Electricity generated by the body and its applications?

Electricity generated by the body and its applications?

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I recently came across this article from Nature. In it, it states that the snails have "tiny biofuel cells that extract electrical power from the glucose and oxygen in the snail's blood", and that the power obtained is dependent on "how quickly sugar and oxygen can be taken from the creatures' blood". They go on to say that the power obtained decreases over time, and that these implants could power future pacemakers in humans.

Would this application in humans require that a patient eats more and "breathes more" than average? Why does the power output decrease over time, and couldn't that potentially lead to the malfunctioning of a pacemaker?


  • Van Noorden, Richard. “Cyborg Snails Power Up.” Nature (March 12, 2012).

You'd think if such devices were used in humans, they wouldn't require a change of lifestyle.

They don't say the power always decreases over time:

Katz's snails, for example, produced up to 7.45 microwatts, but after 45 minutes, that power had decreased by 80%. To draw continuous power, Katz's team had to ramp down the power they extracted to 0.16 microwatts.

This is really a chemistry question. The glucose has to be brought to the fuel cell some way. In this case, the glucose is oxydized directly in the hemolymph. As oxygen PP in the hemolymph is always greater than glucose concentration(1), your limiting rate (which is related to the power you can get from the device) is that of glucose intake at the fuel cell. Therefore, the more you oxidize glucose per unit time, the greater intake you need to keep the output from dropping.

The glucose intake at the fuel cell is a function of biological parameters such as quantity eaten, metabolic efficiency, metabolic speed, blood flow, but also diffusion. The kinetics of glucose intake at the fuel cell are such that you can't ask for too much power for too long.

I suggest you read the article to get a more detailed answer. Nature news is good, but there's nothing like reading the real paper.


Would this application in humans require that a patient eats more and "breathes more" than average?

From the cellular standview, each glucose and O2 molecule that you substract to the cell for use in a second futile cycle, should be replaced. However, I doubt that the amount of glucose/O2 required per hour will be so important to require additional food intake.

By the way, each cell in the body normally generates electricity from glucose and O2: just think at the electron transport chain during the mitochondrial cellular respiration.

Electricity explained How electricity is generated

An electric generator is a device that converts a form of energy into electricity. There are many different types of electricity generators. Most of world electricity generation is from generators that are based on scientist Michael Faraday’s discovery in 1831 that moving a magnet inside a coil of wire makes (induces) an electric current to flow in the wire. He made the first electricity generator called a Faraday disk, which operates on this relationship between magnetism and electricity and which led to the design of the electromagnetic generators that we use today.

Electromagnetic generators use an electromagnet—a magnet produced by electricity—not a traditional magnet. A basic electromagnetic generator has a series of insulated coils of wire that form a stationary cylinder—called a stator—surrounding an electromagnetic shaft—called a rotor. Turning the rotor makes an electric current flow in each section of the wire coil, which becomes a separate electric conductor. The currents in the individual sections combine to form one large current. This current is the electricity that moves from generators through power lines to consumers. Electromagnetic generators driven by kinetic (mechanical) prime movers account for nearly all of U.S. electricity generation.

Vaccines: Definition and Types of Vaccines

Vaccine (L. vacca = cow) is a preparation/suspension or extract of dead/attenuated (weakened) germs of a disease which on inoculation (injection) into a healthy person pro­vides temporary/permanent active/passive immunity by inducing antibodies formation.

Thus antibody provoking agents are called vaccines.

The principle of immunisation or vaccination is based on the property of ‘memory’ of the immune systems. Vaccines also generate memory-B and T cells that recognise the pathogen quickly. In snake bites the injection which is given to the patients contains pre­formed antibodies against the snake venom. This type of immunisation is called passive immunisation.

The process of introduction of vaccine into an individual to provide protection against a disease is called vaccination. In vaccination, a preparation of antigenic proteins of pathogens or inactivated/weakened pathogens (vaccine), is introduced into the body.

These antigens generate the primary immune response, and the memory В and T cells. When the vaccinated person is attacked by the same pathogen, the existing memory T or В cells recognise the antigen quickly and attack the invaders with a massive production of lympho­cytes and antibodies.

