Understanding How Electricity, Power, and Energy Work: Solar, Gas, Wind, Water, Oil, & Nuclear – Stem Frenzy

Understanding How Electricity, Power, and Energy Work: Solar, Gas, Wind, Water, Oil, & Nuclear

Home STEM Frenzy Articles Understanding How Electricity, Power, and Energy Work: Solar, Gas, Wind, Water, Oil, & Nuclear

Energy is needed in every process that we take. Even thinking requires energy. Our society has grown so large that the energy demand is as high as ever. There are various sources to harness energy. Usually, our machinery is built to transform one form of energy onto another. When doing so, it is important to remember the basic laws of energy conservation that energy nor is created nor is destroyed, it is merely transformed into a new form. When energy is transferred onto a new form, some part of it is lost as heat or as radiation. It is important to know this because we as a species convert other forms of energy into electrical energy, which is what powers our society for the most part. We will briefly go over the various sources of energy that we have access to.

Solar energy is the energy of the sun. This type of energy is harnessed by solar panels. The idea is to accumulate the heat of the sun. This heat is then used to heat the water in contained tanks. The water evaporates and this evaporation is directed to power off electric generators. These electric generators rotate their turbines. The turbines are then used to rotate magnets. Rotating magnets alter their magnetic field, which results in the production of electrical energy. This is called electromagnetic induction. We will hear this word often, as the same principle is used on other engines that generate electricity.

Gas and oil are similar. They are combustible. When these combustions happen in enclosed spaces, they increase the air pressure and create a strong current of air, let’s call this for simplicity. If we want to be more detailed, what happens is that air gets heated up and rapidly expands and it pushes to the sides of the container. This strong air current is used to push the internal turbines of an electric generator. The turbines are attached to a magnet and when these turbines move, they change the magnetic fields of the magnets connected to them. Then we generate electricity via electromagnetic induction.

Wind energy is harnessed by the power of winds. Winds hit the blades of wind turbines. The same as previously, these winds are connected to rotating magnets. When the magnets move, they generate electricity thanks to the process of electromagnetic induction.

Water energy is harnessed via the flow of water. The water moves the turbines that are attached to dams or even small water-powered windmills. These turbines rotate the magnets attached to them, thus generating electricity thanks to the process of electromagnetic induction.

Nuclear energy is more complex but uses some of the previous ideas, especially the solar energy process. From physics, we know that when atoms clash together, they release massive energy. Our nuclear reactors clash atoms of uranium with high-energy neutrons, thus disrupting the stability of the atom and breaking the atom apart. When the atom breaks apart, it releases heat. This heat is contained in special chambers and is then used to heat water. This generates vapor which in turn is used to spin the turbines of electrical generators.

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