Dr. Eugene De Silva
20 October 2015
Energy of the Future
The realization of the environmental and logistical ramifications and limitations associated with the use of fossil fuels to support the pillar of our technologically based society, has spurred a quest to find a better foundation on which to continue to build our civilization. Traditionally, large turbines are turned by steam heated by coal; these turbines act on an electric generator which uses magnets to induce a current on coils of wire. This has been the process of producing electricity for the past century. Since the discovery and implementation of electricity, the world has grown to use fifteen ...view middle of the document...
035 to 2 TW (Tan 041201-3).” Innovation in geothermal technology and processes by Chinese engineers has lead to a construct called the VolcanElectric Mask. This is a dome build over an inactive volcano to capture geothermal energy in a method similar to traditional geothermal processes, but it can be closed off to protect people in case of eruption. The dome would also primarily use rainwater to power the turbines (Tan 041201-1).
With geothermal energy come several downsides. Traditionally, the geothermal power stations have been located in the area where tectonic plates meet. Large concentrations of them are located along the Pacific ring of fire (Tan 041201-2). With a wide scale implementation of geothermal energy, the fossil fuel usage could be rendered obsolete and costly in areas where geothermal wells can be drilled.
The most abundant element in the universe is Hydrogen and the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. Hydrogen is a promising fuel staged to replace oil based fuels in the transportation industry as well as power smaller mobile devises like smart phones. Hydrogen is used in fuel cells to produce electricity by bonding with Oxygen in the air to become water. The reaction takes place on the anode and cathode of the cell with the assistance of a catalyst to speed up the reaction. Ions are exchanged during these chemical reactions displace electrons to create a current in the wire attached to the fuel cell (David 1053). A fuel cell engine reaches an astonishing eighty-five percent efficiency compared to an internal combustion engine’s twenty-five percent efficiency (David 1053). Hydrogen fuel cells act the same way as a battery with a chemical reaction creating a charge. However, unlike a battery, the fuel cell will produce power as long as there is a constant source of Hydrogen and Oxygen for the cell to consume. The only byproduct of a Hydrogen fuel cell is water. Consequently, this would eliminate all greenhouse gasses produced by vehicles on the road. With the benefits of hydrogen technology comes the engineering challenges associated with production, storage, and integration into the existing consumer construct (David 1053). Currently, the consumer demand for hydrogen is met only because of it existing as a byproduct of the burning of fossil fuels. This has the negative of releasing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, which would only increase with the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology. A possible solution is the process of high-temperature pyrolysis, or decomposition of materials in an oxygen free environment. Unfortunately, this process is much more expensive that the fossil fuel alternative (David 1053). Hydrolysis, splitting water into base elements with electricity is shown to be seventy-five percent efficient. This process is also too high to replace the current method (David 1053). Hydrogen has the highest energy to weight ratio of any element, but has a very low energy density per volume....