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CO2 To Fuel, Closing the "Carbon Loop"

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the squeeze-as-much-as-you-can dept.

Science 316

leprasmurf writes "Inhabitat has posted an article detailing a recent announcement of a process to turn CO2 into fuel. The process, which used to be considered too energy inefficient, uses a multi-step, low pressure, and low temperature biocatalyst to break the CO2 into 'basic hydrocarbon building blocks.'"

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316 comments

Vaporware alert (5, Informative)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 5 years ago | (#25361823)

FTFA:

The key to our CO2-to-Fuel approach lies in a proprietary multi-step biocatalytic process.

Searching the company's website, there is no mention whatsoever of even a single gallon of usable fuel being susccessfully produced using their method. There is, of course, mention of "investment opportunities".

Re:Vaporware alert (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25361899)

Just imagine if they could turn stink into a fuel.

They could pack all of the USA's H-1B applicants into a room and pipe the air into a power plant. Everybody would win: the USA would have a cheap and renewable source of energy and the H-1B applicants would actually be worth their weight in stink.

Re:Vaporware alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362017)

Or for better efficiency, you could use the hygiene deficient geeks the H-1B holders are replacing. But first you'd have to figure out how to connect the piping to their mothers' basements.

Re:Vaporware alert (0)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362249)

Connecting piping to their mothers' basements would be horribly inefficient. You'd have to lure them out and consolidate them into a single location. Luckilly, we have this [blizzard.com] , this [e3expo.com] , and these among others.

Re:Vaporware alert (5, Funny)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362043)

I know the proprietary process:

Get a Snake,
Get some CO2,
Suffecate the Snake,
Extract Snake Oil.

Re:Vaporware alert (4, Insightful)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362463)

I know an even better one. Plant a willow tree. Wait three years, chop it down. Then keep chopping it down every two years.

Re:Vaporware alert (5, Funny)

hobbit (5915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362857)

Exception at line ("Then keep chopping it down every two years"): Attempt to chop down an already chopped-down tree.

Re:Vaporware alert (4, Informative)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362995)

Exception at line ("Then keep chopping it down every two years"): Attempt to chop down an already chopped-down tree.

Willow trees will grow back after being chopped down, as anyone who's ever tried to get one out of their yard can tell you.

Re:Vaporware alert (4, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362151)

> There is, of course, mention of "investment opportunities".

Yup, these investor scams show up like clockwork on slashdot these days. One week it is a solar energy scheme that doesn't pass the smell test, some weeks it gets all the way to perpetual motion scams making the front page but lately there does seem to be a need for a green angle being pitched to make slash.

This one is almost certainly a scam. No mention of an energy source is the giveaway. You can't use a catalyst to add energy to a reaction even if you toss the bio- prefix into the ad copy. The diagram on the page does at least have something that looks like tanks but you aren't likely to collect enough solar energy to offset much of a power plant that way. Just feed the CO2 to real biology,,,, like plants, alage, etc. if you want to convert sunlight + CO2 into complex hydrocarbons.

Re:Vaporware alert (1, Funny)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362427)

I admit it, this is an attempt by my cat [multiply.com] to get venture-capital funding for his amazing system to pass air through water, causing the CO2 and nitrogen in the air and hydrogen and oxygen in the water to react, creating oil. I'm going to have to lock him up in the bathroom to punish him.

Re:Vaporware alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362775)

Where does the "H" come from? CO2 has no Hydrogene atom, the smallest hydrocarbon is methane. CH4 or CH3 with another atom. You always need a source for the H atoms.

Re:Vaporware alert (2, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362833)

Question #1 for any vendor of rainbow-harvesting energy technologies is: "So, your office / lab / factory is powered using the results of your own process, is it?"

uh (5, Insightful)

niteice (793961) | more than 5 years ago | (#25361825)

Photosynthesis?

Re:uh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25361919)

Yeah, it seems like you couldn't MAKE a better energy source than algae already does, for free.
Invest in this, please.

Re:uh (1)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362031)

The very uninformative block diagram indicates there are 3 "bioreactor" type things - i would wager at least one of the "intermediate carbon" things is sugar.

Re:uh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362209)

It became uncool at some point in time...

Re:uh (4, Funny)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362375)

Animals convert oxygen into carbon dioxide (by breathing*). Plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen (by photosynthesis). Fungi "breathe" like animals do.

My solution to global warming: Eat more steak and mushrooms and less vegetables.

