May 2008

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Comments

Aldous Ruminor

It has been postulated that the RF energy is of such a frequency that it vibrates the sodium atoms so violently that they break apart the water molecules. Perhaps the RF could be considered somewhat like a catalyst.

This seems like an easy experiment to duplicate. Does anyone have any info that others besides Rustom Roy and John Kanzius have duplicated it? Given the potential to generate large fortunes one would think many would be falling all over themselves to do so.

Josh

The reason why your comparison between burning sea water and oil is not correct is as follows. If you consider the overall energy equation, when oil is burned we have something that looks like

C_8H_18 + O_2 = H_2O + CO_2 (this equation is unbalanced but illustrates the idea).

If you look at the bond energies of the octane ( C_8H_18 ), atmospheric oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide, you can see that the reaction end products have lower potential energy that the starting products, meaning that energy has been "released" and that this reaction can be used to generate electricity. While drilling for oil certainly takes energy, the energy used to extract and refine oil is less than the energy obtained from burning it. This does not give us a "perpetual motion" process because the start products are different from the end products, so we can't perform this reaction indefinitely in a closed system.

On the other hand, the energy equation for burning sea water looks like

2H_2 O -> 2H_2 + O_2 -> 2H_2 O.

Clearly the potential energy of the starting products and end products are the same (since the start and end products are the same), so you cannot get energy from this process. Indeed, since the each step of the process is somewhat inefficient, you will always loose energy in this process. If we did not loose energy in this process then we _would_ have a perpetual motion process because the start products are the same as the end products, so we could keep repeating this reaction in a closed system indefinitely, continually generating energy, which violates thermodynamics.

D. BROWN

I WAS REALLY INTO THIS BEFORE EARTH DAY. I KNOW BETTER NOW. THERE IS MANY YEARS OF ENEGY IN THE GROWND. IT WILL COST MORE, IT STILL CHEEPER THAN SOMEHOW FINDING SOME TYHING BETTER AND MAKEING IT. ITS THE CO2 THATS THE PROBLEM. AND IT LOOKS LIKE IT MAY BE CHEEPER TO TAKE IT OUT OF THE AIR. A BASE IN WATER WILL SUCK THE CO2 OUT OF THE AIR AND IT CAN RUN TILL WE GET THE CO2 DOWN TO WHATEVER WE WANT. AND THAT MAY BE BE CHEEPER AND BETTER THAT MAKEING A NEW WORLD. WITH THE OLD CO2 STILL IN IT.
The invention is confined to paper so far
A scientist has invented an artificial tree designed to do the job
of plants.
But the synthetic tree proposed by Dr Klaus Lackner does not much
resemble the leafy variety.
"It looks like a goal post with Venetian blinds," said the Columbia
University physicist, referring to his sketch at the annual meeting
of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in
Denver, Colorado.
But the synthetic tree would do the job of a real tree, he said. It
would draw carbon dioxide out of the air, as plants do during
photosynthesis, but retain the carbon and not release oxygen.
If built to scale, according to Dr Lackner, synthetic trees could
help clean up an atmosphere grown heavy with carbon dioxide, the
most abundant gas produced by humans and implicated in climate
warming.
He predicts that one synthetic tree could remove 90,000 tonnes of
CO2 in a year - the emissions equivalent of 15,000 cars.
"You can be a thousand times better than a living tree," he said.
Carbon sinks
For now, the synthetic tree is still a paper idea. But Dr Lackner is
serious about developing a working model. His efforts suggest the
wide net of ideas cast by scientists as they face the challenge of
mitigating climate change.
Dr Lackner believes that carbon sequestration technology must be
part of the long-term solution. Global reliance on fossil fuels
would not decrease any time soon, he said, and developing countries
cannot be expected to wait until alternatives are available.
The technology calls for two things: seizing carbon and then storing
it. Direct capture of CO2, from power plants for example, is the
simplest, according to Dr Lackner. But this doesn't work for all
polluters. A car can't capture and store its carbon dioxide
on-board; the storage tank would be too large.
"It's simply a question of weight," he said. "For every 14 grams of
gasoline you use, you are going to have 44 grams of CO2."
The alternative is to capture emissions from the wind. In this case,
a synthetic tree would act like a filter. An absorbent coating, such
as limewater, on its slats or "leaves" would seize carbon dioxide
and retain the carbon.
Dr Lackner predicts that the biggest expense would be in recycling
the absorber material.

