Biomass Power Plant
“How can we use agriculture for power plants?”
It is well known that there are numerous plant based power sources existent such as ethanol fuel. However, is it possible to generalize this concept and use it to make industrial levels of power? Well, after many long years of research, engineers have been able to make something called biomass power plants, which use heaps of agriculture to make renewable energy. Although it is not currently economically profitable, it still remains a scientific curiosity to investigate for the future.
“How can we optimize a combustion chamber?”
In engineering, we often use combustion to power a system. However, if we have to use cold air, then we will need significantly more fuel to operate our system. So how could we make a device that would automatically heat up the air for our needs? Well, let’s think about it. First, let’s have a tube where the air flows in. Then, let’s compress this air using a compressor. Afterward, let’s force this compresses air into a heat exchanger where it will be warmed up by some waste heat. Then, let’s take this heated air, have it flow through a turbine for power, and run it through the exhaust pipe to heat up the incoming air and complete the cycle. This system is known as a recuperator and is used in all sorts of systems from ventilation systems to energy transfer processes.
“What is that outer space dust made out of?”
Out in space there seems to be a very peculiar material, something akin to a cosmic dust. However, exactly is it and what is it made out of? Well, let’s start from a scientific perspective. If one were to put some of this cosmic dust under a microscope, then we would see that not only it is only a few molecules in size, contains organic matter, and is physically porous in nature. This interstellar dust is found between planets, and given its size is so small that infrared telescopes are often needed to study it.
“Can we use plants to make fuel?”
Plants can be found everywhere on this planet, from the sandiest deserts to the densest rainforests. And like animals, all of these plants have one thing in common, stored energy! So logically speaking, couldn’t we convert some of this plant matter into a fuel for our own use? Well, let’s use our scientific mindset to find out.
First, let’s gather up some plants with starches and sugars such as corn grain and place it in a production facility. Then, let’s break it down into its component sugars and convert into a chemical called ethanol. Ethanol is a flammable liquid that can be used to power internal combustion engines. Because of its wide availability in agricultural areas, ethanol fuel is a popular choice in the nation of Brazil and the Great Plains of the United States.
“What is the smallest form of life?”
Life comes in all shapes and sizes, whether it be parasitic fungi, humpback whales, or even simple spore based plants. However, what is the smallest form of life possible? Well, after many long years of investigation, Biologists have been able to discover life-forms known as microorganisms. Microorganisms are organisms that are so small that they have to be seen with a microscope! Microorganisms can be single or multi-celled and are found everywhere, from the depths of outer space to extremophiles in the Mariana Trench
A quick note on the sustainability of electric vehicles
“How effective are electric vehicles at promoting sustainability?”
Electric vehicles are often touted as one of the drivers of the frontier of sustainability. However, one should keep in mind that electric vehicles draw their power from the grid, and if the grid is not powered by sustainable sources then electric vehicles will not be sustainable either. So one when we continue the battle against greenhouse gases in transportation, we must keep in mind that we must not limit our efforts to only one field.
Pumped hydrogen storage
“How can we use a gravitational potential to store energy?”
If you have ever taken an introductory physics class, then you know that anything with a mass at some distance from the Earth has an energy potential associated with it given by the equation P.E = mgh, with m being the mass g being gravity and h being the height. So logically speaking, if we were to vastly increase the mass then we would also vastly increase the potential energy. So if we have a large enough mass, we can store enough energy for an electric grid!
This is the exact idea behind a technology known as pumped hydrogen storage. Pumped hydrogen storage takes two water reservoirs at a height gradient, and discharges energy to the grid by moving the water through a turbine and stores more energy by using a grid powered pump increase the level of water on the top layer
“What are those tiny solid and liquid drops in the air?”
When we think of the Earth’s atmosphere, we probably imagine that it is completely gaseous. But this is not the case, and in fact, it is impinged by tiny droplets of solid and liquid known as particulate matter. Particulate matter originates from sources such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires, and are usually have diameters that range from 2.5-10 micrometers. This small size allows for particulate matter to be inhaled and cause serious health problems in the lungs and bloodstream. However, with the help of a little bit of government regulation, particulate matter can be reduced!
Solar Communications Security System
“Can solar powered grid systems have security systems in place?”
Solar power is often fused to the surrounding energy community through the use of smart grids. However, such systems are prone to cyber attacks. After realizing the potential consequences of such actions, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, United Technologies Research Center, and Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory have joined forces (with a hefty 900,000 USD grant from the U.S Department of Energy) to develop a generic cybersecurity system for monitoring communications between distributed resource energy generators (such as solar). This would ensure the safety of customers when using such systems, and can galvanize electric utility providers to switch to clean and sustainable energy!