Articles in this rubric reflect the opinion of the author. - Ed.
by [Viktor KUSHIN], Dr. Sc. (Tech.), Head of Lab, Federal Research Center "Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics" (Moscow)
Heat resources contained in the seas and oceans, rivers, etc. are inexhaustible, being constantly replenished by solar radiation. In our view they can only be "assessed" by placing our stakes on the laws of gravitation.
Let us consider one simple example-the formation of thunder clouds. Solar heat produces steam on the surface of the Earth which floats upwards carrying with it masses of air. Later on it cools down and freezes because with growing distance from our planet the temperature of the atmosphere drops down. There occurs phase translation of steam into water and then into ice. This process releases heat which warms up the ascending air currents over the temperature of the environment. At the altitude of 10 - 12 km, where temperature always stands at - 40 - 50°C, the icy dust and hail start dropping down under the effect of gravitation, pulling with them masses of air. On its way down ice melts and there takes place a reverse phase transition-ice-water-steam, which cools down the descending air currents. These two counter-currents have equal volumes and are acting at one and the same time. Clouds in which they are "raging" are unstable and the more moisture they contain, the stronger winds are generated with a total capacity of even more than 1 mn kWt and velocity of up to 100 m/s. And the obvious sources of these volumes of energy are the sun, waters of the World Ocean and gravitation.*
An even more dramatic display of this "energy potential" are tropical storms (known as typhoons in Asia and hurricanes in America). These are vertical whirlwinds, saturated with water vapors collected from the surface of the Pacific and the Atlantic.** These are usually generated near the equator where water temperature stays at 26 - 28°C all year round. The diameter of the "heat zone" there reaches thousands of kilometers and when due to weather conditions an area of low pressure is produced in the center of it, the surrounding air streams inside. Thanks to the Earth rotation this air current begins to spin at up to 400 km/h, spiraling around a vertical axis passing through the center of the low-pressure region. All this produces the notorious "eye" of the typhoon - a giant water-air tunnel (diameter 4 - 40 km, height of up to 15 km and "wall" thickness of 12 km and more). The atmospheric pressure inside is 10 - 15 percent lower than outside.
An atmospheric "monster" of this kind survives for 7 to 14 days, moving at velocities of up to 100 km/h first westwards, and then to the north-east in the Northern hemisphere and to the south-west in the Southern one. According to different estimates it daily showers the Earth with 10 to 50 bn tons of precipitation and its energy rivals that of a thousand H-bombs (or 1 mn nuclear bombs like the one dropped on Hiroshima). This amount of energy would be enough to meet global needs of mankind for a whole year.
Over that period an average of 80 such "monsters" are born on our planet. And we would have been able to do away with all our fuel shortages if we could use even a fraction of that energy. But, woe and behold, experts do not have the slightest idea of how to turn this dream into reality. And the effect of typhoons is governed by the laws of gravitation which people have been taking advantage of for quite some time already. To give one exam-
Cloud formation with ascending and descending air currents.
pie - the running water supplies used by the Romans were "activated" by gravity. Then came the time of water-mills, steam engines at factories and plants and, finally, of giant hydropower stations. The capacity of such stations is determined by the height from which the water "drops down" and its amounts. At the Krasnoyarsk hydro - power station, where the above parameters are 101 m and 6,000 m3 /sec respectively, the capacity reaches 6 GWt.
So, where all this energy really comes from? Think, for example, of the thunder clouds: all moisture in the atmosphere (including the rivers it supplies with their hydropower stations) evaporates when it "hits" the ground because of the heat supplied by the sun. Then it condenses in the upper troposphere and drops down as precipitation, etc. Thus what we see is a kind of gravitation-thermal rotation: water from the World Ocean-
steam) - water - hydropower stations - World Ocean.
Having said that, let us try and assess the efficiency of that cycle. To supply 1 kg of "working agent" - water-to our power plants the sun has to evaporate the same amount of water using 2,500 kJ (specific heat of turning water into steam is a known value of 2,500 kJ/kg). The amount of work, or energy, received by the Inguri Hydropower Station-the "highest-altitude" station in Georgia (pressure-head 410 m) is only 4 kJ. That means that the coefficient of transformation of heat into work in that case is 4/2,500 kJ = 0.16%. In the aforesaid thunder clouds and typhoons this parameter is much bigger. That is why scientists in different countries have been focusing special attention over the past few years on investigating processes of energy production with the help of the aforesaid phase transitions taking place in the atmosphere and involving the forces of gravitation.
The idea is especially attractive due to the fact that the evaporation and condensation of moisture require no energy spendings. These processes take place only at the expense of such principles as the formation of clouds or typhoons.
Now, let us take a look at the technical parameters of that hydrotechnical unit. For its nonstop operation it is necessary to supply into its jet-pump working fluid at 0.1 kg/s. The heat of vaporizing dymethyl ether will be 500 kJ/kg, which means that its condensation will require 500 ? 0.1= 50 kJ/s. That will require an amount of electricity determined by the temperature of the surrounding air and the water reservoir. If, for example, the latter is - 23°C, no electricity supply will be necessary. But at 10°C the cooler will be spending 5.5 kWt per second out of the 11 produced by the generator for turning ether into a liquid state.
Another important factor is the choice of working fluid. Say, ammonia boils at - 33°C and dyme-
Diagram of gravitational steam-power hydroelectrical station: 1 - water reservoir; 2 - verticalpipe; 3 - water supply lock; 4 - sprayer; 5 - hydrolic turbine; 6 - electric generator; 7 - water return lock; 8 - separator; 9 - pipeline; 10 - force-pump; 11 - cooler unit; 12 - starter unit (reserve tank for working liquid).
thil ether at - 23°C. That means that in the first case energy spendings on condensation will be bigger than in the second.
Problems associated with an excessively warm medium of functioning of the proposed generator appear to be of the most serious nature. The thing is that its aggregate capacity (like in the conventional hydroelectric stations) is directly proportional to the product of the expenditure and pressure of the steam-water mixture. And that latter parameter is strongly dependent on the temperature of water and air which can change even within 24 hours. With its changes, for example, by +20°C the output capacity varies within the limits of +/-7 percent. And the kilowatts, so important for the user, are spent on the cooling of the working liquid which also depends, as has been shown above, on the degree of heating of the water reservoir. And what one gets as the result is only the difference between the total capacity of the unit and losses in the condensation chain.
The obvious question is: can one avoid all such "spendings" by reducing the temperature in the system? Indeed, if the pipe has heat insulation and some antifreeze substance is added to the water, it should be, obviously, possible to increase frost-resistance of the whole stream to - 25°C.
Needless to say, we still have many problems in our studies of the new electrical energy generation method. But one can also see obvious economic advantages over the traditional techniques which include a natural water reservoir as the heat source, while waste gases are condensed at the expense of its own electrical energy. We are hopeful that using "trump cards" offered to us by Nature itself, mankind will be able to avail itself of the inexhaustible resources of heat of the World Ocean.
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