Nanotechnology comprises technological developments on the nanometer scale, usually 0.1 to 100 nm. (One nanometer equals one thousandth of a micrometer or one millionth of a millimeter.) The term has sometimes been applied to microscopic technology
according to Smalley
Nanotechnology figures mightily in the practical harnessing of solar power—and, for that matter, in any long-term energy solution
"Nanotechnology is right at the core [of] the answer to the energy problem,"
In the case of solar power, for example, nanotechnology holds the promise of cutting the cost of photovoltaics by 10 to 100 times, he said. It may bring about a similar-scale reduction in the cost of fuel cells in enumerating two of "14 enabling nanotech revolutions" that could transform world energy production and usage.
These potential energy breakthroughs, which, he said, "could only come from nanotechnology," also include a "revolution" in hydrogen storage; direct conversion of light and water into hydrogen supplies; "photocatalytic" reduction of carbon dioxide; and nanomaterials, or coatings enabling the possibility of very deep drilling into Earth to obtain geothermal heat.
The best way to tap the sun's enormous energy stream may be to put solar power plants in space or on the moon, noting that solar cells in space could operate at about nine times the efficiency of similar cells on Earth.
"There [are] massive amounts of [solar] energy that miss the Earth every day," shooting right past it.
Here again, nanotechnology would figure critically: providing "super-strong, light-weight materials" that would make it possible to build efficient solar power-collecting space stations, and perhaps leading to nanoelectronics-based robots that could handle tasks such as maintaining space-based solar energy systems.