Science Podcasts

Naked Scientists episode

Mon, 6th Oct 2014

Powering the Future

Light bulb (c) Jeff Kubina

For years we have relied on fossil fuels to produce the light, heat and energy we need to live and work. But these supplies are diminishing, and polluting our environment. So can renewable resources step into the breach annd produce enough energy to power the world? In this special Naked Scientists show, live from the Cambridge Science Centre, we talk to some of the researchers trying to do just that, as well as conducting some energy-related experiments of our own...

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In this edition of Naked Scientists

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  • 02:30 - Harnessing wind and wave power

    We need to increase performance of wind and wave powered systems to better harness the potential of these free, clean sources of energy.

  • 16:40 - Spray-on solar cells

    Scientists promise us a future where solar cells can be sprayed onto surfaces, so cars, buildings and streets could be covered in them.

  • 26:44 - Artificial photosynthesis

    Plants are hugely efficient at creating energy from sunlight. Now researchers are trying to capture sunlight to make hydrogen the same way.

  • 40:02 - Powerful vibrations

    Tiny sensors that harvest energy from passing cars, people or even the flow of your blood may one day be powering sensors inside you...

 

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Nuclear fusion would seem to me to be the answer. As I understand this technology should be available in 20-30 years time if not sooner. Am I correct here? ROGER MARTIN, Thu, 9th Oct 2014

In reply to the podcast:- Not true at all. That's the view of  greens.  It's not a scientific view but a political one.

Roger:
Nuclear fusion has never been demonstrated for energy creation. It's only been done for tiny periods of time. We must put far more energy into fusion than we get back. I'd be shocked if we get fusion working within this century, as a source of usable energy.

Compared to fusion, nuclear fission is easy, cheap and safe. Many new fission reactor designs are planned such as molten salt reactors . These can easily close the fuel cycle, so producing the least possible waste. Because MSRs run at normal pressure they are intrinsically safer than current reactors using a pressurized reactor cooled by water. MSRs can also be designed to be passively safe by manipulating reactor physics. These improvements offer orders-of-magnitude safety improvements over current fission reactors, and current fission is already the safest form of energy generation.  MarkPawelek, Sun, 12th Oct 2014

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