South Korea and Sweden are the most innovative countries in the world – Israel Becoming ‘Tech Titan’


” … These are the most innovative countries in the world, South Korea, Sweden and Singapore top the list … “Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

South Korea and Sweden are the most innovative countries in the world, according to a league table covering everything from the concentration of tech companies to the number of science and engineering graduates.

The index on innovative countries highlights South Korea’s position as the economy whose companies filed the most patents in 2017. 

Bloomberg, which compiles the index based on data from sources including the World Bank, IMF and OECD, credits South Korea’s top ranking to Samsung. 

The electronics giant is South Korea’s most valuable company and has received more US patents than any company other than IBM since the start of the millennium. This innovation trickles down the supply chain and throughout South Korea’s economy.

Sweden in second place is fast gaining a reputation as Europe’s tech start-up capital.

The Scandinavian country is home to Europe’s largest tech companies and its capital is second only to Silicon Valley when it comes to the number of “unicorns” – billion-dollar tech companies – that it produces per capita.

Education hinders the US

The US dropped out of the top 10 in the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index, for the first time in the six years the gauge has been compiled. 

Bloomberg attributed its fall to 11th place from ninth last year largely to an eight-spot slump in the rating of its tertiary education, which includes an assessment of the share of new science and engineering graduates in the labour force.

The US is now ranked 43 out of 50 nations for “tertiary efficiency”. Singapore and Iran take the top two spots.

The US’ ranking marks another setback for its higher education sector’s global standing in recent months: in September it was revealed neither of the world’s top two universities were considered to be American. Those honours went to the UK’s Oxford and Cambridge universities respectively.

In addition to the US’ education slump in the innovation index, Bloomberg claims the country also lost ground when it came to value-added manufacturing. The country is now ranked in 23rd place, while Ireland and South Korea take the top two spots.

Despite these setbacks, the Bloomberg Innovation Index still ranks the US as number 1 when it comes to its density of tech companies.

The US is also second only to South Korea for patent activity.

These rankings may explain the disparity between Bloomberg’s list of innovative countries and the World Economic Forum’s own list of the 10 most innovative economies.

Image: WEF

Under this ranking, compiled as part of The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, the US is listed as the second most innovative country in the world after Switzerland.

The US’ inclusion in this league table, and South Korea’s exclusion, are the two most notable differences between the different rankings.

Other than these nations, the majority of countries included in the top 10s are the same in both lists.

Tech titan Israel

One nation to feature prominently in both innovation rankings is Israel.

Taking third spot in the Global Competitiveness Report’s innovation league table, Israel is ranked 10th best country in the world for innovation overall by Bloomberg.

However, its index also ranks Israel as number 1 for two categories of innovation: R&D intensity and concentration of researchers.

Israel’s talent for research and development is illustrated by some of the major tech innovations to come out of the country.

These include the USB flash drive, the first Intel PC processor and Google’s Suggest function, to name just three.

Despite being smaller than the US state of New Jersey with fewer people, Israel punches well above its weight on the global tech stage.

It has about 4000 startups, and raises venture capital per capita at two-and-a-half times the rate of the US and 30 times that of Europe.

When it comes to being a world leader at innovation, it may simply be the case that you get out what you put in: according to OECD figures, Israel spends more money on research and development as a proportion of its economy than any other country – 4.3% of GDP against second-placed Korea’s 4.2%. 

Switzerland is in third place spending 3.4% of its GDP on R&D, while Sweden spends 3.3%. The US spends just 2.8%.

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WEF: Was 2016 the Year We Turned the Corner? Are Renewables Now Cheaper than Fossil Fuels?



In 2016, after decades of painstaking work to deliver environmental progress based on government and corporate cooperation, we saw important political shifts in the world. The shocks of Brexit and the US election are the most visible part of this, but the signs are more widespread than the rise of populism, driven by stagnant wages and deep divisions among society.

