Energy Production

The greatest need modern civilizations have is energy. Learn about oil, electricity and newer forms of energy like solar and wind power.

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When gas prices shoot through the roof, alternative technologies start to look even more interesting. This one uses heat to create energy, and all we really need is the sun.

By Jane McGrath

Nuclear power stands as one of humanity's greatest scientific achievements, as well as one of the greatest risks to its self-extermination. This collection of images highlights some of the main features of nuclear power.

By Rick Mayda

If oil shale can decrease U.S. dependence on foreign nations for oil, why aren't we making it yet? We're caught between a rock and a hard, geopolitical place.

By Josh Clark


Have you ever wondered what happens when you flip a switch to turn something on? You're completing an electric circuit, allowing a current, or flow of electrons, through the wires.

By Sidney Soclof

Scientists working with Foster's Brewing Company have made a fuel cell using bacteria and the brewery's waste water. They claim that their fuel cell generates non-polluting power as it cleanses the water. But is the "beer battery" simply a novelty?

By Jacob Silverman

In "Back to the Future," Doc Brown throws garbage into Mr. Fusion, powering his time machine. We might be closer than you think to generating electricity for our homes using trash.

By Jonathan Strickland

Hazardous waste disposal is an ongoing struggle that's monitored by the EPA. How is meant to be disposed of, and what happens when something goes wrong?

By Julia Layton


Manufacturers -- whether they make corn ethanol fuel, biodiesel fuel, pancake syrup or even frozen pizza -- produce waste and polluted water. Now there's a completely new process called Activated Carbon Facilitated Oxidation, or AC FOX that can handle water that is polluted with organic material. Learn all about AC FOX.

By Marshall Brain

You may remember the blackout that occurred on Aug. 14, 2003. It was the biggest in U.S. history. And just like every major blackout, it raised a lot of questions about how the power-distribution system works.

By Marshall Brain & Julia Layton

The basic idea isn't new, but the process of modern hydropower conversion is high-tech. Today's hydropower plants are some of the coolest machines ever constructed. Find out how rushing water generates power.

By Kevin Bonsor

Manhole covers have been blasting out of the ground in New York City. Find out what causes these strange explosions and how powerful they really are.

By Kevin Bonsor


The Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster has generated renewed interest in the way we search for oil. What methods do we use to find and extract this commodity from the Earth?

By Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D. & Jonathan Strickland

How can water cut through steel? A device called a waterjet uses extreme force to cut through all sorts of things.

Despite the dangers, oil refineries are essential to society in its current form. Learn how crude oil is converted into everything from butane to gasoline.

By Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D.

OK, so volts measure the potential for energy to travel and ohms measure the resistance to the electrical flow, but what are amps and watts?

By Dave Roos


Where electricity is produced from a coal fired power station, how much coal is required to run a 100-watt light bulb 24 hours a day for one year?

Let's say you have a nice fire going, and it's reduced down to a pit of hot "glowing embers." If you now toss a piece of wood, or even a sheet of paper, onto this fire, you see a huge puff of smoke as it heats up.

An oscilloscope measures the voltage and frequency of an electric signal. A machine uses "sweeps" and and an input signal. See how it all comes together.

On the Flintstones, a small bird sits inside the light and turns it on every night before he goes to bed. In a modern streetlight, a small circuit replaces the bird.


Is it possible to generate electricity directly from heat? Thermocouples do it, with no moving parts.

Charcoal is carbon. Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen to open up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms. What does this have to do with its absorbancy?

One way to store energy is to use a battery, like a lead-acid battery or a nickel-cadmium battery, but are there lighter or longer-lasting ways to store energy? There must be a better way!

You've probably seen solar cells on calculators, call boxes, road signs, homes and businesses. But how do solar cells work?

By Jessika Toothman & Scott Aldous


You've probably never noticed how many of these you use everyday, but HowStuffWorks took the time to count them and take them apart to see what's inside!

By Marshall Brain

Electrical power is a little bit like the air you breathe: You don't really think about it until it is missing. There are good reasons the power grid distribution system works the way it does, though it can lead to some big problems.

By Marshall Brain & Dave Roos