Life in cities can become far more sustainable due to improved recycling, smart construction materials and greener energy. Nanotechnology can play a significant role in this as revealed in an episode of the Dutch TV programme RTL Toekomstmakers broadcast on 9 March. With the help of nanotechnology, construction materials can be given different properties. For example, concrete can be made bendable using special nanofibres. Nanotechnology can also play an important role in recycling and in the provision of energy. For years nanotechnologists have been seeking a more efficient way of storing energy. For example by storing solar energy in a liquid.
100% recycling possible?
Almost everything in a city is produced somewhere else: the stones, the asphalt, the steel in the vehicles, et cetera. Cities have no natural cycles like nature does. Nowadays about 80 percent of our waste is re-used but is it also possible to recycle 100 percent? That is the idea behind the ‘circular city’.
The city of the future - enabled by nanotechnology
Smart construction materials
One of the ways of achieving that goal is to think smarter about construction and construction materials. For example, researchers from Delft University of Technology are working on asphalt that lasts a lot longer than the current asphalt. If steel wool is mixed through asphalt then the asphalt can be heated up and the bitumen melts. This allows small holes and cracks to be automatically sealed.
Nanotechnology can be used to give materials different properties. For example, concrete can be made a bit bendable by adding special nanofibres to it. But that is not all. Concrete can also be produced using smart materials. Then it can indicate if it is damaged, says Erik Schlangen from Delft University of Technology. “I think that this is where the future lies.”
Nanotechnology can also play an important role in recycling and in the provision of energy. For years nanotechnologists have been seeking a more efficient way of storing energy. For example by storing solar energy in a liquid.
Filtering water and wasting less
The Wetsus institute in Leeuwarden is working on how to use water even more sustainably. Do you really need to so much water to flush a toilet? Can we remove pathogens from water without using chlorine? Researchers at the institute are working on these questions and they are increasingly finding the solutions in nanotechnology. Thanks to their findings we will waste less drinking water and cleaner water will end up in the sewerage system.