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Gasoline From Thin Air

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the vanadium-nitrogenase dept.

Biotech 283

disco_tracy writes "An enzyme found in the roots of soybeans could be the key to cars that run on air. If perfected, the tech could lead to cars partially powered on their own fumes. Even further into the future, vehicles could draw fuel from the air itself. Quoting: 'The new enzyme can only make two and three carbon chains, not the longer strands that make up liquid gasoline. However, Ribbe thinks he can modify the enzyme so it could produce gasoline. ... [Perfecting this process] won't happen anytime soon... "It's very, very difficult," to extract the vanadium nitrogenase, said Ribbe.'

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Call me when it's in production (4, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166284)

Vaporware, literally.

Re:Call me when it's in production (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166428)

LOL - "vaporware" ... that made my day. Esp since the amount of CO2 in the air is so small that it is called a trace gas.

Re:Call me when it's in production (2, Informative)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166480)

It converts carbon monoxide, which is even less abundant.

Re:Call me when it's in production (1)

blai (1380673) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166956)

oh no. let's increase CO emission!

Re:Call me when it's in production (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166922)

Esp since the amount of CO2 in the air is so small that it is called a trace gas

We're working on it! Venus wasn't built in a day you know.

Re:Call me when it's in production (4, Funny)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166942)

It should balance out those Prius drivers that love the smell of their own farts.

Re:Call me when it's in production (0, Offtopic)

mjwalshe (1680392) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166970)

why are this editors storys so bad did he get banned from digg for submitting run your car on water scams ?

Yet another (1)

Phizital1ty (1755648) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166320)

Yet another ground breaking technology just around the corner!

Re:Yet another (2, Insightful)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166466)

What are you talking about, this technology has been around for millions of years. It works like this:

1) Plants take CO2 out of the air
2) Plants use water and the sun to convert the CO2 into glucose
3) Plants die
4) Plants get buried
5) Plants decay
6) High pressure and temperature cooks buried plant matter and converts to crude oil
7) Crude oil is distilled to separate out gasoline (This is the profit stage for those who were wondering)

Voila, gasoline from thin air! Only takes a few million years... Hope you weren't planning on driving too fast.

Re:Yet another (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166866)

You are right ! All of us drove too fast, and like most things moving fast, we will burn ourselves out, this is causing global warming ... after the Earth is rid of us humans, it will chill out again !

Re:Yet another (1)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167274)

I fail to see how this leads to profit

Misleading Summary (5, Interesting)

dfetter (2035) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166342)

The actual article is about an enzyme. The chemical transformation still requires energy, just as charging a battery does.

Re:Misleading Summary (4, Insightful)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166656)

indeed, thats what gasoline is, a energy container. Its just that its the perfect combo as its highly stable (relative to just about anything else with equivalent energy density), yet will release the energy quickly if poked in the right way.

i keep wondering if one could turn a highway into a kind of electric railroad tho, by equipping electric vehicles with a system to tap supply system pretty much like a electric train do today. So for longer stretches, one would not drain whatever internal storage system one have available.

Re:Misleading Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166910)

Magnetic induction field roads would work. Just kinda dangerous for pedestrians, were they strong enough to move a car.

Re:Misleading Summary (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167082)

Not a lot of pedestrians on the freeway.

Re:Misleading Summary (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166934)

Actually diesel is a much better container because it has an even higher energy density, and it is much more stable than gasoline to the point where it's volatility is so low, it is hard to ignite except under high temperature or compression.

Re:Misleading Summary (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167110)

making the engines more complicated and expensive in the process.

still, the diesel engine is supposedly able to run on coal dust if adjusted correctly...

Re:Misleading Summary (1)

nomorecwrd (1193329) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167290)

making the engines more complicated and expensive in the process.

[citation needed]

I always thought Diesel engines were simpler than gasoline, because, once started, you don't need any electricity to run them, no spark plug or any other source needed for ignition, just pressure.

expensive yes, complicated no (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167356)

Diesel engines need to be physically stronger than gasoline engines, which is why they're heavier and more expensive. However they're actually simpler since you don't need to time the spark for each cylinder.

Re:Misleading Summary (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167066)

Also the article mentions, "cars partially powered by fumes".

We already have that via exhaust gas recirculation. I don't know how common it is in gasoline engines, but in diesels it's pretty standard. It's a way to reduce unburnt hydrocarbons and soot by feeding the exhaust back into the engine.

