Eccentric energy: The power of the moon
As we seek to develop new sources of sustainable zero-carbon energy for our planet, will we need to reach for the stars or keep our feet on the ground? The answer is both.
Read more below:
Could lunar be the new solar?
Soil from the moon could help store energy and give future astronauts a sustainable means of living there. That’s the view of scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA), according to a new study from ESA and Azimut Space.
Studies are currently trying to ascertain the lunar soil’s capacity to store energy absorbed from the sun’s heat during the daytime. The theory is that this heat could then be used to generate electricity and keep equipment from freezing when temperatures plummet at night.
Space experts have long anticipated that any permanent base on the moon would need to be built with bricks made of lunar soil. But the idea of making those bricks store energy too is a new one. Only time will tell if this really is a giant leap for sustainable lunar energy.
Energy from the light side of the moon
Former astronaut Dr Helen Sharman also sees potential for lunar energy. The first Briton into space believes that the moon – with its permanently cloudless skies - could be the ideal base for large solar arrays.
Dr Sharman explains: “The moon could go a long way to solving Earth’s energy and climate problems. Putting solar panels on the Moon would be a very quick and easy way to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Solar panels on Earth are inefficient because it is dark half the time and often cloudy. Moon panels would mean that we could get energy, even when the Earth is dark.”
Sustainable energy – right beneath our feet
Closer to home, scientists are currently exploring ways to harness the immense stores of energy inside the Earth. A team at Tokyo Institute of Technology are investigating how ‘sensitized thermal cell’ batteries can be used to generate sustainable power from heat beneath our planet’s crust.
While there are already several methods for converting heat into electric power, they’ve never proven successful on a large scale. However, this approach has the potential to produce vast amounts of power. What’s more, the additional benefits could be enormous. As team leader Dr Matsushita explains: “There’s no fear of radiation, no fear of expensive oil, no instability of power generation, like when relying on the sun or the wind.”
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