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A Hydrogen economy: Be a part of the change!

  1. Jul 22, 2003 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    I am posting this here in order to draw the attention of physics students, as well as other science and engineering students, to the upcoming change in our supply of energy. The National Hydrogen Association wants help from people like you. Please consider this a potential career option. Nearly everyone from George Bush to tree hugging hippies are supporting this change.

    IMO and ITO of many scientists, hydrogen is the solution to the world's energy needs. The most extreme claims are that we could convert the US in 5 years. Moderate claims land in the 15-25 years range. I tend to agree that if we made a WWII sized effort, if we made this an immediate national agenda, 10 years is closer to the mark. We could end our critical dependence on oil forever!

    This is a new industry that will need physicists. If your are interested, learn and find a way to get involved. They [The National H2 Assoc] say the biggest hurdle is education; so I am doing a little of my part right now. Please take a look.

    National Hydrogen Association:
    http://www.hydrogenus.com/

    Also:

    http://www.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/hydrogen/iea/

    http://www.h2pac.org/

    http://www.geocities.com/mj_17870/index.html

    http://education.lanl.gov/resources/h2/education.html

    http://www.stuartenergy.com/

    Please see also the links at the bottom of this page:
    http://www.science.edu/tech/h75001.htm
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2003 #2
    i hear that hydrogen is the answer to all of our prayers but im not sure how hydrogen will "create" energy...

    sure we can put it in our cars but the energy taken to get it into that form has to be done some other way correct? ie oil, coal, uranium.

    is it just that hydrogen is more *efficient*(and less harmful) than oil or what?
     
  4. Jul 23, 2003 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    A review of the industry will reveal many approaches to the production of hydrogen. Biological processes, chemical processes, and solar powered methods for producing hydrogen are being explored. Wind to H2 using electrolysis, and really any existing means of producing electricity can be used to convert water into a H2 fuel supply. This has the benefit of relatively easy energy storage which is very difficult with electricity. This issue of storage has long been a problem for the alternative energy crowd; as well as for mainstream energy producers. Many lakes have been built to act as energy storage units for dams that have too much power. The water is pumped up hill to a lake an then re-released to pass through the dam. The efficiency of this process is in the dirt.

    Next, you can put that H2 right into your car. Experts claim that any car can be modified - easily for most typical cars - to burn H2 rather than hydrocarbon based fuels. This includes trains, planes, and industry. No other energy option to my knowledge has the benefit of practical and immediate application to trains, planes, and large industrial machinery.

    Hydrogen burns almost completely cleanly [I am thinking 99.5% but it may be 95%]. Some oxides of nitrogen can be produced, but this can be improved with lower operating temps. Still, the exhaust is mostly water. Some gurus of this technology claim that it is so safe that you can condense and drink your exhaust.

    Finally, there have been some indications that a primordial layer of hydrogen lies deep in the earth. One expert estimated that enough H2 may be stored to power the planet, based on current estimates, for 500 years. If this hydrogen supply is trapped in rock and waiting for harvest, it will require clever new technologies to get at it. I believe this layer was estimated as being about 50 Km straight down; all over the planet.
     
  5. Jul 23, 2003 #4
    very interesting, i didnt think about the storage problem (very evident in alt. energy sources) or the application to current i.c. engines in our cars. it makes sense:smile:
     
  6. Jul 23, 2003 #5
    hehe just wait until i get my gravity machine to work, hehe.
     
  7. Jul 23, 2003 #6
    Now i don't know where to find this, but if you want to find out something that makes me angry, check out how Mr. Bush plans to create Hydrogen through burning coal!!!!

    Coal!?!!? What's up with that???

    next we'll be creating it with oil.

    Shouldn't we be looking at solar energy instead of coal/oil? I really think that this would just prolong our problem if we go to coal producing energy to hydrolize water.

    What do you think?

    I'll check NY Times and look for that article.