Vaccination and immunisation are two different processes. Vaccination only refers to the administration of a vaccine or toxoid, while immunisation is the process by which the body produces antibodies against the vaccine preventable diseases through administration of spe­cific vaccines. These are used to protect us and our domestic animals against viral and bacterial diseases.

Toxoid is a modified bacterial toxin that has been made nontoxic but retains the capacity to stimulate the formation of antitoxin.

Types of Vaccines:

There are several basic types of vaccines. Some vaccines are described here.

1. Attenuated whole-agent vaccines use living but attenuated (weakened) microbes. Examples of attenuated vaccines are the Sabin polio vaccine and those used against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). The widely used vaccine against the tuberculosis bacillus and certain of the newly introduced, orally administered typhoid vaccines contain attenuated bacteria.

2. Inactivated whole-agent vaccines use microbes that have been killed. Inactivated virus vaccines used in humans include those against rabies, influenza and polio (the Salk polio vaccine). Inactivated bacterial vaccines include those for pneumococcal pneumonia, cholera, pertussis (whooping cough) and typhoid.

3. Toxoids which are inactivated toxins, are vaccines directed at the toxins produced by a pathogen. Examples. Vaccines against tetanus and diphtheria.

4. Subunit vaccines use only those antigenic fragments of a microorganism that best stimulate an immune response. Subunit vaccines that are produced by genetic modification techniques, meaning that other microbes are programmed to produce the desired antigenic fraction, are called recombinant vaccines. For example, the vaccine against the hepatitis В virus consists of a portion of the viral protein coat that is produced by genetically modified yeast.

5. Conjugated vaccines have been developed in recent years to deal with the poor immune response of children. The polysaccharides are combined with porteins such as diphtheria toxoid. This approach has led to the very successful vaccine for Haemophilic influenza type b, which gives significant protection.

6. Nucleic acid vaccines or DNA vaccines are among the newest and most promising vaccines, although they have not yet resulted in any commercial vaccine for humans. Ex­periments with animals show that plasmids of “naked” DNA injected into muscle results in the production of the protein encoded in the DNA. (The “gene gun” method for injecting nucleic acids into plant cells is described in Chapter 11).

These proteins stimulate an immune response. A problem with this type of vaccine is that the DNA remains effective only until it is degraded. Indications are that RNA, which could replicate in the recipient, might be a more effective agent.

Vaccines are also classified as follows.

1. First generation vaccines:

These are produced by conventional methods, e.g., small pox vaccine, Salk’s polio vaccine.

2. Second generation vaccines:

These are prepared with the help of genetic engineer­ing technique, e.g., vaccines against Hepatitis В and Herpes virus.

3. Third generation vaccines:

These are synthetic vaccines which are under trial.

Vaccines against Malaria, Leprosy, Herpes, Hepatitis C, AIDS, Dental caries, etc. are under study.

Immunisation and Pregnancy:

The question of whether immunisation of a pregnant woman presents any danger for the foetus is frequently raised. Ideally, immunisation should be performed before gestation, since some vaccines are not perfectly safe during pregnancy. Pregnant women are however, often vaccinated either because they travel to foreign coun­tries or when an epidemic occurs.

Vaccines which are safe during pregnancy are tetanus, influenza, inactivated poliomyeli­tis, cholera and hepatitis B.

Vaccines which are to be avoided during pregnancy are small pox vaccine, oral polio­myelitis vaccine and rubella vaccine.

University of Maryland Graduate School

Electricity is everywhere, even in the human body. Our cells are specialized to conduct electrical currents. Electricity is required for the nervous system to send signals throughout the body and to the brain, making it possible for us to move, think and feel.

So, how do cells control electrical currents?

The elements in our bodies, like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, have a specific electrical charge. Almost all of our cells can use these charged elements, called ions, to generate electricity.

The contents of the cell are protected from the outside environment by a cell membrane. This cell membrane is made up of lipids that create a barrier that only certain substances can cross to reach the cell interior. Not only does the cell membrane function as a barrier to molecules, it also acts as a way for the cell to generate electrical currents. Resting cells are negatively charged on the inside, while the outside environment is more positively charged. This is due to a slight imbalance between positive and negative ions inside and outside the cell. Cells can achieve this charge separation by allowing charged ions to flow in and out through the membrane. The flow of charges across the cell membrane is what generates electrical currents.