*Simplification due to the various processes that animals use (i.e. lungs or gills)

Breathing under the influence. (0)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25361883)

"Inhabitat has posted an article detailing a recent announcement of a process to turn CO2 into Fuel."

And you all thought a Breathalyzer was bad.

New Porcess? (5, Funny)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#25361893)

The process, which used to be considered too energy inefficient, uses a multi-step, low pressure, and low temperature biocatalyst to break the CO2 into 'basic hydrocarbon building blocks.

1) Grow a plant.
2) Stick in the ground for a few thousand years.
3) Dig up resultant black goo.
4) Distill goo into reactive liquid and distribute...

How is this new? When did it become more efficient?

Re:New Process? (3, Funny)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#25361903)

Self owned. No spell check in the title bar....

Re:New Process? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25361995)

*sigh* Why admit a mistake, when you could have just cleverly defined "porcess?"

Porcess Profits (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362155)

New word derivation: pork, porcine, porcess. Obviously the word is related to the missing #5 step Profit. No doubt he concludes its a method of getting government subsidies and tax break investments in order to make a "silk purse out of a sow's ear". As has been very obvious a corporation does not need to show a profit on the books for it to be profitable to its founders and officers, too obviously of late.

Re:New Process? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362377)

*sigh* Why admit a mistake, when you could have just cleverly defined "porcess?"

A "porcess" is a female pig, I thought everyone knew that.

Re:New Process? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362517)

A "porcess" is a female pig, I thought everyone knew that.

That is the ones with the lipstick?

Faster version (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362655)

With some plants, after you've

  • 1. grown the plant and
  • 2. harvested the commercially valuable buds, you can
  • 3. take the remaining leaves and use reactive liquid solvents to extract black goo. You then execute
  • 4. .... (as opposed to the alternative 4. Explode!) and
  • 5. .... (as opposed to 5. Get caught!) and then
  • 6. Profit!!

Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (5, Informative)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 5 years ago | (#25361907)

Just Basic Organic Chemistry... This process of "upgrading" has been done for decades to create "Synthetic" oils and other hydrocarbons. They just are using something magical called "Biocatalytic Reactors" (Probably contain high temperature enzymes and catalysts but operate at lower temps than current industrial processes). This is just reversing the hydrocarbon oxidation (burning) process using some for of "upgrader" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_petroleum_industry_in_Canada_(oil_sands_and_heavy_oil)#Upgraders [wikipedia.org] . These reactions to reduce CO2 into "fuel" will be VERY endothermic (absorb heat energy) and must take place at higher temps without Oxygen present.. All that energy must come from somewhere! It is just sooooo much cheaper to use hydrocarbons from the ground.
CO2 is just an acidic oxide of Carbon.
To create 'fuel' from it you must change it to something completely different by adding significant energy and removing the Oxygen... The energy is stored in the formed carbon bonds and hydrogen bonds (Why we call these type of fuels Hydro-carbons).
CO2 is a significantly lower energy state carbon oxide compound.
This process is not different than the incorrect view that H2O (water) is a as fuel. (Sure after you add massive amounts of electricity and electrolytically separate (reduce) the hydrogen from the oxygen from the hydrogen into hydrogen gas and Oxygen.
This is really the same thing using some "Biocatayltic Reactor" to add energy to CO2 to separate the carbon from the oxygen (reduction of the carbon to a non-oxidized form such as CO2 or CO)

You cannot hide from the chemistry.
The energy to do this MUST come from *SOMEWHERE*. Considering that 99% of the massive amounts of energy stored in the molecular bonds of all fossil fuels do not have to be added to these fuels in their extraction, refinement, delivery to end-users, what this "new" technology is doing is just adding the "Creation" part of the hydrocarbon fuel and that takes about 99% more energy to do because you still have the remaining three steps.

I will bet that this process is more expensive than letting mother nature create starches/sugars that we then modify into hydrocarbon "fuels".
It is VERY hard to beat the efficiency of mother nature on this one:
6CO2 + 6H2O + Light = C6H12O6 (Glucose) + 6O2

I wonder what a gallon of this "fuel" costs. (Add enough energy to most substances and you can create "fuel" to them.) CO2 is a waste product because it (and CO and H2O) is the lowest energy product of hydrocarbon combustion (oxidation). This is Basic Chemistry.

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362047)

You cannot hide from the chemistry. The energy to do this MUST come from *SOMEWHERE*.

Chemistry?? I think you mean Physics. I can hide from your stamp collecting at the center of a black hole, if need be.

