How To Harness the Power of the Sun

How to harness the power of the sun? That’s a big endeavor! Scientists have been on a quest to harness the power of the sun for almost 100 years. Why? Because the sun’s power is the best renewable energy source for the future.

The best renewable energy for the future_The sun
THE SUN!

HOW TO HARNESS THE POWER OF THE SUN!

To understand why the sun is the best renewable energy source for the future and how to harness the power of the sun, let’s start with a few cool facts about the sun so we’re on the same page. My blog page! Ha

louie wig
If we're talking about the sun, why do I need to wear a wig?

COOL FACTS ABOUT THE SUN

The Sun is the only star in our solar system

The Sun is in the center of our solar system

Sun = Life on Earth
The Sun is composed of 2 elements
72% HYDROGEN + 26% HELIUM
SUN'S COMPOSITION
The Sun would have been surrounded by a disk of gas and dust early in its history when the solar system was first forming 4.6 billion years ago.
Because of the sun's strong gravitational field, some of that dust is still around today
It extends all the way to Earth.
The sun rotates
Measuring a “day” on the Sun is complicated because of the way it rotates.
The SUN Rotates!
The sun doesn't spin as a single, solid ball.
This is because the Sun’s surface isn't solid like Earth's.
Remember the hydrogen & helium? Yes, they are gases!
periodic table facts in my book!
The Sun's gases are super hot & electrically charged.
THESE GASES ARE CALLED PLASMA
MORE PLASMA?
This plasma rotates at different speeds on different parts of the Sun.
At the equator, the Sun completes one rotation in 25 Earth days.
This is measured by sunspot observation!
Experiment to measure sun's rotation
At the poles, the Sun rotates once every 36 Earth days.
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I want to stay with plasma, because plasma is a critical factor in how to harness the power of the sun! So what is plasma, exactly!

Make Sense of Science_Sue Berk Koch_Kev
Plasma is cool like us! Except hot.

WHAT IS PLASMA & WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HARNESS THE POWER OF THE SUN?

what is plasma_A plasma lamp
I LOVE THIS PLASMA LAMP!
Plasma is superheated matter – so hot that the electrons are ripped away from the atoms, forming an ionized gas.
Ten million degrees Celsius hot!
What is plasma?
Another way to think about it is that plasma is a gaseous substance consisting of free charged particles, such as electrons, protons, and other ions
properties of plasma
Plasma is considered to be a distinct phase of matter from solids, liquids, and gases
because of its unique properties, plasma it is often called the “fourth state of matter”
Plasma= 4th state
Just as a liquid will boil, changing the liquid into a gas when energy is added, heating a gas will form a plasma – a soup of positively charged particles (ions) and negatively charged particles (electrons).
The free charges make plasma highly electrically conductive
It can carry electric currents & generate magnetic fields.
What is plasma? Lightning is plasma!
What is plasma?
Stars! Nebula!
Plasma comprises over 99% of the visible universe.
PLASMA ? MORE HERE
AURORA!
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The Sun is a giant ball of boiling plasma!

What is plasma?

Plasma is key in how to harness the power of the sun!

Our Sun produces light & energy that everyone can see and feel, in plasma. The sun does this via a process called nuclear fusion.

WHAT IS NUCLEAR FUSION?

what is nuclear fusion
Louie loves to lie in the sun
Louie is enjoying the benefits of nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion reactions take place in the state of matter we now know about
PLASMA!
To fuse in our sun, the small nuclei need to collide with each other at extremely high temperatures
Remember that the Sun is 99% hydrogen & helium
Both have very small nuclei!
Hydrogen is at the top left & helium at the top right of the periodic table
The two smallest elements!
more on hydrogen
PHOTON ENERGY!
On the sun, in a series of nuclear fusion reactions, four isotopes of hydrogen-1 are fused into a helium-4 with the release of a tremendous amount of energy.
What the heck are isotopes?
Atoms with the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. Isotopes share almost the same chemical properties, but differ in mass & therefore in physical properties.
More on isotopes here
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NUCLEAR FUSION: PLASMA'S HIGH HEAT IS KEY

The high temperature of plasma provides the small atoms with enough energy to overcome their mutual electrical repulsion

Once the nuclei come within close range of each other, the attractive nuclear force between them will outweigh the electrical repulsion & allow them to fuse.

NUCLEAR FUSION : ANOTHER REQUIREMENT

For nuclear fusion to happen, the nuclei must be confined within a small space to increase the chances of collision.

