Some world problems - We need to stop it
There are 2 big problems in the world that people believe need to be solved or the world will be doomed. These problems are energy and global warming. I will go through each of these problems and explain how much we know about it and how it can be stopped. There are other big issues as well such as political issues, war and over-population that I will explain later but I I am only summarising the main problems that are more science based for now.
At the moment the world is mainly using fossil fuels to power and homes. These resources are very good at producing power but they are non-renewable. This means that we only have a limited amount of fossil fuels because the ones we use which are coal, oil and natural gas took millions of years to produce. Currently, we have about 46 years left until all the oil runs out and about 400 years of coal left. Many of you reading this may be telling yourself that we have enough fuel to last generations and it won't run out in your lifetime. However, the growing population means that the amount of fuel that we will be consuming will continue to increase and if we manage to get power to all of the poorer countries of the world it will increase the amount as well. So when we start losing these resources we will lose an incredible amount of power. Governments are doing very little to develop more efficient renewable energies so we could have a large-scale blackout in as little as 100 years.
So how can we solve this problem of energy for the next generations?
Well, lots of renewable energies are becoming popular with the scientific community for their own reasons and I will go through a few now.
Solar energy - For millions of years, we have witnessed the most powerful source of energy that keeps us alive today! The sun! The sun is the largest energy source we can harness and the sun produces more energy in an hour than we use in a year! So this power could be harnessed and used as our infinite energy source until the end of our solar system. The most common type of solar panel we use at the moment is photovoltaic which uses silicon solar cells to capture sunlight and turn it into electricity. These capture enough energy for households but are quite inefficient and cannot produce energy at night. So scientists are also using concentrated solar energy which is when large mirrors are used to reflect solar energy onto a small area of solar panels to try and get enough energy so we can store it for night use. This is more efficient but it couldn't power the world, yet, because it requires a lot of surface area and we would need to cover a lot of space to produce the amount of energy that is being produced by fossil fuels.
So could solar power be viable in the future then?
Possibly! As solar power keeps getting more and more efficient we could see it move
more into our lives. Some cool ways to get around the surface area problem could be with solar power roads and windows! Also with the recent experimental drive into superconductors, we could see a much more energy efficient way to transport energy. The only downside to solar power will be the amount of energy needed to be stored for power to be constant throughout the night if needed. If batteries become powerful enough it shouldn't be a problem but just some food for thought.
The second way scientists want to create infinite energy is with nuclear fusion reactors. I have covered this topic before so to learn more click here as I will only be briefly covering it. Unlike fission where atoms are split to create energy, fusion is its more confusing yet powerful brother who fuses atoms to create energy. Fusion is an energy idea based on the sun, as the sun creates its energy from fusion so scientists want to create a mini star on earth! However, the sun cheats to get the high temperatures needed for fusion because of its insane gravity, so the atoms get hardly any room to move in the core so it can fuse quicker. We don't have that luxury so we have to get clever about fusion. Currently, there are 2 types of experimental reactors in the world, electromagnetic confinement and inertial. Electromagnetic confinement is exactly what it sounds like! Heat up the atoms and confine them in a space using electromagnets to get enough pressure for them to fuse. It is essential that the heated plasma does not hit the walls of the confinement chamber because it will cool too much for the atoms to fuse! The other is inertial. This type of reaction isn't so self-explanatory. Inertial reactors used a high-powered laser to hit the atoms and heat them up to fuse in a very short time. This way of fusing is viable as well because the outcome is the same as that of electromagnetic but in a quicker time. Both have the two same problems, however, that stops them becoming viable at this current state in time. The first is energy. At the moment these reactors take more energy to fuse the atoms than the atoms give off. Also, their brother fission works to a good enough standard for most governments so fusion isn't getting a good deal of funding. The other is that they are very experimental so governments are scared of investing in fusion research in case it’s a waste of time.
So will we see fusion in the future?
Maybe. This is because if governments decide to invest in other sources of infinite energy fusion will be obsolete. Added to the lack of funding fusion is receiving, it can't really do much. However, if scientists have a break through then fusion could be the most powerful source of energy mankind will have. This could also mean that energy absorbers like rockets could go further if fusion can be downsized which could be awesome for space travel! Only time will tell!
Global warming has occurred ever since humans have messed with the carbon cycle. If you don't know what global warming is then I will give a brief summary. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, this means that it traps some of the radiation of the sun in the earth's atmosphere and allows us to stay warm but not burn. However, carbon dioxide has been increasing with the start of fossil fuels being burnt which is allowing more radiation to stay in the atmosphere and heat up the world. Also, CFCs or Chlorofluorocarbons used in a lot of everyday products is depleting the ozone layer. The ozone layer is important because it stops too much harmful radiation from
reaching earth and reflecting it back into space. But because it is depleting it has caused a chain of events that now have caused global warming. The ozone layer depletes so more radiation gets into the atmosphere, it is then trapped by carbon dioxide and continues in the cycle making the planet hotter.
However, there are big ways we can slow global warming or even stop it! So at the moment, we have cars, fossil fuels and depletion of forests to thank for global warming. This is where we can kill two birds with one stone.
The renewable energy that we previously talked about could play a huge part in reducing global warming. This is because the fossil fuel usage of the world is mainly to produce energy and fuel. So if we had an infinite source of energy we could reduce the number of fossil fuels being produced and therefore decrease the amount of carbon dioxide. Then because we have the infinite energy source and no need for fossil fuels, we could all switch to electric cars and because we have unlimited fuel we would need no need for fuel and electricity would cost a fraction of fuel! There have been no real solutions to deal with deforestation but I have thought of some that could be used in the future. Firstly, wood is cut to make paper and furniture etc. The cutting of trees is really bad because photosynthesis can't take place so carbon dioxide is left in the atmosphere. Also, trees keep a lot of carbon dioxide stored in them so when they get cut down the carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere causing more global warming. I think artificial photosynthesis could be a method of balancing the carbon levels because we could use it to create lots of oxygen and store carbon dioxide away for other uses. However, artificial photosynthesis is very experimental and could take years to develop. The second way is very abstract in method but could work. We could genetically engineer trees to grow faster in controlled spaces and then either harvest for the wood to make paper etc. Or use it as a way to quickly create more plants to keep oxygen levels stable. Although this is very unlikely.