Pumped hydrogen storage
“How can we use a gravitational potential to store energy?”
If you have ever taken an introductory physics class, then you know that anything with a mass at some distance from the Earth has an energy potential associated with it given by the equation P.E = mgh, with m being the mass g being gravity and h being the height. So logically speaking, if we were to vastly increase the mass then we would also vastly increase the potential energy. So if we have a large enough mass, we can store enough energy for an electric grid!
This is the exact idea behind a technology known as pumped hydrogen storage. Pumped hydrogen storage takes two water reservoirs at a height gradient, and discharges energy to the grid by moving the water through a turbine and stores more energy by using a grid powered pump increase the level of water on the top layer
Solar Communications Security System
“Can solar powered grid systems have security systems in place?”
Solar power is often fused to the surrounding energy community through the use of smart grids. However, such systems are prone to cyber attacks. After realizing the potential consequences of such actions, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, United Technologies Research Center, and Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory have joined forces (with a hefty 900,000 USD grant from the U.S Department of Energy) to develop a generic cybersecurity system for monitoring communications between distributed resource energy generators (such as solar). This would ensure the safety of customers when using such systems, and can galvanize electric utility providers to switch to clean and sustainable energy!
Low-cost air pollution sensors
“How can we produce low-cost air pollution sensors?”
Air pollution sensors are absolutely necessary for policy making. But for many developing countries, such technology is often too expensive. So how can we make the costs less prohibitive? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to figure this out. We know that the main cost of monitoring air pollution comes from deploying sensors. But humans all over the world are already carrying advanced sensors with them, smartphones! A team at the University of California San Diego have developed a series of sensors that can communicate with a user’s smartphone using an app called CitiSense to perform real-time pollution monitoring. The goal of this project is to eventually to create a system in which entire communities can use to gather pollution data
“How can we attach two conductive wires together?”
Engineers commonly run into a problem. When working with circuits, we may need to extend our wire. However, it is physically impossible to do such a thing
Or is it?
Luckily for us, engineers can do the impossible. Let’s start with a few basic principles. We know that wires can conduct electricity. We also know that metal can also conduct electricity. And we also know that if we were to solidify a liquid that was between two objects it would connect the objects. So what if we were to take two circuits, expose their conductive centers, and then quickly melt some conductive metal between them to cause an attachment? Well, this is the process of soldering, which just so happens to be one of the most vital skills that any engineer needs to know.
Printed Circuit Boards
“What is the casing for modern electrical systems?”
Primitive electrical systems are connected through a dangerous process of point to point wiring. However, how could we improve and replace this framework? Well, let’s start with the basics. First, let’s obtain a base material called a substrate to act as the base unit. Then, let’s put copper wiring on both sides of the substrate. Afterward, let’s apply a solder mask to prevent the substrate from interacting with other electrically conductive parts. Finally, let’s imprint a silkscreen so people can easily identify all of the components of the system. This device is known as a printed circuit board, and is the fundamental framework for all modern electrical systems!
“How can we represent AC current in vector form?”
We have a problem. AC current calculations can be drastically simplified if they are put into vector form. However, at the same time they are constantly changing. So how can we make a dynamic form for phasors? Well, let’s think about it. We know that the magnitude of the combination of the real and imaginary magnitudes of the current will be constant throughout. And we also know that these values of these separately will be constantly oscillating. So what if we were to represent these values with a cosine function and a frequency in order to emulate these properties? Well, these representations are known as phasors and are used for every part of AC circuit analysis.
Fluorescent light bulbs
“How do fluorescent light bulbs work?”
All around the world, conventional filament-based light bulbs are being phased out in favor of this technology called fluorescent light bulbs. However, what exactly are these devices and how do they work? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to find out. All electrical devices start with two components, an anode and a cathode. Now, electrical lights work by passing a current through the anode and cathode to generate current. Fluorescent light bulbs use a most ingenious way to accomplish this, instead of using a current to heat up a wire, the ends of the electrodes are separated by a mercury-containing gas. When electrons are passed through this material, they will collide with the mercury atoms which will become “excited” and release ultraviolet rays. The tube that connects both electrodes will be coated in a special coat that absorbs the dangerous UV rays and releases safe white light, therefore providing safe and efficient lighting. Fluorescent bulbs can produce between 50 and 100 lumens per watt., making them four to six times more efficient than incandescent bulbs