Nanotechnology could help revolutionize the energy industry, producing advances such as solar power cells made of plastics to environmentally friendly batteries that detoxify themselves

Nanotechnology deals with tools at the level of atoms and molecules, on the scale of nanometers, or billionths of a meter. Because nanomaterials have far more surface area for chemical reactions or storage, they can become super-catalysts. Electrical and thermal properties and strength of materials also can improve dramatically.

One nanotech firm, mPhase Technologies in Norwalk, Conn., is partnering with Lucent Technologies to commercialize nanotechnology by creating intelligent batteries, with the intent of bringing the devices to the marketplace within the next 12 to 18 months.

“We were looking at how to take existing batteries, using chemicals and chemistry, and improve them using nanotechnologies,” Steve Simon, mPhase executive vice president for engineering, research and development told attendees at a recent nanotechnology business conference in New York.

Batteries consist of metal electrodes that sit in chemicals known as electrolytes. When a battery is activated, the electrolytes react, with electrons streaming through the electrodes. Over time, the electrolytes react anyway, which is why batteries suffer from power drain even when not in use.

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