I have felt the dismay in those who worked so hard to deliver the Paris Agreement, and their sense of concern that in this newly shaped environment we will fall back. We all knew in 2015 that we were setting a course and a destination, but that the speed of the shift was going to have to be iterative, with increasing cycles of ambition.

The fear is that this will now become a weak point, and that the ambition will not materialize. That would be highly dangerous; missing a target on climate and potentially unleashing natural feedback loops from which we may not recover is not that much better than never having set one at all.
I hear these concerns, and I understand them, but I myself take a different view.
There are three parts to my response.

The falling cost of renewables




First, we should remember that the Paris Agreement resulted in large extent from a deep shift in the underlying economics of our society. In recent years we have seen dramatic drops in the cost of renewable energy, to the point that solar is now the cheapest form of new energy, and the world record for unsubsidised power from solar is now below $30 per megawatt hour.

This makes renewables strong enough to permanently disrupt the monopoly of fossil fuel based energy around the world and indeed, fully half of the investment in new energy in 2015 went into renewables. That progress is being mirrored in the development of battery storage capacity, and is set to radically transform the world’s transportation sector, which currently accounts for over 50% of fossil fuel use. This is part of a long-term trend that is still unfolding as further breakthroughs in technology continue to bring prices down and capacity up.
Further, even the economics of resource exploitation are changing; in December 2016 the winning bid for a potential sea-floor development for a US offshore wind farm provided the US federal government over double what it got for new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico earlier in the year.

Of course, a country could provide massive public subsidy for coal to try to protect the industry from the underlying economic trends, while simultaneously removing support for renewables and we may well see that, but the result of such an approach is questionable. Ultimately, a country cannot withstand the global shift forever, in particular with the state of public finances and the need to provide wage growth and jobs, any country that resists this trajectory also relinquishes potential competitive advantage in the new marketplace and in the long run, will only damage itself.

All on the same team




Second, there is overwhelming evidence now that people everywhere want their elected leaders to provide them with a safe and stable environment, including limiting climate change. Those who voted for populist candidates last year, and may do so again in 2017, are not voting for polluted air and health risks for their children. On 8 November, 2016, US citizens voted for more than $200 billion in local measures, funded by their own local tax dollars, to improve quality of life and reduce carbon pollution.

Ultimately we must understand that averting climate change is not part of the partisan debate. We are all united in wanting to live in a safe, stable environment and to provide our families with good jobs that will serve the economy of tomorrow. There is no us vs them when it comes to delivering a low-carbon future. Paris was achieved for everyone, and we must not let that fall from our minds or allow ourselves to be drawn into narratives of political divide.

Thirdly, leadership on climate change is proving to be remarkably resilient, even in this mixed up year, and it is evident and building from all sectors of society. For example:

National leaders are meeting potential setbacks with ambition, such as the 47 developing countries that upped their climate change plans to go to 100% renewable energy, well beyond what their NDC’s lay out, a week after the US election. The Indian government then forecast that India will exceed the renewable energy targets it set in Paris by nearly half, three years ahead of schedule. India predicts that 57% of its total electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027. The Paris Agreement target was 40% by 2030.

States and cities are continuing to lead the way. One hundred and sixty five states and regions in 33 countries representing one billion people and $25 trillion in GDP (35% of total GDP), have committed to transforming their economies to stay under the 2°C limit as part of the Under2MOU. The C40 cities, in which 1 in 12 people worldwide live, have adopted 2020 as the deadline to turn the corner on their emissions as part of plans to ensure their cities remain competitive, attractive and resilient. This leadership at the city level will deepen and grow with the announcement of the Global Covenant of Mayors as a merger of the Global Compact and the EU Covenant of Mayors, and will begin a period of significant expansion later this year.

The private sector is also not slowing down. Close to 90 multi-national companies have committed to using 100% renewable energy, creating incentive and demand for further progress. Further, and very importantly, over 200 businesses have set science-based targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that is sufficient given the scale of the challenge. We are even seeing high emitting industries such as the aviation industry begin to challenge themselves with limits on emissions.