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (2, Funny)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362871)

You cannot hide from the chemistry. The energy to do this MUST come from *SOMEWHERE*.

Chemistry?? I think you mean Physics. I can hide from your stamp collecting at the center of a black hole, if need be.

I think you mean mathematics. [xkcd.com]

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (5, Interesting)

el_chupanegre (1052384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362089)

Funnily enough there was a program on TV here in the UK last night about producing electricity from CO2 and water.

Two guys in the New Mexico desert had a huge mirror array the focussed the sun into a really intense beam (they could melt steel with it) and directed it into a giant furnace, which I think got to 2400 degrees C, but could have been 4200. This heated the air inside to separate the CO2 which they could then use to create hydrocarbons.

This all worked on a huge scale of course, but they also had a smaller version that could produce 2-3 gallons of fuel a day that was about the size of a pretty young small tree.

So I agree that the energy has to come from somewhere in order to separate the CO2, but who says that energy can't come from solar power eventually? Of course this is more expensive now, but it'll be getting cheaper all the time as oil gets more expensive.

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (5, Informative)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362149)

Yup, it's one of the things [sandia.gov] they're working on here. I'm still hoping they get a decent fusion setup [sandia.gov] going but the solar work is still pretty cool.

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362419)

Bugger a "decent fusion setup". Just use a tree.

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (4, Funny)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362469)

If they can figure a way to tap into trees and get them sending a current to the grid, that'd be cool! An electric forest, stretching to the horizon, with just the stench of fried squirrel...

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362649)

Stench? That's the sweet smell of victory, my friend.

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (3, Interesting)

AshtangiMan (684031) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362255)

I think it's interesting that these guys are collecting a LOT of energy and using it to make fuel, that is then burned to create energy. That's a couple of conversions. If they are able to melt steel, why not then melt salt and use the big bucket of molten salt to drive a steam turbine that generates electricity? I'd be willing to bet that in the end they would end up with more usable energy per unit time.

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362659)

They probably could, and it's a great idea. It's just that right now our entire transportation infrastructure is built around hydrocarbons, in part because they just happen to be a very dense and convenient source for stored energy. "Usable energy" kinda depends on the use you want to put that energy to.

Not that I wouldn't love to have something like that in my backyard with a power cord running to my house and my electric car. =D

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (1)

mozzis (231162) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362823)

With solar, maintaining a consistent flow is always an issue - darkness and weather make solar power inconsistent. Converting solar to hydrocarbon fuel may be worthwhile since some percentage of the solar energy gets "stored" in the fuel, which can be burned as needed.

Here's your heat source.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362173)

...how about locating the reactors in the Deserts of our planet so they can simply absorb lots of heat from the environment?

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362641)

You cannot hide from the chemistry.
The energy to do this MUST come from *SOMEWHERE*.

Well, duh. That's not the point. The attractiveness of such a process is that we have a world built around hydrocarbons, we're running out of fuel, the climate is taking offense at all the CO2 in the atmosphere and there is a giant fission reactor 1AU from here which constantly delivers a huge amount of energy to us (but we haven't yet found a way to store that energy). If you could use the energy from the sun to turn CO2 back into usable fuel, that would solve quite a lot of problems in one go.

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362723)

s/fission/fusion/
It's been a long day.

Re:Just Basic Organic Chemistry... (1)

AcidPenguin9873 (911493) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362651)

Great post, and I'm skeptical too, but two points:

  • The point isn't about energy, it's about carbon. I know that CO2 is a terribly low-energy byproduct of hydrocarbon combustion, but that's the point - we want to get rid of the byproduct. We're going to continue to use hydrocarbon fuels because they're relatively cheap, so we're going to continue to put huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere which used to be tied up in heavy hydrocarbons deep in the earth. I'd want to see some hard efficiency numbers of this system, which might make it not worth it...but the extra benefit (in addition to making fuel from "free" energy sources like the sun/waste heat) is that the energy they are putting in is *also* removing carbon from the atmosphere. I don't know how much energy it would take to just plain remove an equivalent amount of CO2 from the atmosphere, but both things are happening here so you have to analyze it from both views.
  • They mentioned biocatalysts, which could be a buzzword, but also could be real. I remember from basic chemistry that catalysts lowered the activation point of a reaction. Maybe whatever biocatalysts they're using can accumulate enough energy from a low-exergy, ambient source like exhaust heat from, say, a coal-fired power plant, and slowly stitch up carbons and hydrogens together to form a hydrocarbon. It probably depends on the chemical mechanism of the hydrocarbon formation. Speaking of that, do we understand the mechanism by which hydrocarbons in the earth were formed (beyond "lots of heat and pressure"...I mean chemically how the bonds form, in what order, were there catalyst/activation sites on other materials, etc.). Maybe such a slow catalyzed process isn't possible...but maybe it is?

