“The most important thing to explore would be the holistic blueprint of our future energy model.” [Public research]

Specific societal issues that could be related to the use of nanotechnologies in the energy sector:

Safety and security

  • Substitution of raw materials: nanotechnologies could substitute critical raw materials and convert production processes now employing toxic materials (e.g. replacing organic solvents with water in supercapacitors production) 
  • Sustainability: some specific nanomaterials might have excellent performances but as well high environmental impact (e.g. in the production phase or at the end of life)
  • Potential health/environmental issues of nanoparticles/nanostructures (e.g. carbon nanotubes) associated in particular with the long-term degradation
  • IoT cyber-attacks affecting critical systems, including energy supply

Regulatory aspects 

  • Regulations in the energy sector are strict and adapt too slowly to energy technology advances, promoting fossil fuels and ignoring sustainability aspects
  • Possible risks in production processes, for example associated with operator’s exposure to the degradation products of the new materials

Ethical/societal issues

  • Equity and distributive justice in access to energy production. This includes potential social impacts of use of large scale systems and smaller distributed power generation (smart grid), and renewable sources (alone and in combination). Issues of costs, access, reliability, efficiency of systems, could influence the social impact (positive or negative) of these solutions on both individuals and society.
  • Geopolitical effects due to reduction in fossil fuels consumption and to changes in employment distribution (e.g. job concentration in few countries)

Technical issues 

  • Cost effectiveness of the fabrication and scale-up of nanomaterial based-technologies
“Stakeholders will be interested in anything that will make money or save them money. Stakeholders should also discuss how to address the “unknown” aspect of the safety of nanotechnology. What processes need to be followed to avoid hazards or pollution when scaling-up nanotechnologies. Micro plastics is a good example of what we want to avoid with nanotechnology; ten years ago, only the benefits of plastics/micro plastics were considered and only now are we trying to resolve the issues with the unforeseen (ignored) pollution.” [R&I network]