Financial institutions already recognize the risk to their clients and beneficiaries of not participating in the transition to the low carbon economy. In October 2016 Société Générale joined the ranks of financial institutions that have committed to no longer finance new coal-fired power plant projects, and align their financing and investments with a 2°C climate pathway.

The fossil fuel divestment movement just passed the $5 trillion threshold across 688 institutions in 76 countries, and in the US alone, sustainable, responsible and impact investing assets have grown by 33% in just two years to $8.72 trillion.

Importantly, the financial industry is also moving forward with recommendations laid out by the Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosure that should be adopted by the G20 in June. The recommendations will drive better accountability and transparency and ensure that business plans are stress-tested against the 2°C target.

These steps alone are not enough to achieve the Paris goals, but they are vital signals of intent, and show us what is possible with a strong vision and commitment. The benefits are already being felt in a steady increase in secure, long-term renewable-related jobs and reduced carbon pollution.

As the groundswell of momentum towards the Paris Agreement rose in 2015, global carbon intensity fell by a record-breaking 2.8%, and many emerging economies saw big reductions in their coal consumption.

At the same time global GDP grew 3.1%. That was the third year in a row that we glimpsed a world that has decoupled economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions.
Our ability to solve the challenge of climate change, which is also a challenge of energy, food security, immigration, health and fair economic growth, especially for the world’s most vulnerable people, is very strong. We must remain optimistic and realistic, pragmatic and visionary. We need to work together in radical collaboration, reaching out across the divides that have grown within our societies.

The next five years will make the difference, and this incredible opportunity demands immediate and urgent responsive leadership from us all. Despite the hurdles we have faced and will continue to face, the overlaying imperatives for achieving a long-term climate-safe world are on everyone’s side. I urge everyone to raise ambition so that we can go further, faster together.

Celebrating International ‘Women’s Day’ ~ Five Must Watch Videos: From Closing the Gender Gap to the Impact Gender Will Have on the 4th Industrial Revolution


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*** From the World Economic Forum (WEF)

Five videos to watch on International Women’s Day

As we celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, here are five videos that highlight the struggle for gender parity.

I. The Global Gender Gap Report

The Global Gender Gap Index ranks over 140 economies according to how well they are leveraging their female talent pool, based on economic, educational, health-based and political indicators. With a decade of data, the 2015 edition of the Global Gender Gap Report– first published in 2006 – reveals patterns of change around the world.

II. Davos 2016 – Progress Towards Parity

At the Annual Meeting 2016 in Davos, an all-star panel gathered to discuss the challenges facing the journey towards gender parity. What are the opportunities to achieve progress towards parity as the demand on workforces and societies rapidly shift?

Panelists:
· Melinda Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USA.
· Jonas Prising, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ManpowerGroup, USA.
· Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer and Member of the Board, Facebook, USA.
· Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.
· Zhang Xin, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, SOHO China, People’s Republic of China.

III. China 2015 – Parity Equals Performance

Moderated by Joe Palca, Science Correspondent at NPR, this session held at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2015 in Dalian, People’s Republic of China, addresses the gender gap in science and technology. Are companies missing out on female-led innovation in the digital economy?

Panelists include:
– Masako Egawa, Professor, Hitotsubashi University, Japan; Global Agenda Council on Japan
– Maria Pinelli, Global Vice-Chair, Strategic Growth Markets, EY, United Kingdom
– Jun Qin, Chairman, Tsinghua Holding Technological Innovation Co., People’s Republic of China; Young Global Leader
– Nina Tandon, President and Chief Executive Officer, EpiBone, USA

IV. Emma Watson

UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, delivered a stirring speech encouraging world and corporate leaders to take action for gender equality during the kickoff of a HeForShe programme launch during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos on January 23rd, 2015.