Cells control the flow of specific charged elements across the membrane with proteins that sit on the cell surface and create an opening for certain ions to pass through. These proteins are called ion channels. When a cell is stimulated, it allows positive charges to enter the cell through open ion channels. The inside of the cell then becomes more positively charged, which triggers further electrical currents that can turn into electrical pulses, called action potentials. Our bodies use certain patterns of action potentials to initiate the correct movements, thoughts and behaviors.

A disruption in electrical currents can lead to illness. For example, in order for the heart to pump, cells must generate electrical currents that allow the heart muscle to contract at the right time. Doctors can even observe these electrical pulses in the heart using a machine, called an electrocardiogram or ECG. Irregular electrical currents can prevent heart muscles from contracting correctly, leading to a heart attack. This is just one example showing the important role of electricity in health and disease.

CrashCourse. &ldquoThe Nervous System, Part 2 - Action! Potential! Crash Course A&P #9.&rdquo YouTube video, 11:43. March 2, 2015.
Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology. &ldquoVoltage-Gated Channels and the Action Potential.&rdquo The McGraw-Hill Co., Video. 2016.
Nelson, David L, and Michael M Cox. 2013. Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry 6th Ed. Book. 6th ed. New York: W.H. Freeman and Co. doi:10.1016/j.jse.2011.03.016.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore is the founding campus of the University System of Maryland.
620 W. Lexington St., Baltimore, MD 21201 | 410-706-3100
© 2012-2013 University of Maryland, Baltimore. All rights reserved.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore is the founding campus of the University System of Maryland.
620 W. Lexington St., Baltimore, MD 21201 | 410-706-3100

Hydroelectric Power: How it Works

So just how do we get electricity from water? Actually, hydroelectric and coal-fired power plants produce electricity in a similar way. In both cases a power source is used to turn a propeller-like piece called a turbine.

Falling water produces hydroelectric power.

Credit: Tennessee Valley Authority

So just how do we get electricity from water? Actually, hydroelectric and coal-fired power plants produce electricity in a similar way. In both cases a power source is used to turn a propeller-like piece called a turbine, which then turns a metal shaft in an electric generator, which is the motor that produces electricity. A coal-fired power plant uses steam to turn the turbine blades whereas a hydroelectric plant uses falling water to turn the turbine. The results are the same.

Take a look at this diagram (courtesy of the Tennessee Valley Authority) of a hydroelectric power plant to see the details:

The theory is to build a dam on a large river that has a large drop in elevation (there are not many hydroelectric plants in Kansas or Florida). The dam stores lots of water behind it in the reservoir. Near the bottom of the dam wall there is the water intake. Gravity causes it to fall through the penstock inside the dam. At the end of the penstock there is a turbine propellor, which is turned by the moving water. The shaft from the turbine goes up into the generator, which produces the power. Power lines are connected to the generator that carry electricity to your home and mine. The water continues past the propellor through the tailrace into the river past the dam. By the way, it is not a good idea to be playing in the water right below a dam when water is released!

A turbine and generator produce the electricity

Diagram of a hydroelectric turbine and generator.

Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

As to how this generator works, the Corps of Engineers explains it this way:
"A hydraulic turbine converts the energy of flowing water into mechanical energy. A hydroelectric generator converts this mechanical energy into electricity. The operation of a generator is based on the principles discovered by Faraday. He found that when a magnet is moved past a conductor, it causes electricity to flow. In a large generator, electromagnets are made by circulating direct current through loops of wire wound around stacks of magnetic steel laminations. These are called field poles, and are mounted on the perimeter of the rotor. The rotor is attached to the turbine shaft, and rotates at a fixed speed. When the rotor turns, it causes the field poles (the electromagnets) to move past the conductors mounted in the stator. This, in turn, causes electricity to flow and a voltage to develop at the generator output terminals."

