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XYLENE POWER LTD.

ENERGY BALANCE

By Charles Rhodes, Xylene Power Ltd.

CONSERVATION OF ENERGY:
A simple expression of the law of conservation of energy is: Everything is formed from energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed but can be changed in form.
 

WORK:
A guided flow of energy has the capacity to do work. Electricity flowing along a power transmission line is an example of a guided flow of energy. Solar energy absorbed by the Earth is a guided flow of energy. Water flowing downhill is a guided flow of energy.
 

PRIME ENERGY SOURCES:
The sources of prime energy that mankind can utilize are: past solar energy, present solar energy, Earth's residual kinetic energy, Earth's residual thermal energy and nuclear energy. All other energy forms available to man are derived from these five prime energy sources.
 

STEADY STATE ENERGY BALANCE:
At steady state conditions the Earth's average surface temperature is constant. The total energy flux absorbed from prime energy sources equals the total infrared energy flux transmitted into space.
 

WORK:
At steady state conditions work can be done when the absorbed prime energy flux has a higher per photon energy than the emitted infrared radiation. Another way of viewing this matter is that work can be done when heat flows from a hot source to a cold sink. In scientific language, doing work causes an increase in entropy.
 

SOLAR ENERGY:
Most of the solar energy that is incident on the Earth consists of electromagnetic photons with wavelengths in the near ultra-violet (.1 um to .4 um), visible (.4 um to .7 um) and near infrared (.7um to 2.8 um) ranges. About 30% of the incident solar photons are reflected back into space. The remaining solar photons are absorbed by various materials. A solar photon can cause a chemical reaction, a change in state, a change in phase or a change in temperature. Eventually the energy carried by the absorbed solar photons is all converted into heat. This heat is radiated back into space via infrared photons. Oscillations in the rates of absorption of solar energy and emission of infrared energy cause ice ages.

Man has devised various ways of obtaining work from the processes that convert solar photons into infrared photons. Two examples of man's intervention in these processes are as follows:

1) Past Solar Energy: Past solar photons incident on green plants caused photosynthesis whereby carbon dioxide and water combined to form carbohydrates. A small fraction of these carbohydrates accumulated at the bottom of water bodies or underground where over a long period of time anaerobic biochemical reactions converted the carbohydrates into hydrocarbons. Today man mines these natural accumulations of hydrocarbons (coal, natural gas and oil) and burns them, thus releasing as heat past solar energy that was absorbed by the green plants. This heat is radiated into space via infrared photons. The average solar energy absorbed equals the average infrared energy flux transmitted, but man obtains work via the process of conversion of solar radiation into infrared radiation.

2) Present Solar Energy: Present solar photons absorbed by the ocean cause evaporation of water. The resulting water vapor rises and cools at higher altitudes where it condenses emitting part of its energy as infrared photons. The water falls as rain onto high elevation land. This water becomes part of a river that flows downhill to the ocean. However, along the way man may use a hydro-electric generator to change part of the kinetic energy of the flowing water into electricity. This electricity is transmitted along a power line and is converted into heat or chemical energy at the electrical load. The chemical energy ultimately becomes heat. All of the heat is radiated away from the Earth via infrared photons. The average solar energy flux absorbed equals the average infrared energy flux transmitted, but man has obtained work via the process of conversion of solar radiation into infrared radiation.
 

EARTH'S RESIDUAL KINETIC ENERGY:
Residual kinetic energy of the Earth-Moon system causes ocean tides. Residual kinetic energy together with solar energy causes wind. Man can convert tide and wind energy into electricity, which is dissipated in the electricity load as heat. This heat is radiated into space via infrared photons. The related energy flux is constant, but man can obtain work from the process of conversion of residual kinetic energy into infrared radiation.
 

EARTH'S RESIDUAL THERMAL ENERGY:
Residual thermal energy in the Earth's core can be accessed via deep drilled wells in active volcanic areas. In this case the heat source is inside the Earth. To obtain work man arranges things so that a flow of water is heated by the hot magma to form steam. After passing through a turbine to generate electricity the steam is condensed to water. During the condensation process infrared radiation is emitted into space. At the electrical load further heat is dissipated which becomes infrared ratiation. The total infrared radiation carries the same energy flux as is captured by the water from the hot magma.
 

NUCLEAR ENERGY:
The source of nuclear energy is stellar processes that formed the nuclear fuel before the formation of the Earth. A nuclear reaction releases heat. Typically in a nuclear power station this heat is used to heat water in a closed system to about 300 degrees C. Part of this heat is converted into electricity. The remainder of this heat is removed by cooling water. The electricity converts to heat in the load. All of the heat is ultimately radiated into space via infrared photons. Man obtains work from the process of converting x-ray and gamma ray photons from the nuclear reaction into infrared photons.
 

SUMMARY:
All forms of energy that provide useful work operate by conversion of an energy flux carried by high energy photons into an equal energy flux carried by more lower energy photons. Short term storage of energy is possible but over the long term the absorbed solar energy plus the released nuclear energy plus the decrease in Earth's residual kinetic energy plus the decrease in the Earth's residual thermal energy must equal the total emitted infrared energy.
 

This web page last updated May 19, 2010.

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