V. Davos 2016: The Gender Impact on the Fourth Industrial Revolution

This issue briefing examined the degree and breadth of gender gaps across key industries and possible remedies to consider for each.
Speakers: – Mara Swan, Executive Vice-President, Global Strategy and Talent, ManpowerGroup, USA. – Theresa Whitmarsh, Executive Director, Washington State Investment Board, USA. – Saadia Zahidi, Head of Employment and Gender Initiatives, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

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Bill Gates: We will have a clean-energy ‘miracle’ within 15 years


 

Green nature landscape with planet Earth

A ‘Green-er’ Clean Energy Earth?

 

In the latest edition of their annual letter published today, Bill and Melinda Gates argue that the world needs “an energy miracle,” and are willing to bet that such a breakthrough will arrive within 15 years.

 

Bill Gates cites scientists’ estimates that to avoid the worst effects of climate change the biggest carbon-emitting countries must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, and the world must more or less stop such emissions entirely by 2100. And that’s not going to happen if we continue on our current trajectory.

 

You can see Gates explain the equation in the Quartz video above.

Gates says he was stunned to discover how little research and development money is going toward breakthroughs in cheaper, scaleable clean-energy sources.Gates announced last year that he was committing $1 billion of his own money over five years to invest in clean-energy technology, and has been pushing governments to increase their funding.

To explain the need for a breakthrough in energy technology, he uses an equation (similar to the Kaya identity equation) that represents the factors determining how much carbon dioxide the world emits every year.

“Within the next 15 years, I expect the world will discover a clean-energy breakthrough that will save our planet and power our world.” Gates believes that cleaner options such as electric cars and LED lighting won’t bring down energy consumption enough to hit those climate-change goals. In fact, he doesn’t see any current clean-energy technology that will enable the world to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions by 2100, partly because it’s not consistent or inexpensive enough.

 

Gates has personally invested in next-generation nuclear power technology, which he describes as “a very promising path.” He is also backing efforts to improve battery technology, so that energy from intermittent clean sources such as solar and wind can be stored affordably at large scale for use over time. “I think we need to pursue many different paths,” says Gates in an interview with Quartz.

 

And he’s betting on relatively fast progress. “Within the next 15 years,” Gates predicts in his letter, “I expect the world will discover a clean-energy breakthrough that will save our planet and power our world.”

** Re-Posted from the World Economic Forum

GNT Thumbnail Alt 3 2015-page-001

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The 7 Technologies Changing Our world: When will the Future “Arrive”?


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Fulvia Montresor, Director, World Economic Forum ~ From intelligent robots and self-driving cars to gene editing and 3D printing, dramatic technological change is happening at lightning speed all around us.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is being driven by a staggering range of new technologies that are blurring the boundaries between people, the internet and the physical world. It’s a convergence of the digital, physical and biological spheres. It’s a transformation in the way we live, work and relate to one another in the coming years, affecting entire industries and economies, and even challenging our notion of what it means to be human.

So what exactly are these technologies, and what do they mean for us?

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Computing capabilities, storage and access

 

Between 1985 and 1989, the Cray-2 was the world’s fastest computer. It was roughly the size of a washing machine. Today, a smart watch has twice its capabilities.

As mobile devices become increasingly sophisticated, experts say it won’t be long before we are all carrying “supercomputers” in our pockets. Meanwhile, the cost of data storage continues to fall, making it possible keep expanding our digital footprints.

Today, 43% of the world’s population are connected to the internet, mostly in developed countries. The United Nations has set the goal of connecting all the world’s inhabitants to affordable internet by 2020. This will increase access to information, education and global marketplaces, which will empower many people to improve their living conditions and escape poverty. Imagine a world where everyone is connected by mobile devices with unprecedented processing power and storage capacity!

If we can achieving the goal of universal internet access and overcome other barriers such as digital illiteracy, everybody could have access to knowledge, and all the possibilities this brings.

