Nanotechnology for green vehicles


With automotive manufacturers striving to match stricter emission norms set by regulatory authorities, they have begun considering nanotechnology as a necessity. With precise structuring and exceptional physical and mechanical properties, nanomaterial-based products have the potential to redefine energy and materials applications.

“Their ability to replace expensive platinum in fuel cells that are more environment-friendly than regular gasoline cars, are expected to act in their favour,” said a study from Frost & Sullivan.

Take for instance NanoLub, a lubricant developed based on compounds discovered at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, had nano-spheres and nanotubes of inorganic compounds. The particles have a unique structure of nested spheres that lubricate by a special mechanism — greatly reducing friction and wear.

The pursuit of zero-emission technologies in transportation has become de rigueur and the use of nanotechnology for zero-emission in future transportation is one of the means that has shown great promise. Several of these are also a reality today.

The use of nanotechnology through a few newly-developed materials help manufacture low-emission, low-cost, light-weight and electric vehicles. According to Henning Zoz, president, Zoz Group, Germany said: “The use of nanotechnology for zero-emission future transportation can transform modern lives.”

Among the technologies used is nano-coating, that not only improves fuel efficiency but also protects surfaces of gear boxes in shipping, automobile, mining, and cement manufacturing machines, also reduces emissions from cars to a great extent. Stefan Bill of Rewitec based in Germany said their technology reduces friction on the surface of materials and that results in reduced noise and improved lifetime of engines.

Use of nano-coated metal surfaces also help cut costs and up revenues. In industries like wind mills and cement units, stopping a system for repairs could become a costly affair and takes several weeks to months to get back on track. Citing an example, Bill said, “The lifespan of a gear box in wind turbines is normally 20 years. But, many have not seen a day beyond seven years of normal functioning. Coating them with nano-materials can double their lifespan.”

Closer home, PSU oil marketing giant Indian Oil, is the first Indian company to use nanotechnology in its lubricant research. Indian Oil has been using nanotechnology to improve the efficiency of lubricants. “Nanotechnology intervention in petroleum products is improving the efficiency of lubricants by achieving reduced friction, higher thermal conductivity, and enhanced reserve basicity. Nanoparticles are required only in small quantities for such applications,” said Samik Kumar Hait, senior research officer, nanotechnology department, Indian Oil R&D Centre.

The potential market size for nano technology, globally, is estimated to touch the $100 billion mark in the next 10 years. The market could witness a dramatic change once the electronic industry starts witnessing commercial application of nano, believe experts.