    Pete
     
  8. Jul 23, 2003 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    A transistion period is needed; but yes, as much as I hate to sound so one sided, this is typical of the republican approach to science and technology. In the end though, I hope the oil companies do control hydrogen as well. In this way it at least it CAN happen. If they [the oil tychoons] still hold all of the cards, perhaps they won't percieve the technology as a threat. This is what I think is happening anyway...perhaps even just hoping...
     
  9. Jul 23, 2003 #8
    I've seen cooling remarks about H2 as fuel, I guess in fuelcell context. Storage of pure H2 is inefficient I've heard, methanol or oil was said to contain much more H than liquid H itself. In addition brakeup of bonds gives off additional energy that liquid H doesn't have. So, to use it as fuel, H must be converted into 'packed' fuel, which needs energy and pollution to make, in addition to H 'mining' itself. This makes H not a fuel, but merely an energy carrier. In all, price of using H as energy carrier is much higher than fossil fuels that already contain the energy. The only benefit is truely green potential.

    Its the price of getting H fuel with energy that holds it back. Fossil fuels I think were said to be a fraction of the cost compared to H. So conversion to H won't happen without hard political pressure and support, and given that helluva lot of infrastructure needs to be built, energy prices will go sky. Definitely 'paying' industry to be in. Knowing politics interests, sure its going to be done for money. No wonder they consider coal as source of energy for producing H...
     
  10. Jul 23, 2003 #9

    Ivan Seeking

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    IMO, fuel cells are a sham. I agree that the complete system must be considered and that hidden costs surely exist. [edit: This is one reason I think fuel cell technology is too inefficient. There are too many power consuming, intermediate steps in the production of the cells; in addition to the weight of electric motors which hardly compares to internal combustion in their HP to weight ratios]. However, the performance of H2 powered internal combustion vehicles is good. Also, methods of storing H2 in carbon nano-tubes and similar offer much promise. Going H2 over electric though makes no sense to me. Also, hydrogen makes some alternative energy sources viable as a source for mass transit energy; as opposed to a singular source. Ultimately H2 is just an energy carrier...but for solar power [in many forms] not fossil fuels; if done properly. Therefore, from what I have read, it is not necessary that this be a fossil fuel based industry. Unlike nuclear power which by some claims will never break even.

    Note: Hydrogen fueling stations can be found at the Berlin [maybe Munich] airport, and at other test sites around the world. BMW just put out a test model that changes from H2 combustion to gasoline at the flip of a switch. Wimms, I think examples already exist that many of these concerns can be addressed.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2003
  11. Jul 23, 2003 #10

    Ivan Seeking

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    I almost forgot. If one incorporates the real cost of fossil fuels - like potential nuclear war and all of its cost, and many of the problems in the middle east - in addition to pollution and the public health consequences, then the real cost of petroleum is much higher than perceived. Also, as readily accessible reserves dwindle, the cost per barrel for oil will sharply rise. This will force H2 into competition regardless of the public perception over the indirect expenses of fossil fuels. However, the hidden costs of fossil fuels are real money that will be added to the H2 economy. This must be factored in. What is the value of jobs over bombs? Fossil fuels have been a plague on the world politic since the first model A's rolled off the lines. This must be considered.
     
  12. Jul 23, 2003 #11
    Oh, why? fuel cells are afaik just about method of storing H2. How its used later, is another matter. There are both combustion and electric converters. Electric has best efficiency of conversion into mechanical work. There are lots of benefits from use of electric motors. They are just pathetic today.

    yes, sure. It gives independance from fossil fuels. But solar power means power grid, thats has high losses and yet can't cope with whole fuel industry, electrolysis is awfully inefficient. Perhaps biological means would do, but that means alot of land dedicated to it, which eventually is also quite inefficient.

    Thats also what I've heard. Interesting, what are the arguments, and does this apply to potential fusion reactors aswell?

    Addressed? Do you mean 'tests' address concerns that arise with global spread? Civilization is limited by available energy. Fossil fuels are at moment 'free'. We get more energy from it than we waste to extract it. With H fuels, this isn't so obvious, actually opposite. The only alternate to fossil fuels is sun or nuclear power that accounting whole system produces way more heat than useful work. Dealing with those losses would turn into price.

