Google developing an inexhaustible source of energy.

Isn’t it surprising that 91% of the world’s electricity is consumed by only 20 countries? China alone consumes 24% of all electricity produced, which is 4900 Terawatt-hour. The UK happens to be the 11th highest consumer of electricity in the world. To put all this into perspective, within the next 100 years, humans will demand a staggering 0.2 yottajoules(0.2 x 1024) of electricity, which is about 5 times more than humans have ever consumed over the course of human history!

World’s electricity consumption put into perspective. Source - gocompare.com and www.enerdata.net

World’s electricity consumption put into perspective. Source - gocompare.com and www.enerdata.net

We can’t just carry on down the path of burning fossil fuels to produce almost all of our electricity otherwise global temperatures will rise way beyond tenable levels in just 30 years. Renewable energy sources are one answer to this problem, and the UK is one of the countries leading by example in this field. Some days, Scotland Is able to produce enough energy through wind turbines alone to power 100% of Scottish households. However, these cleaner options have proven to be prohibitively expensive, hence, many countries haven’t yet adopted this approach to electricity production.

Google’s Applied Science team, led by John Platt, combines computer science, physics and biology to innovate new ways to produce electricity and hopefully come up with the next breakthrough that solves all our energy problems.

“We’re going to need to change the game. We’re going to need to do something kind of crazy.”- John Platt

Google has teamed up with a company that specialises in nuclear fusion called Tri Alpha Energy, to try and recreate the process which powers the sun – fusion. However, replicating the extreme conditions of the sun’s hot core have proven to be incredibly difficult of course. The physics of nuclear fusion is extremely complex and every small change could produce a large outcome. For decades, scientists have been trying to achieve ‘breakeven energy’ – when physicists gain more energy from the reaction than they have put in to keep the plasma stable. John believes AI can help with this. After they achieve ‘break-even’ energy, this method has the potential to be an inexhaustible source of power that humanity relies on.

A 3D model of the giant plasma machine Tri Alpha has built

A 3D model of the giant plasma machine Tri Alpha has built

Tri Alpha has built a giant ionised plasma machine, C-2U, and working with Google enabled experiments on the machine to develop much faster, with operations that took a month speeded up to just a few hours. This will help them perform tests more frequently and gather a lot more data in a shorter time period. All of this data can then be applied to Machine Learning models to help accelerate the rate of learning and improvement.