Energy is the ability to produce change in a system. It can easily be converted from one form to another. The process of changing one form of energy to another is called energy conversion (Sorensen, 2007). This paper is therefore devoted to the analysis of how energy can be converted from one form to another. Also, it presents a clear elaboration on what fossil fuels are and why they are becoming attractive energy sources.
Three different ways can be used to explain energy conversion. Energy can be converted through action of forces, when atoms emit or absorb photons of light, and when a nuclear reaction takes place (Sorensen, 2007). The category of energy conversion through action of forces has various special cases.
The gravitational forces convert energy from one form to another (Sorensen, 2007). For example, the falling object accelerated by gravity has its potential energy changed to kinetic energy. Another example of kinetic energy to potential energy and back to kinetic energy conversions are the pendulums. As weight starts swinging, it speeds up. The potential energy is converted into kinetic energy. Eventually, the pendulum stops because some energy is converted by friction into thermal energy.
Magnetic and electric force fields convert energy. Exertion of forces by electrical fields leads to the formation of charged particles. The charged particles contain potential energy. The force fields are able to continually accelerate particles thereby causing the conversion to kinetic energy from potential energy (Sorensen, 2007).
Frictional forces can as well convert potential and kinetic forms of energy. The kinetic and potential energy linked to the object’s entire motion, position, or orientation, can easily be transformed to thermal energy when objects slide against each other. Energy is also converted when atoms emit or absorb light’s photons. When light is cast on any object, photon either gets into the object; or the object may have it reflected, or as well have it absorbed.
An absorbed photon may make an object’s energy be split. This results in either photo thermal effect, photoelectric effect or photochemical effect. The photo-thermal effect leads to the production of thermal energy. Photon’s energy is transformed into molecular vibrations or phonons which are basically heat energy. The absorbed energy may as well be converted to kinetic energy which eventually causes electrical energy (Sorensen, 2007).
Lastly, energy is converted as a result of nuclear reactions. New form of energy may be formed either through fission or fusion of subatomic particles (Sorensen, 2007).
Everyone talks about reliance on fossil fuels. Not everybody has a scientific understanding of what fossil fuels are. Fossil fuels are defined as the hydrocarbons formed as a result of trapped remains of animals and plants which have failed to naturally decay over a longer period (Gold, 2001). Similarly, they are natural resources that contain hydrocarbons basically derived from various sources, particularly from mineral fuels (Gold, 2001). Examples include natural gas, petroleum and coal. They are organic fuels with stored radiant energy.
Fossil fuels are becoming an attractive source of energy due to its availability and value. They are cheap when compared to other sources of energy. They are also easily accessed. Besides, they produce vast amounts of energy per unit weight when burnt and thus helpful in exploitation of metal ores. Fossil fuel is also vital in the generation of electricity and feedstock used by petrochemical industries. Its byproducts, for instance, tar which is petroleum’s leftover, has been helpful in road construction all over the world (Sorensen, 2007).
Solar energy and hydroelectric energy are different energy alternatives to fossil fuels. Two approaches can be used to convert solar energy, i.e. solar thermal and photovoltaic. Solar thermal approach is where energy is directly used from the sun to generate heat. Sun’s heat is captured using solar panels. The heat is transferred to water and space heating. Ones the heat is captured from the sun, solar thermal collectors aids in the water circulation. Photovoltaic approach on the other hand converts the power or energy of the sun to electricity through a series of processes. Silicon based pieces of solar cells absorb light from the sun and have it converted into electricity (Green, 2005).
Solar energy is advantageous because it is an inexhaustible source of energy. Besides, it is a vast energy resource. It supports all life on the planet, earth. Also, it can conveniently be used for generating electricity, heating purposes and lighting (Green, 2005). However, its one disadvantage is that it may be unreliable and inconsistent.
Hydroelectric energy is the energy derived from moving waters. Flowing or moving water contains kinetic energy. The water is stored in dams at greater heights. This makes the water contain potential energy. To generate electricity, water is left to freely flow in large turbines at high speed and pressure. It rotates turbines which eventually generate electricity (Green, 2005). This alternative energy source is advantageous because it is non pollutant, has lower costs of operation when compared to fossil fuels, and is easily transported through wires to longer distances. However, it is disadvantageous in the sense that it is very expensive to build dams. Also, building of larger reservoirs can lead to geological damage and imbalance. It can as well impact water flow negatively.
Gold, T. (2001). The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels. Springer.
Green, M.A. (2005). Third Generation Photovoltaics: Advanced Solar Energy Conversion (Springer Series in Photonics). Springer.
Sorensen, B. (2007). Renewable Energy Conversion, Transmission, and Storage. 1st edition Academic Press.