Like I said, I'm skeptical too...but I want to hope that such a thing is possible...

Plants turn CO2 into fuel as well... (2, Informative)

w3woody (44457) | more than 5 years ago | (#25361927)

Plants can also turn CO2 into fuel--but it all takes energy. For plants, the energy comes from the sun.

Where does the energy come from for the Carbon Sciences process? All I see are diagrams of a "biocatalyst" and an explanation that somehow it takes less energy for their process--but the amount of energy in to turn CO2 into a biofuel must necessarily be more than the amount of energy you'll get back out of that biofuel.

In this house... (5, Funny)

Oscaro (153645) | more than 5 years ago | (#25361939)

In this house we observe the laws of thermodynamics.

Re:In this house... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362101)

Do we obey [wikiquote.org] those laws as well, or do we just look at them from a distance while continuing to act as we please?

SCAM (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25361951)

There's WAY too much in the way of unanswered questions here. Mainly: WHERE is the ENERGY coming from?

Bio-this-and-that doesn't change the thermodynamics of it.

The homepage of this company is VERY suspicious. Any company like this that focuses as much on 'investor relations' as on the tech itself (and has a penny stock to boot!) is likely bullshit.

The tech pages say NOTHING of where the energy is coming from. NOTHING about what kind of 'biocatalytic' processes are involved. And patent bullshit like

"Of greatest significance, our process occurs at low temperature and low pressure, thereby requiring far less energy than other approaches."

Um, no.. The VAST BULK of the energy you spend on making hydrocarbons out of CO2 will ALWAYS be on the energy required for the reaction itself. (Unless the process was created by a total incompetent.)

Re:SCAM (2, Interesting)

cgenman (325138) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362799)

They're intentionally masking their whois domain information. According to Popular Mechanics, they can make toothpaste. [popularmechanics.com]

Very confusing. Why not just tell us what the base energy source is? Otherwise, it's just a perpetual motion machine.

Misleading Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25361953)

This process, known as Dowers Conversion, has been shown to be extremely inefficient. The uptake energy flow often amounts to the heat dissipation, which really detracts from the captured source amount. Several respected physicists, such as Hoederring at UTSC, Berlin have panned this idea as a perpetual motion hoax.

Re:Misleading Summary (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25362131)

A rampaging mob of respectable physicists?

Angry because they dont get invited to that sort of party?

Thermodynamics Works. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25361955)

There has to be some energy input if they're going to be breaking up CO2 and turning it into oxygen and hydrocarbons. There also has to be some source of hydrogen.

If they were able to get cheap hydrogen and electricity without using even more fossil fuels, we probably wouldn't need this process in the first place.

Use case please. (1)

victim (30647) | more than 5 years ago | (#25361965)

If you had the clean energy available to power this process at a coal fired power plant, why wouldn't you just sell that energy in the first place and dispense with the coal?

I suppose you could burn coal and use the energy and some of the CO2 to make a lesser amount of gasoline, diesel, or some other more portable fuel.

New section (5, Insightful)

LSD-OBS (183415) | more than 5 years ago | (#25361973)

Can we please have a new Crackpot (or maybe Quackpot, or Snakepot, shit, I dunno) section on slashdot, specifically for these half-baked bullshit stories? Would make a nice replacement for Idle, methinks.

I mean, unless this was just meant to remind us of high school [wikipedia.org] science & biology. Heck, that'd also make a nice Idle section substitute.

Total scam! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25361985)

More snake oil, this time with an enviro sales pitch.

The company's website, Carbon Sciences [carbonsciences.com] has no real information, no science, no scientific articles, no patents pending, nothing.

It's also very weird that they are based in Santa Barbara (California), but only collaborate with a university in Finland. No universities closer than Finland? That commute is pretty long. Southern California is full of schools.

Of course, Carbon Sciences are a penny stock on the NASDAQ over-the-counter market (is leprasmurf an investor?):

http://www.carbonsciences.com/01/investors.php [carbonsciences.com]

http://finance.yahoo.com/q?d=t&s=CABN.OB [yahoo.com]

You are safer investing in Lehman Brothers or AIG.