In the sun, the extreme pressure produced by its immense gravity creates the conditions for fusion.

A QUICK WORD ON NUCLEAR FUSION VERSUS NUCLEAR FISSION

Nuclear fusion is essentially the opposite of nuclear fission.

With fusion, lighter nuclei are fused into a heavier nucleus.

In fission, a heavy nucleus is split into smaller nuclei.

People are generally afraid of nuclear fission. That said, there has never been a single injury or death due to radiation in any public nuclear power plant in the U.S. 

In the eyes of the public, nuclear fission is still controversial. Ever since the 1979 incident at Three Mile Island (which resulted in no injuries or deaths due to excellent failsafe measures and it’s been disproven that there was not an increase in cancer in local residents), there has not been a nuclear power plant built in the U.S. 

Of course, Chernobyl in 1986 did not help matters, but human error did contribute.

Subscribe_Don't Make Them Come to your house
Let's stop with nuclear fission and get back to nuclear fusion

I did digress, I admit it.  While we’re on the topic of clean energy, rare earth metals have been in the news. I break it all down for you in this post about rare earth metals.

Back to nuclear fusion and how to harness the power of the Sun! 

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WE LOVE THIS POST! AND THE SUN!
Nuclear Fusion Reactor
NUCLEAR FUSION REACTOR

BEST RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCE FOR THE FUTURE

What is nuclear fusion? I’m sure you can guess with my cool facts about the sun and obsession about what is plasma, that the best renewable energy source for the future is….nuclear fusion! 

louie and Ian
Yes, everyone reading your post guessed correctly!

Scientists want to recreate the process of nuclear fusion here on Earth & collect the energy to make electricity.

The promise and potential benefits to humankind from this carbon-free energy source are enormous.

REASONS WHY FUSION POWER IS THE BEST SUSTAINABLE ENERGY SOURCE FOR THE FUTURE

NUCLEAR FUSION HAS SEVERAL BENEFITS OVER NUCLEAR FISSION
The best-known fusion fuel, H isotope deuterium, can be extracted from seawater
No more fights over resources, like rare earth metals!
RARE EARTH METAL INFO
There’d be no worries about long-lived highly radioactive waste
(from nuclear fission)
A fusion reactor keeps so little fuel inside that it would naturally stop if something went wrong
Fusion power also eliminates worries about the fossil fuel emissions
A single gram of fuel can yield 90,000-kilowatt hours of energy.
Fusion energy facts
Put another way, it would take 10 million pounds of coal to yield as much energy as one pound of fusion fuel!
Because of the much readier availability of hydrogen isotopes necessary for fusion, as opposed to the much rarer heavier isotopes required for fission, controlled nuclear fusion would offer the human race an essentially limitless supply of energy.
It would be a renewable energy source like solar and wind power, with extra advantages.
The reactors could be put anywhere to provide 24/7 power
No need for strong winds or bright sunshine!
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HOW TO HARNESS THE POWER OF THE SUN VIA NUCLEAR FUSION

No, plants don’t use nuclear fusion to create energy. They create their energy from the sun via photosynthesis!

We humans have a few problems to overcome to make nuclear fusion for energy a reality.

fall blooms
Sun = Fall booms.
how to harness the power of the sun
SUN POWER!
Scientists are concentrating on fusion reactions in which hydrogen nuclei combine to form helium.
But hydrogen nuclei are positively charged and repel each other.
The closer the particles come, the greater the force of repulsion.
For fusion reactions to occur, the hydrogen nuclei must have high kinetic energies, so that the velocities can overcome the forces of repulsion.
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TWO MAJOR PROBLEMS WITH FUSION DEVELOPMENT

1---Finding a practical means for generating the intense temperature needed. 

Yes, we know plasma is the answer but plasma is HOT.

2---Developing a container that will not melt under the conditions of a fusion reaction.

Two techniques for producing a controlled fusion reaction are currently being explored.
The first is to restrict the plasma by means of a strong magnetic field, rather than the walls of a container.
The machine is called a TOKAMAK
tokamak
The second technique involves the sudden compression & heating of deuterium & tritium via a sharply focused laser beam.
Laser beam for fusion
Chocolate has nothing to do with harnessing the power of the sun
I just wanted to give you a virtual treat
Chocolate and dogs is a no no
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The pursuit of how to harness the power of the sun is,  ‘one of the most challenging programs of scientific research & development that has ever been undertaken.” 