Pumped storage: Reusing water for peak electricity demand

Demand for electricity is not "flat" and constant. Demand goes up and down during the day, and overnight there is less need for electricity in homes, businesses, and other facilities. For example, here in Atlanta, Georgia at 5:00 PM on a hot August weekend day, you can bet there is a huge demand for electricity to run millions of air conditioners! But, 12 hours later at 5:00 AM . not so much. Hydroelectric plants are more efficient at providing for peak power demands during short periods than are fossil-fuel and nuclear power plants, and one way of doing that is by using "pumped storage", which reuses the same water more than once.

Pumped storage is a method of keeping water in reserve for peak period power demands by pumping water that has already flowed through the turbines back up a storage pool above the power plant at a time when customer demand for energy is low, such as during the middle of the night. The water is then allowed to flow back through the turbine-generators at times when demand is high and a heavy load is placed on the system.

Pumped storage: Reusing water for peak electricity demand

The reservoir acts much like a battery, storing power in the form of water when demands are low and producing maximum power during daily and seasonal peak periods. An advantage of pumped storage is that hydroelectric generating units are able to start up quickly and make rapid adjustments in output. They operate efficiently when used for one hour or several hours. Because pumped storage reservoirs are relatively small, construction costs are generally low compared with conventional hydropower facilities.

4 Conclusion

If it can be proved that non-heating FIR has real and significant biological effects, then the possible future applications are wide ranging. Not only could bandages and dressings made out of NIR emitting fabrics be applied for many medical conditions and injuries that require healing, but there is a large potential market in lifestyle enhancing applications. Garments may be manufactured for performance enhancing apparel in both leisure activities and competitive sports areas. Cold weather apparel would perform better by incorporating FIR emitting capability and sleeping environments could be improved by mattresses and bedding emitting FIR.

Physics in Biology and Medicine

A best-selling resource now in its fifth edition, Paul Davidovits’ Physics in Biology and Medicine provides a high-quality and highly relevant physics grounding for students working toward careers in the medical and related professions. The text does not assume a prior background in physics, but provides it as required. It discusses biological systems that can be analyzed quantitatively and demonstrates how advances in the life sciences have been aided by the knowledge of physical or engineering analysis techniques, with applications, practice, and illustrations throughout.

Physics in Biology and Medicine, Fifth Edition, includes new material and corresponding exercises on many exciting developments in the field since the prior edition, including biomechanics of joint replacement biotribology and frictional properties of biological materials such as saliva, hair, and skin 3-D printing and its use in medicine new materials in dentistry microfluidics and its applications to medicine health, fractals, and the second law of thermodynamics bioelectronic medicine microsensors in medicine role of myelin in learning, cryoelectron microscopy clinical uses of sound health impact of nanoparticle in polluted air.

This revised edition delivers a concise and engaging introduction to the role and importance of physics in biology and medicine. It is ideal for courses in biophysics, medical physics, and related subjects.

A best-selling resource now in its fifth edition, Paul Davidovits’ Physics in Biology and Medicine provides a high-quality and highly relevant physics grounding for students working toward careers in the medical and related professions. The text does not assume a prior background in physics, but provides it as required. It discusses biological systems that can be analyzed quantitatively and demonstrates how advances in the life sciences have been aided by the knowledge of physical or engineering analysis techniques, with applications, practice, and illustrations throughout.

Physics in Biology and Medicine, Fifth Edition, includes new material and corresponding exercises on many exciting developments in the field since the prior edition, including biomechanics of joint replacement biotribology and frictional properties of biological materials such as saliva, hair, and skin 3-D printing and its use in medicine new materials in dentistry microfluidics and its applications to medicine health, fractals, and the second law of thermodynamics bioelectronic medicine microsensors in medicine role of myelin in learning, cryoelectron microscopy clinical uses of sound health impact of nanoparticle in polluted air.

This revised edition delivers a concise and engaging introduction to the role and importance of physics in biology and medicine. It is ideal for courses in biophysics, medical physics, and related subjects.

The 13 Types of Energy and Their Varied Applications and Functions

The enigmatic quantity called energy can be roughly defined as the ability of any physical entity to do work against exerted forces in the surroundings. Learn about various manifestations of energy, along with working mechanisms and related examples.

The enigmatic quantity called energy can be roughly defined as the ability of any physical entity to do work against exerted forces in the surroundings. Learn about various manifestations of energy, along with working mechanisms and related examples.

Did You Know?

