Solar energy conversion

George W. Crabtree, Nathan S. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

365 Citations (Scopus)


The Sun provides Earth with a staggering amount of energy - enough to power the great oceanic and atmospheric currents, the cycle of evaporation and condensation that brings fresh water inland and drives river flow, and the typhoons, hurricanes, and tornadoes that so easily destroy the natural and built landscape. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906, with magnitude 7.8, released an estimated 1017 joules of energy, the amount the Sun delivers to Earth in one second. Earth's ultimate recoverable resource of oil, estimated at 3 trillion barrels, contains 1.7×1022 joules of energy, which the Sun supplies to Earth in 1.5 days. The amount of energy humans use annually, about 4.6×1020 joules, is delivered to Earth by the Sun in one hour. The enormous power that the Sun continuously delivers to Earth, 1.2×105 terawatts, dwarfs every other energy source, renewable or nonrenewable. It dramatically exceeds the rate at which human civilization produces and uses energy, currently about 13 TW.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Specialist publicationPhysics Today
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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