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Alternative energy technologies


Fossil fuels currently supply most of the world's energy needs, and however unacceptable their long-term consequences, the supplies are likely to remain adequate for the next few generations. Scientists and policy makers must make use of this period of grace to assess alternative sources of energy and determine what is scientifically possible, environmentally acceptable and technologically promising.

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Figure 1: Energy flow diagram for the United States for 1999, in quads (1 quad = 1015 British thermal units = 2.9×1011 kWh).
Figure 2
Figure 3: The structure of CeO2 used in automobile catalytic converters as an oxygen source.
Figure 4: Photoelectrolysis occurring in a multi-junction cell, as a concentrated light source on the left is used to dissociate water to hydrogen and oxygen (which are observed as bubbles).
Figure 5: This multi-junction device uses a top cell of gallium indium phosphide and aluminium indium phosphide to absorb high-energy photons, transmitting lower-energy photons to the bottom cell where they are absorbed by the gallium arsenide and gallium indium phosphide junctions.
Figure 6: Certain algae, whose chlorophyll give a green colour to the fluid, produce hydrogen in the presence of light.


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We acknowledge fruitful discussions with many colleagues; G. Dresselhaus and P. Dehmer in particular have offered valuable suggestions.

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Dresselhaus, M., Thomas, I. Alternative energy technologies. Nature 414, 332–337 (2001).

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