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An Ammonia Economy for Energy Transport and Storage

  1. Jul 13, 2018 #1

    BillTre

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    With a new fuel cell to make ammonia from nitrogen and water (producing oxygen as a side product), Australian researchers are hoping to develop an efficient carbon-free way to store and transport energy from sources like solar panels and wind generators.

    Ammonia's:
    Longish Science mag news article here.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 13, 2018 #2

    russ_watters

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    Ugh. This article looks written by The Onion. Basically everything that is typically wrong with such ideas/articles is included.
     
  4. Jul 13, 2018 #3

    BillTre

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    What specifically would that (they) be?
    Calling names without articulating a reason?

    One of my goals posting stories like this is to promote intelligent discussion not name calling.
     
  5. Jul 13, 2018 #4

    Bystander

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    Trivializing the thermodynamics, "Oh breaking the triple bond of N2 is just a 'small detail'." That's one that caught my eye on the first read; don't know that there's any real reason to go through it a second time. It smacks of "pot shards."
     
  6. Jul 13, 2018 #5
  7. Jul 13, 2018 #6

    russ_watters

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    I was without a keyboard when I first saw this....
    In no particular order:
    1. Breathless enthusiasm for a product that doesn't exist and has no market, with not a hint of thought to its viability (Cost? Output? Lifespan? Maintenance? Safety?, etc.).

    2. Ammonia is not a [primary] fuel source, so this has nothing to do with clean energy.

    3. Mutually exclusive goals (energy storage and ammonia production).

    4. Mis-characterizes the device (not a "fuel cell"). I clicked on the link mostly because I was confused by the thesis sentence paraphrased in the OP.

    5. Meaningless stat touting the solar power potential of a country that is 77% powered by COAL!

    5a. Touting a "fuel" that is really storage of solar power as if we already had solar power to spare to store it.

    This is probably a puff piece solicited by the owners to drum-up investment. See also: Bloom Box and the 60 Minutes debacle. Was this actually published in "Science"?(!)
    In order to promote intelligent/quality discussion, the articles linked should have quality and the OP should start the discussion with [intelligent] analysis of the topic.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
  8. Jul 13, 2018 #7

    Bystander

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    Whatever did happen with that?
     
  9. Jul 13, 2018 #8

    russ_watters

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    Nothing.

    [edit]
    Actually, it looks like they are looking to go public now. There's a problem with going public though: you have to disclose your financial information.
     
  10. Jul 13, 2018 #9

    BillTre

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    Well, since it seems to work in the older Haber-Bosch reactors as well as the newer "fuel cells". what is the relevance of this?

    Name calling.

    Really?
    No market for cleaner energy?

    Not sure what this means.
    Is ammonia not usable as a fuel?
    Or only indirectly? Maybe like gasoline in a generator to make electrical energy?

    This is a problem how? Would not ammonia store the energy?

    How is this meaningless when much of the world would like to see less release of climate changing chemicals?
    Actually knocking down that 77% would be considered a plus by many people of the more green perspective.

    Another form of name calling not supported by anything.
     
  11. Jul 13, 2018 #10

    russ_watters

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    This product has *nothing whatsoever* to do with cleaner energy generation. That is a typical part of the scam that people *must* learn to recognize. I've edited my previous post to say that more explicitly.
    A primary energy source is one that is collected (or somewhat refined) as usable energy. Sunlight, oil (gasoline), natural gas, and coal are primary energy sources. Secondary energy sources are manufactured using other energy sources. Batteries, hydrogen (when not reformed from natural gas), pumped hydro, this, or other storage is secondary energy. A secondary energy source does not help deal with global warming because it depends entirely on the primary energy source for the global warming reduction (caveat: in some cases a small improvement is possible if the efficiency of the total cycle is better, as gas engines in cars tend to waste energy at idle). In this case, pretty much anything you do with this product in Australia (E.G., use it to power cars would be my first guess) will increase greenhouse gas emissions.

    Note: this isn't like in the USA where you can say due to our fractions of clean energy from nuclear power and a lesser extent (in order), hydro, wind and solar that electric cars are a net GHG reducer. With 77% coal in their grid, it must be a net increaser of GHG emissions. It's like you're burning coal in your car.
    If you don't sell it as ammonia, yes. This article is trying to sell it twice. You can only sell it once.
    It is meaningless because it:
    1. Has nothing to do with the topic being discussed.
    2. Is an attempt to invent a benefit (carbon reduction) for a product that has no demonstrated benefit of its own.
    3. Is a fantasy number that doesn't actually mean anything. Nobody is going to cover the entire land are of Australia with solar panels and even if they did, the use of installed power output is a misleading basis for comparison (over-stating the energy output by about a factor of 5).
    I'm trying to find a rational explanation for such a terrible article. You could try providing *some* analysis of it, of your own.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
  12. Jul 13, 2018 #11

    Ygggdrasil

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    A lot of the issues with the potential for a future "hydrogen economy" that was touted in the early 2000s applies to the idea of these ammonia fuel cells. See https://www.technologyreview.com/s/402584/hype-about-hydrogen/ for a nice discussion about some of the issues with the idea of a hydrogen economy. A few additional thoughts:

    1. As others have discussed, ammonia is not a primary energy source. The article discusses using solar energy to produce ammonia. So, the question is, is ammonia generation the most efficient use of that solar energy? In the US and many other countries, one would have greater environmental and health benefits from using solar energy to displace coal-fired power plants, than say, to generate ammonia to displace gasoline in vehicles.

    2. Intermittency is a major issue with renewable energy sources like wind and solar, so storing excess energy as ammonia during off peak hours so that it can be burned later could have benefits. However, there are many other ideas and technologies for storage, and it's not clear how ammonia-based technologies would compare. It's certainly worth continuing research into the technology, but it is by no means clear that the technology will beat out some of the alternatives.

    3. Similarly, it's not clear that ammonia-power vehicles would be superior to electric vehicles. Given the existing infrastructure for delivering electricity, there would have to be significant benefits from ammonia fueled vehicles to beat out EV technology. EV technology would likely be more efficient than ammonia fuels as well since you skip the step of converting electricity to ammonia and then to hydrogen as proposed in the Science News piece.

    The technology does seem to provide a nice alternative to the Haber-Bosch process in a carbon-free future, however.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
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