SCAM ALERT!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25361993)

A quick browse of their website turns up enough buzzwords to make Bush's Press secretary do the technicolor yawn (barf).

"Biocatalyst"?!? WTF is that?

This company is just looking for rubes with money to "invest" in something that works as well as the pill that magically turns water into gasoline.

I smell snake oil.

Perpetuum mobile? (1)

X10 (186866) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362019)

If you can make fuel out of CO2 from a power plant, why use that power plant in the first place? Why not make fuel out of thin air? There's plenty of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Snake Oil (4, Funny)

Tanman (90298) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362027)

No, really, I'm serious! They use snake oil. The oil excreted by snakes as they burrow from their underground lairs is what actually creates oil. However, it takes combinations of snake oil from both venomous and non-venomous snakes to make oil that is combustable -- That's why there are MULTIPLE PHASES of the transformation from CO2 to the necessary compounds.

The real secret here is finding snakes capable of slithering over blocks of dry ice without freezing to death. The way they do that is they pour piping hot McDonald's coffee on the snakes before having them slither over the dry ice to create the oil sludges required. Hence, they use snake oil.

That, or this is a crock of shit and shouldn't get the time of day.

In reality we'd be better off with wind fuelcell (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362039)

The problem is that all the energy studies I've seen (which anyone at a university or college can read) seem to show the highest bang-for-the-buck is for wind turbines being used to crack water (H20) into fuel cells to power large vehicles, especially trains (where a fuel cell powerplant works well) and large tractor trailers (less efficient).

Carbon sequestration and recycling, while important long-term goals, won't be able to do anything before 2050, by which time we're more likely to have fusion power.

Stick with what works - tidal, geothermal, wind, solar, algae biofuel - not with things that are difficult to deliver in a timespan longer than your entire working lifetime.

Re:In reality we'd be better off with wind fuelcel (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362357)

Let's not call the race before it's over. While wind might be ahead in terms of "bang-for-the-buck" (not sure what that means exactly) it would be a mistake to back only that.

See which renewable energy becomes viable first on a wide scale. This is probably information that's easily accessible, and so I'm being lazy, but hypothetically if these wind fuel cells will work in fairbanks alaska, but not well anywhere else, then obviously it would be a mistake to fund them and only them.

If this algae stuff works mediocre in all environments, then we back it.

I also have to say that this technology is being touted as a way specifically to recycle carbon, wheras wind fuel cells don't. So... while wind fuel cells may be great, they're not doing what this stuff does. Kind of like pointing out that the prius is super fuel efficient. That's great and all, but if you need a tow truck, the advantages of the prius don't make a difference. Wind might be more efficient and affordable, but doesn't do anythign with CO2.

Re:In reality we'd be better off with wind fuelcel (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362515)

I didn't say it was the only choice, the reality is we need to invest in BUILDING all the other choices.

how does this crap make front page? (2, Informative)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362073)

"somebody has CO2, and made it into fuel! no details!"

there's a million ways to do that

all of which require energy. there is no way to convert CO2 into any kind of usable fuel that does also include putting energy in at some point

whereever that energy comes from is the real story. since that isn't even hinted at, there's no story here. or, alternatively, some idiot thinks you can turn CO2 into fuel without an energy input. which beggars the low end of the iq curve in terms of understanding the subject matter here

if i took random spam from my inbox about growing my penis size and posted it here, that would be more informative and useful than this crap nonstory

Re:how does this crap make front page? (0, Offtopic)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362183)

Why the hell would I care about you growing your penis size? Now, if there was info about my penis size increasing, sure, post away!

Los Alamos' Green Freedom (5, Interesting)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362167)

Last February, Los Alamos announced they had a process that converts CO2 to gasoline. [lanl.gov] The associated white paper proposed using a nuclear reactor to provide the requisite energy to drive the process. They went as far as to estimate the costs of their process and pegged the cost of gasoline at $4.30 gallon at the pump. A significant fraction of their cost estimate was credit costs to finance the plant. They figured 50 cents for every dollar sales given the billions they'd need to start the process. Without factoring the credit costs (which they could do if they could convince enough investors to take an equity position instead of borrowing the capital) they estimated their process produced gasoline at $1.40 per gallon.

Can someone please clue me in please? (3, Interesting)

telchine (719345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362199)

Where the f**k do people find these brain-impaired investors? Why can't I find them? I can make snake oil, po sweat. I can tell people everything they want to hear. I can make up ridiculous unbelievable stories with no problem at all! Hell, I can do even better. You want infinite energy??? I can give you infinite energy * 2! That's twice as good even our best conmen competitors! Surely if the whole of Slashdot were to team together we could make a fortune with these wacky ideas!

