People depend on energy sources to run machines, heat homes, cook meals, and more. Certain mineral fuels are presently used for these purposes. They include natural gas, coal, and oil. However, the earth only has a limited supply of these fuels. Given the present trend for population growth, energy may become limited. For this reason, scientists are looking for alternative sources. Here are some.
Another alternative source of energy is found deep in the earth. As radioactive elements deep within the earth break down, energy is given off in the form of heat. When water comes in contact with these heated elements, steam is produced. Using this underground steam as a source of energy is known as geothermal energy. One advantage of this method is that smoke pollution is avoided.
In the United States alone, each year people throw away four billion metric tons of solid wastes. These include trash, animal wastes, agricultural wastes, and industrial wastes. Organic wastes, such as food scraps, can be used to produce laboratory made oil. This oil can be used as fuel, just as natural oil is used. Other wastes that cannot be recycled but that are burnable can be used to produce energy. The burnable wastes are mixed with coal and are used as fuel to heat buildings and water.
Another alternative energy source is water power. Actually, water has been known as an energy source for years. Some power plants get their energy from rushing streams. Water is used to make electricity.
Scientists are investigating other ways of using water as an energy source. For example, using the rise and fall of ocean tides to produce electricity. This is called tidal energy.
This is energy obtained from the sun. Green plants use the sun’s energy to make food. In the 1980’s, people began to try to use this energy source to heat water and homes. They did experiments to find out how to best collect, store, and use the sun’s rays with giant solar collector plates or panels.
Another source of alternative energy is the wind. People are now using giant wind turbines to make electricity to run homes and businesses.
Nuclear fission is the splitting of the nucleus of the element uranium. However, the use of this type of nuclear energy can be dangerous. An accidental discharge of radioactivity from a nuclear energy plant could have harmful effects.
An alternative nuclear energy source involves fusion. (putting together) When the nuclei of two elements are fused, or combined, under specific conditions, energy is given off. One of the advantages of fusion over fission is that only a small amount of radioactivity is involved. Thus, the danger of accidents is greatly reduced.