In August 2022, at the National Ignition Facility, an experiment produced a record 1.3 million joules of fusion energy, which is 70% of the energy needed to break even. 31% more and we’ll be creating electricity via a fusion reaction here on Earth!

We are on the verge of a new age in fusion science, thanks in a large part to plasma physics, tireless scientists, and our dollars that are funneled towards scientific research!

Harnessing the power of the sun_Louie
Louie hard at work at General Atomics

For more reading about elements, atoms, and atomic attraction, along with super fun experiments you can do with your kids, pick up my book!  Click on the photo below for an amazon affiliate link to purchase. (yes, a shameless plug)

NOW YOU KNOW HOW TO HARNESS THE POWER OF THE SUN!

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Ami
Ami
October 7, 2022 5:54 am

I had no idea that scientists were working on nuclear fusion. This is very cool and important! Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

Alyssa
Alyssa
October 7, 2022 6:00 am

I finally understand the difference between nuclear fusion and fission, thanks to you. You make science far more accessible and fun than any of my teachers. (sorry teachers)

The Mum Geek
October 7, 2022 7:01 am

I had no idea about any of this! Really informative post, thank you for sharing

Molly | Transatlantic Notes
October 7, 2022 7:14 am

I always learn so much when I read your posts; it shows that there is so much we can benefit from knowing!

Unwanted Life
October 7, 2022 7:21 am

Don’t forget the two nuclear incidents in Japan. If we could just find a solution to dealing with the waste, it’d be a great system. But until then, clean renewable energy production is our best option, in my opinion at least

Eileen
Eileen
October 7, 2022 11:08 am

A lot of very smart scientists out there (and a smart writer summarizing their findings)! I’m sipping iced tea and my ‘little gray cells’ are growing 🙂 Thanks!

Carolyn Holton
Carolyn Holton
October 7, 2022 2:59 pm

Interesting post and an important topic! My home has solar panels, and most months we produce more energy than we use.
P.S. not sure Louie loved the wig, but he looked cute.

Jaya
Jaya
October 7, 2022 8:47 pm

I love that researchers and scientists are devoting time to finding clean energy sources, and I have to agree that there is no more an abundant supply of constant energy than the sun. Nuclear fusion sounds like it has some incredible benefits, and it would be amazing to see the world be able to shift toward these types of energy sources. Thanks for sharing!

Jacqui Forte
Jacqui Forte
October 8, 2022 5:26 am

loved reading this and learning. Thank you

Rita
October 8, 2022 7:00 am

I teach in English and in one of the course books nuclear fusion was mentioned, however, it wasn’t explained. Now I can tell my students about it if they ask. Thanks for posting this.

Conrad
Conrad
October 8, 2022 7:32 am

Excellent breakdown of fusion versus fission. Another superlative science post.

Lauren
Lauren
October 8, 2022 7:59 am

Wow! I haven’t heard of this before, what amazing work. Science is an incredible thing. Thank you for sharing.

Lauren

Ron
Ron
October 8, 2022 8:08 am

Amazing how you simplify science making it accessible and interesting, thanks.

Mike
Mike
October 8, 2022 8:18 am

This was one of your best post I feel. You have a very unique way of making complicated things easier to understand. maybe with all the recent natural disasters people will understand that we have to go in this direction to save what we have left of this earth. Thanks again. Mike

Fransic verso
October 9, 2022 6:10 am

This is interesting, I would love to know more about the sun and power. Thank you for sharing!

Bertha
Bertha
October 9, 2022 6:32 am

Wow! My mind is blown away, I have to say. I learned so much from your blog and you’ve taken great care to present your information in a way that is funa and relatively easy to grasp. Thank you 😊

Corinne
October 9, 2022 2:57 pm

I actually met a guy who is working on this the other month! My husband is a physics teacher and we went to the wedding of a physics professor and there was someone there who works on this stuff. Amazing!

Mummy Conquering Anxiety
October 9, 2022 5:16 pm

Such an entertaining post, as usual.

Thanks for the chocolate!

You break heavy subjects down into an easy-to-follow format. This concept is pretty mind blowing & hope it happens!

Isa A
Isa A
October 10, 2022 9:38 am

So thorough and this had a lot of science info for one. Interesting how there has been no accidents ever be it there. Though it remains a controversial topic and radiation. Great one. Xx
Isa A. Blogger

Charity
Charity
October 10, 2022 4:47 pm

This was all so interesting and informative! Thanks so much for sharing. I enjoyed reading this post!

Susan Berk Koch author

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