NanoPundit -Where Society, Science and the Law get really, really small.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Napoleon’s Flatware

Napoleon III used aluminum tableware at state dinners, and gave aluminum ornaments as gifts. Such was the value of aluminum that only the most wealthy could even contemplate its use. The first aluminum was refined from anhydrous aluminum chloride using dilute potassium amalgam. This Wöhler process was laborious and expensive. The cost of aluminum in 1855 was $113 per pound, about $8,000 in 2004 dollars. The Washington Monument was capped with aluminum

In 1886 Paul Louis Toussaint Héroult (France) and Charles Martin Hall (USA) (U.S. Patent No.
400,664 Issued April 02, 1889) individually and nearly simultaneously invented the electrolytic process fro production of aluminum. The Hall-Héroult process is the basis for all aluminum production today. Since the discovery of the Hall-Héroult process annual production has sky rocketed.

1900 - 8 thousand tons.
1913 - 65 thousand tons.
1920 - 128 thousand tons.
1938 - 537 thousand tons.
1946 - 681 thousand tons.
1999 - 24 million tons.

Aluminum is now used for everything from pots and cans to semiconductors and mirrors, in your bathroom and in optical telescopes.

Nanotechnology is still operating on the equivalent of the Wöhler process and producing materials which are exorbitantly expensive. As was the case with aluminum, the raw materials for production of carbon based fullerenes are virtually free. At some point in the near future will there be a transformative technology that will change the economic and technical fundamentals of the nanotechnology industry?

What will be the uses of nano technology when buckyballs and nanotubes are being produced by the ton with technology that looks like an oil refinery or asphalt plant?


  • Here are two uses for dollar per pound nanomaterials:

    * Conductive roads that need no plowing
    * Nano-paint for passive solar heat (any color you want, so long as it’s black)

    By Blogger SWBarns, at 10:15 AM  

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