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Energy Conversion

In order to be able to use energy for what humans want, we need to harness and convert the energy from primary energy sources. Often, we convert these sources into secondary energy sources such as electricity, which we can then easily convert to useful forms of energy.

Electricity has always existed all around us - consider lightning, or static electricity from rubbing a balloon on a sweater. But it wasn’t until the late 18th century that scientists really began to understand what electricity was or how we could harness and use its power.

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There are two general ways in which humans harness energy from the sun: solar thermal and photovoltaics. This module will briefly describe each of these technologies, then provide some considerations, comparisons, and future outlooks.

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Wind causes the propeller-like blades of a turbine to spin, and the rotational motion is used in a generator to create electricity.


Fuels, whether fossil fuels or renewable fuels, have energy stored in chemical bonds within molecules. When the bonds are broken, that energy can be used for various purposes.


Humans have developed ways to control the nuclear fission reaction (splitting the nucleus), releasing large amounts of nuclear energy in the form of heat. We harness the heat generated to generate electricity in nuclear reactors.



Page last updated: September 17, 2022​

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