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The World Demand for Power

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Introduction

Physics Research Report The World Demand for Power Summary The world's demand for power is currently increasing at an alarming rate. Essentially, this demand is currently being met by a small number of energy sources. These include: * Fossil Fuels * Alternative Sources (Hydroelectric and Solar) * Nuclear Power (Fission) Nuclear fusion power is also in development and will possibly become one of the main sources once fully developed. This report looks some of the basic Physics currently behind these energy sources and how further advances may be brought about by understanding the Physics of the process. Introduction and Fossil fuels role According to a study undertaken by the World Energy Council, by 2020, Western European oil and gas reserves will have declined to a point at which only Norway is expected to have significant reserves of natural gas and Western Europe may well enter a phase of declining oil production and rising oil import dependency. In 25 years time, Europe's dependence on the external supply of conventional fuels is likely to have increased from the current level of around 50% to around 70%. There are a number of other factors that must be taken into consideration. In 1990 some 75% of the world's population (those in the developing countries) were responsible for only 33% of the world's energy consumption; by the year 2020 that 75% is likely to have risen to 85% and the energy consumption to around 55% (see chart). Thus there will be greater competition for the fuel resources available The means we have currently of powering our needs, with coal, oil or gas are generally accepted by the masses. However their reputations and standing have been somewhat damaged in recent times with heightened awareness of their environmental hazards. Yet their ability to achieve their fundamental objective, to produce power is unquestionable. Despite the implication of damaging the planet, Governments generally across the world are also in support of fossil fuels and refuse currently to pursue any of the new methods with any seriousness. ...read more.

Middle

To maintain the plasma in optimum conditions requires balancing a whole series of criteria. Push the envelope with any one of the limiting criteria and the plasma could collapse. Too much pressure leads to instabilities in the plasma, it develops a condition known as the neo-classical tearing mode (NTM). This instability can lead to the plasma hitting the wall of the reactor, damaging the wall material. One challenge is to produce more robust materials which can cope better when this happens. Instabilities like NTMs can happen if kinks or errors form in the confining electromagnetic field. The errors need to be of a certain size, referred to as the seed island size. If any part of the superconducting coils warm to a temperature where the material becomes resistive, the field will collapse and the plasma escapes. Maintaining a plasma in steady state is like holding a jelly in empty space without touching it. "The plasma performance depends on how much pressure you can put in, as the fusion power is proportional to the pressure squared," says Martin O'Brien, a programme manager at Culham, the UK's centre for fusion research. "You want to operate at as high a density as possible. But at high densities the performance can degrade. Experimentally it is hard to go higher than an empirically observed density, the Greenwald Limit. There are a variety of boundaries due to instabilities, and all factors must be optimised." Pressure is not uniform across a plasma; it tends to reach a maximum at its centre. The shape of the plasma is also very important as it affects how much pressure can be contained. The more like a D rather than an O the plasma cross-section, the greater the pressure. The profile of pressure across the plasma is also important, as is the pressure at the edge, known as the pedestal size. With Nuclear Fusion still in development and the great threat nuclear power posses to human health, powering the planet in this manner is possibly not the answer. ...read more.

Conclusion

Larger units have been used to provide power for weather and communications satellites. Solar energy is also used on a small scale for other purposes besides those described above. In some countries, for instance, specially designed solar ovens are employed for cooking, and solar energy is used to produce salt from seawater by evaporation. The potential for solar energy is enormous, since each day the Earth receives in the form of solar energy about 200,000 times the total world electrical-generating capacity. Unfortunately, though solar energy itself is free, the high cost of its collection, conversion, and storage has limited its exploitation. Conclusion Many aspects of Physics are being brought to bear on the problem of providing for the worlds growing energy demands. It is likely that in order to meet this demand both the boundaries and utilisation of Physics will need to be significantly developed. Reference and evaluation of the sources Microsoft Encarta - as a reference tool and a product Microsoft Encarta has a targeted audience. The audience and standard at which the content is aimed is higher-level G.C.S.E. Though the 'Physics' incorporated was below the standard needed it did provide however a useful backdrop to the Earths energy problems. Unfortunately Encarta was produced in 1995 and therefore provided predicted figures that have since been altered. Encyclopaedia Britannica - a more recently produced multimedia reference suite (2000) that provided a broader and deeper knowledge of the relevant physics and general appreciation of global power. Also as an educational tool, the source was not biased towards an argument and relied on fact. Friends of the Earth Website and Greenpeace web site - obviously these organisations have their own agendas, particularly pro renewable energy and anti fossil fuel / nuclear power. However the factual information provided a good basis for the analysis. UKAEA About Fusion Website - a good website produced by the UK Atomic Energy Authority, Government Funded and therefore with a bias towards nuclear power BNFL Website - although a commercial company, and hence pro nuclear power, they have a requirement to be seen to be providing clear factual information. 8 ...read more.

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