Alternative Energy Essay

Submitted By petra3034254
Words: 1049
Pages: 5

Technology is advancing faster than most know how to keep up. Yet still we as Americans are still relying on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources that, when used and mined, release harmful pollution into the air, water, soil, and atmosphere. Eventually we will reach a point at which the effects of producing so much pollution will be irreversible; some environmentalists would say the holes in the ozone are proof enough that the effects are already irreparable. It is clear that the solution to our energy problems is to transition from traditional energy sources to renewable energy sources, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ending our dependence on foreign oil, and eliminating our world record transfer of wealth to oil producing nations. Scientists have been researching ways to create a cleaner, renewable energy source to replace traditional petroleum. Who would have thought that the answer may lie on a rock? With a breakthrough in biotechnology comes a way to convert algae into a form of bio-diesel. Half of algae's composition, by weight, is lipid oil. Scientists have been studying this oil for decades to convert it into algae biodiesel - a fuel that burns cleaner and more efficiently than petroleum. But it isn’t as simple as scraping the algae off of a rock and pumping it into your car. The oil must first be extracted. The two main methods to extracting the oil are Expression- where the oil is literally pressed from the algae; a similar method is used in extracting olive oil from olives-, and an ultrasonic method, which is a faster process than pressing. This method uses ultra-sonic waves to create bubbles in a liquid solvent. The bubbles burst open near the cell walls of the algae and cause the cell walls to break down and the oil is released into the solvent. The oil extracted- referred to as “green crude”- is then put through a process called transesterification which adds more substances to the mix- including alcohol and a chemical catalyst that causes the alcohol to react with the oil. This reaction creates a mix of biodiesel and glycerol. The final step in processing separates the glycerol from the mixture and leaves a biodiesel that's ready to be used as fuel. Solar panels are nothing new; we have all seen them drilled into the roofs of our neighbor’s houses and possibly even thought about getting some ourselves but decided no, it’s too much work. But what about instead of installing solar panels on your roof—you just give your house a new paint job? Of course you’d have to be sure to use solar paint. That’s right, solar paint is just what it sounds like. Paint you can put on your roof, or even windows, that convert light into solar power. The paint contains nanoparticles of titanium dioxide—which gives whiteness to sunscreen and powdered sugar. The particles are coated with semi-conducting cadmium nano-crystals, and mixed with water and alcohol, to create a golden yellow paste. Researchers from Notre Dame brushed it onto a conductive glass electrode, and attached that to a counter-electrode, to create a complete circuit. When they shined light on the tiny solar cell, it pumped out a small current. These researchers are quoted from a podcast by Christopher Intagliata saying it’s, “Sun-believable”. Products like this can help reduce the use of nuclear energy, which accounts for approximately 20 percent of the United States' electricity production. Nuclear energy originates from the splitting of uranium atoms in a process called fission. Fossil fuel emissions are associated with the uranium mining and uranium enrichment process as well as the transport of the uranium fuel to and from the nuclear plant. Waste generated from uranium mining operations and rainwater runoff can contaminate groundwater and surface water resources with heavy metals and traces of radioactive uranium. The usage of biodiesel to power our cars is just one step towards a cleaner tomorrow, and…