"I warn you not to underestimate my powers."
- Luke to Jabba
Definition of Power Sources:
Hi everybody! MC2, that's me! Now, down to business. What do we mean by power sources? Simply what we get energy from. Up untill the 1800s the primary power source as wood. Right now we mostly use fossil fuels (like gas). But fossil fuels are not our best solution. They are inefficient, pollute the environment, and there is a limited supply of them on our planet. Because of these deficiencies, people have been forced to look elsewhere. Some of the common power sources used today besides fossil fuels include solar, wind-powered, and nuclear energy. Here we talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each of those, plus some other possibilities. You can also click on a link on the sidebar to find out about what power source they use in that SciFi series, and how they use it.
The above power source that is most used today is solar power. My math teacher told me about a kid she once taught who used to ask for the dead calculators so he could use their solar cells. He was able to hook it up so that anywhere where a modern device might use batteries, it used solar power from the dead calculators. He actually did a math project where he made a model of the classroom, completely to scale, with lightbulbs powered by the sun. This shows how easy it is to use solar energy to power our machines. And don't think that this means we could only use our machines when the sun was out. What would happen is that the solar cells would store power until it is needed. So if you had a sunny day, you would have enough power for a few more rainy days after that. Now, I know most of you probably knew that already, but I just learned it this year. Anyway, the problem with solar energy is obvious. What if we have a long winter with no sun out? Will our power fail? Unless we have a HUGE storage device for all the power we've accumulated over the summer, probably. Therefore I think you would most likely want to use a solar energy as your main source of power, but have a back up available. The problem with this approach is that it is impractical: Why install all that stuff if we're just going to go back to fossil fuels in the winter?
Another solution may be wind-power. This involves setting up windmills and transferring the energy through a set of gears and transformers into electricity. The problem with this is the same as the one with solar power. What if you live in an area where it isn't very windy?
Perhaps the best solution lies in the field of atomic power. as you can see by the picture above, the splitting of the atom produces a very destructive blast when used in warfare. But warfare is not the only use for atomic power. Up in Canada they have buses that run on atomic power. This is because they have produced this atomic reaction is such a controlled environment that they deem it safe for the public to ride in these things. Sure, if something malfunctions an entire city block will be wiped out. But because it is a controlled reaction, this is not likely to happen.
The two nuclear processes used to get energy are fission, the splitting of a heavy nucleus into lighter ones, and thermonuclear fusion, the fusion of two light nuclei (at extremely high temperatures) to form a heavier one. Neutrons are also released by the reaction and can cause a chain reaction with other nuclei. An uncontrolled chain reaction is seen in the explosion of an atomic bomb. Heat from controlled reactions, however, as in nuclear reactors, can be used to produce electric power. Many people worry about nuclear waste. This is not a concern. All waste produced by nuclear fission or thermonuclear fusion is contained.
Other possible future power sources may include certain minerals or metals, or even scooping energy out of the very fabric of space itself. As discussed in the Extraterrestrials page, the empty vacuum of space is not actually empty at all. In fact, it is filled with tiny fluctuations of energy so small that the simple act of measuring them disrupts the system. What if we could find a way to harness these energies? In the book Foundation's Edge, by Isaac Asimov, a space ship using this energy is built, and is used for the next two books as the living space for our main characters.
I have come to the conclusion that until we become so advanced we can tap into the tiny fluctuations of space on the subatomic level, nuclear power is our best hope. Yes, it is dangerous, but if it produced in a controlled environment, there is virtually no risk of the system malfunctioning. Think about this stuff. And next time your calculator dies, try and use those solar panels.