Artificial Energy Conversion and Circuits - Ultimately, Kavli ENSI will harness the principles it discovers to create entire systems and circuits of efficient energy management based on nanoscale components. This means being able not only to generate, but also store and transport energy in ways not currently possible on a societal scale. It also entails taking into account the environmental impact of producing these new technologies. ENSI researchers aim to strike a balance between costs and benefits of new nanoscale approaches, and make new discoveries that contribute to a truly sustainable energy future.
Chemical Transformation and Catalysis - Catalysts can speed reactions by orders of magnitude, and lower the energy required. Nature has evolved catalysts for photosynthesis that contain tiny chambers where molecules interact. A major goal of ENSI is to emulate this design in the creation of artificial catalysts that can be used to produce fuel and other complex molecules.
Nanoscale Control of Energy Flow - Photosynthesis converts light into easily retrievable energy stored in chemical bonds. Researchers are discovering that the process is more sophisticated than once imagined: plants draw on the quantum nature of light in their feats of capturing energy. The Kavli ENSI seeks to gain a better picture of the quantum mechanics of photosynthesis, and to use custom-designed nanomaterials to harvest light energy and convert it to fuel.
Nanoscale Motors - Our bodies are filled with nanomachines that function as molecular motors, converting chemical energy into mechanical work. and that do everything from contract muscles to synthesize and fold proteins into useful shapes. These nanomachines, however, operate within a narrow temperature range, in the midst of energy fluctuations inherent at the nanoscale. The Kavli ENSI aims to discover how nanomotors take advantage of these fluctuations to achieve high thermodynamic efficiencies, and how to combine biological motors with manmade ones to create new, efficient technologies.
Thermal Energy and Circuitry - Thermal energy is all around us in the form of heat, including heat generated by our electronics. That heat, which is essentially lost energy, burdens our electronics and holds us back from advanced electronics functions. The Kavli ENSI envisions creating new switches that may replace the transistor while demanding less energy extending our current cyber capabilities.
Energy Systems Design - Increasing efficiency requires not only devising new technologies, but also placing these technologies together into systems that can convert one type of energy into another for storage, transport, or immediate use. Scientists at the Kavli ENSI take inspiration from nature’s biological systems, and are working to understand and control energy conversion at the nanoscale. New insights will allow for the construction of whole systems built from different nanoscale components that together accomplish efficient management of energy.