Top Ten Emerging Energy Technologies

Top Ten Emerging Energy Technologies

  1. Zero Point Energy

    Zero-point energy is the lowest possible energy that a quantum mechanical physical system may have; it is the energy of its ground state. All quantum mechanical systems undergo fluctuations even in their ground state and have an associated zero-point energy, a consequence of their wave-like interaction. Because of the uncertainty principle, every physical system (even at absolute zero temperature) has a zero-point energy that is greater than the minimum of its potential well. Liquid helium-4 (4He) remains liquid, it does not freeze, under atmospheric pressure no matter how low its temperature is, because of its zero-point energy. The concept of zero-point energy was developed in Germany by Albert Einstein and Otto Stern in 1913, using a formula developed by Max Planck in 1900. The term zero-point energy originates from the German Nullpunktsenergie. The German name is also spelled Nullpunktenergie. Vacuum energy is the zero-point energy of all the fields in space, which in the Standard Model includes the electromagnetic field, other gauge fields, fermionic fields and the Higgs field. It is the energy of the vacuum, which in quantum field theory is defined not as empty space but as the ground state of the fields. In cosmology, the vacuum energy is one possible explanation for the cosmological constant. A related term is zero-point field, which is the lowest energy state of a particular field.
    Links: Top Ten Nikola Tesla Inventions,
  2. Matter-Antimatter Engine

    A matter-antimatter engine would be the most efficient engine ever to be created because it turns 100% of the matter and antimatter and turns it into energy by colliding matter and antimatter. The energy released by their annihilation releases about 10 billion times the energy that chemical energy in a combustion engine. Matter-antimatter reactions are 1,000 times more powerful than nuclear fission and it is 300 times more powerful than nuclear fusion energy. This means if a space shuttle was built with a matter-antimatter engine then it could travel farther and faster in space because not only do you need less fuel with a matter-antimatter engine but also the engine produces more energy than a combustion engine would thus giving you more power and speed.
  3. Nuclear Fission

    Fusion power is the power generated by nuclear fusion reactions. In this kind of reaction, two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus and in doing so, release a large amount of energy. In a more general sense, the term can also refer to the production of net usable power from a fusion source, similar to the usage of the term “steam power.” Most design studies for fusion power plants involve using the fusion reactions to create heat, which is then used to operate a steam turbine, which drives generators to produce electricity. Except for the use of a thermonuclear heat source, this is similar to most coal, oil, and gas-fired power stations as well as fission-driven nuclear power stations. As of July 2010, the largest experiment was the Joint European Torus (JET). In 1997, JET produced a peak of 16.1 megawatts (21,600 hp) of fusion power (65% of input power), with fusion power of over 10 MW (13,000 hp) sustained for over 0.5 sec. In June 2005, the construction of the experimental reactor ITER, designed to produce several times more fusion power than the power put into the plasma over many minutes, was announced. Project partners were preparing the site in 2008. The production of net electrical power from fusion is planned for DEMO, the next generation experiment after ITER. Additionally, the High Power laser Energy Research facility (HiPER) is undergoing preliminary design for possible construction in the European Union starting around 2010.
  4. Wireless Energy Transfer

    Wireless energy transfer or wireless power transmission is the process that takes place in any system where electrical energy is transmitted from a power source to an electrical load without interconnecting wires. Wireless transmission is useful in cases where instantaneous or continuous energy transfer is needed but interconnecting wires are inconvenient, hazardous, or impossible. Wireless energy transfer is different from wireless transmission of information, such as radio, where the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) or the percentage of power received becomes critical only if it is too low to adequately recover the signal. With wireless power transmission, efficiency is the more important parameter. The most common form of wireless power transmission is carried out using induction, followed by electrodynamic induction. Other present-day technologies for wireless power include those based upon microwaves and lasers.
    Links: Top Ten Nikola Tesla Inventions,,
  5. Force Field

    A force field, sometimes known as an energy shield, force shield, or deflector shield is a barrier, typically made of energy or charged particles that protect a person, area or object from attacks or intrusions. A University of Washington group in Seattle has been experimenting with using a bubble of charged plasma to surround a spacecraft, contained by a fine mesh of superconducting wire. This would protect the spacecraft from interstellar radiation and some particles without needing physical shielding. Likewise, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is attempting to design an actual test satellite, which should orbit Earth with a charged plasma field around it. Plasma windows have some similarities to force fields, being difficult for matter to pass through. Workers at a 3M factory in South Carolina in August 1980 encountered an “invisible electrostatic wall” in an area under a fast-moving sheet of polypropelene film that had become electrically charged to a voltage that “had to be in the Megavolt range.” This phenomenon was a result of Coulomb’s law.
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  6. Hydrogen Fuel Cells