    I'm actually all for it, but its a quite huge leap we have to swallow. All I'm saying is that it won't come easy nor cheap.

    ps. cutting off mideast from their revenue doesn't make you think 'war'? dwindling reserves rise prices due to marketing, demand and offer ratio, not because of real costs. I suppose that this would pay for developing alternative fuel infrastructure. There are (times?) more hidden costs with H than with fossil fuels.. Just hope there are also a lot more of hidden benefits, like those arising from forced advances of technology.
     
  13. Jul 23, 2003 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    Eventually electric motors may come of age. But I don't think people are willing to give up the performance for now. Electric cars still have big problems. I know a guy that bought one...I'm not sure which model it was...I think it was the Honda Hybrid.... After 20,000 miles he was told: Oh, didn't the salesman tell you? You have to replace the batteries now. If will only cost a few thousand dollars!

    Perhaps many sq miles of oceans? I agree that challenges exist. We don't have all of the answers...hence the call for scientists and engineers from the National H2 Assc. But many experts argue that this is doable. Obviously they have convinced me. I'm not completely biased yet, but I ran out of objections about a year ago.

    I have never actually seen this, but I was told by a biology professor in college about this study. I have heard and seen this referenced elsewhere as well. The argument is: When one factors in all the mining, transport, smelting and refining, all of the cars of all of the employees that travel to work every day in all of these industries, then the operation and maintenance of the plant, and finally the cleanup which may take decades, the demand for fossil fuels exceeds the lifetime energy production of the plant. Considering that we still don't even know how to clean up the latest reactors once spent, the real cost is still unknown. I don't know if this holds water or not, but the claim has been floating around for years. It may be that no one else has ever looked at this.

    No I meant tests for performance. The performance of these cars is apparently acceptable to good.

    I can see the possibility for a large leap in a fairly short period of time. But I agree that many challenges exist.

    A call to arms physicists!

    It is hard to imagine things being worse. Did you ever see The Gods Must Be Crazy? A limited resource is bad. Neighbors throw rocks at each other in order to get the resource. But yes I agree; this will be another issue to consider. I suspect this may account for the foot-dragging approach of the Bush administration. If I entertain the hallucination that GWB is a real philanthropist, then this could explain the more moderate approach. ZZZZAAAAPPPPP! Back to reality. I think he is placating the oil companies.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2003
  14. Jul 23, 2003 #13

    Ivan Seeking

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    Follow the money. Advocates claim that the price of gasoline makes state of the art hydrogen technology competitive now; this then is an issue of scaling up the concepts. Transportation and transfer systems need to be designed. Transitional technologies like wind generators will pay the fossil fuel price to change.

    Next, any hydrocarbon can be used to produce hydrogen. Wood, grass, pine tar, garbage, plastics, any C-H can in principle yield an H. There are many approaches considered to these and many other source options. We are not only talking about solar and wind. But, both of these have also made great strides. The final solution will likely be a hybrid of many technologies applied where each is most appropriate. Of course coal and oil are also great sources of hydrogen. But the key is a hydrogen base. IMNSHO.

    Also, one key concept is decentralization. We already see this idea succeeding in the use of farmer produced ethanol for use on the farm. The last time that I checked, this practice is growing at a startup rate of 5 to 10 X per year in the US. The farmers appear to find this process more than competitive with gasoline and diesel oil.

    Some minor edits plus one more observation:
    Fusion power translates directly as a potential source for H2 production; for transit systems and industrial equipment. These two goals - the strive for fusion and an H2 economy - are compatible.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2003
  15. Jul 23, 2003 #14
    Thats sure. I won't even look towards it until it performs better than gas motors.

    Anything is doable. I guess my concerns are best conveyed by analogy with nuclear power plants you described above. Huge potential, huge energies, but huge ballast issues.

    absolutely.

