help produce and transmit power through wind turbines
•    Lighter and stronger materials to make autos more fuel efficient
•    Glass for office buildings and cars that dissipates heat from the sun
•    New ways to gather solar energy that would make solar power a viable, cost-effective alternative.

The only common thread is the minute nature of the work, crafting these breakthroughs from the smallest of particles.

Shoureshi said DU is so committed to the technology, the University has added 22 faculty members interested in research and development of nanotechnologies in computer science and engineering fields. DU plans to offer a graduate program focusing on nanotech issues within three years, he said.

Not a bad field to consider, if former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater’s numbers are right. Speaking at the conference, Slater said commercial applications and other investments in the broad field are expected to make nanotechnology a $2 trillion industry by 2015.

“This is a worthy cause,” Slater said. “Nanotechnology is believed by many to offer unlimited economic and social benefits.”

Delivering a keynote address to the crowd, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter said he recognized the efforts of nanotech researchers to solve global energy needs and said he saw their role as world changing.

“You play this very critical role in our being able to resolve this issue of climate change,” Ritter said, vowing support for the industry through research programs and economic incentives. “We’ve made our economic development all about 21st century industry.”

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