TallDave

Hopefully you read down this far.

There is a truly visionary fusion project, that may produce net power fusion reactors within a decade, being developed by RW Bussard (yes, that Bussard) with funding from the US Navy. It's called Polywell fusion. Essentially, it's a more efficient Hirsh-Farnsworth fusor utilizing a polyhedral magnetic well. Electrons are confined and recirculated by a magnetic field, creating a cathode which focuses ions and produces fusion.

Several test machiens were produced. Bussard's WB-6 machine produced fusion at 5KeV, which is practically unheard of, and copious fusion at 12 KeV. Tragically, his funding was cut off just as this last machine began to produce results -- but a grassroots campaign by blogs has resulted in the Navy not only funding (a few million) for a WB-7 machine, but they are apparently willing to spend the ~$200M to develop a full-scale net power reactor that Bussard believes can be built if the WB-7 test results pan out. We will reportedly get some test results within the next few months.

Here is Bussard's speech at Google that sparked all the interest:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606&q=Google+%22Google+Tech+Talks%22+duration%3Along

There is a small (but growing) community of Polywell enthusiasts here.

http://www.talk-polywell.org/bb/index.php

And here is a very long NASA forum thread on the subject, with input from Tom Ligon, who worked with Bussard.

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=5367&mid=136500#M136500

discumBob

Adarsh Bhat wrote:
"I'm sure you saw this?
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=92954 "

An excellent discussion of the whole "burning sea water" brouhaha, point being:

1. Laws of thermodynamics irrelevant to the discussion since net energy gain is not claimed.

2. May or may not be more efficient then electrolysis. Method does not use usual electrolysis to separate 02 and H2, which leads to...

3. O2 and H2 are mixed in the resulting gas, making storage dangerous and limiting usefulness.

Since no net energy gain and no easy storage, this discovery appears to be an interesting curiosity at best.

George.Bisanz

Scott,

Hydrogen will be the medium through which the energy supply of the future will flow through the economy. It is by far the easiest and most environmentally-friendly option, so any breakthroughs regarding the infrastructure required for a "hydrogen economy" will pay off.

How the hydrogen will be produced is the problem. The article you referenced is quite exciting, if it is proven that the energy released is greater than the energy required, even if it is only slightly so. We can afford to cycle billions of gallons of water through such a system if clean energy can be produced from it. Bottling the hydrogen and creating hydrogen pipelines would probably be more efficient than transmitting the energy through the electrical grid, although I'm sure both options will be used at the same time for different consumers.

**Tongue in cheek- I am worried, however, about the environmental impact of a hydrogen economy. Think about it: Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas. We'd stop producing CO2, but we'd produce H20 in its place, so global warming will continue (in fact, this would accelerate considering that energy-efficiency concerns will be reduced with such an abundant supply of power going around).

The climates near major cities would also change drastically if every power plant and vehicle released so much water into the atmosphere. We could potentially create a hurricane over land with so much man-made, artificially-heated water vapor.

This would also be considered Bush's fault, because he's the President that made speeches regarding alternative energy sources.**

Peter Paul

The Energy problem is a more difficult problem than most people realise. It is all about efficiencies. The most efficient energy sources at the moment are gas (90%) and oil (80%). Unfortunately, these have a high CO2 emission. The most efficient energy source with a considerate lower CO2 emission is nuclear energy (60%). This is also not preferable for obvious reasons. The Windturbines, as suggested by Scott, also have a too low efficiency. If we want to fulfill the worlds energy consumption entirely by windmills the surface needed would be 3times the land surface of the world. I don't know the efficieny of Hydrogen but I don't need to since it is not economical viable and probably will not be in the coming ten years. But the problem of hydrogen hints that the energy problem is actually a technical problem and will be solved in the future when we advance technically.

