Sammy Khayat

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Sammy Khayat Powered By Docstoc
					Sammy Khayat                                                                February 6, 2007
Reflective Essay 1

         This document outlines some of the fundamental ideas, concepts, and definitions
which encompass energy and further explains how the topics relate to the real world.
The first topic we discuss is the second law of thermodynamics and how it relates to the
internal combustion engine in automobiles. The following topic provides background
information concerning geothermal energy and comparing/contrasting geothermal power
plants with fossil fuel plants. Next we move into thermoregulation where we discuss how
the human body maintains an ambient temperature during physical activities. The last
topic we visit is the steam turbine and spend a little time emphasizing its importance in
the second industrial revolution. Now, the first topic regarding the second law of
thermodynamics will emphasize its meaning and provide information to how the second
law applies to automobile manufacturers.
         The first of four topics of interest is the second law of thermodynamics which
states that entropy (which measures the degree of disorder in a closed system) of the
universe tends to maximum(1). Or in other words, in a closed system (one without any
external supply of energy) the availability of useful energy can only decline. The internal
combustion engine is an example of a closed system because without gasoline (the
energy required to produce power) the combustion process would never occur. More
importantly, the internal combustion engine is only 20% efficient in converting energy
into power which means 80% is lost through exhaust heat, water heating, and motor
friction(2). In business, companies are challenged to look for more efficient ways to
produce power without the added cost of wasted energy. For example, with consumer
awareness rising about global warming automobile manufacturers are starting to invest
more financial resources in order to develop new technologies which rely on alternative
fuels (i.e. hydrogen). With hydrogen as the energy source contained within a fuel cell,
efficiency is expected to increase because electricity is created chemically and thus
there is less energy wasted. Thus, in understanding the second law of thermodynamics
automobile manufacturers could provide more efficient methods of creating power
without placing a burden on society.
         The next topic of interest concerns geothermal energy which is the earth’s
internal heat(3). Geothermal energy is a permanent and reliable renewable energy and
maybe one of the highest potential energy sources in the world based on the
Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)(4). More importantly though we should
be concerned about how much energy input (fuel) is required to produce a given
electrical output. In other words the cycle efficiency of a geothermal power plant is only
23% in comparison to a fossil fuel power plant with 61.6%1(5). The reason is due in large
part to the resource requirement in geothermal plants (water) which determines the
maximum temperature at which the cycle can operate. The higher the temperature the
more efficient the process is in converting energy to power. Although the procedures
involved with turning steam into electricity may not be efficient in comparison to today’s
fossil fuel plants one advantage of a geothermal power plant is the fact that they produce
very low amounts of emissions such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide to name a few.
In addition, with further developments in technology geothermal power plant efficiency
will continue to improve and supply more power to a larger population.

 Other factors however need to be taken into account such as the generator’s efficiency and
condenser temperature in converting steam to electricity.
         The third topic of discussion is thermoregulation, the maintenance of a fairly
steady body temperature even under a variety of external conditions which is important
to all animals(6). The human body is one complex system comprised of many different
sub-systems but what is most fascinating is how the human body can maintain a normal
body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. For instance, extracurricular activities (i.e.
football, biking and running) all increase the amount of energy produced through
metabolic heat production. The amount of heat produced by these activities if left
unchecked could overheat an individual placing him or her in bed with a fever. In which
case, the efficiency of a human’s body organs will decrease substantially. However, one
of two control systems for temperature regulation is the physiological system which
consists of involuntary responses of the body that generate or dissipate heat(7). Sweating
is the most efficient process for balancing the metabolic heat production and heat
absorbed from the extracurricular activities mentioned above. When the energy
produced through metabolic heat production increases beyond the ambient temperature
the body begins to release the heat through sweating. Today in the field of
nanotechnology the military has taken the initiative to develop revolutionary military suits
called nanosuits which regulate a soldier’s body temperature through nanosensors
placed in strategic positions around the suit. The goal is to increase productivity of
military personnel in the field and increase response time when faced with tough
situations in cold environments. Furthermore, by understanding how thermoregulation
functions scientists can replicate the same functions in military applications for humans
exposed to cold and warm environments.
         The final topic is Parson’s Steam Turbine which was revealed in 1882 and was
the first important machine to be invented based on the laws of thermodynamics(8). The
steam turbine is recognized for its contribution to the second Industrial Revolution
because of the decline in transatlantic freight rates. More importantly the reaction turbine
could develop enormous speed and was more efficient in converting steam into
propulsion (power) in comparison to the old reciprocating marine steam engines(9). This
helped the navy and the shipping industry improve productivity and decrease lead times.
For example, a war on the other side of the Atlantic would require resources (i.e. ammo
and food) to be shipped from America to aid military personnel in Europe. The faster
those resources could be shipped the more likely it was for the military to gain an upper
hand in the war. Thus, with the invention of the steam engine came with it economical
gains, for example, decreased lead times for sending and receiving resources and
increased the efficiency of transportation across the seas.
         After covering some of the important ideas, concepts, and definitions related to
energy we now take some time to recap some of the important highlights of each topic.
The second law of thermodynamics explained how efficiency was associated with a
closed system. Furthermore, how advancements in technology could help increase
efficiency while reducing the environmental impacts brought by older technologies, for
example the internal combustion engine. In the second topic, geothermal energy, we
brought awareness to the importance of renewable energy. Comparing the efficiency
associated with a geothermal power plant to that of a fossil fuel plant. The third topic
about thermoregulation really was about the balance between the creation of heat within
the body and how the heat would be dissipated. Finally, Parson’s steam turbine was the
first invention to jump start the second Industrial Revolution. Through his invention we
discussed how the transportation industry (mostly shipping) reaped economical gains
based on Parson’s discovery. In conclusion, we have begun to build a bridge linking how
a few of the concepts and ideas relevant to energy apply to different aspects of the real

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         Rafferty, Kevin. “Geothermal Power Generation: A Primer on Low-Temperature,

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         Smil, Vaclav. Energy a beginner’s guide. Onewrold Oxford, 2006. (page: 61)
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         Northwestern University. 5 Feb. 2007. <