Re:Misleading Summary (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166876)

What part of "A well regulated militia" do you not understand?

What part of "The rights of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" do you not understand?

Re:Misleading Summary (1)

nomorecwrd (1193329) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167340)

You are missing the correct interpretation [wikia.com] of the rights of people to bear arms.

Re:Misleading Summary (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166982)

What if your battery was charging based on the air around it - and the air it comes in contact with is constantly changing since you are moving?

The idea has SOME merit, though they are no where near that stage.

Re:Misleading Summary (3, Insightful)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167006)

True, but batteries suck. As much as they've improved in recent years, they're still far less useful than fuel. Carbon chains, especially hydrocarbons, are relatively stable, energy dense, easy to transport and comparatively easy to convert into mechanical or electric energy. If you can find a way to efficiently and easily produce hydrocarbons directly from carbon dioxide, water and an arbitrary energy source, you've basically just solved any energy crisis and cured global warming.

Re:Misleading Summary (2, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167376)

We have one. It's called the Fischer-Tropsch process (plus electrolysis). The problem is that the fuel is super-expensive at today's energy prices.

Hydrocarbons are not "comparatively easy" to convert to mechanical or electrical energy. Compared to an electric motor powered by a battery, an internal combustion engine is a veritable Rube Goldberg Contraption.

As for batteries: they've had an 8% energy density improvement per year for the past two decades. That rate shows no sign of slowing down; rather, it seems to be speeding up. There are enough lab techs out there that even if only a very small fraction of them made it to the market, this rate could continue for at least the next decade or two, probably longer.

1 decade improvement for a 100-mile EV: 215 mi
2 decades improvement for a 100-mile EV: 466 mi
3 decades improvement for a 100-mile EV: 1006 mi

Vapor? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166344)

Cars powered by natural gas is an already proven technology. Why do we keep inventing more "alternative" energy sources when we've got ones that work now?

Re:Vapor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166484)

Because the ideal is not having to burn something that releases long sequestered carbon.

Re:Vapor? (1)

Chemicles (771024) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166566)

Cars powered by natural gas is an already proven technology. Why do we keep inventing more "alternative" energy sources when we've got ones that work now?

Unfortunately, just because it "works" doesn't make it a viable alternative. This article talks about converting a product of incomplete combustion (carbon monoxide) into something useful. Adding a piece of equipment that could do this to a car that already runs on gasoline could make cars pollute less and run further on a given amount of fuel. It would be relatively easy to adopt, instead of having to create an entirely new fuel delivery infrastructure like using natural gas would.

Re:Vapor? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166602)

You'd be better off just making the car completely burn the fuel in the first place.

Re:Vapor? (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166720)

You'd be better off just making the car completely burn the fuel in the first place.

I forget the name, but I'm pretty sure I've read an article linked from /. about a ceramic engine block prototype that was being designed to promote a more complete combustion in the cylinders. The only thing I can remember from it was that it was using the exhaust gas as a replacement for oil lubrication.

Re:Vapor? (1)

Chemicles (771024) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166732)

If complete combustion were possible, sure. But it's not, and it's good to try and do productive things with unwanted byproducts of the incomplete reaction.

Re:Vapor? (1)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167450)

Not to be sarcastic, but Natural gas already has an infrastructure delivery system from the west coast to the east coast. It's in every major town and city already. It doesn't have to be trucked around by big rigs, and despite it's volatile nature, it's fairly safe even in catastrophic accidents. Because instead of pooling on the ground, it rises into the air and dissipates quickly. Frankly, your argument holds well for Hydrogen, but not Natural gas.

The infrastructure exists, it's reasonably cheap and easy to convert most vehicles already in use, and the resource is reasonably abundant. HOWEVER, it's not a renewable energy source, any more than oil is. So we wouldn't actually be solving any of our problems by switching.

Re:Vapor? (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166680)

FUCKIN MAGNETS?

Vapor. The state the fuel is in when it fills the cylinder inside of which it is detonated. That's how that works.

Re:Vapor? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166734)

Because ultimately, natural gas has many of the same issues as petroleum.

Re:Vapor? (1)

stdarg (456557) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166824)

But it also has significant advantages over petroleum, like the huge supply in the US. And it has advantages over other alternatives, like the fact that it's available now, and it's cheap. I don't particularly like the idea, I'd rather see fully electric cars and more nuclear power, but it shouldn't be dismissed.

