Everything in the universe runs on energy. Chemical, Nuclear, Wind, Solar. It takes all kinds of energy to make our world move. And as we’re on the cusp of a new age involving industries forced to adapt, discussing the different kinds of energy would do us some good.
Chemical Energy: Chemical energy is stored within the bonds of chemical compounds. Atoms and molecules bonded together release their energy when those bonds are broken or altered. Often times when the bonds are broken down there is also heat released (when heat is released like this it is called Exothermic). Animals break down their food with enzymes within their bodies and use the released energy to power themselves. Think about how you feel after you eat, like you’ve got some more fuel, some more energy?
Here are some examples of chemical energy: Food, batteries, petroleum, coal – all of these store chemical energy to be released at a later time.
Nuclear Energy: There are two forms of nuclear reaction that we know of, Fission and Fusion. Fusion, literally combining two elements together to make a new element, is a little bit beyond our grasp at the moment. But only on the level that we can’t produce a fusion reaction efficiently – it takes more power for us to initiate and maintain the reaction than we get from the reaction itself,
Fission is the more economical form of nuclear power. It involves the splitting of an atom into two parts, capturing the energy released by the split, and using it power and turn a turbine – which in turn generates electricity.
Wind Energy: Wind turbines use the driving kinetic force of the wind to and convert it into mechanical power. This in turn can be used to crush grain or pump water from one area to another. However, the more common method is to use the mechanical power to ignite a generator, thus providing a clean (low-carbon emission) form of electricity.
Solar Energy: The sun. Nothing in nature is as powerful or reliable as the output from our sun. There are several different ways for us to harness the power of the sun, from photovoltaics (light energy into electricity) to solar heating (light into heat energy). Most commonly captured in solar panels and then transmitted to your local energy utility provider, solar energy is by far the most abundant form of clean energy on the planet.
The argument over which energy to use is closely tied to argument of which energy is cheaper and/or more efficient. Instead of relying on “old reliables” like coal, oil, and natural gas, it’s more than time to look into greener, more efficient ways to harness the potential energy all around the planet. How do we do that? By promoting the sciences, by generating new generations of engineers and researches who are the only ones who can save us from ourselves.