top of page
Search

Mastering our Energy Needs


Context:


Just because humans can start fires and create electricity doesn’t mean we understand energy well. While we have useful theories that underpin how we live on Earth, there is still much to learn.


The basic concept of gravity seems intuitive when we think about how things fall toward the ground and the way the moon and sun pull on the oceans. But Einstein’s theory of relativity has shown that gravity is the curvature of space and time. This 4D universal theory challenges most people.


Particles can be described as waves and light as particle like photons. If there can be anti matter can there be anti force?


Let’s face it to date in our history we have relied on brute force to move pretty much anything from one state to another or from one place to another.


How will our understanding and ability to harness energy change over the next 80 years?

Purpose:


To consider how humanities understanding and ability to harness energy might change in the future.


Discussion:


The widespread use of electricity and the combustion engine have underpinned the lifestyle that we enjoy for the last 120 years.


Around 70% of humanities energy needs currently are met by burning carbon in air. While renewables are the fastest growing sector it will take many years at the current rate to completely replace fossil fuels. COP26 has focused world leaders on the need to speed up the transition to renewable energy generation to keep an average global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius in reach.


I have taken a grab of key events from history to ground our understanding of how we got where we are on energy:


1859 Oil first produced as a fuel in USA


1878 First hydroelectric power station


1887 First wind turbine electricity generated


1890 First coal fired power station


1904 First geothermal power station


1927 Quantum mechanics theory explains how light and particles both can be treated mathematically as waves. Light is composed of photons that behave like tiny particles.


1938 Oil discovered in Saudi Arabia


1938 Fusion reaction theory first proven


1942 First Nuclear fission self-sustaining chain reaction established.


1949 First gas fired power station


1951 First nuclear fission power plant operated


2008 First wave generated power


2009 First electricity generation proven from living plants


2021 China’s East Tokamak fusion reactor produces over 160 million degrees Celsius for 20 sec.


2021 CFS / MIT demonstrate the most powerful magnet developed on earth (20 Tesla)


The graph (source- Wikipedia) below shows energy consumption by source


Spinning turbines made of copper in a magnetic field is the most common way to generate electricity. It is the similar technology whether the turbine is pushed by steam, water, or wind. Igniting fuel in air to push a cylinder, spin a turbine or push a rocket skywards is how we transport most things. Rather unsophisticated brute force inspired by the belief in abundant resources.


It is feasible that in the next 80 years we will prove new ways to move things and new ways to harness or control energy.


Fusion has often been seen as the holy grail in generating clean and almost limitless energy. Fusion generators using powerful magnetic fields or lasers to exert immense pressure on hydrogen. Forcing protons together has demonstrated that temperatures of up to 160 million degrees centigrade can be generated. This process is how the sun and other stars create energy.


When the energy to impose the magnetic field and fire the lasers is less than the energy released from compressing protons humanity could generate almost perpetual energy. The theory has been proven; we just don’t know how to reliably control the process.


If I look at nuclear fissions development from theory to commercial application:

· 1940’s concept of nuclear fission to generate power was proven,

· 1950’s small commercial scale fission power stations were developed,

· By 1960’s the technology for large scale commercial fission fuelled power was established.


If we assume a similar trajectory for fusion power development, it possible small scale fusion power plants could be viable by 2035.


Fusion offers a much more sustainable pathway to meeting humanities needs on Earth and in space.


Another promising option emerging comes from utilising excess electricity generated by living plants. Research has shown that plants produce an excess of electricity from photosynthesis that is excreted into the ground. As much as 3.2Watts per square metre of plant growth has been measured. Is it possible humans could draw this power (like tapping maple syrup) and store it in a batteries to light up households?


Transparent Photo Voltaic panels are another example how we can develop multifunctional structures that generate energy near where it is needed. This could transform our transmission networks and provide large gains in efficiency.



For space exploration to become sustainable we will need to new ways of generating energy and efficiently recycling waste.


2101: Spark of Hope describes how methods of power generation other than those currently in commercial use helped manage fossil fuel induced climate change.


I wonder what other energy transformative learning might radically change how we harness and use energy?


Some interesting quotes:

Fusion in a lot of ways is the ultimate clean energy source. The amount of power that is available is game-changing. The fuel used to create fusion energy comes from water, and the Earth is full of water—it's a nearly unlimited resource. We just have to figure out how to utilize it. Maria Zuber, MIT's vice president


I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming. Stephen Hawking

The challenge of global warming should stimulate a whole raft of manifestly benign innovations - for conserving energy and generating it by 'clean' means (biofuels, innovative renewables, carbon sequestration, and nuclear fusion). Martin Rees


The United States spends more on pet grooming than it does on nuclear fusion research. Brain Cox


It’s cool and for sure can and should be done, but I suspect its best case will be more costly than wind and solar (aka big fusion reactor in sky). Elon Musk when asked about fusion research

15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

留言


bottom of page