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Amazing New Energy Sources In Our Future

By James Donahue

Science is working at a fever pitch these days to find new and interesting sources of energy as the world struggles to rid itself of its dependence on carbon based fuels. We take a look at three interesting new ideas that may have possibilities.

At Sandia National Laboratories at Albuquerque, New Mexico is a massive X-ray generator that bears the nickname “Z Machine.” It was designed to test materials in thermonuclear reactions but scientists now are looking at the machine as a possible source of fusion power.

Fusion has long been thought to be an impossible energy source. Over the years various teams have theorized about its possibilities and a team of researchers at the New Mexico site now perceives a possibility of using the Z Machine to achieve it.

Cold fusion would be a low-energy nuclear reaction that some have called the Holy Grail of the power industry. It would be an unlimited source of cheap, clean and safe power from deuterium, a stable isotope of hydrogen extracted from seawater.

What is neat about cold fusion is that its production would not create a radioactive by-product.

The New Mexico researchers are attempting to use the Z Machine to fuse heavy water atoms to create fusion power. While they believe they have been successful at generating a massive pulse of energy that lasts for only a tiny fraction of a second. In other words, they can create fusion power, but they have yet to find a way to control the reaction.

If and when they achieve this goal, some experts say that the cold fusion of the deuterium in seawater could supply the world’s energy needs for millions of years.

In yet another innovative idea, a Welsh company, Lomox, has been awarded a grant to develop an organic light-emitting diode technology that would involve a chemical coating on walls that would produce light on demand, thus replacing the electric light bulb.

Thus a light-emitting wallpaper would illuminate rooms with an even glow that avoids shadows and the glare of conventional bulbs. A small electric current would stimulate the chemicals to produce the light, and the amount of brightness could be controlled by dimmer switches. The walls would be safe to touch. Best of all, the voltage used would be between three and five volts, thus reducing the cost of lighting the room to a fraction of the cost of the conventional bulb. The system also could be easily  powered by solar panels or batteries.

The same LED technology, which is expected to go on the market by 2012, can also be used as flat screen televisions, computer screens and even mobile phone displays, the company says.

A comparable “wallpaper” concept also is being developed in batteries at the Advanced Materials Innovation Center of Mie Industry and Enterprise Support Center of Japan. Researchers there say they have found a way to print lithium batteries on thin and flexible or curved surfaces. Such batteries will be designed for use with flexible and the new painted-on solar cells. They will work as both power generators and power storage units

This new battery technology offers the benefits of high efficiency and less costly production, and best of all, it is expected to go on the market within the next year.