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Scientists to Calculate How Much Fuel is Left on Earth by 2025

Sep 11, 2016 08:10 AM EDT
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Fuel has played a key role in driving important phenomenons such as plate tectonics and volcanic activities, but is the planet running out of this important resource? A team of scientists has developed a way to calculate how much fuel will be left on Earth by the year 2025.
(Photo : NASA images by Reto Stöckli, based on data from NASA and NOAA. Instrument: Terra - MODIS / Wikimedia Commons)

Fuel has played a key role in driving important phenomena such as plate tectonics and volcanic activities, but is the planet running out of this important resource? A team of scientists has developed a way to calculate how much fuel will be left on Earth by the year 2025.

The study entitled "Revealing the Earth’s mantle from the tallest mountains using the Jinping Neutrino Experiment" published in the journal Scientific Reports says that geologists and neutrino physicists have determined how much nuclear fuel and radioactive power will remain on Earth through tiny subatomic particles called geoneutrinos.

Science Daily notes that these tiny particles come from nuclear reactions from stars, black holes, man-made nuclear reactors and radioactive process in the Earth's interior. To detect this antineutrinos, a large underground detector -- approximately the size of a building -- is needed. The detector will then identify the frequency of antineutrinos' collision into hydrogen atoms, which directly relates to the amount of uranium and thorium within the planet.

"Once we collect three years of antineutrino data from all five detectors, we are confident that we will have developed an accurate fuel gauge for the Earth and be able to calculate the amount of remaining fuel inside Earth," said William McDonough, one of the study's authors.

Detecting antineutrinos has been painstakingly slow, but researchers are hoping to fast things up by the arrival of three new detectors by 2022. The new detectors will be burried under the Himalayan slopes and near the coast of Southern China.

McDonough explains that determing the amount of radioactive power within the Earth is important as it will tell us about the Earth's energy consumption rate.

"By showing how fast the planet has cooled down since its birth, we can estimate how long this fuel will last," he said. 

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