environmetal science vocabulary
energy
the ability to do work or cause a change.
kinetic energy
the energy produced by motion.
potential energy
the energy that an object has because of its position or shape.
combustion
burning; the chemical reaction when fuel combines rapidly with oxygen.
energy efficiency
an expression of how much of the energy put into a system actually does useful work.
renewable energy
an energy resource that is readily available or that can be replaced in a relatively short time; includes wind, moving water, the sun’s heat, and wood.
nonrenewable energy
an energy resource that cannot be replaced in a relatively short time; includes fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
electricity
the energy produced by the flow and interaction of electrons.
strip mining
a type of mining in which layers of surface soil and rock are removed from large areas to expose the resource.
subsurface mining
a type of mining in which vertical shafts are dug deep into the ground and networks of horizontal tunnels are dug or blasted out to follow deposits of a resource.
petroleum
a liquid fossil fuel made up mostly of hydrocarbons; the primary source of gasoline.
petrochemical
a chemical compound derived from oil that is used to make plastics, detergents, and other products.
oil sands
a deposit of moist sand and clay that can be mined to extract bitumen, an oil-rich hydrocarbon.
oil shale
rock that contains hydrocarbons; can be burned directly or processed to extract liquid petroleum.
methane hydrate
an ice-like solid that consists of molecules of methane within a crystal network of water molecules; can be burned to release energy.
acid drainage
the sulfuric acid produced when sulfide minerals in exposed rock surfaces react with oxygen and rainwater to produce sulfuric acid.
energy conservation
reducing energy use to prolong the supply of fossil fuels.
nuclear energy
the energy that holds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus of an atom.
nuclear fission
the conversion of the energy within an atom’s nucleus to usable thermal energy by splitting apart atomic nuclei.
nuclear reactor
a facility within a nuclear power plant that generates electricity through controlled nuclear fission.
meltdown
the accidental melting of the uranium fuel rods inside the core of a nuclear reactor, causing the release of radiation.
nuclear waste
the radioactive material left over from the production of energy and other processes in a nuclear power plant.
nuclear fusion
the conversion of the energy within an atom’s nucleus to usable thermal energy by forcing together the small nuclei of lightweight elements under high temperature and pressure.
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