Re:Vapor? (2, Interesting)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167056)

The analyses that claim a huge supply in the US are starting to come under criticism. Our supply may not actually be that huge.

There's also the fact that right now, we haven't figured out how to safely extract a large portion of it. Most of the deposits can't be accessed without hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) - The chemicals used for hydrofracking are toxic as hell, and wells that are hydrofracked seem to be prone to losing integrity and leaking gas into aquifers. That's why in Dimock, PA, you can't drink your well water, but you can console yourself with the fact that you can light your tap water with a match. That's why New York is in the process of passing a moratorium on hydrofracking until next year (It passed the state senate by a landslide this week).

Re:Vapor? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166874)

Right now your catalytic converter converts CO (which is a partial combustion product) into C02 and heat. They're saying this enzyme could turn it into propane, which could then be burned again in the engine thereby using the energy that would normally be wasted.

They're also suggesting that you could split CO2 from the atmosphere into CO (probably by electrolysis) and use it to produce gasoline for fuel. That would be an achievement because it solves a lot or energy storage problems.

Re:Vapor? (4, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167280)

I'd be more interested in splitting the CO2 into carbon and oxygen, for breathing purposes rather than fuel. Spacecraft and submarines use lithium hydroxide "scrubbers" to remove carbon dioxide from the air. It has the side effect of keeping one of the oxygen atoms of the molecule as well as the carbon. The lithium hydroxide is also used up in this process, meaingin a limited supply of breatheable air. If the CO2 is can be cracked back into carbon and oxygen, then you could develop a continuously renewing cycle for the air. This means fewer supply runs for ISS and other outposts.

Re:Vapor? (2, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167438)

Right now your catalytic converter converts CO (which is a partial combustion product) into C02 and heat. They're saying this enzyme could turn it into propane, which could then be burned again in the engine thereby using the energy that would normally be wasted.

Wow, you could take the <1% of your exhaust that's carbon monoxide, convert it to fuel (losses), then burn it (average vehicle energy usage efficiency, after all losses: 20%). Yeah, that's really going to up your mpg. :P

They're also suggesting that you could split CO2 from the atmosphere into CO (probably by electrolysis) and use it to produce gasoline for fuel. That would be an achievement because it solves a lot or energy storage problems.

And what's wrong with the Sabatier reaction? And talk about a lossy way to store energy. :P

Re:Vapor? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167312)

Well, because natural gas fields deplete much, much more rapidly than oil fields (http://depletion.blogspot.com/2009/01/natural-gas-crisis-looming.html). While I agree that we can and should diversify our transportation sector infrastructure to use hydrocarbon gases, it's not a permanent or even a long term answer. It can slow down powerdown though and give us more time to transition. I think that's the greatest value in NG.

So it can run without a gas tank? (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166348)

Sort of like a subway, train or PRT vehicle [wikipedia.org] ?

Lisa, get in here! (2, Funny)

FrYGuY101 (770432) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166354)

In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

well.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166388)

Sounds like a perfect investment

Stupid journalists (5, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166404)

I highly doubt that the original inventor has claimed to produce perpetual motion, but the summary will certainly lead people to think in that direction.

They're converting carbon monoxide into hydrocarbon chains. The only energy you are getting out of the car's exhaust is what it didn't use the first time around due to incomplete combustion.

Re:Stupid journalists (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166996)

Eh, if it improves the MPG, why not?

this will be revolutionnary... (2, Insightful)

antnil (1601463) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166412)

... if and only if someone can make a profit out of it. Hydrogen is the future as it requires you to fill up a fuel container of some sort in exchange for money. Who here really thinks all these multi-billion oil companies are going to let free and abundant fuel circulate without putting up a fight?? Be honnest: it would be against the nature of capitalis. I mean, free stuff is only good if you can resell it to someone else, right?

Re:this will be revolutionnary... (1, Informative)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166592)

Who here really thinks all these multi-billion oil companies are going to let ...

Yeah, just like they've used their secret fleet of black helicopters (which they lease from the Trilateral Commission) to fly around the country to squash all of the Free Energy inventions, especially the water powered car, and that one that gets double the mileage if you just use a different air filter.

What are you, twelve years old?

