Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Christian Buck - Power Plants

Christian Buck
4/18/06

Power plants give us enough energy to supply our population of over 350 million people. Most houses have computers and televisions, both of which use enormous amounts of power. This energy allows us to communicate with one another via telephone and Internet. It takes electricity to maintain our modern lifestyles. With our population increasing every year, we need to build more power plants.
We have various options for producing power. We can use fossil fuels, coal, hydroelectric, wind, solar, or nuclear power. Each option has its advantages and drawbacks. Which is the best option to power our future generations?
Each option has its setbacks. As you may know, coal causes a lot of pollution. Fossil fuels are very expensive and we are running out of this valuable resource. Hydroelectric power is a possibility, but it endangers the environment and kills many species of fish. Salmon are going extinct because of dams that are blocking travel to and from the sea, and emitting hot water into
their fragile environment.
Wind, solar, and nuclear energy seem like the best solutions. Wind power will not completely satisfy our power needs, but it would help. Unfortunately, many people reject wind power because of the fields of wind vanes that need to be built. Solar energy is a popular source of power, but generally for private homes rather than large-scale use. If the amount of people who use solar power increases, then less power will be needed for the power grid, lowering prices for everyone else.
Nuclear power produces the most energy, but it creates dangerous nuclear waste. Nuclear waste can be stored and kept in a safe environment but sometime; a plant will have a meltdown releasing radiation into the atmosphere.
When we make a decision to build more power plants, these factors will have to be considered. Maybe we will have a more advanced technology that will enable us to build more efficient, safer power plants.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Christian Buck - Gas and Hybrids

Christian Buck
4/11/06

As you know, gas prices are rising at incredible rates. It is becoming more of a hassle to pay for
our cars. In our rush for a way to avoid paying too much at the pump, it is necessary to stop using so much gas. This means we have to use fuel-efficient cars, or hybrids. There is a possibility to use other fuel sources in the future, but so far there has not been a fuel that is an efficient enough alternative to gas.
Hydrogen is a fuel that has been considered, and received a lot of attention. However we are finding that it is less efficient than fossil fuels. Hydrogen must be turned into a compound before being used as a fuel; this procedure requires the use of fossil fuels. In the long run we are burning the same gas that we were to start out with, by turning it into hydrogen, which we burn as well. This is not substantially cheaper or more efficient, so we might as well use the same cars as we are now. There is the possibility of using green hydrogen, which doesn’t require the use of fossil fuels. Unfortunately green hydrogen is very expensive, the cost owould be between 6-8 dollars a gallon, and even after the price dropped from widespread use it would cost about 4-5 dollars a gallon.
Some other options are diesel, bio-diesel, and corn. The problem with diesel is the price is still high, and corn and bio-diesel would have to be grown. Growing bio-diesel to support our automobiles would need so many crops to be converted into oil that our nation would not have enough food to support itself.
The best option appears to be plug in hybrids. Many people that go to work, shopping and complete their other needs within the 30 miles of their residence could travel by electric power. This uses a tiny amount of fuel compared to conventional cars, which would lower the demand and price of fuels making travel cheaper.
We do not have plug in hybrids yet; we are close to producing a car that utilizes this technology. We might even discover other more efficient fuels that will allow us avoid using fossil fuels.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Christian Buck - Plasma and Fusion

Christian Buck
4/4/06

Fusion power is a source of energy that could possibly replace gas and nuclear power plants. Rather than split an atom, fusion power combines atoms in a process that creates energy. Fusion power is what creates stars. Large amounts of plasma and energy are created, giving off extreme heat and energy. Humans have not yet harnessed this form of energy because our technology is not advanced enough. However as technology improves, we can look forward to having an infinite source of energy created from artificial suns.
Fusion power is literally a endless supply of power. The best way we can generate power at the moment is in giant magnetic fields using plasma. Plasma is sometimes described as the 4th state of matter. It consists of free moving ions and electrons[1]. To use fusion power we use electro-magnetic fields that conceal the plasma. Energy moves freely within the plasma, which is collected and stored.
Fusion energy is a very viable way we can provide energy in the future. We should consider it as a possible solution, and is probable that we will be able to create large amounts of this in the future.

I have included links that have more information on plasma and fusion energy:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1573450.stm

http://www.plasmas.org/

http://www.fusion.org.uk/focus/

[1] http://www.plasmas.org/what-are-plasmas.htm

Christian Buck - Hydrocarbons

Christian Buck
4/4/06

Hydrocarbons are some of the most important and common chemicals in our world. They power our cars, economy and lives. Some commons hydrocarbons are methane, butane, octane, propane, and in many other forms[1]. Hydrocarbons are combinations of hydrogen and carbon that tend to be very explosive making them ideal for fuels of all sorts. They also are a source of energy that we depend on, which is becoming more expensive and difficult to obtain.
Since 1978 the price of gas as risen over two dollars[2]. It is becoming more difficult to drill oil. As we extract more oil we are allowing more fuels to be consumed. We also deplete our supply of natural gas, forcing us to do more to reach the oil. As it becomes harder to get fuel, the supply will not be able to match the demand and the product will be too expensive to afford. The world is going to have to find a way to survive when our cars, appliances, power plants, and everything requiring fuel looses its source of power.
We are living in a world that has a time limit. We cannot always rely on the same resource. If we want to continue life with fossil fuels, we have to come up with ways to avoid using up our valuable hydrocarbons.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrocarbons#Examples
[2] http://inflationdata.com/Inflation/images
/charts/InfAdjGas1918_2005.gif

Christian Buck - Carbon Dioxide

Christian Buck

4/4/06

Large doses of carbon dioxide (5% of the air content) are toxic to animals. Like carbon monoxide it is colorless, and can be dangerous. However we need small amounts of carbon dioxide to live. In fresh air the carbon dioxide content is 0.04%. Trees on the other hand, need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. The chloroplast converts carbon dioxide into oxygen. This makes trees a useful tool in diminishing the effects of global warming. It is a key part of life on the planet, but too much can be hazardous.

Carbon dioxide is a dry ice in its solid state. It has a melting point of –78.5 degrees Celsius (–109.3 degrees Fahrenheit). After this temperature it changes directly to a gas, bypassing the liquid stage, giving it the name “dry ice”. Dry ice is used for industrial purposes and to cool food items as well as fog for special effects. There are many other uses for dry ice, given its unique properties.

In our oceans there is a large amount of carbon dioxide. They are found in the form of bicarbonate. Bicarbonate is created through a reaction between water, rock, and carbon dioxide. Most bicarbonate is at the bottom of the ocean and will eventually draw the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the sea, but this will take hundreds of years because the bicarbonate must come to the surface for the reaction to occur.

Carbon dioxide is something we all have to deal with and is important to all life. We just have to prevent too much of it being released. We can do this through carbon sequestration. The Carbon Zero Project is an initiative to lower the amount of carbon dioxide we release. Part of our project is the planting of trees that help turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.

All information was received from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide