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Fossil Fuels

The remains of plants and animals buried under the earth millions of years ago are called fossils. These fossils are excellent fuels called fossil fuels. The examples of fossils fuels are coal, petroleum, and natural gas. They were formed by the decomposition of the remains of plants and animals which got buried under the earth millions of years ago.

Air particles are deadly. The byproducts that form from the burning of fossil fuels are very dangerous. These small particles can exist in the air for indefinite periods of time, up to several weeks and can travel for miles. The particles, sometimes smaller than 10 microns in diameter, can reach deep within the lungs. Particles that are smaller than this can enter the blood stream, irritating the lungs and carrying with them toxic substances such as heavy metals and pollutants. Over a lifetime of continued exposure, a person's ability to transfer oxygen and rid pollutants is impeded. Those affected could become afflicted with fatal asthma attacks and other serious lung conditions.

In our power plants, turbines are used to generate electricity. The simplest turbines have one moving part, a rotor based assembly. The moving fluid acts on the blades to spin them and impart energy to the rotor. The rotor blade, with speed would turn the shaft of the dynamo and convert the mechanical energy into electrical energy.

The Origin of Fossil Fuels

Plants and animals, which died millions of years ago owing to natural calamities like floods, earthquakes, storms and cyclones got buried beneath the earth. The remnants of the dead plants and animals slowly accumulated and got covered under sediments like clay and sand. The cover of sediments prevented oxygen of the air from reaching them. In the absence of oxygen, these materials decomposed due to high temperature and pressure conditions inside the earth. As a result of decomposition, coal, petroleum and natural gas were formed beneath the earth.

It is worthwhile to remark that the Sun is the ultimate source of energy of fossil fuels. This can be understood as follows: The green plants carry out a process called `photosynthesis' in sunlight. In this process, the Sun's energy is stored in plants in the form of carbon compounds. Animals eat plants and, thus Sun's energy is indirectly stored in animals. So the plants and animals which got buried under the earth millions of years ago had Sun's energy stored in them. They were converted into fossil fuels. Thus fossil fuels are energy-rich compounds of carbon, originally prepared in plants with the help of the Sun's energy. Hence Sun is the ultimate source of the energy and this energy is released when the fossil fuels are burnt.


It must be clearly understood that the fossil fuels were not formed in a day; it takes millions of years for the remains of plants and animals to transform to fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas. Since the process of their formation is very gradual and slow, the amount of these fuels in the deposits beneath the earth is limited and will be exhausted one day. So fossil fuels are very valuable. These fuels should, therefore be used with the utmost care and must not be wasted. We will now discuss in detail the three fossil fuels one by one.

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