    One of the main offerings of a hydrogen economy is that the fuel can replace the fossil fuel burned in internal combustion engines and turbines as the primary way to convert chemical energy into kinetic or electrical energy; hereby eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from that engine. Although hydrogen can be used in conventional internal combustion engines, fuel cells, being electrochemical, have a theoretical efficiency advantage over heat engines. Fuel cells are more expensive to produce than common internal combustion engines, but are becoming cheaper as new technologies and production systems develop. Some types of fuel cells work with hydrocarbon fuels, while all can be operated on pure hydrogen. In the event that fuel cells become price-competitive with internal combustion engines and turbines, large gas-fired power plants could adopt this technology. Hydrogen gas must be distinguished as “technical-grade” (five nines pure), which is suitable for applications such as fuel cells, and “commercial-grade,” which has carbon and sulfur containing impurities, but which can be produced by the much cheaper steam-reformation process. Fuel cells require high purity hydrogen because the impurities would quickly degrade the life of the fuel cell stack. Much of the interest in the hydrogen economy concept is focused on the use of fuel cells to power electric cars. Current Hydrogen fuel cells suffer from a low power-to-weight ratio , although they store more energy than other electrochemical batteries. Fuel cells are much more efficient than internal combustion engines, and produce no harmful emissions. If a practical method of hydrogen storage is introduced, and fuel cells become cheaper, they can be economically viable to power hybrid fuel cell/battery vehicles, or purely fuel cell-driven ones. The economic viability of fuel cell powered vehicles will improve as the hydrocarbon fuels used in internal combustion engines become more expensive, because of the depletion of easily accessible reserves or economic accounting of environmental impact through such measures as carbon taxes. Currently it takes 2½ times as much energy to make a hydrogen fuel cell than is obtained from it during its service life. Other fuel cell technologies based on the exchange of metal ions (i.e. zinc-air fuel cells) are typically more efficient at energy conversion than hydrogen fuel cells, but the widespread use of any electrical energy → chemical energy → electrical energy systems would necessitate the production of electricity.
  7. Nanowire Battery

    A nanowire battery is a lithium-ion battery invented by a team led by Dr. Yi Cui at Stanford University in 2007. The team’s invention consists of a stainless steel anode covered in silicon nanowires, to replace the traditional graphite anode. Silicon, which stores ten times more lithium than graphite, allows a far greater energy density on the anode, thus reducing the mass of the battery. The high surface area further allows for fast charging and discharging.
  8. Ultracapacitor

    An Electric double-layer capacitor, also known as supercapacitor, supercondenser, pseudocapacitor, electrochemical double layer capacitor (EDLC), or ultracapacitor, is an electrochemical capacitor that has an unusually high energy density when compared to common capacitors, typically on the order of thousands of times greater than a high capacity electrolytic capacitor. For instance, a typical D-cell sized electrolytic capacitor will have a capacitance in the range of tens of millifarads. The same size electric double-layer capacitor would have a capacitance of several farads, an improvement of about two or three orders of magnitude in capacitance, but usually at a lower working voltage. Larger double-layer capacitors have capacities up to 5,000 farads as of 2010. The highest energy density in production is 30 Wh/kg, below rapid-charging Lithium-titanate batteries. EDLC’s have a variety of commercial applications, notably in “energy smoothing” and momentary-load devices. They have applications as energy-storage devices used in vehicles and for smaller applications like home solar systems where extremely fast charging is a valuable feature.
  9. Biofuels

    Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass. The term covers solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases. Biofuels are gaining increased public and scientific attention, driven by factors such as oil price spikes, the need for increased energy security, and concern over greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar components of plant materials and it is made mostly from sugar and starch crops. With advanced technology being developed, cellulosic biomass, such as trees and grasses, are also used as feed stocks for ethanol production. Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions. Bioethanol is widely used in the USA and in Brazil. Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled greases. Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a diesel additive to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons from diesel-powered vehicles. Biodiesel is produced from oils or fats using transesterification and is the most common biofuel in Europe. Biofuels provided 1.8% of the world’s transport fuel in 2008. Investment into biofuels production capacity exceeded $4 billion worldwide in 2007 and is growing.
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