The word energy is derived from the ancient Greek word ἐνέργεια (pronounced energeia), meaning activity/operation. This term was probably coined first by Aristotle around 4th BCE., according to the available and discovered past records.

To fully grasp the working of the universe, one must be acquainted with the various kinds of energy. Every single event that occurs in this universe is an energy transformation of a particular type. The law of conservation of energy establishes two things―the sum total of energy in the universe is constant, and energy manifests itself in various forms, which can undergo transformation within these forms.

Almost every physical quantity can be precisely defined, except energy, which can only be indirectly observed and measured as it manifests itself in different forms. Therefore, work and energy are very closely related, and have the same unit. Energy is a scalar physical quantity, i.e., it can be completely described by specifying the magnitude. Also, it should be noted that when the perspective of studies related to energy changes from macroscopic to microscopic and vice-versa, the form also might change. For example, mechanical energy like friction in the macroscopic view might be only thermal energy at the microscopic scale. The unit is joules according to the International System of Units (SI). When it manifests itself in the form of heat, it is measured using the unit of ‘calorie’ or ‘kilocalorie’.

Different Forms of Energy

Energy can be further characterized through its observed properties. All the types can be broadly divided into two types―Potential and Kinetic Energy. The sum total of both these energies of a particle always remains constant, when there are no frictional forces operating on it.

It is basically defined as the summation of potential and kinetic energies of a body, which is affected by external forces. If the body is not affected by any external force, then the mechanical energy ‘Me’ remains constant, i.e., the body is isolated from any external forces. This is a hypothetical scenario, and in reality, forces like friction act on all bodies, though their values are very less. Thus, this energy can be simply represented as:

where, ‘Ep’ is the total potential energy, and ‘K’ is the kinetic energy.

Numerous modern devices convert other forms into mechanical energy and vice-versa, like thermal power plants (heat to Me), electric generators (Me to electricity), turbine (Kinetic energy to Me), etc.

The conservation of mechanical energy is also dependent on whether two bodies experience collision that is either elastic or non-elastic. In the former type, energy is conserved as the original shape and form is regained, whereas in the latter type, deformation of the bodies is permanent, and a different form of energy like heat may emerge from it. In this case, energy may not be conserved but might increase or decrease, depending on the nature of collision and the extent of deformation.

The inherent and dormant entity stored in any physical system, due to its position and structure in an environment, along with applied forces is called potential energy. The mass value of a body plays an important role in deciding it. For example, imagine an archer with a bow and an arrow is ready to launch it. When the arrow is made ready for launching and the taut bowstring is pulled back, at that position, the string has elastic potential energy stored in it. In this position, the string has the ‘potential’ to perform the work to launch the arrow.

There are various forms of potential energy, depending on the kind of forces involved, such as gravitational potential energy, chemical potential energy, electrical potential energy, magnetic potential energy, and nuclear potential energy. When a force is applied on a body, work is done in a specific direction. This work is represented by taking into account the potential energy of that body, which is denoted by a negative sign, as the energy may increase or decrease depending on whether the work is done against or in the force direction, respectively. This is represented as:

where, ‘W’ is work done, and ‘δEp’ is the potential energy present in the body.

It is mainly possessed by a particle or a body due to its motion. It is subdivided primarily into rotational kinetic energy and vibrational kinetic energy. In the above example, when the archer releases the bowstring, the arrow gets launched when the stored elastic potential energy gets converted into kinetic energy. The bowstring in motion possesses kinetic energy. Thus, any particle in motion has this kind of energy. Kinetic energy of a body that is not undergoing rotation is given by the following formula:

K = (M × V2) ÷ 2 —– equation 3

where, ‘K’ is the total kinetic energy, ‘M’ is mass of the body, and ‘V’ is the velocity at which it is traveling. For a rotating body, the kinetic energy is represented as:

where, ‘I’ and ‘W’ are the moment of inertia and angular velocity of the body.

Kinetic energy varies according to the frame of reference of an observer, along with inertia. For example, if a car passes an observer who is stationary, then the speeds of both objects are relative to each other, and hence the car possesses kinetic energy with a positive value. But, if both the observer and car are traveling at the same speed, then this energy is equivalent to zero.