Re:this will be revolutionnary... (0, Troll)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166652)

What are you, twelve years old?

My guess is at least 15.

Re:this will be revolutionnary... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166798)

It's not how clean it is or how efficient, it's about ease of use and abundance. Emphasis on the first. If fuel for nuclear reactors was easier to find and handle, then in fifty years it would have replaced any fossil alternative. Wave of the future is solar energy for everything, and batteries for cars and mp3 players. It won't be cow shit, human shit, or swamp gas.

Re:this will be revolutionnary... (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167146)

Unless "the man" is going to come spray black spray paint on your solar panels and tear your wind turbines down with Oil and Gas pickup trucks, I'm fairly certain renewables are the future. They of course *do* have an upfront investment, but with lifetimes measured in decades, it seems to be a worthwhile investment.

Re:this will be revolutionnary... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167194)

Who here really thinks all these multi-billion oil companies are going to let free and abundant fuel circulate without putting up a fight?? Be honnest: it would be against the nature of capitalis. I mean, free stuff is only good if you can resell it to someone else, right?

Like the RIAA? But how are the energy companies going to fight it? I'd be willing to bet that in fifty years you won't see any more power lines or gas stations; electricity will be generated by solar cells and windmills on your roof and back yard, and your car will run on electricity.

The cheaper power is, the better an economy is. Notice that when gasoline shot from $1.00 a gallon to $4.50 a gallon when Bush and Cheney were in office, it spiraled into en economic emergency?

Re:this will be revolutionnary... (1)

PagosaSam (884523) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167422)

Yes, but if you could take that same H2 and some coal or Nat gas and make gasoline, cheap with an enzyme... No more oil imports, little to no infrastructure changes! Sounds good to me!

Pollution (0)

rgo (986711) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166416)

Yes! What the world needed, more gasoline!

Re:Pollution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166500)

They're recycling used gasoline with plants, you nitwit.

i dont understand why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166436)

i dont understand why we dont run things on vespene gas.

Re:i dont understand why (5, Funny)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166558)

It's because then you'd constantly require more vespene gas, and imagine how annoying that would be!

Re:i dont understand why (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166710)

Especially with the car's voice constantly reminding you.

Re:i dont understand why (2, Funny)

Flea of Pain (1577213) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167120)

Same as gasoline...you always require more vespene gas and eventually you just run out.

Conservation of energy anyone? (2, Insightful)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166444)

To produce the fuel, the energy that will be stored in it has to come from somewhere> .

That's why the idea of a vehicle creating its own fuel out of thin air is stupid, you'd want to use the input energy to drive the car directly. More efficient.

Re:Conservation of energy anyone? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166796)

Yes, it's not coming out of thin air, it's being extract from the air around you. Out of thin air is generally used to mean 'from nothing'. That is not the case hear, and they should avoid using the expression because it obviously confuses people like you.

".. you'd want to use the input energy to drive the car directly. More efficient."
depends on many practical factors.

Re:Conservation of energy anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166826)

yeah.. vehicles are perfectly efficient at converting fuel into movement.. oh wait. There couldn't possibly be lost energy such as waste heat for the enzyme to do its thing with. And this wouldn't a) make vehicles more efficient and b) have positive implications for pulling CO molecules out of the air even when we're not talking about vehicle fuels. But yeah, fuck all that. Lets only focus on making less waste heat.

This cocking around is stupid... (4, Insightful)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166450)

Look, this pie in the sky shit is bull. I appreciate R&D much more than most, but we're not going to start chaining carbon atoms on the fly anytime soon, any more than we are just around the corner from inventing the battery that powers Iron Man's suit.


Let's focus on the here and now. A guy named John Wayland who works for Dow Kokam built a 10 second car from LiON batteries, and is now going around to America's drag strips and laying waste to Corvettes and Nissan GTRs in his 1960s Datsun 1200. And when I mean laying waste, I mean a beatdown. Take a look at this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rVTIpS5zb4&feature=player_embedded [youtube.com]

This is what we should be looking at. Building a power infrastructure that makes 208 twist locks as easy to get to as gas stations. Or converting gas stations to have a nice 200W 20Amp at every pump. Not this crap.

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (5, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166654)

This is what we should be looking at. Building a power infrastructure that makes 208 twist locks as easy to get to as gas stations. Or converting gas stations to have a nice 200W 20Amp at every pump.

