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Renewable Energy- I have a Dream

  1. Feb 2, 2009 #1
    Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    Three years ago, I found PF and was at this very same crossroad.

    Medcine? Or Phyical/Natural Science????

    I have this dream, to help creat free energy. Where does that fall into? An engineering course or straight away work for a pHd, running around in labs taking down data, making analysis and discovering it by being a scientist.

    Please give me a clue on which career path this ambition of mine lays in.
    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 2, 2009 #2


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    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    There are a lot of avenues you could pursue. Creating "free" energy is a very broad goal. It might help if you narrow it down somewhat. For example, if you are interested in a sustainable, safe nuclear fusion process, you could go into physics and then specialize in plasma or nuclear physics. If you are interested in building more efficient solar cells you could check out condensed matter physics, electrical engineering, or materials science.
  4. Feb 3, 2009 #3
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    Free, clean energy perhaps Fusion energy, which is still very difficult to produce in a large scale.
    Is that categorised under nuclear physics?

    By the way, I'm currently studying for my HCS(High School Cert) which is equilvalent to the cambridge/london A-Levels.
    If i decide to do my undergraduate studies in the US, it would probably be a waste as the first 2 years of the BSci would be quite like what I'm doing now(so, I have heard that is).
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2009
  5. Feb 3, 2009 #4


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    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    The development of a sustainable fusion platform is an enormous undertaking involving collaborations between many different disciplines, so there are many different fields that you could get into that would allow you to make a contribution. Nuclear physics looks at the fusion reaction itself. Plasma physics deals with the confinment of the whole process. Nuclear engineering deals with the practical aspects of the problem.

    As for your comment with respect to the first 2 years of university being a "waste" - I would suggest you abandon that idea right away. While there is naturally some overlap, high school and university are two different worlds. To assume, going in, that you're not going to learn anything new will quite likely close the doors to all sorts of opportunities. For example, when I was in my first year of university I remember having several inspiring conversations with my physics professors after lectures - sometimes related to the materials, sometimes not. But the access to that kind of insight into a field I was considering for a career just wasn't accessible at the high school level.
  6. Feb 5, 2009 #5
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    * Lots of money
    * Lots of prestige
    * Lots of work
    * You keep lots of people alive, putting a burden on the planet

    * average money
    * average prestige
    * fair bit of work
    * your career is a lot less certain
    * you may, maybe one day, do something that has an effect.

    I chose physics.
  7. Feb 6, 2009 #6
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    Not to boast or anything, I was the top in the class and one of the top students in the country and state (O-levels equivalent exams) and now in HSC( something like A- levels), to be more specific, STPM(Malaysian Higer School Certificate)


    I am taking Biology, Chemistry, Pure Maths the compulsory "general studies" paper at school and Physics on my own{as the Bio practicals consume more time compared to physic and lately, schools don't offer more than 3 science subjects to any single class}

    Two years ago, I was at crossroads on which pre-u programme I should persue: ie, Cambridge A- Levels, STPM or ADtP(American Degree Transfer Programme).Then, I was already greatly intrigued and passionate about Physics. I had also ask similar questions in PF .

    However last year, I made my choise of taking the STPM.
    A reason for that would be so that I could buy time on deciding what career am I to persue. As a daughter to two surgeons, people expect me to follow my parents footsteps. yes, some part of me wants to do that too, but another big piece of me wants to do greater good to humanity and the environment, through science.

    a tiny part of me keeps doubting myself that I am not what it takes to make the mark to:
    And so, I have this dream and am wondering on my prospects....o:)
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2009
  8. Feb 7, 2009 #7
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    Why not come to the UK? We are geared to taking A level students. Check out Oxford, they are most closely linked to the fusion research facilities at Culham. You would need to do a three year undergraduate degree first, BSc, maybe engineering, maybe physics. Then you can specialise in fusion by taking a PhD in that area. Of course you might decide to go into solar power research, or wave power, or biofuels, which might be more appropriate for your country (and solar and wave does work already! You better be able to handle frustration if you go into fusion research...) There's a lot of room in environmental science for people of all abilities, from solar panel fitters to nuclear fusion physicists. You should have no problem in finding a place, and probably a very high place with your results! So aim high and be confident.
  9. Feb 7, 2009 #8


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    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    Nuclear energy such as fission or fusion require development of the fuel source, and a large expense for the reactor and power conversion system. Since fission and most feasible fusion reactions produced neutrons, the system must also provide radiation protection and eventually the irradiated reactor systems will need to be disposed in a geologically stable repository. Capital costs for nuclear power plants are on the order of $5-10 billion.

    Other potential sources of energy are solar (photovoltaic), solar (concentrated solar power), wind, hydropower and geothermal. Each of these have varying conversion efficiencies and availability/capacity factor. PV and CSP are only available during the time they are in the sunlight, and are quite limited if the atmosphere is cloudy, so they would be most effective in dry desert areas. Hydropower requires large infrastructure of dams and suitable geology to allow water to collect in large volume and fall. Geothermal is only feasible where there hot magma is close to the earth's surface. Wind power is only available when the wind is blowing. Tidal power is only feasible where there are tides or strong currents in rivers, seas or oceans.

    Photovoltaic cells are costly, as are windmills, dams and water turbines. Geothermal requires piping, heat exchanges, steam turbine. The mechanical systems require a generator to convert the rotational mechanical energy into an electric field, involving a time varying magentic field and conductor (see AC, synchronous generator/motor).

    Photovoltaics may require a conversion system from DC to AC for some applications.