It can be studied or estimated by measuring the temperature of the body or substance under consideration. It exists due to the vibrational, rotational, and translational motion of the body, along with the potential energy of its atoms and molecules. It is a part of the internal thermodynamics of an object, and mainly exists due to the loss of kinetic energy occurring during atomic collisions. This energy is a combination of both kinetic and potential energies of the object, and is characterized by the heat absorption aspect of the atoms, molecules, and other sub-atomic particles. In case of a gas that consists of atoms of the same element, then the thermal energy is equivalent to the entire kinetic energy of that gas. Thermal energy can be easily represented in the form of an equation that describes a mono-atomic gas in the following manner:

K = (M × V2) ÷ 2 —– from equation 3

Thus, if a gas has ‘N’ molecules, then its thermal energy can be represented as.

where, ‘k’ is the Boltzmann constant, and ‘T’ is the measured temperature or the heat of the body.

From the above formula, it is clear that this energy operates by the processes of absorption or emission of heat, during its transfer from one portion of the system to another.

It is derived from the electrical potential energy that exists between charges, which is delivered in the form of an electric current. When you connect the terminals of a battery with a bulb, electrical energy flows between the two terminals, in the form of an electric current. This process takes place due to the transfer of electrons through the wire, between the terminals. This type of energy can also exist in combination with other fundamental energies, which are stated below:

Electromagnetic Energy

As the name suggests, it is present in the form of electromagnetic waves that vary in frequency and amplitude. Both the electric and magnetic components are perpendicular to each other, and also to the direction of energy propagation.

Electrochemical Energy

The generation of electricity with the help of chemical reactions involves electrochemical energy. An amazing example is that of the fuel cell, wherein electricity can be generated due to the reactions triggered inside a device that contains a mixture of different components.

Electrostatic Energy

It is the least harnessed one, and is present when two bodies undergo a frictional interaction or collision, which can create minor electrical charges. For example, rub a comb on a woolen material and hold it over small paper pieces they are lifted up because of the static electricity created by rubbing both the objects.

When an object or body is characterized by polar movement, i.e., the existence of two poles, which have exactly opposite characteristics, then the entity that controls all the related processes is called magnetic energy. The force that is exerted is in the form of a magnetic field, and the North and South poles of this field are situated exactly opposite to each other. A popular example is that of our planet, the Earth, which behaves like a giant magnet. The magnetic energy travels in the form of magnetic lines, which extend from the North to the South pole, creating the magnetic field.

Often, the terms ‘electromagnetic energy’ or ‘electromagnetism’ are used, as electricity and magnetism can exist in combined form in the form of waves. In case of this type, the strength of the field depends on several factors such as magnetic dipole moment, strength of the current produced, amount of magnetic material present, etc. A common example that incorporates the use of this energy is that of the electromagnet. This device is utilized in our everyday lives, and it consists mainly of a wire coiled around a metallic material. When an electric current is passed through the wire, a magnetic field is formed, which can be further used for different purposes depending on its strength and the associated magnetic forces.

It is the fundamental physical entity that controls the reactions occurring or involving both organic and inorganic compounds and substances, and also controls life-related processes. Chemical energy can be manifested in other forms such as heat, light, electricity, etc., from different sources. When the energy decreases after a reaction, it is then transferred to the surrounding environment or media, and hence the process is called exothermic. Similarly, if a body absorbs energy, its energy value increases, thus making it an endothermic process.

The motive force that powers the human body is provided by the chemical energy that is derived through the process of respiration, which involves the formation and breaking of inter-atomic molecular bonds. Through molecular rearrangements, along with compound formation and breakdown, the biological world derives energy. For example, the formation of glucose from the process of photosynthesis is useful for energy generation in a plant cell.

This type of energy is often represented in the form of the Rydberg constant, which is given as:

‘Me’ is the mass at zero motion, ‘E’ is the charge, ‘eo’ is the space permittivity, ‘H’ is the Planck constant, and ‘C’ is the light speed.

