One of the major focuses of my blog is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). An area that has long been of great interest globally is energy. Fossil Fuels have been the chief energy source for our planet’s ‘First World’ countries, but with increasing world populations there is concern that we will exhaust our natural global supplies. What are our options going forward? The following contributed post is entitled; The Future of Fuel.
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Image Credit: Unsplash
Whether you believe in climate change or you are one of the <1% of people who remains unconvinced, what is clear is that our fossils are running out. With the USA now considering expanding the search for oil to the Arctic, it is obvious that at some point we are going to stop finding reserves that have taken millions of years to appear.
If science fiction is to be trusted, we need to find alternative energy solutions if we want to continue to develop incredible technologies.
Clean energy sources such as wind turbines, solar panels and other methods are all idea for producing electricity. The downside of this is that for technologies not connected to the grid, large batteries will be required to store the energy while disconnected. This means that all types of transport will have to balance being weighed down with the distance they are able to cover.
Why is Clean Energy for Travel So Important?
At the moment, the aviation industry contributes around 2.5% of carbon emissions each year and this is set to rise to around 22% by 2050. This is an enormous problem because while global demands for fast air travel increase, the threat to the environment is significantly raised.
A similar problem is presented in ocean travel. Ships crossing the seas take passengers and goods around the world but every trip introduces pollutants to the water. While you might be able to use oil water separators to limit pollution the amount of oil that escapes, the fact is that the risk of any oil spillage is still very much present.
Even short car journeys are ever more problematic as the air quality of large cities deteriorates as more and more people choose to drive themselves rather than take a bus or train. There have already been rapid advances in electric car technology but much more research is required if we are to achieve the infrastructure necessary for a full transition.
What Are Our Options?
More investment into methods to create clean electricity is already underway, especially in China where a capacity of around 130 GW has already been installed, knocking their already ambitious targets out of the water. This is great news as it means that greener technologies such as electric cars, buses and trains are much more likely to succeed.
But what about air travel?
Well, the research may be in its infancy but there are some promising results coming from experiments into what is being termed ‘ionic wind technology’. With this theory, it could be possible to launch and fly planes long distances in a carbon neutral way and, crucially, with no moving parts. Rather than a combustion engine, the plane uses long thin stems of wire to pass an electric current. This current ionizes atmospheric nitrogen which, when it collides with “normal” neutral air generates thrust.
We may be not be looking at warp drives or ion drives just yet but with the ideas that are floating around at the moment, Science Fiction may not be so unbelievable after all.