What is it that makes it possible for these kind of people to have investors fawn at their feet whilst the rest of us have problems getting investors to believe in the basic laws of physics?

Re:Can someone please clue me in please? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362435)

What is it that makes it possible for these kind of people to have investors fawn at their feet whilst the rest of us have problems getting investors to believe in the basic laws of physics?

See: Critical Thinking (lack of)

what we need (5, Funny)

justleavealonemmmkay (1207142) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362217)

What we need is a fill-in form in the series of the
Your post advocates a

( ) physical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) chemical
approach to global warming. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws .)
form. This is slashdot. We don't need no stinking optimism here.
I'll compile it, contributions are welcome. Here are mine.
( ) it violates the First Law of Thermodynamics
( ) it violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics

Specifically, your plan fails to account for

( ) the energy needed to accomplish your simple tranformation

Re:what we need (2, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362545)

( ) it requires more non-renewable energy inputs than the renewable energy produced by it (see for example american biofuels, but fuels from other parts of the world are more efficient).

Re:what we need (3, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362567)

I'll compile it, contributions are welcome. Here are mine.

Here are a few more:
[ ] sounds too good to be true.
[ ] actually is too good to be true.
[ ] no supporting studies or other peer-reviewed research
[ ] marketing materials use the word "proprietary" and/or "patent pending" way too often.
[ ] company founders^H^H^H^H^H^Hperpetrators previously convicted of fraud and/or embezzlement
[ ] investors must have the ability to suspend disbelief at will

Summary: Energy in energy out (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362221)

In the process called burning, hydrocarbons combine with oxygen and release energy.

To reverse the process (which is what they're saying) you have to put an equal amount of energy back in ... if it's 100% efficient, which it won't be.

The only way to get a net gain is to add some free energy from somewhere. The only plausible source is sunlight, but there's no mention of that on their web site.

Fact is, there's no science at all on their web site, just plenty of links for "investors", "investor FAQs", NASDAQ stock quotes, etc.

For credibility they have a link to a Popular Mechanics article but it's for a completely different C02 treatment process.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4274541.html [popularmechanics.com]

Re:Summary: Energy in energy out (1)

Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) | more than 5 years ago | (#25363025)

The only way to get a net gain is to add some free energy from somewhere. The only plausible source is sunlight, but there's no mention of that on their web site.

I will admit to reading neither the white paper, or any other part of their website, but I did read the grandparent's post:

The associated white paper proposed using a nuclear reactor to provide the requisite energy to drive the process.

However, the normal questions still apply:

  1. No conversion process is 100% efficient, so why would you use an inefficient process to create a fuel to be used in our devices, and not just use the process directly?
  2. Is your storage mechanism more efficient than just putting the energy into batteries, or other common contenders such as breaking hydrogen out of water?

Now, the answer to number 1 is the same as every other intermediate fuel source (like hydrogen). It might not be practical or possible or as efficient to have the process going on separately in each car. In this case, the proposed energy source is nuclear. So, yeah, I don't think I'd want a nuclear reactor in every car on the road. At this point you might think about question 2, "If we're just going to use nuclear as the power source anyway, are we sure that using this process and storage mechanism is better than the others out there?" In this case I'm guessing no (I don't actually know, but it's just an inkling), but maybe not, and anyway using this method wouldn't require any changes to our current cars. -Steve

missing the point... (1)

Ionized (170001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362253)

everyone here seems to be missing the point. while i have not RTFA, this doesn't seem to be a breakthrough on the 'creating energy' front, it is a breakthrough on the 'getting rid of CO2' front.

yes, a lot of heat is required to convert CO2 into usable energy.... so use nuclear power, or run this in a geothermal crevice, or set up mirrors to catch solar energy, or any number of creative ways. the end result is we can eliminate CO2, and get usable fuel out of it as a bonus.

any means of energy conversion or transferal is going to be a net loss, but at least this way the initial product is something we already want to get rid of, for environmental reasons.

Re:missing the point... (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362553)

Isn't it better to freeze the air and bury the stuff, or put carbon capture technology on the chimney of a power station?