    It would be best to learn the physics and engineering behind renewable energy, including EM theory, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics/dynamics, materials science and engineering, mechanics, and system design and analysis.

    Concentrated solar power may be relatively low cost compared to the other systems, and somewhat more flexible for certain applications, e.g. process heat.
  10. Apr 10, 2011 #9
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    interesting discussion- I'm looking for a career in a very similar direction, though I'm currently in my second semester of a physics degree. I alwasy knew that I wanted to go into science or engineering, and during my gap year before university I decided that what I'm most interested in is alternative energy.
    A good point was already raised- there are many more possibilities out there than just fusion power, and some of them require rather different specialties in university. from what you've said, it sounds like you (like me) are more interested in high-level R&D than in the nitty-gritty of implementation. maybe we should get in touch with each other (though I'm nowhere near Malaysia).
    Here's a quick summary of some alternative energy sources that I find interesting, and what sort of degree seems to be useful in the field:

    nuclear (both fission and fusion)- start with an undergraduate degree in physics. After the first year or two, by the time you start taking electives, you'll be better able to figure out exactly what aspect you'd like to pursue, and start taking courses that will prepare you for research in that area. At this point, fusion hasn't gotten past the "research" stage.

    solar- For solar panels, physics in general, especially solid-state. Materials science departments also sometimes work on it, and EE is tangentially related because of the need to regulate the power supply. for solar-thermal, mechanical engineering (thermal power plants of any kind are basically the province of mechanical engineers).

    wind- aeronautical engineering, mechanical engineering.
    tidal- mechanical engineering.

    biogeneration (that includes bacteria that produce hydrogen as a metabolic byproduct, chlorophyll-based solar cells, etc)- biology, biochemistry. also related to biophysics.

    hydoelectricity- mechanical engineering.
    there are also other areas of cleantech that are not precisely energy generation, but are still closely related to the topic of clean energy, such as fuel cells.
    hope this helps.

    BTW, streeter, " You keep lots of people alive, putting a burden on the planet"!! I think that's an absolutely sickening attitude.
  11. Apr 10, 2011 #10
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    Sickening? Really?

    See how well your stomach holds up when there are wars over resources.
    Oh, wait...

    And wind power is mostly developed by materials scientists. Most advancements in wind come from increasing the power of the magnets in the nacelle.
  12. Apr 10, 2011 #11


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    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    The attitude of much of the "healthcare industry" in the developed world is absolutely sickening. It's main aim is to extract money from the ignorant and vulnerable. That's why it is so keen to label 30% of kids as having "special needs" (translation: poor parenting and natural stupidity are a medicallly curable diseases) and spread the meassage that 20% of adults have "suffered from mental health problems some time in their lives" (curable at a price, of course).

    No doctor in the entire history of the planet has ever SAVED a life. At best they postpone death for a while. At worst they make money from prolonging suffering. They should learn some humility if they want to be treated better than used car salespeople.
  13. Apr 10, 2011 #12
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    Well sure. Without doctors, populations in the developed world would be sinking even faster than they are now. Total fertility rates tend to be below 2.1 (replacement level for advanced nations; this number increases inversely proportional to the level of health care in the country, thus helping to counteract populations with very high TFR's) for western nations, some far less. The only 'extra burden' on the planet is coming from Africans, Middle Easterners and Southeast Asians whose populations tend to be very, er, active in the bedroom.

    I'm sorry for derailing this topic further. I won't respond to anything beyond this. I just wanted to clear up this misconception.
  14. Jul 13, 2012 #13
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    Back to the topic, has anyone heard of the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Engineering course offered at Carleton University, Canada?
  15. Jul 13, 2012 #14
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    Also, having worked in the oil industry, I'd really encourage people that are interested in working in "alternative energy" to have a serious look at "non-alternative energy." There are a lot of jobs in "non-alternative energy" and you end up making a huge impact on society, if you can make "non-alternative energy" "less bad."

    One other thing, if you are interested in these sorts of things is to get a *very* strong background in finance and public policy. A lot of these issues turn out to revolve around politics, and you need to have a strong grounding in politics to understand why things are what they are.
  16. Jul 13, 2012 #15
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    One point here is not to confuse the "United States" with the "developed world." Most people in other countries find US attitudes and health care systems to be rather bizarre.

    One good thing about working on energy is that you end up thinking *very* globally. You have several billion people in the world that want to live "the American dream". The number of people in China that live at US standards of living is probably around 150 million and it's increasing by 20 million a year, and India is the same way. Then you have Africa, the Middle East, and SEA in the queue.

    Trying to get everyone what they want without wrecking the planet is going to be quite interesting.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2012
  17. Jul 13, 2012 #16
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    peoples attitudes towards consumption would need to change to help the earth.

    in my opinion, being an elite banker and foreclosing people out of wasteful suburban housing and into rented urban apartments, though "cruel", helps the ecosystem much more and ultimately saves more lives than almost all of research scientists and doctors.
  18. Jul 14, 2012 #17
    Re: Renewable Energy--- I have a Dream

    Well ok, we started with magical free energy and progressed to arguing that death is a social good. Everybody off, this train has arrived at Cloud Cuckooland Central, which is its final destination.

    bkvitha - it doesn't sound like you have the physics knowledge to make an informed decision about your future research interests and career at this stage. I would advise that you start a general physics degree - UK universities are pretty much all good for this; US seem to have much more variable syllabus quality - and then in your final year when you come to apply for PhDs you will know a lot more about your interests and about what you think are the most promising possible future energy sources.
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