Big Data

 

Each time you run a Google search, scan your passport, make an online purchase or tweet, you are leaving a data trail behind that can be analysed and monetized.

Thanks to supercomputers and algorithms, we can make sense of massive amounts of data in real time. Computers are already making decisions based on this information, and in less than 10 years computer processors are expected to reach the processing power of the human brain. This means there’s a good chance your job could be done by computers in the coming decades. Two Oxford researchers, Carl Bendikt Frey and Michael A Osborne, estimated that 47% of American jobs are at high risk of automation.

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A survey done by the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software & Society shows people expect artificial intelligence machines to be part of a company’s board of directors by 2026.

Digital Health

 

Analyzing medical data collated from different populations and demographics enables researchers to understand patterns and connections in diseases and identify which conditions improve the effectiveness of certain treatments and which don’t.

 

Big data will help to reduce costs and inefficiencies in healthcare systems, improve access and quality of care, and make medicine more personalized and precise.

In the future, we will all have very detailed digital medical profiles … including information that we’d rather keep private. Digitization is empowering people to look after their own health. Think of apps that track how much you eat, sleep and exercise, and being able to ask a doctor a question by simply tapping it into your smartphone.

In addition, advances in technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9, which unlike other gene-editing tools, is cheap, quick and easy to use, could also have a transformative effect on health, with the potential to treat genetic defects and eradicate diseases.

 

The digitization of matter

 

3D printers will create not only cars, houses and other objects, but also human tissue, bones and custom prosthetics. Patients would not have to die waiting for organ donations if hospitals could bioprint them. In fact, we may have already reached this stage: in 2014, doctors in China gave a boy a 3D-printed spine implant, according to the journal Popular Science.

 

The 3D printing market for healthcare is predicted to reach some $4.04 billion by 2018. According to a survey by the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society, most people expect that the first 3D printed liver will happen by 2025. The survey also reveals that most people expect the first 3D printed car will be in production by 2022.

Three-dimensional printing, which brings together computational design, manufacturing, materials engineering and synthetic biology, reduces the gap between makers and users and removes the limitations of mass production. Consumers can already design personalized products online, and will soon be able to simply press “print” instead of waiting for a delivery.

The Internet of Things (IOT)

 

Within the next decade, it is expected that more than a trillion sensors will be connected to the internet. If almost everything is connected, it will transform how we do business and help us manage resources more efficiently and sustainably. Connected sensors will be able to share information from their environment and organize themselves to make our lives easier and safer. For example, self-driving vehicles could “communicate” with one another, preventing accidents.

By 2020 around 22% of the world’s cars will be connected to the internet (290 million vehicles), and by 2024, more than half of home internet traffic will be used by appliances and devices.

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Home automation is also happening fast. We can control our lights, heating, air conditioning and security systems remotely, but how much longer will it be before sensors are able to detect crumbs under the table and tell our automated vacuum cleaners to tidy up? The internet of things will create huge amounts of data, raising concerns over who will own it and how it will be stored. And what about the possibility that your home or car could be hacked?

Blockchain

 

Only a tiny fraction of the world’s GDP (around 0.025%) is currently held on blockchain, the shared database technology where transactions in digital currencies such as the Bitcoin are made. But this could be about to change, as banks, insurers and companies race to work out how they can use the technology to cut costs.

 

A blockchain is essentially a network of computers that must all approve a transaction before it can be verified and recorded. Using cryptography to keep transactions secure, the technology provides a decentralized digital ledger that anyone on the network can see.

Before blockchain, we relied on trusted institution such as a bank to act as a middleman. Now the blockchain can act as that trusted authority on every type of transaction involving value including money, goods and property. The uses of blockchain technology are endless. Some expect that in less than 10 years it will be used to collect taxes. It will make it easier for immigrants to send money back to countries where access to financial institutions is limited.

