Topic 1: Energy and Critical Minerals

Additional resources and information about the Energy & Critical Minerals topic for the University of Adelaide Young Scientist of the Year video competition

Energy and civilisation go hand-in-hand, and our energy sources have shaped human history and progress. Fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) in particular powered the Industrial Revolution, enabling machines that would change how humans live forever.

But this acceleration in our technologies didn’t come without cost. Burning fossil fuels released carbon dioxide and other gases that had been locked up for millenia, causing the ‘greenhouse’ effect that has been warming up our atmosphere ever since.

Now we need a new revolution – to transition to a source of energy that is ‘renewable’, meaning we can use it again and again, minimising our impact on the atmosphere and slowing down Global Warming.

Topic University of Adelaide Young Scientist Video Energy Critical MineralsRenewable Energy is currently sourced from the sun, the wind, water (waves, hydro and tidal), deep within the Earth (geothermal) and plants (biomass).

One of the big challenges with transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy is storing that energy – so we can use it whenever we need it, when the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing. Energy storage examples include batteries, water resovoirs, compressed air, hydrogen and thermal storage (source: energy.gov).

While fossil fuels are closely associated with mining, a transition away from fossil fuels won’t spell the end of our need to extract minerals from the Earth. Many mined minerals are critical for the production and storage of renewable energy, such as cobalt and lithium used in the production of rechargeable batteries.

Improving the sustainability and efficiency of how we extract these minerals will also play a role in transitioning away from fossil fuel energy production.

Your video challenge: 

Investigate a renewable energy technology or energy storage technology.

  • Where is it and who uses it?
  • What minerals are required to make it?
  • How does it work, and how can it be improved?
  • Why do you think it’s an important technology, and are there challenges to adopting this technology, or is it being used already?

Video resources

Start your research into this topic with these video resources: