As you know, our world is searching for newer forms of energy since the existing sources are depleting fast. Today’s world is powered mainly by fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal), and oil prices are skyrocketing across the globe. Moreover, fossil fuels create huge environmental effects through pollution. Due to these reasons, our world needs new sources of renewable energy. Solar power, wind power, geothermal energy, etc., are examples of renewable energy. Since earthquakes are also natural events dissipating huge amounts of energy, scientists started thinking whether it is possible to use them to generate power. This article will tell you whether it is possible to derive energy from earthquakes or not.
Earthquakes usually produce massive amounts of energy. One of the recent earthquakes that happened in Sumatra and Andaman Islands, causing the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, gave out an amount of energy equivalent to about 20,000 atomic bombs. The earthquake that happened in Haiti in 2010 was about 35 times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima.
As you can see, earthquakes do come with huge amounts of energy. In theory, it is possible to tap power from the tectonic plates that shift below the earth. However, it is highly impractical due to a number of reasons.
An earthquake dissipates energy in three ways—as the force required to create cracks on the surface, as frictional energy in the form of heat, and as radiation from the earth surface. Out of these three forms of energy, we can measure only the radiation. It is highly impractical to build a system to convert the extreme kinetic energy of an earthquake into electricity and store that power in batteries. One way to generate energy from earthquakes uses piezoelectric quartz crystals, which can generate electricity on mechanical stress. By placing these quartz crystals along known fault lines, it should seem easy to tap into the earth’s vibrations.
A few discouraging factors are there. It is extremely expensive to install the equipment to tap into earthquakes. It is far more expensive than any other energy system we have ever built. In order to place the piezoelectric crystals and related equipment, we have to dig deeper than we have ever dug in history. Earthquakes are erratic and it is difficult for us to find out where an earthquake may occur. Hence, it is difficult to place piezoelectric crystals for efficiently generating power. Most of the earthquakes that happen do not provide enough power to justify the enormous investment required to install the equipment. It has been estimated that only less than one percent of the total number of earthquakes that happened in the United States in 2011 had enough power to justify an investment into this technology.
Another way that scientists have devised to tap into earthquakes is by using their kinetic energy to displace water. This displacement can be used to drive turbines and thereby create power.
Earthquakes are extremely powerful, but an efficient system that taps into this power has yet to be developed. Earthquakes bring much destruction and distress. It is a catastrophe and most of us do not want it to happen at all. It is not easy to make people understand that this natural disaster could have a positive effect to our lives. If the science of this field advances further, we will get another renewable source for great amounts of energy.