And financial fraud will be significantly reduced, as every transaction will be recorded and distributed on a public ledger, which will be accessible by anyone who has an internet connection.

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Source: Financial Times

Wearable internet

 

Technology is getting increasingly personal. Computers are moving from our desks, to our laps, to our pockets and soon they will be integrated into our clothing. By 2025, 10% of people are expected to be wearing clothes connected to the internet and the first implantable mobile phone is expected to be sold.

 

Implantable and wearable devices such as sports shirts that provide real-time workout data by measuring sweat output, heart rate and breathing intensity are changing our understanding of what it means to be online and blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds.

wearable-technology

 

The potential benefits are great, but so are the challenges. These devices can provide immediate information about our health and about what we see, or help locate missing children. Being able to control devices with our brains would enable disabled people to engage fully with the world. There would be exciting possibilities for learning and new experiences.

But how would it affect our personal privacy, data security and our personal relationships? In the future, will it ever be possible to be offline anymore?

 

World Economic Forum: Can Graphene Make the World’s Water Clean?


Graphene Water 071115 RTRDE3R1-628x330This post is part of a series examining the connections between nanotechnology and the top 10 trends facing the world, as described in the Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015. All authors are members of the Global Agenda Council on Nanotechnology.

In the 2015 World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report survey participants ranked Water Crises as the biggest of all risks, higher than Weapons of Mass Destruction, Interstate Conflict and the Spread of Infectious Diseases (pandemics). Our dependence on the availability of fresh water is well documented, and the United Nations World Water Development Report 2015 highlights a 40% global shortfall between forecast water demand and available supply within the next fifteen years. Agriculture accounts for much of the demand, up to 90% in most of the world’s least-developed countries, and there is a clear relationship between water availability, health, food production and the potential for civil unrest or interstate conflict.

The looming crisis is not limited to water for drinking or agriculture. Heavy metals from urban pollution are finding their way into the aquatic ecosystem, as are drug residues and nitrates from fertilizer use that can result in massive algal blooms. To date, there has been little to stop this accretion of pollutants and in closed systems such as lakes these pollutants are being concentrated with unknown long term effects.

While current solutions such as reverse osmosis exist, and are widely used in the water desalination of seawater, the water they produce is expensive. This is because high pressures are required to force the waster through a membrane and maintaining this pressure requires around 2kWh for every cubic meter of water. While this is less of an issue for countries with cheap energy, it puts the technology beyond the reach of most of the world’s population.

Any new solution for water issues needs to be able to demonstrate precise control over pore sizes, be highly resistant to fouling and significantly reduce energy use, a mere 10% won’t make a difference. Nanotechnology has long been seen as a potential solution. Our ability to manipulate matter on the scale of a few atoms allows scientists to work at the same scale as mot of the materials that need to be removed from water — salts, metal ions, emulsified oil droplets or nitrates. In theory then it should be a simple matter of creating a structure with the correct size nanoscale pores and building a better filter.

Ten years ago, following discussions with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, I organised a conference in Amsterdam called Nanowater to look at how nanotechnology could address global water issues. While the meeting raised many interesting points, and many companies proposed potential solutions, there was little subsequent progress.

Rather than a simple mix of one or two contaminants, most real world water can contain hundreds of different materials, and pollutants like heavy metals may be in the form of metal ions that can be removed, but are equally likely to be bound to other larger pieces of organic matter which cannot be simply filtered through nanopores.  In fact the biggest obstacle to using nanotechnology in water treatment is the simple fact that small holes are easily blocked, and susceptibility to fouling means that

Fortunately some recent developments in the ‘wonder material’ graphene may change the economics of water. One of the major challenges in the commercialisation of graphene is the ability to create large areas of defect-free material that would be suitable for displays or electronics, and this is a major research topic in Europe where the European Commission is funding graphene research to the tune of a billion euros. Simultaneously there are vast efforts inside organisations such as Samsung and IBM. While defects are not wanted for electronic applications, recent research by Nobel Prize winner Andrei Geim and Rahul Nair has indicated that in graphene oxide they result in a barrier that is highly impermeable to everything except water vapour. However, precisely controlling the pore size can be difficult.

