August 10, 2010

Ionized Gas a solution for Energy Woes

TECHNOLOGY - Electricity can be stored for long periods of time inside ionized gas. Using microwaves and a glass container the process is relatively simple and scientists have known about it for decades, but its never been implemented as a way of storing electricity.

As North America's energy crisis grows the issue of how to store electricity is one that is increasingly important as electricity grids struggle with the issue of managing solar power during the day, wind power when its windy, and a combination of hydro, nuclear and coal power to maintain a constant level. On a constant basis there is actually excess electricity which the grid doesn't know what to do with, a necessity which is designed to prevent brown outs.

Back in the 1980s the Bruce Nuclear Power Development in Ontario tried feeding the excess electricity into barns and warehouses filled with tomato plants, using the excess electricity for lights... the tomatos grew so well in these greenhouse-like conditions that tomato farmers in Ontario sued BNPD, forcing them to get rid of the program.

Finding a way to use or store electricity has been a problem plaguing electricity grids for decades. Using ionized gas solves the problem, the only trick is convincing Ontario Hydro to create a facility which would essentially create "artificial ball lightning" within ionized gas chambers surrounded by glass.

Once built these ion gas battery stations would also solve the future problem of what to do when the sun isn't shining very much and there's a shortage of wind. It creates a backup system wherein we can store excess electricity for later.

Scientists and would-be-problem-solvers have been thinking of other ways to store electricity for decades now, everything from using it to pump water (and then draw energy from the water when it is later dropped through a turbine), to using hydrolysis to store the electricity as hydrogen (which could then be used to fuel hydrogen cars). Such methods are less efficient however and result in a loss of power.

Storing electricity in ionized gas has several advantages... #1. there is very little loss of power and #2. we can store almost limitless amounts of electricity in this fashion.

Another thing scientists have been wanting to do is find a way to harness and store lightning. Ionized gas can do that, as seen with the natural phenomenon of ball lightning. However it should be noted that while natural lightning does contain millions of joules of energy, its over in a millisecond and would really only power a 100 watt household item for approx. 5 to 10 hours.

Thus while harnessing lightning isn't really a viable option, storing electricity from other sources certainly is.

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