Re:missing the point... (1)

Ionized (170001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362729)

that is certainly debatable.... if we had a decent method to turn nuclear waste into usable fuel, would you still prefer we bury it? if we had a way to turn garbage into usable fuel, would you still prefer landfills?

at some point, we have to start being responsible about our waste products instead of just trying to hide them underground.

Re:missing the point... (1)

hobbit (5915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362911)

If we bury it, we can dig it up later and release it into the atmosphere to counteract the next ice age ;)

Photosynthasis, furmentation, distilation? (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362257)

Would this "multi-stage" process simply be highly active green algae producing sugars that are then fermented, and then distilled?

It takes CO2 and produces fuel.

Ammonia (2, Interesting)

mgv (198488) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362291)

There are two issues here.

The first - energy. It cant be avoided. To make fuel from CO2 you need energy. Nuclear, wind, solar. It doesn't matter what really, but you will need some input and this technology cannot address that.

The second - why do this. Actually, it makes sense to have a liquid fuel base. Transportation runs on liquid fuel as a store of energy. If we make liquid fuels from solar, for example, we can store solar energy in a useful form for when it is dark.

So without commenting on this particular technology - which everyone has quite rightly stated won't work without considering energy inputs - the general concept of creating a liquid fuel energy store has some merit.

Having said this, I've spent quite a bit of time looking at a rather different liquid fuel store which I think has more promise than hydrocarbons.

That fuel is ammonia.

Whilst its only half as energy dense as diesel [wikipedia.org] , its not that hard to make from electricity. In fact, it can be made by electrolysis fairly easily, and this has been done for nearly 100 years. [wikipedia.org] so its not exactly new technology.

Nor is the ability to use it in a standard internal combustion engine. In fact, it was being used as a fuel for buses over 60 years ago [ammoniafuelnetwork.org] and it works in a standard engine with little modification.

Because its less energy dense than diesel, its a lot easier to make synthetically, but has enough energy per litre to be worthwhile. Whilst having half the range per litre of fuel is an inconvenience, I am sure that we could live pretty much as we do today with vehicle technology that is available today.

We either accept half the range, or build the fuel tanks twice as big, or maybe even make the cars twice as efficient. All of these are easy options really.

I think that we have all gotten so fixated on fossil fuels that we have ignored a really low technology solution here.

Michael

Re:Ammonia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25363007)

We either accept half the range, or build the fuel tanks twice as big, or maybe even make the cars twice as efficient. All of these are easy options really.

If it was so easy to make cars twice as efficient, don't you think we would have done that already?

Where to stop reading... (3, Interesting)

hanssprudel (323035) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362297)

Carbon Sciences has developed plans for a CO2-Fuel transformation plant that takes CO2 from a large emitter, such as a power plant, and produces usable fuels as the output.

In case you missed it, that would be when you know this is nonsense.

(By the laws of nature, getting the carbon out of the CO2 will take at least as much energy as you got by burning the carbon in the first place. So attaching the "transformation plant" to a carbon fueled power plant means you have a process turning hydrocarbons into hydrocarbons, and spending energy doing it.)

Re:Where to stop reading... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362629)

So attaching the "transformation plant" to a carbon fueled power plant means you have a process turning hydrocarbons into hydrocarbons, and spending energy doing it.)

Okay, so here's the business plan:

1. Sell "transformation plant" to existing fossil-fueled power production facility.

2. Profit!

3. Retire to country with no extradition treaty before the Grand Jury can be convened.

Efficiency != Low Cost (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362303)

Even if the process is efficient it might still require a high amount of energy input and not scale well due to constraints on renewable power sources and non-polluting power sources such as sunlight, wind, geothermal, and ocean waves. I am skeptical that enough energy could be diverted from these renewable sources, in light of alternative demands for that energy, to completely close the carbon cycle at our present levels of hydrocarbon fuel consumption. In other words, there will still be demand for natural hydrocarbon fuels because they will be cheaper than artificial conversion of gaseous C02 to fuel for some time to come and probably remain that way until most of the remaining natural hydrocarbon fuel has been extracted from the ground and used. The best that will probably come of this process is to ensure that hydrocarbon fuel will never be completely exhausted as long as the sun is still shining and the world is still turning, but it might become very expensive in the far future (i.e. a luxury that only the very wealthy can regularly afford to use).

Finally! (1)

kisto (1384705) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362371)

I was thinking about that too... they've found the key process my plan was missing:

1. Collect pants
2. Biocatalytic reactor
3. Profit!!!

This has nothing to do with helping the environmen (1)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362453)

No matter how they couch it, this can never help the environment. As other have mentioned, the laws of physics say you can never get more hydrocarbon fuel out of this process than you put in to run the power plant running the process. In fact, you can never make a 100% efficient process so you will always end up with extra CO2.