Another approach taken by researchers at MIT involves bombarding graphene sheets with beams of gallium ions to create weak spots and then etching them to create more precisely controlled pore sizes. A similar approach to water transport through defects has been taken by researchers at Penn State University.

While all of the above show that graphene has prospects for use as a filter medium, what about the usual limiting issue, membrane fouling? Fortunately another property of graphene is that it can be hydrophilic, it repels water, and protein absorption has been reported to have been reduced by over 70% in bioreactor tests. Many other groups are working on the use of graphene oxide and graphene nanoplatelets as an anti-fouling coating.

While the graphene applications discussed so far address one or two of the issues, it seems that thin films of graphene oxide may be able to provide the whole solution. Miao Yu and his team at the University of South Carolina have fabricated membranes that deliver very high flux and do not foul. Fabrication is handled by adding a thin layer of graphene to an existing membrane, as distinct from creating a membrane out of graphene, something which is far harder to do and almost impossible to scale up.

Getting a high flux is crucial to desalination applications where up to 50% of water costs are caused by pressurising water for transmission through a membrane.  Performance tests reveal around 100% membrane recovery simply by surface water flushing and pure water flux rates (the amount of water that the membrane transmits) are two orders of magnitude higher than conventional membranes. This is the result of the spacing between the graphene plates that allows the passage of water molecules via nanoscale capillary action but not contaminants.Graphene Desalinate 0422 water

Non-fouling is crucial for all applications, and especially in oil/water separation as most of what is pumped out of oil wells is water mixed with a little oil.

According to G2O Water, the UK company commercialising Yu’s technology, the increased flux rates are expected to translate directly into energy savings of up to 90% for seawater desalination. Energy savings on that scale have the potential to change the economics of desalination with smaller plants powered by renewable energy and addressing community needs replacing the power hungry desalination behemoths currently under construction such as the Carlsbad Project. This opens the possibility of low-cost water in areas of the world where desalination is currently too expensive or there is insufficient demand to justify large scale infrastructure.

While more work is required to build a robust and cost-effective filtration system, the new ability to align sheets of graphene so that water but nothing else is transmitted may be the simple game-changer that allows the world to finally address the growing water crisis.

Author: Tim Harper is Chief Executive Officer of G2O Water.

Image: The colors of Fall can be seen reflected in a waterfall along the Blackberry River in Canaan, Connecticut REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Solving Solar Power’s Problem


WEF solarpowersavemoney-628x330*From the World Economic Forum on Energy – Francesca McCaffrey*

Several government agencies, academic researchers, and firms have proposed scenarios for the future in which photovoltaic (PV) technologies grow rapidly. To support such growth, PV technologies would need to be developed with resource constraints in mind. For some PV technologies, the production of the required input materials would need to grow at a rate never before seen in the metals industry, according to a new analysis by MIT researchers.

The future availability of critical materials is a widely acknowledged concern within the energy community. Other studies have examined whether projected production growth rates are realistic, but they have approached the question through the lens of constraints such as annual metal production levels and reserves.

MIT graduate student Goksin Kavlak, postdoctoral associate James McNerney, Professor Robert Jaffe of physics, and Professor Jessika Trancik of engineering systems develop a novel method in a paper recently published in Proceedings of the 40th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference.

“We provide a new perspective by putting the projected PV metal requirements into an historical context,” says Trancik, who is the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Assistant Professor in Energy Studies at MIT and the team lead. “We focus on the changes in metals production over time rather than the absolute amounts.”

This approach allows for an assessment of how quickly metals production would need to be scaled up to meet the rapidly increasing PV deployment levels required by aggressive low-carbon energy scenarios.