Another problem is abandoning efficient energy sources for less efficient energy sources, for example solve the problem of CO2 Emission, will solve one problem and therefore create another (bigger) problem. Another comment already stated the problem of Bio-ethonal. And don't get me started about all the soja eating people creating deforesting in the Amazon.

At the moment the solution doesn't lie in changing energy sources but using the energy sources more efficiently. For example, coal, gas, oil is used to create warmth for warming water and houses. Warmth is one of the lowest energy sources and therefore it makes no sence to use high quality energy sources to create it. When electricity is constracted from high quality energy sources then often warmth is rest-product. We can use this rest-product for warming are houses. This is already done in the industry itself but it should be done on a much larger scale

Deepesh Garg

In response to rwc:

Energy consumed to extract oil and energy produced by burning oil are two different things. In this case it is possible that energy consumed is less than energy produced.

Energy consumed to break water molecules (H20) in to Hydrogen and Oxygen and energy produced by burning Hydrogen (Resulting in water molecules again) is the same process in either direction. In this case energy consumed cannot, never be less than energy produced. It will always be equal infact, but because of the inefficiencies introduced by any system it is practically impossible (read law of thermodynamics) to get a 100% efficient system. And even if you managed to do so, there is not much point as your net gain is 0.

Producing Hydrogen in this manner and using it in controlled fusion to produce energy can be very rewarding, but last I know it is still not possible to do controlled fusion in a profitable way.

Deepesh

d.brown

most of what you hear about H2 is hype. it takes a lot of it to make power, its not dence. its the least dense thing there is. when it leaks it goes in cracks and makes them bigger, till it falls apart. making all this new stuff will make a lot of CO2. the best way i know of cutting CO2 would be to make the trains all electric not just oil-electric. they have the electric moters. for a start just string power lines in places that need a lot of power to go up. then move on to what they have in most of the west. this would hurt opic. use dams or nukes to make the power would cut the co2. large pools of salt water will store sun heat. use that heat to power Stirling engines. best of all use the newsafe german nuke power. the opne the greens stopped. about the greens, east germany used sovit nukes. and they kept real good data. there was supposet to be a lot of new data on nukes and human dager. the greens are sitting on it to study it. only no one knows anybody thats studing it. the greens just will not let it go. why.

Dan

From Wikipedia:
"If energy for hydrogen production were available (from wind, solar or nuclear power), use of the substance for hydrocarbon synfuel production could expand captive use of hydrogen by a factor of 5 to 10. Present U.S. use of hydrogen for hydrocracking is roughly 4 million metric tons per year (MMT/yr). It is estimated that 37.7 MMT/yr of hydrogen would be sufficient to convert enough domestic coal to liquid fuels to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil importation [3], and less than half this figure to end dependence on Middle East oil. Coal liquefaction would present significantly worse emissions of carbon dioxide than does the current system of burning fossil petroleum, but it would eliminate the political and economic vulnerabilities inherent in oil importation.
Currently, global hydrogen production is 48% from natural gas, 30% from oil, and 18% from coal; water electrolysis accounts for only 4%.[4] The distribution of production reflects the effects of thermodynamic constraints on economic choices: of the four methods for obtaining hydrogen, partial combustion of natural gas in a NGCC (natural gas combined cycle) power plant offers the most efficient chemical pathway and the greatest off-take of usable heat energy.
The large market and sharply rising prices have also stimulated great interest in alternate, cheaper means of hydrogen production."

and:

"The predominant methods of hydrogen production rely on exothermic chemical reactions of fossil fuels to provide the energy needed to chemically convert feedstock into hydrogen. But when the energy supply is mechanical (hydropower or wind turbines), hydrogen can be made via electrolysis of water. In current market conditions, the 50 kWh of electricity consumed to manufacture one kilogram of hydrogen is roughly as valuable as the hydrogen produced, assuming 8 cents/kWh. The price equivalence, despite the inefficiencies of electrical production and electrolysis, are due to the fact that most hydrogen is made from fossil fuels which couple more efficiently to producing the chemical directly, than they do to producing electricity. However, this is of no help to a hydrogen economy, which must derive hydrogen from any source other than fossil fuels if it is to achieve the goals which primarily drive it."

and:

"Hydrogen can be generated from energy supplied in the form of heat (e.g., that of concentrating solar thermal or nuclear) and electricity through high-temperature electrolysis (HTE). In contrast with low-temperature electrolysis, HTE of water converts more of the initial heat energy into chemical energy (hydrogen), potentially doubling efficiency, to about 50%. Because some of the energy in HTE is supplied in the form of heat, less of the energy must be converted twice (from heat to electricity, and then to chemical form), and so potentially far less energy is required per kilogram of hydrogen produced. HTE has been demonstrated in a laboratory, but not at a commercial scale."


So, if this RF method works well, is efficient enough and cost-effective, one could see much more than 4% of the hydrogen produced from water, thus eliminating another use of fossil fuels. If we have more hydrogen available from non hydrocarbon sources, we can use hydrocracking to convert coal instead of using oil from the middle east. We might also find more and better ways to use hydrogen directly. The HTE process description goes on to mention that it is usually considered that nuclear power is needed for the high energies and temperatures required, and has not been commercially viable yet... So, again, RF induced electrolysis could potentially be a way to improve the efficiencies, costs, and viability of hydrogen production from water. None of the current processes for extracting hydrogen are in and of themselves "producing more energy than they use" folks.... Not a requirement.

rwc

Hydrogen - small and slippery (as in it leaks out through solid metal vessels with disturbing ease).

Wind - three problems:
(a) 30% capacity factor on a good wind site,
(b) you need a dispatchable resource (typically a natural gas fired plant) to shape it as part of a larger generation portfolio (fill in the "dips" when the wind suddenly stops blowing), and
(c) the transmission to move the energy is costly given the low capacity factor.

Not insurmountable problems and a lot of good folks up here in the NW and elsewhere are working on it.

Cheers.

Jez

In response to a number of posts below confusing viability with efficiency, let me go out on a limb:

The energy consumed by extracting the fuel can be (and would need to be) less than the energy the fuel produces. That doesn't violate any laws. Nobody's claiming the combusted fuel replaces itself (even if that is the holy grail; and even then it might not be 100% efficient; it might be ridiculously efficient and change the way we thing about capacity, and it might just produce a drizzle of itself).

The key thing is that extracting hydrogen by firing radio stuff at seawater has to consume less energy than the burning hydrogen gives off, which is entirely plausible, (and I have to be able to get from A to B on a reasonably sized tank of hydrogen). That isn't perpetual motion. I'm still gonna burn the hydrogen and get some more.

Same with oil - a couple of posters imply by their reasoning ("People are saying the discovery is worthless because it takes more energy to run than it produces. So does oil... IT DOESN'T HAVE TO CREATE MORE ENERGY THAN GOES INTO IT TO BE USEFUL, IT JUST HAS TO BE MORE EFFICIENT THAN FOSSIL FUELS TO CHANGE THE GAME!") that extracting oil requires more energy than the burning oil gives off. That would be stupid. There'd be no oil to sell. When wells get that dry they just cap them. Of course it has to create more energy than goes into it. It just physically can't create more energy than it contains.

The perpetual motion thing only means that by burning hydrogen I don't get to create an excess of hydrogen to burn, thus requiring no top-up. But the thing with fuel is we know we'd need a top-up.