Sound is heard as the result of compressions and rarefactions produced in air as a medium. Thus, the sound energy is derived from the oscillatory motion of air molecules. The vibrations produced when the waves travel through this medium are absorbed and interpreted accordingly. These vibrations are parallel to each other and are in the same direction as that of the wave propagation. Humans and other living beings have the extraordinary character of hearing sound waves with the help of special ear components. When the ear catches sound energy, the waves are amplified and are passed onwards with the help of auditory nerves. The brain then interprets the signals, thus providing us with the feeling of hearing. Sound does not travel in vacuum, i.e., outer space, as compression and rarefaction is not possible in such a medium.

When sound energy is released from an object, the waves spread in all directions, and are a combination of both potential and kinetic energy densities of the body. For example, if a car passes an observer, the first kind of energy that is experienced by the person consists of the sound waves, and their strength depends on several parameters like wave frequency and amplitude, distance between the observer and the vehicle, the total area of the surroundings, etc.

It is propagated by electromagnetic waves through space for example, the light received from the Sun is an example of radiant energy. The spectrum of electromagnetic radiation is vast―from radio waves to the high-frequency gamma rays. The energy derived from this source is directly proportional to the frequency of waves. Humans can only detect the visible light spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, and all other wavelengths are invisible. Majority of light energy that is received by our planet is in the form of the Sun’s rays.

Light energy or power is measured mainly by a unit called radiant flux. There have been several theories that attempt to explain the propagation of light waves through any medium including space. The most famous one is the Quantum theory, which states that light travels in the form of small packets of particles called quanta, and each quantum shows dual personality, i.e., it can behave as a wave as well as a particle. Light energy is often accompanied with other kinds like heat, sound, chemical, and magnetic. It can be said that this energy is a secondary form and exists only when another type undergoes transformation due to several processes. These might include chemical reactions, nuclear fission and fusion processes, absorption, reflection, refraction, etc.

The force of attraction that exists between two bodies having substantial mass values is called gravitational force, and this phenomenon is controlled by the entity called gravitational energy. According to Newton’s law of gravitation, any two bodies having masses will exert a force on each other that will tend to attract both of them. This force is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of distance between them. This force is represented as:

where, ‘G’ is the gravitational attraction, ‘g’ is the gravitational constant, R is the distance between the two objects, and ‘M1’ and ‘M2’ are the masses of both the bodies, respectively.

Gravitational energy is the weakest one of all in our Universe, but the force caused by it could be very strong in some celestial objects like black holes, wherein it is theorized that the gravitational forces would be so strong that not even light can escape from its attraction. On our planet, this energy helps to keep us stable and balanced. The heavier the body in terms of mass, the higher would be its gravitational attraction. Hence, as the Sun contributes the maximum mass of our solar system, its high gravity makes it possible the revolution of every planet around it.

It is a type of potential energy, and it is mainly derived from processes involving nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. In the former one, a radioactive elemental atom is divided or separated, further giving rise to daughter elements, and releasing a tremendous amount of energy. This principle is used in case of nuclear reactor and other associated technological applications. In the latter type, two atoms of an element combine with each other and fuse. This process also leads to the release of high amount of energy, and the prime example where this process is said to occur is that of the Sun it is theorized that in this star, nuclear fusion is taking place at its core portions.

Nuclear power has several applications in the modern world, and since several decades, this energy is utilized to produce electricity and heat supplies. Entire ships and submarines can be operated on the basis of a nuclear source. Some nations also use this energy form to make nuclear weapons. The electricity production is done with the help of a nuclear reactor and radioactive material. The atomic nuclei are bombarded with electrons, which cause them to split and form daughter elements. The energy released is used to power generators, which further produce electric power.

When you stretch a rubber band and then release it, the inter-atomic forces makes it snap back to its original condition. The stored elastic potential energy is converted into kinetic energy to create the reversible motion, which brings the elastic band to its original position. Thus, elastic energy more or less makes it possible exert tensional and compressional forces on an object. The work done depends on the magnitude of these forces.

For example, when a spring is extended, the stored potential energy makes it possible for the stretching of the material, and when the extensional forces are removed, it reverts back to its original position. Another example is the one, which was described earlier in this article―the bow and arrow description. In this instance, the bow string is stretched till a particular point, and after the arrow is released, it reverts back to its original position due to the elastic energy that is present during its stretching.

After a certain point, elasticity might get converted to plasticity, wherein the object gets permanently deformed. This happens because each material has its own limit of elasticity, and beyond this limit, the elastic forces stop operating. This can be easily observed with the Young’s modulus experiment.

