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Nano technology in energy generation and use -

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Chennupati Jagadish: Robyn, as you know, the energy is becoming really an important global issue,
and there are two issues one needs to really understand in terms of energy; one is the energy
generation where the nanotechnology plays a very important role, and the other area is the
efficiency at which we are using these energy resources. For example, solid state lighting, where
again we are using nanotechnology where we can make these solid state white lights which will be
more efficient than our incandescent lamps, thereby they will reduce power consumption, in turn
will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. Also more importantly these solid state lamps are
expected to last for about 20 to 25 years, indicating that you don't need to go and keep changing
the bulbs.

Robyn Williams: We've talked before about the potential of places in Asia leapfrogging the
smokestack economies of the 19th and even 20th centuries and going straight to this very, very
appropriate technology level. Is that happening already?

Chennupati Jagadish: There are some things happening, as you mentioned earlier, India, for
example...India never had very good telephone infrastructures and when the technology developments
are taking place and Indians haven't gone and then tried to put in large copper wire networks,
they've straight away gone to the mobile phones. An average Indian, when I go and see people and
they have got two or three mobile phones and even an autorickshaw driver is using his mobile phone
and then telling the customers at what time he will come and pick them up.

Robyn Williams: And presumably you're keeping in touch so you can share the potential of the
technology when you are working here at the ANU.

Chennupati Jagadish: Yes, and we do have very strong contacts with India and also at the moment we
have got the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund which is supported by the federal government,
and then it also tries to provide some research project funding to enhance for the links between
Australian researchers and the Indian researchers. You can imagine a person who is living in a tin
shed and may not have all the luxuries which we all have here, but at the same time this person
could potentially have a small solar panel made out of the nanotechnologies, and then use a white
light LED-based light source for lighting his or her own home without having to go and pay large
electricity bills for the corporate sector.

Robyn Williams: Let me just ask you a question that arose from a program on The Science Show a few
weeks ago involving Ray Kurzweil. Now he's an engineer, and he seemed to be saying something that
was almost outrageous, and that is when you apply nanotechnology to the solar cell of the future,
you could get the same sort of progress as you have in information technology where the multiplying
effect means that the sheer power of the technology goes up exponentially but the cost goes in the
opposite direction and becomes less and less. He was saying that in 20 years time, if it followed
that pattern, you could have even up to 100% of our needs being realised from solar technology. Do
you think that's an outrageous promise?

Chennupati Jagadish: It is probably a little bit of an optimistic prediction, but at the same time
the nanotechnology is making a significant impact in terms of the solar energy sector. Just to give
an example, whenever we used to talk about the silicon solar cells technology and we used to talk
about the pay-back time in terms of energy and then the cost of the silicon solar panels is
estimated to be something like 10 to 12 years or so. Of course these panels can last for 20 to 25
years, so that means still you're able to use these panels for a long time.

But recently we were discussing about the dye (sensitized) solar cells which have been discovered
by Michael Graetzel at Ecole Polytechnic in Lausanne, and he has been giving some numbers where he
is saying that these solar cells could potentially give a pay-back time of one year. Even I was
surprised that the pay-back time is so short. And then he told me that those numbers were not
generated by himself but these numbers were generated by a Dutch energy institute which
independently came up with the various solar cell technologies, what is the energy pay-back time
for each one.