Energy Generation

Wind turbines in Austria, image by Kwerdenker

There are many different forms of energy, including electrical, chemical, kinetic, heat, light and sound.

Energy can’t be created or destroyed: it can only be converted from one form to another. This is a very important part of making things work. When you listen to music on an mp3 player, chemical energy in the battery is transformed into sound energy.

One of the most useful types of energy that we use is electricity.  It is easy to transport (through wires), and can be easily stored and converted to other forms. Electricity is produced by a device called a generator, which spins a magnet near a coil of wire to create a flow of electric energy. To make the generator spin, kinetic energy is needed. It is common for this to be produced in power stations by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) to heat water to create steam. The steam turns a turbine, which then spins the generator to produce electricity.

Microscope image of mitochondria in the lung, image by Louisa Howard

The downside of burning fossil fuels is that it releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and creates pollution. The earth’s supply of fossil fuels is also running out.  Alternative “cleaner” methods of electricity production such as solar power, wind power, and geothermal power are therefore very important for the future.

Don’t forget that our bodies need energy too! Inside our cells, energy from the food we eat is converted, with the help of oxygen, into more useful forms by wiggly-shaped structures called Mitochondria.

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