What this would allow is, in the event of Oil becoming truly uneconomical to excavate, the continued use of hydrocarbons for vital situation where nothing else has been shown to be anywhere near as effective, such as the creation of plastic, medicine, and fertilizer. It would also allow the continued use of modern cars and trucks without needing a radical re-design to support Hydrogen, Ethanol, etc. Of course, whether you think this is a good thing is a different story.

Re:This has nothing to do with helping the environ (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 5 years ago | (#25363081)

"As other have mentioned, the laws of physics say you can never get more hydrocarbon fuel out of this process than you put in to run the power plant running the process."

Solar cells and wind farms burn hydrocarbon fuel? I never knew that...

False assumption number 1: Your power plant is hydrocarbon based.

Breaking down CO2 into hydrocarbons? (1)

NIVRAM (105867) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362459)

How exactly does one break down something that does not contain hydrogen into a hydrocarbon? (you know... those types of molecules containing only hydrogen and carbon)

Wake up, folks (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362557)

From TFA: "The key to our CO2-to-Fuel approach lies in a proprietary multi-step biocatalytic process. Instead of using expensive inorganic catalysts . . . the Carbon Sciences process uses inexpensive, renewable biomolecules to catalyze certain chemical reactions required to transform CO2 into basic hydrocarbon building blocks."

I assume their "multi-step biocatalytic process" is more commonly known as a "tree," or more generally, a "plant."

Wake up, folks. If you get 10 energy units out of burning something, presumably with about 60% efficiency, that means you would need to put in at least 14 units to regenerate it. Add entropy and other inefficiencies, and you'll probably get up to a good 20 units.

Question: If it costs 20 units to regenerate the original 10 units, why not just use the 20 units and forget about regenerating the original 10? Surely they don't pretend to suspend the laws of thermodynamics? Do they know what a catalyst is, in terms of energy inputs and outputs? I'm sure they do.

Suckers everywhere, with pockets full of money. Who can resist?.

Well at least (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362613)

Carbon Sciences states that this is more of a stop gap mesaure than anything. They believe that technologies such as this don't create an excuse for gas guzzling vehicles. From the article, "We're not crazy about the concept of encouraging people to gas up in the future . . ." Their advocacy of cleaner, alternative energy sources is good.

Foolish (1)

droneboy (846761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362661)

Madness. Take a point-source of CO2 which could be relatively easily sequestered, and turn it into a liquid fuel which will doubtless be dispersed and burnt in thousands of impossible-to-sequester locations. That's no way to reduce emissions, it's a way of perpetuating the status quo. It perhaps may get more energy per unit of CO2, but won't help cut it.

another (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362719)

I'll add my voice to those complaining of rampant idiocy here.

This can be done, has been done, for decades (for much, much longer by plants). It's a very good idea, and more people should be trying it. It would be nice if those people had enough scientific know-how to understand why inorganic catalysts are a good idea (biocatalysts break down very easily, cost energy to remake, are not as efficient).

The basic test is: Is your complicated bio system more or less efficient than sticking a wire from a cheap solar cell into some solution and generating fuel electrochemically? Catalysis is still thermodynamic, so you're going to take an efficiency hit at each stage of that complicated process.

My favorite part of their website is where they talk about the "intense" light energy needed to split an oxygen off of CO2. It's a good thing we're not exposing ourselves to this "intense" light radiation!

But we do expose ourselves to this light radiation (1)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 5 years ago | (#25363091)

Which is why, if you're pale, sunblock is a good idea. There's a billion+ year old working prototype for this concept, it's called chlorophyll. CO2 + H2O + low-temperature biocatalyst = fuel (in the form of sugars).

"inexpensive, renewable biomolecules"? (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 5 years ago | (#25362757)

Sayeth TFA, "Carbon Sciences process uses inexpensive, renewable biomolecules to catalyze certain chemical reactions required to transform CO2 into basic hydrocarbon building blocks."

Biomolecules like chlorophyll, perhaps?

So is ethanol. (1)

Iowan41 (1139959) | more than 5 years ago | (#25363055)

And with cellulosic ethanol using the entire cornstalk - or sawdust or sawgrass, and with the electricity coming from wind towers and solar furnaces, there ya go: closed cycle carbon. For that matter, we could go back to wood-fired steam engines.
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