    You mean those 'carets'? First we need a 'car', but I guess they don't count the fuel costs.

    I thought key is energy. That you need to put in less energy than you get out. I'm not sure, but is extraction of H from all this junk 'free'? What is waste byproduct? Where would it be made? In 3rd world countries?

    RRRregulate!
     
  16. Jul 23, 2003 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    Biological and other processes offer much promise here. A similar example is that of the gold mine just outside Lead South Dakota. My dads family comes from there and he grew up around there for a time. A creek ran black for a hundred years and was known to all as dangerous. This was from all of the cyanide from the gold mine. Finally in the 1980s, the mine was told to become compliant with environmental laws or to cease operations. A chemist at the mine happened to have a background in microbiology. He remembered something about a bacteria [I think bacterial] that consumed cyanide. The mine was saved and the cost of cleaning the discharged reduced by 90%. This is one example of how easily a seemingly insurmountable problem can be managed.

    Final note on the mine. I was told that the gold was getting so scarce that they accepted an offer to shut down the mine for neutrino experiments or something similar. But still, this [(mumbles)combined with gambling] saved the town of Lead!
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2003
  17. Jul 23, 2003 #16
    indeed, we need biologists here. We need a bacteria that chews junk, farts hydrogen and ****s packaged carbon nanotubes
     
  18. Jul 23, 2003 #17

    Ivan Seeking

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    That's pretty much what the genetic engineers are working on here.
    Rude and crude bacteria..that's the ticket!
     
  19. Jul 23, 2003 #18

    russ_watters

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    So basically, we should first convert the entire elecric power production of the US to renewables, then add 50% to cover the capacity we'll need to replace fossil fules, then we'll have the clean energy to use to make hydrogen?

    Well gee, if its that easy...
    No. This is a scientific and engineering reality. Don't blame it on republicans - Bush is in favor of this pipe dream too.
    No. The maximum theoretical efficiency of an internal combustion engine is something like 40% (your car engine gets hot, doesn't it). Fuel cells on the other hand take 3 steps: electrolysis to make the water, fuel cells to turn it back into water and create electricity, and an electric motor to move the car. All 3 steps are about 95% efficient.
    Nuclear war is a potential cost of fossil fuel? Huh?
     
  20. Jul 23, 2003 #19

    Ivan Seeking

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    The alternative energy sources come with a fossil fuel price. So we mass produce hydrogen producing technologies using fossil fuel energy, then as the system achieves a positive net energy production from H2, we reduce out dependence on oil accordingly. At least that's the basic idea. I don't mean to oversimplify, but the links given go into the details.

    Really Bush's support for H2 is the one thing that could destroy my opinion of the Bushes. I never expected to hear him calling for a H2 economy, but the direction that he pursues favors a slow, fossil fuel dependent transition that gives maximum advantage to the oil companies - like fuel cells that run on gasoline...give me a break! Why don't we help Saddam start a new family too? This makes about as much sense. The point is to get rid of our dependence on oil.

    How about the energy to make the plastics and special materials for the cells? High tech materials are energy consumers; and of course we need to factor in all of the people who drive to work to make those cells. Then we must replace them regularly due to their short life span [the cells, not the people]. And of course we must drive a car that has a power system that is three times as heavy for the same power. This then requires larger transmissions and transfer cases for the higher torque...for the given power. Have you ever picked up a 50 HP electric motor? Compare the weight of an auto engine to that same HP electric motor. There is no comparison. There goes your efficiency. And now you have to do something with the garbage. Where do we throw away our fuel cells and at whose expense?

    Of course. The only authorization ever given by a president other than Truman for the use of nuclear weapons was by Carter. The Soviets were poised to sweep across the Middle East and we didn't have the conventional weapons to stop them. The reason for authorizing nukes was the oil supply which was an issue of national security. IT IS ABOUT THE OIL.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2003
  21. Jul 24, 2003 #20

    Ivan Seeking

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    The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor because we were cutting off their oil supply. What was the cost of this?
     
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