200W? The flow through a gasoline fuel hose can be expressed in watts if you care to. Gasoline has about 32 megajoules per liter. Maximum gas pump in the US is 10 gallons per minute, or 0.63 liters per second. Thus the energy flow rate is 20 megajoules per second -- that is, 20 megawatts. If a gasoline engine is only 1/4 as efficient as an electric engine and there are no charging losses, you can derate that to 5 MW to get the equivalent electric power needed. So, you can keep that 20 amps... provided you're willing to charge at 250,000V. Good luck with that.

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33167050)

That's shocking.

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (1)

sohp (22984) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167152)

How about 50kW [engadget.com] ?

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (2, Insightful)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166820)

Yes, because society should only ever work on one thing at a time. The technology that exists today is perfect and cannot be improved upon. These so-called scientists should be throwing away their useless "research," start rolling up their sleeves and laying down concrete for EV charging stations. I think we can all agree that this is the best long-term strategy for solving our energy problems.

The video is cool, but the rest of your comment is too ridiculous to justify a non-sarcastic response.

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166900)

First off, that's a stupid comparison. The is not a 1960's Datsun 1200. It's a modern electric car that happens to be in the frame of a datsun. So stop using that as a for of appeal to emotion.

Second, I agree with you. We need to move to electric cars. Centralize power generating. More efficient, cheaper, and so on.

What will really sell is an electric car that can take a family of 4 with luggage 300 miles and charge in less then 5 minutes, and is comparably priced to current gas models. We also need to deal with the problems with range due to temperature. Meaning, the 3000 miles but be 300 miles MINIMUM under the worst condition.

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167188)

Electric technology isn't anywhere where you want it to be yet, at least not a the price point you'd want to sell to your average consumer. So you make money on the high end (Tesla Roadster) and the low end (Nissan Leaf), and hope you recoup your R&D fast enough that costs will drop and you'll eventually be able to sell what you want manufacturers to sell.

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (1)

hawkfish (8978) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167444)

What will really sell is an electric car that can take a family of 4 with luggage 300 miles and charge in less then 5 minutes, and is comparably priced to current gas models. We also need to deal with the problems with range due to temperature. Meaning, the 3000 miles but be 300 miles MINIMUM under the worst condition.

I think your minimum is too high. We have one car - a 2004 Honda Odessey - and we rarely go more than 220 miles between fueling (in city). Even on long car trips (across the great basin) we rarely get over 300. This is no problem for us. Now I could see it being more of a problem in rural areas, but 80% [dot.gov] of the US population lives in urban areas these days so you could get most of the market with a lower target.

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166936)

No, we just combine the VW beetle juice (garbage converter - see slashdot article) and the genetically modified bacteria that shits oil and use this enzyme to break it down into gasoline while we are driving....

Seems obvious to me that all of this will work! ;)

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166950)

Look, obviously electric cars can transfer energy to the wheels faster. Big deal.
Hell, trains are electric - they just run the generator using fuel.

The problem is energy density.
Fuel is energy dense. LION batteries are not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density#Energy_densities_ignoring_external_components [wikipedia.org]

The value they have for lithium seems a bit high, but regardles, that's one THIRTEENTH the density of gasoline.

Fact is, we'll be using gasoline for a loooong time.

And there are plenty of options for synthesising it.

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (1)

Fumbili (1820232) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167020)

Or converting gas stations to have a nice 200W 20Amp at every pump. Not this crap.

Charging would take too long. A better idea is to have easily removable battery pack(s) and fully charged refills at each gas station. This would be as simple as changing out the battery on a cordless drill...just a larger scale.

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33167144)

The instant torque of electric motors will always have an advantage in a drag race. Try running the cars over longer distances and see how long the batteries can keep up the very high current draw.

Re:This cocking around is stupid... (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167326)

Let's focus on the here and now. A guy named John Wayland who works for Dow Kokam built a 10 second car from LiON batteries, and is now going around to America's drag strips and laying waste to Corvettes and Nissan GTRs in his 1960s Datsun 1200. And when I mean laying waste, I mean a beatdown. Take a look at this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rVTIpS5zb4&feature=player_embedded [youtube.com]

Yeah, that's cute. How's it do on the skid pad? Or and endurance race? Here's a "streetable" Supra that ran 9 flat in this run, and is running in the 8.6's now:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pszfCIg_Fw&NR=1

If you're looking to go 1/4 mile in a straight line, I'd say you should look at the nitromethane monstrosities that are running a 1/4 in under 4.5 seconds these days.

