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Could Radiation Be Used For Electricity?

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  • 3 weeks later...

i]Could Radiation Be Used For Electricity?[/i]


It can be and is. About 1% of electricity worldwide is generated from solar EM radiation – that is, sunlight.


So everything has energy right? So why cant we harness the energy from radiation?

Practically all plants, and indirectly, all animals and most machines are powered by sunlight. The power receive by the Earth from the Sun is about 174 PW (174 000 000 000 000 000 W), which is about 8750 times the power of all human activity. (source Wikipedia article Orders_of_magnitude (power))


We have essentially 2 main energy sources:

  • The Sun, which includes coal, oil, and methane, which is solar energy stored chemically by ancient plants
  • Radioactive elements, which includes mechanical and electrical energy from nuclear power plants, and geothermal energy (without radioactive decay, the Earth would have cooled to near thermal equilibrium many millions of years ago)
A 3rd source of energy, artificial nuclear fusion, is produces in substantial amounts only by hydrogen fusion bombs. While very high power, H-bombs aren’t set off very often, so the total energy produced by them, about 330 Mt (1.38 EJ) is only about what the Earth receives from the sun in 8 seconds. (source: Wikipedia article list of nuclear weapons tests)


Machines that use radiation could be powered by background radiation! Tell me what you think.

The problem with background radiation as a practical power source is that, compared to sunlight and geothermal energy, there’s not very much of it. Some quick and dubious math of mine suggests background radiation from all sources (most is from radioactive radon gas) suggests the power of background radiation is about .000024 W/m2, about 1/10000000th the power of sunlight. So, even if you could build a device to effectively collect the mostly high-energy particles that comprise Earthly background radiation, to get the same electricity as a 1 m square solar panel, you’d need a 3 km square panel.


(sources: Wikipedia articles Earth's energy budget, Background radiation, this physics.stackexchange.com Q & A)

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