Alternative Energy – What is It?
What is Energy? Energy is the power of matter to do action. Work is defined as the creation of energy out of the simple consumption of sources (like energy obtained from the sun) or the creation of energy by heat. Simply put, it is the creation of energy out of some initial source. The word ‘energy’ can be used in several different contexts, but for the purpose of this article, we will stick with the term ‘power’.
Let us take a look at several examples of how energy is used in our day-to-day lives. Let us start with the common energy source: the fossil fuel. Oil, natural gas and coal are the four hydrocarbon fuels that form the bulk of the energy we consume in this country. They are widely used around the world, and provide a substantial amount of power for various industries. They are also finite, which makes the risk of running out of them very real.
Another form of energy is inherent in the fission of various nuclear weapons. Nuclear energy is also a major source of nonrenewable energy. At times, the waste from these processes (such as spent fuel rods and spent nuclear fuel) can be considered as an energy source of its own – and it can be harvested later. However, as this process is not constant, it does create a great deal of waste that is not suitable for re-use; in fact, there are countries that consider it an environmental issue and have made laws against its production and handling. It is, therefore, far from a perfect source of energy.
Photovoltaic cells (PV) are another energy creation, which harvest energy given off by light. Many people (though it seems common sense) do not know that light in its different wavelengths can produce very different types of energy. This means that there are many different forms of energy being harvested by PV cells.
The conversion of light energy to other forms of energy has been around since the dawn of mankind, and is currently the most efficient method available for harnessing energy. However, there is a lot of potential energy in the waves of sound, which are much more diffuse and therefore don’t have their own source of light. It is possible, with devices called photovoltaic cells, to convert sound energy into usable electricity. There are several different types of photovoltaic cells: there are the common silicon semiconductor cells, there are the lipless, and there are the sandwich Photovoltaic cells – with the latter offering the best combination of power efficiency and output.
All forms of energy can be captured, but there are a couple of notable exceptions: nuclear energy, which splits atoms at a single point, and mechanical energy, which is moved from one position to another through motion. It is this second type of energy that is of great interest to researchers, as it is now possible to create devices capable of capturing mechanical energy using magnets and actuators. If this is harnessed properly, this technology could see the birth of a completely green power plant: devices powered by magnets that use no fuel at all.