It is defined as the energy, which is present by virtue of existence of tensional forces on an object’s surface. Such forces are typically present on still water, viscous liquids, stretched rubber material, etc. When two materials come in contact with each other (mostly liquids) and do not form any sort of mixture, surface tensions are created, which are governed by this type of energy. For example, the capillary motion in plant tissues, the formation bubbles and soap films on water, immiscibility between oil and water, etc are all instances of surface energy. This type exists under a particular limit of external forces, and when these forces increase beyond a certain limit, then the energy is released. Surface tensional forces are represented as:

where ‘dW’ is the work done and represents total surface energy of the body, ‘γ’ is surface tension, and ‘Sa’ is the surface area of the body.

In solid objects, surface energy is usually present in combination with elastic energy. When a solid is stretched this energy is mostly measured in the form of heat. The volume of the deformed body remains more or less same, as compared to the original object. Contact angles are also measured in order to determine this type of energy.

As seen in the above-described sections, the physical entity called energy can work in myriad forms and kinds, and can also exist in combination with the various types. This entity is governed by a single doctrine, which is also known as Newton’s 3rd law of motion. It states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and only can be changed from one form to another. This law is applicable to the entire Universe, at least till the extent discovered by mankind.

It Doesn’t Take Much

By 2012, Wang’s group had developed the first triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG). Despite the diminutive-sounding name, the generators range in size from a few millimeters up to a meter the “nano” refers to the scale of the charges. Since then, Wang’s lab has designed and tested dozens of potential applications for these energy-harvesting devices. He’s also motivated multiple groups and thousands of researchers around the world to build their own applications. Ideas for workable TENGs range from paper-based audio speakers that charge while folded up and tucked in a shoe, to generators that convert the mechanical rise and fall of a breath to power a pacemaker.

A TENG relies on the same principle as static electricity: When two different materials come into contact, electric charges can accumulate on one, leaving the other with the opposite charge. In the case of that plastic sphere in Wang’s hand, charges accumulate when the interior and exterior balls touch and separate, over and over. Attach electrodes and wires to the oppositely charged materials, and current flows to correct the imbalance. It won’t be a big current, but many applications don’t need much.

Most researchers agree that triboelectric generators have the most potential when it comes to powering small devices, like phones and watches, but Wang wants to go big. His team recently took a few dozen of those plastic spheres to a neighborhood swimming pool — after hours — and set them loose to oscillate in the ripples. Even the slightest bobbing produced enough energy to power small lights or devices. Their calculations suggest that a grid of 1,000 spheres, floating freely in the ocean, should generate enough power for a standard lightbulb. A grid measuring about a third of a square mile could power a small town.

Wang doesn’t want to stop there he sees the potential for a wealth of untested possibilities. Imagine a matrix of these spheres covering an area of the ocean equal to the state of Georgia and extending about 30 feet down. That’s about a quadrillion spheres.

“If we use this,” he says, in his demanding, fierce whisper, “the power generated is for the whole world.”

Environmental Impacts of the Electricity System

Nearly all parts of the electricity system can affect the environment, and the size of these impacts will depend on how and where the electricity is generated and delivered. In general, the environmental effects can include:

  • Emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants, especially when a fuel is burned.
  • Use of water resources to produce steam, provide cooling, and serve other functions.
  • Discharges of pollution into water bodies, including thermal pollution (water that is hotter than the original temperature of the water body).
  • Generation of solid waste, which may include hazardous waste.
  • Land use for fuel production, power generation, and transmission and distribution lines.
  • Effects on plants, animals, and ecosystems that result from the air, water, waste, and land impacts above.

Some of these environmental effects can also potentially affect human health, particularly if they result in people being exposed to pollutants in air, water, or soil.

The environmental effects of the electricity you use will depend on the sources of generation (the “electricity mix”) available in your area. To learn about the emissions generated by the electricity that you use, visit EPA’s Power Profiler.

You can reduce the environmental effects of your electricity use by buying green power and by becoming more energy-efficient. Learn more about how to reduce your impact.

More broadly, several solutions can help reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with generating electricity, including:


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