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Hydrocarbons are simple to complex organic compounds consisting of hydrogen and carbon. They are among the most plentiful energy resources on Earth and make a significant portion of the organic matter on the planet. The role of hydrocarbons in human development can not be underestimated. Essentially without them, the modern age would not have manifested. Our global society is basically a carbon based civilization. However the toll of the world’s dependence on this energy source is causing government, companies, and communities to start looking for alternatives.
Hydrocarbons have two important properties that make them ideal sources of energy. The first is that they easily form bonds among themselves. The ease with which they store energy is due to how easily these self bonds can be formed by hydrocarbons. This makes it possible to get energy from these substances by just burning them. As a matter a fact this is the basic way energy is harnessed from hydrocarbons. For electricity the fuel is burned and the heat released boils water into stem which in turn rotates turbines to make electricity. In many households gas provides heat by heating water and circulating it through the house.
Hydrocarbons are now starting to come under heavy criticism due to the the byproducts produced when burned. Byproducts such as Carbon Dioxide or the Sulfur compounds that come from burning carbon products like coal. The gases and byproducts are green house gases and pollute air quality creating conditions like smog. There is also the fact that hydrocarbons outside of biofuels are often finite resources. They are not renewable and due to that have increased value for the countries who possess reserves and those that need them to power their economies.
To counteract these harmful effects countries and companies are now starting to invest in renewable forms of energy. At the moment the technology has not yet reached the level where the energy demand met by hydrocarbons can be matched by these sources however increased investment in research and development are rapidly yielding results that could make this a reality in the near future.
We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Titan. Listen here, Episode 201: Titan.