To calculate the metals production growth rates required under those scenarios, as lead author Kavlak explained in a recent interview, the researchers first estimated the required production in 2030 for each metal of interest, and then calculated the annual growth rate needed to reach that level. They took into account the projected demand for each metal by both the PV sector and other industrial sectors. In addition, they looked at the effect of potential improvements in PV technology that would reduce the amount of each metal required in production.SA Solar 5 191b940e-6e05-402a-bfbb-3e7be5f8a46f_16x9_600x338

The researchers then compared these projected growth rates to historical metals production growth rates in order to “understand the extent of production growth that happened in the past and whether the projected growth rates have historical precedent,” says Trancik.

The results of this analysis differed from one kind of PV technology to another. For silicon-based PVs, which include first-generation panels using crystalline silicon solar cells, the results presented an optimistic view of the future.

“Silicon-based PVs look promising from a material point of view: The growth-rate of silicon production required to meet high deployment goals does not exceed historical norms,” says Jaffe, the Morningstar Professor of Physics and MacVicar Faculty Fellow at MIT.

The outlook is more complex for newer photovoltaic technologies, especially increasingly attractive thin-film PV technologies. While a handful of thin-film solar panels use silicon in their absorption layers, many make use of other metals, such as cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium diselinide, commonly referred to as CIGS.

Trancik summarized the paper’s findings concerning CIGS and cadmium telluride production: “To meet even relatively small percentages of electricity demand by the year 2030, these technologies would require historically unprecedented [metals production] growth rates.”

The reasoning? In mining, CIGS and cadmium telluride are considered byproduct metals, not mined for their own sake, but only accessible as byproducts of the mining processes for other metals, such as copper. Upping their production, therefore, is a cost-intensive process.

“It is quite possible that the cost and availability of these critical elements will constrain deployment of otherwise game-changing technologies,” said Jaffe.

Published in collaboration with MIT News

*** Team GNT adds: “We are encouraged with regard to an emerging nanotechnology using cadmium-free Quantum Dots for solar energy generation. As such with regards to this article, it is a ‘metal-neutral’ tech with potential for high conversion rates with LOW manufacturing costs.”

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World Economic Forum: Global Agenda Council on Nanotechnology 2014-2016


Nanotech World stock-photo-background-concept-wordcloud-illustration-of-nanotechnology-glowing-light-76352191Nanotechnology is the precise biochemical manipulaiton of matter on an atomic, molecular and supramolecular scale to shape macroscale properties and characteristic of materials and processes. Nanoscale manipulation can be achieved using chemical, biological and even mechanical approaches. Today, many commercial products already contain nanomaterials or are manufactured using nanotechnology.

The scientific community agrees that nanotechnology will have its main impact on technological developments over the decades to come and is also likely to impact society as a whole. However, attached with these opportunities are considerable risks, such as the potential risk for human health and safety due to unique and unknown properties of nanomaterials and their interaction with the human body.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

The Global Agenda Council on Nanotechnology will act as a scientific intelligence service that assesses which areas or niches of nanotechnology will be most likely to provide technological and societal benefits or pose risks to society. The council will determine areas that should be supported for commercialization, as well as suggest precautionary regulation for areas in which risks outweights benefits. The council will also critically assesses real versus perceived risks of nanotechnology and how the public can be informed in a balanced manner.

To get involved please contact

Research Analyst: Rigas Hadzilacos, Senior Associate, Global Agenda Councils, rigas.hadzilacos52616fb2835@58a7c2c4402b1d2cweforum.org 
Council Manager: Oliver Inderwildi, Senior Manager, Chemicals Industry, Global Leadership Fellow, Basic and Infrastructure Industries, oliver.inderwildi5ecea025a04@2db14dweforum.org
Forum Lead: Andrew Hagan, Director, Head of Chemicals Industry, Basic and Infrastructure Industries andrew.hagan239c193a478adcf@0e660f89d6weforum.org

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