Techpost

Hello World!

 

This is my first Techpost. We have to pick a technology and write about its past , present and future, as well as describe a few things about it.

I chose the generation of electricity. How do we get electricity, and where does it come from? How has it affected us?

 

Well, lets begin, back in the times of the ancient Greeks. They noticed that if you rubbed amber, it was able to pick up object, and create sparks. This was the beginning of the age of the atom. The greeks began to ponder the ramifications of such an observation. They then came up with a few basic theories on it, but human development of electricity basically stopped until the 18th century where people began to work on something known as the voltaic pile. This, with a few advancements, became known as a battery. It used chemicals that would react with each other to provide a charge at the terminals. This was great for finding out how to get an electrical current, but it had very little charge to be of any use (let alone light a bulb!).  A very intelligent man by the name of Michael Faraday, noticed a phenomenon. When a conductor is in the presence of a changing magnetic field, a voltaic difference will be induced into the conductor. This then lead to the development of the electrical generator.

A new age was heralded, with the same principle as the generator, the transformer was developped to send electricity at very high voltages across large distances. This was possible because the resistance of a wire will increase as the current increases, thus heating up the wire as well, and causing it to expand. You may have seen the heavy power lines ‘sag’ in between the poles. This is normal, and due to that phenomenon, we are able to minimize our losses  for electricity transmission.

People began to contemplate how to make something such as a generator spin. Well their work was already cut out for them. This was past the age of the steam engine, which was powered by the abundance of coal. It almost seemed too good to be true. A steam generator was developed using coal to fire it. And unfortunately for mankind, we have basically stayed the same. We still rely on the same technology of Mr. Faraday and the many other pioneers of his time. We still spin magnets inside coils of wire. In 1882, some scientists decided to find out what else can make things spin. One of them was falling water. In 1882 the first hydroelectric dam was built and it signalled to the world, the feasibility of having an almost no emission electrical generator. Wind was looked at and still is to this day. The only significant changes to the field have come from changing what is burned. Either coal, natural gas, or petroleum.

It was noted that since we wanted to spin a magnet, and judging from the fact that humanity basically ran out of ideas, we needed to look in a new direction. Not just how to make things spin, but how to make things HOT. People were looking to the core of the earth, a perpetual (in a human’s scope) source of renewable and no emission heat. Also developments began with nuclear power and the fact that when an atom is split, it produces a vast amount of heat.

The University of Northern Iowa has a very detailed account of their progression in technology as far as using coal for first heating their building, then later powering the campus itself(Gerald Peterson(October 14 1997) Heat and Light: a Brief History of UNI Power Plants, Rod Library Special Collections). They expanded from one building to many, using the heat from the boilers to heat the buildings, as well as provide power. In 1905, the coal plant was expanded to provide electricity and continued to do so without any problems for about 20 years, where all they did was add some boilers. It was a huge advancement, and served as a great example of the uses of coal. Coal has been with us for many years, and we have become very efficient at mining it, refining it, and using it.
Electricity has brought about many changes. One of them is our near-total dependence on it. We have used it to achieve things never before imagined, let alone possible. We will continue to do so for a long time to come. We can reverse our dependency on electricity but our way of life will be drastically altered for the worse. Our medical facilities will be useless, our manufacturing of food, materials, etc will all be halted. Our transportation will freeze. Life will not be any good without it. People wil argue that we have survived in the past without electricity, and I will totally agree. You can SURVIVE, but you can’t LIVE without it.

This hasn’t stopped armchair activists and others from their protests and complaining. People complain about a nuclear powerplant because they look at Chernobyl as a sign of things to come, when it’s just not true ((November 29, 2005) Nuclear protest hits Blair speech, BBC News). People then turn and complain about coal powerplants, saying the environment will be ruined from the exhaust (((August 9 2008) Arrests in power station protest, BBC News). Then they complain even more when they are told that a hydroelectric power plant will be made, saying that the dam will ruin X square kilometers of land ((May 24 2008)Tensions run high at Amazon dam protest, The Real News Network).

Nuclear Protest http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4478946.stm

Coal Protest: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7551613.stm

Hydroelectric Protest: http://therealnews.com/t/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=1557

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~ by stln1234 on February 11, 2009.

One Response to “Techpost”

  1. […] began to be developed as a technology around 1831 by Michael Faraday as mentioned in the previous post. This information leads us to understand that pre-Industrial revolution, electricity was not […]

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