Friday, September 19, 2008

So Many Alt-Energy Stories, They Get Their Own Post

I'll start with the relatively conventional nuclear fission story: NASA is interested in developing nuclear power reactors for use in surface missions such as a Lunar outpost. Sounds pretty normal until you notice the bit down toward the bottom about the reactor being the size of an office trash can!

If nuclear fission isn't your cup of tea, how about this: scientists continue to analyze the collapse of New York's Twin Towers, and the research could lead to the development of new, stronger, more heat resistant materials. Those materials could not only prevent building collapses, but they might also be just the thing for building fusion reactor containment vessels.

So you think nuclear power is too large scale or has its own massive drawbacks? Well let's get back to the two things we need to free us from our current energy sources: efficient solar cells and a replacement for chemical batteries. On the battery replacement side, ultracapacitors may be getting a huge boost if work with single-atom thick sheets of graphite pay off. Making full use of the large surface area of the graphite could boost energy density in the future-battery-replacements to double what is being done today. And finally, when I think of breakthroughs, I don't usually think about grade school science projects. Which shows what I know. One twelve-year-old seventh grader is getting twenty-five grand to put toward his education because it looks like he has created a novel type of solar cell. How novel? Well, the three dimensional nanotube design captures ultra-violet light in addition to visible wavelengths, theoretically absorbing five hundred times more light than a conventional cell. Congratulations to him, and kudos to his parents, teachers, and anyone else who helped him. Now we just need someone to build a working proof of his thories...

1 comment:

Lee said...

I saw the article on the science fair project - too cool. I'm glad the spirit of innovation is still alive and well somewhere here in the US.