We know hydrogen is efficient enough to get from A to B on a dime in a realistically sized tank. We just need to know if this is a physically and economically viable way of extracting the hydrogen.

I'm no physicist but I'm pretty sure that's correct. Tell me if it isn't.

JK

These guys have solved the issue of storing wind generated power to make a dispatchable on demand:
www.generalcompression.com

Dan

Okay: Hydrogen is ALREADY produced by use of electrolysis, no matter how inefficient, and without any "must get more energy out than we put in" because there are applications for hydrogen that warrant that cost.

This MAY be a more efficient way than is currently available to extract that same hydrogen for those same purposes. It MAY be a lower cost way to do so. It MAY therefore lower the costs for those users, who may then be able to be more competitive and pass those cost savings along to their customers.

And applications for hydrogen that have been prohibitively expensive thus far MAY become affordable enough to implement and market.

If the only products available were those that produce more energy than they consume, there would be NOTHING on the market.

Batteries do not produce more energy than is put into them, yet they serve a specific purpose. Your car wastes about 50% of the energy in gasoline in the form of heat, but you still drive it. A method in either application that makes the process less wasteful or less expensive or both is welcome.

The RF process likely WILL use more energy than it produces in the form of hydrogen--but it could still be BETTER and MORE EFFICIENT than electric dc electrolysis currently used, or high temperature electrolysis, which may likely lose a lot of energy as wasted heat that did not reach the salt water.

Salt Water is not a Magic Fuel when you hit it with RF. But hitting it with RF may turn out to be the best way to get at the hydrogen, and may turn out to be a far better way than is already in use. But if not, more's the pity, since we are extracting hydrogen from water whether or not this turns out to be better.

John D

Scotty asks, "Why do you have to store the energy?" Good question, and important in understanding the difficulties of powering a nation like ours from alternate sources.

It's highly desirable to be able to store excess energy from wind and sun when it's available, mainly because the OTHER sources of electrical power we use on a large scale cannot just be turned on the moment they're needed (ie, when the sun goes behind a cloud) and off again a minute later when there's enough power coming into the grid from the alternative sources.

Right now this is not an issue with small scale wind power, because it's such a small fraction of the total consumption. Coal and nuclear power plants can be throttled enough to compensate for small short-term fluctuations. But both require many minutes to hours to start up or shut down in a normal fashion, and are very inefficient to keep idling whenever another power source just happens to be available for a while.

Gas turbine co-generation can handle demand and availability fluctions with only a few minutes' notice, but even that's not fast enough. Also, burning natural gas for electricity drives up the prices for home heating, because supplies of this commodity never seem to be adequate either; and it's noisy, therefore unpopular in many areas; and it's also a CO2 source.

Interestingly, hydropower has the theoretical ability to respond to load and availability changes in a matter of seconds to a few minutes, which is the target time frame--but with the drawback of causing drastic water level fluctuations downstream, so there would be a lot of resistance to designating hydroelectricity to compensate for wind and solar fluctuations.

That's why, if there were a good way of storing excess output of wind and solar farms in order to power vehicles (or even homes, via hydrogen fuel cells), that would have advantages over just hooking them straight to the grid at certain times of day and hoping for the best.

Noah Vaile

Doesn't it take electricity to produce radio waves?
And have y'all noticed how food prices have been going up ever since corn based ethanol became the official renewable energy alternative fuel of the USofA. Thank you president doesn't buy groceries. And thank you congress NIMBY oil drilling. Shameful.

Peter

One of the other MAJOR costs of any form of energy (and other utilities such as water) is shipping it from the production site to the consumer.
Putting the engines (Stirling or wind) in a desert still keeps it well away from where it will be used.
Have a windmill on your roof - next to the solar panels - and a Stirling engine built into the walls somehow. Then you can use what you need at the same place it is produced and let any excess feed back into the grid.
The requirements for supplementary local power are very different from a large base-load supply and there are some technologies around which may suitable.
Arguably this would be a better option for developing countries (which do not already have the large infrastructure - and vested interests - in place).
An example of this with Water production is the Whisson Windmill - it has not yet been proven to be practical, but the concept of decentralising water production is revolutionary.

