Substitute For Electricity

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by jproject, Jul 24, 2011.

  1. jproject

    Thread Starter New Member

    May 12, 2011
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    Hello all,

    I've been thinking a bit and I was wondering if there were any substitute to electricity that might be used in the future. For example, in the past, water pressure was used to power certain mechanical objects and we still use it today (dams) to generate electricity. If any of you watch TED Talks, there was a presentation by an MIT engineer professor (I think..?) and she and her team were able to extract energy from the bacteria's movement and change that into electricity. Maybe one day, our iPods will be powered by bacterias! But, what I am looking for is a whole new substitute for electricity; not something that is an energy source and changes that energy into electricity.
     
  2. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    The only thing that comes to mind is photons. I don't place too much credit to it though.

    Electricity is fast, it is reliable, it is easy to create on demand, and at the moment nothing else comes close (except photons).
     
  3. jproject

    Thread Starter New Member

    May 12, 2011
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    Photons? So you mean like fibre optics?
     
  4. maxpower097

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2009
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    I don't think you can replace electricity, just change the method in which its created. One day like in Star Trek we may very well be able to harness matter and antimatter.
     
  5. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
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    I think the other part of the question is: for what purpose? Of all the things we do with electricity, some of them can be done with other methods.
     
  6. Adjuster

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2010
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    Some people may say that scientists now know enough to rule out any new discovery which would change our lives as much as electricity has during the last hundred-and-some years. Others might argue that we can never be certain of such things, pointing out that previous generations of scientists have seen their view of things unexpectedly changed.

    If you are young, perhaps you will live to see some really exciting new technologies, but I would be very surprised if one of them was a one-for-one replacement for electricity. Time will tell!
     
  7. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    If you read the science news outlets there is quite a bit of research using photons (ie, lightwave) for computers and computing networks. There have been cases historically that fiber optic cables have been used due to high electrical interference nearby.

    Fiber optics is a fairly specific medium. If integrated lightwave chips for computing are ever developed it will use something similar, but it won't be fiber optic. It is possible methods not thought of might be in use.

    I am not a believer that fiber optic and photons will replace electricity, but it is the only medium I can see even coming close.
     
  8. Adjuster

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2010
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    Optical fibres are not rare nowadays. They have effectively have replaced electrical transmission lines for long-haul telecommunications, but these still depend on electrical systems to make them work. For instance, the signals that travel along the fibres originate from from electrically powered lasers, and at present optical signals still have to be decoded and converted into sounds and images by electronics.

    It would surprise me if any new technology came along which would be a one-for-one replacement for electricity.
     
  9. nsaspook

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 27, 2009
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    So far there are only four http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_interaction forces known at normal energies. The electromagnetic/weak forces includes photons and all known electrical energy. That leaves gravity and the strong force but they don't seem well suited for everyday use in a IPOD. ;)
     
  10. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
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    Maybe we'll find a way to use antielectrons (or protons) to replace electrons.

    I wonder if devices will work the same, with an antielectron battery, but installed in reverse? Or will there be substantial differences in how devices work? For example, would semiconductors work properly? Would an ordinary resistor have the same properties? etc...
     
  11. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    Anti electrons are positrons, not protons. Being antimatter (electrons are a form of matter) they will do what antimatter does when it contacts matter.

    It is already in use for specialized medical imaging. They have managed to contain it somehow, my impression is a specialized radioactive source. Google PET scanners. They are extremely high resolution.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positron_emission_tomography

    If we even have complete antimatter, positrons will be the charge carriers in it, and it would still be electricity.
     
  12. someonesdad

    Senior Member

    Jul 7, 2009
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    We use electrical currents in matter for both low power electronics stuff and for transmitting power long distances. I haven't done any calculations, but I would guess our present abilities to transmit power with photons through matter are orders of magnitude less than what we can easily and economically do with electrons in solids.

    Transmitting power in a vacuum is different. Your choices are particle beams or light beams. Charged particle beams will self-diverge, so they're probably not really a choice for long distances (perhaps excluding particle beam weapons, but they're not going to be efficient and cost-effective). Photons can and do transmit lots of power in vacuum (an existence proof is the sun), so perhaps some day they would be used. But to be used on Earth, they'd need to be in something like a high vacuum beam line currently used in particle accelerators, so the construction and vacuum pumping needs will be significant. Neutral particle beams are a possibility, but AFAIK, we don't have any efficient way (at least yet) for turning the kinetic energy of the neutral particles into usable energy (although it wouldn't be hard to turn them into heat). But, just like with fission and fusion power, one would need to deal with the radiation damage in materials; these are significant technical and engineering problems.

    I suspect antimatter has been too hyped by the science fiction community. All antimatter and matter do when they meet is to annihilate each other and yield two resultant photons (usually gamma rays) going in opposite directions to conserve momentum. Now we're back to using photons, so we need to figure out some way to efficiently use the energy in (high energy) photons. This is a significant engineering challenge unless you just want heat and radiation damage. :p

    I don't know of any envisioned uses of e.g. the strong or weak forces for energy production or transmission (beyond what's already done in fission or fusion), so I doubt they can be considered further.

    That leaves gravity. I could certainly see an advanced civilization moving matter around a star and turning its gravitational potential energy into other forms of energy. But I suspect that energy will stay in space; otherwise, significant use would mean e.g. a planet would wind up with too much heat energy (which is what the potential energy would ultimately wind up being). One use, however, might be to use cheap mass e.g. in the solar system to help raise expensive mass from Earth to space via a space elevator.
     
  13. Kermit2

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 5, 2010
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    If nano technology gets going in a big way, and we become able to have things built by such technology, they will be put together, one atom at a time. Some theorists have speculated that nano scale machinery could be devised that would use other forces than electricity. Charles Babbage might be useful to revisit should a need arise to build nano size computing machines. Image a difference engine built out of diamond on the nano scale!
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2011
  14. nsaspook

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 27, 2009
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    Maybe there really is only one force, that all mater is really photons at different energy levels with all interactions fundamentally electrical in nature and electricity is all that really exists in this universe.
     
  15. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
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    Majority of the replies thus far has been along the lines of "I don't think anything can replace electricity because we don't know of anything that potentially could." I would venture a guess that every civilization thus far has thought that every year, but every year something new happens. If you were to go back in time and describe our electric existence to someone in 1500AD they would consider it a marvelous work of fiction. I suspect in 500 years, the stuff they will have would look like science fiction to us. I have no idea what the next big thing will be; because it hasn't been discovered yet. But, yes, I do think there is something out there that will make electricity a thing of the past. I think it is arrogant to assume that there's not, simply because we don't know about it. There's a lot we don't know.
     
  16. jproject

    Thread Starter New Member

    May 12, 2011
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    Anyone play StarCraft? Pylon crystals anyone? :p
     
  17. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    A log cabin before electric,who want to explain it. I can do my share.
    Every one want to retire in the moutians,get away from the world.
    How about some survival tips from the guys already there and
    unexpected expenses that you didn't think about before.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2011
  18. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
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    Axe, saw, sweat, blood?
     
  19. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    That to easy,you have not been to the mountains for a long stay.
     
  20. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    I would select a site half way up the mountain near a mountain run off
    of water.
     
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