Thursday, March 23, 2006

Energy problems

I ran into an interesting blog/site,

The Ergosphere

Mostly this guy's (I'm assuming he's an chemist/engineer/or some other technical person) opinions on energy issues.

Really, what it boils down to for a lot of energy issues is that we still can't store energy effectively; and the energy density / charging rates of the devices we do have (batteries, fuel cells) pale in comparison to good ol' gasoline. This is why we have used oil for so long: sure the energy conversion process of chemical energy (gas)--> mechanical power is very low (~20%), versus say an electric motor @ 95%, but that means nothing for a vehicle if you need to use a ton of batteries to replace a 40L gas tank ;) This is the main reason most automotive companies have reduced their focus on electric vehicles: until a better electrical energy storage mechanism is made, they are pretty useless.

With supercapacitors, fuel cells, new battery technologies (for instance, Ni-Mh batteries have came a long way in the past 10 years) all improving , this barrier to more efficient vehicles and power generation may be diminishing.

In conclusion, it's a good time to be a chemist, perhaps: the world is facing a pending energy crisis, and the only ways to really fix it are a better means of storing energy. A better way of storing energy means a lot on the power generation front, as well. This would make solar and wind power much more enconomical and useful, as well as removing some peak power generation demands (you don't need as much reserve generation capacity if you can just store it when you need it.)


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