SoWhy

To use electricity to produce hydrogen that can be stored, you need water in huge quantities - something deserts usually lack of...

Leora

I wanted to build my own windmill, topped with a broadcast repeater so I could finally get high-speed Internet, but was told I needed a permit. It was going to cost 20-30 grand to build, but I figured it was worth it.
Now I live on 5 acres of mostly wooded land, surrounded by farms and such, but apparently such a permit was out of the question because the windmill would be a "visual disturbance". To whom? I asked. Well, other people...who would have to be flying overhead or plowing the neighbour's field to see it. Right.
Nothing to do with Hydro's monopoly, then, eh?
Right.
Sure.

And so ended my dreams for erecting a giant penis of my very own.

Craig

Recapping what others said: The ratio of usable energy divided by energy invested to obtain it is >1 for fossil fuels, but less than 1 for "burning water".

What few, if any others said: "burning water" may still be very useful. Some people like the idea of Hydrogen-powered cars, because either (1) the energy used to create the hydrogen is done outside of cities, and therefore the pollution associated with that energy is emitted outside of cities, or (2) we could presumably use some form of "clean" energy to produce the hydrogen (i.e., solar, wind, geothermal), and thus hydrogen cars might cause less pollution than fossil-fuel cars.

Thus, if "burning water" produces hydrogen more efficiently than current methods, the world could still be better off.

I hope that the new method is more efficient!

Craig

wrench

I'm going to invoke the second law of thermodynamics without knowing all the details. It is infinitely improbable that exposing seawater to RF turns it into some amazing ambient energy sponge. It's simply the frequency used matches the O-H bonding energy by some harmonic ratio. Want to save the world? Create a capacitance dielectric that can handle very high voltage with very small gap. Or create a way to make IC grade silicon wafer for pennies per square foot.

Joshua Jacobsen

Mr Wampus: You seem to misunderstand something, or miswrote your argument. We have countless exotic and traditional ways of creating energy. However if you get less energy out of a process than you put into it, you can't solve energy problems. Petroleum, contrary to your statement, gives us far more energy than it requires to extract, refine, transport, and trade.

OJR

Criticism #1 is not that good. Sterling generators that work during the day are still very useful. Last time I checked, peak power generation occurred during the day. Sterling + Wind during the day and Wind at night. Sounds like a good solution to me...

JMH

It looks like a good many of people here are enamored with wind power, so indulge me to go a little off topic. Clearly, wind power is not the silver bullet (at least in the US). One reason is the paltry generation capacity of a single generator. GE's current popular models are in the 2.2 MW generating capacity range (and usually are not gerenerating at capacity). Compare that to the mediumish 1960's coal fired plants here in the east that do over 1 GW. So that is fantasy scenario 500, but more like over 1000, windmills neened to equal one 40 year old coal plant. Assuming 1000 windmill at 6 per mile, (that's pretty tight) that is almost 170 miles of windmill. We just don't have windy land for sale like that. Wind tech will always be a fringe market except in a few small areas where everything is just right for it. To really add generation capacity one would either have to continue with big coal, gas, and nuke plants, or develop 20 different green and sexy fringe energy products.
That being said, when goverment incentives are considered, there is a bundle of money to be made building, owning, and operating windmills. My 19 other imagined green and sexy fringe energy producers could no doubt experience similar results.
Either way, a financed and clever guy like you, Scott, stands to double his money quickly in the energy market.

Apintie

About the storage problem: The Economist had two articles on the subject in its July 26th issue, one about storing excess electricity as compressed air and a second one about running large (scale of a continent) electricity grids on DC (lower losses) interconnecting in this way lots of windmills. Since there would be lots of them all over the place the wind would always blow somewhere (as it does I guess).

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