This is what we should be looking at. Building a power infrastructure that makes 208 twist locks as easy to get to as gas stations. Or converting gas stations to have a nice 200W 20Amp at every pump. Not this crap.

Meh, personally I''m holing out for "Mr. Fusion."

Yum! (1)

stalky14 (574130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166482)

...and it sounds like a delicious sandwich spread! 1/3 the saturated fat of mayonnaise!

Yet another "breakthrough" (3, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166506)

Turning carbon monoxide into hydrocarbon fuel is a trick that's been known for some time now. Presumably this enzyme does it at room temperature, which would be a useful trick, but it's not a new one. Show me the enzyme which can convert carbon dioxide and water to hydrocarbon fuel, instead... right now we need the whole organism to do it, it'd be a lot simpler if it was just one enzyme.

Re:Yet another "breakthrough" (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166574)

Converting carbon dioxide to hydrocarbons is a solved problem [freepatentsonline.com] .

Re:Yet another "breakthrough" (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167142)

Show me the enzyme which can convert carbon dioxide and water to hydrocarbon fuel, instead... right now we need the whole organism to do it, it'd be a lot simpler if it was just one enzyme.

Enzymes are like UNIX: one tool to solve one problem. You're asking for a Windows solution. One of the many benefits of having enzymes that only catalyze one or possibly two steps in a reaction is that they're much easier to regulate, individually and as a system, since you can use feedback and feedforward, based on the concentration of the reactants and products, so you can get a system that works like a manufacturing kanban [wikipedia.org] system. Another benefit is that small enzymes are easier to make and last longer than a huge giant macroenzyme that can do a bunch of steps all in one. It might also be nice to have enzymes that can each operate at optimal efficiency, which might require batch processing or linking the enzymes to sequential parts of a flow process, so you can have local variations in chemistry and temperature to get them to work better. There might also be some diffusion-limiting problems with macroenzymes, but I'd have to do more reading about that.

Yes, it's a hassle, but if we engineer bacteria to dump useful enzymes out into solution using the same pathways they currently use to dump proteins useful to them out into solution, it's not SUCH a hassle.

However, with all that said, plants and bacteria convert carbon dioxide into complex carbon chains all the time, and the pathways they use are quite well-understood. It's neat to hear about a new pathway, but it's not much of a surprise.

Re:Yet another "breakthrough" (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167464)

Instead of having one super-amazing enzyme, why not do it in stages?

Cows have 4 digestive compartments for a reason. :)

Atlas Shrugged (1)

heretichacker (1132337) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166520)

Time to start The John Galt Motor Company.

Where does the power come from? (1)

Reilaos (1544173) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166526)

Conservation of energy: the power that you burn out of the gasoline has to come from something. Would it be the sun? Some form of energy from the chemicals in the reaction?

Re:Where does the power come from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33167114)

The enzyme is using carbon monoxide, a product of incomplete combustion in the engine. Essentially you would just be reclaiming a bit of energy that would otherwise go to waste. If it was developed to practicality, it would probably sit in the exhaust stream like current catalytic converters. I can't remember my chemistry well enough to know if a lack of CO would be a problem for catalytic converters (which also reduce nitrous oxides to N2).

So yeah, the summary and the article are pretty moronic for ignoring the whole energy question. The scientists themselves probably know what it can do.

Not many organic- or biochemists on slashdot, eh? (1, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166554)

The summary is far, far beyond ludicrous.

Re:Not many organic- or biochemists on slashdot, e (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166990)

I considered modding down you post, but decided to mod it down with words instead.

Is it is ludicrous, please explain why. You might very well be right, but you also might just be a nine-year old who doesn't have a clue. Please elaborate.

And to the baffoon who modded OP up: "why?"

Re:Not many organic- or biochemists on slashdot, e (1)

1s44c (552956) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167260)

Is it is ludicrous, please explain why.

The guy is criticizing the summary so I'll just attack that. It claims they want to 'draw fuel from the air itself', that means extracting carbon and hydrogen from the air and somehow assembling it into a long chain hydrocarbon. There is very little carbon in air and what there is will take a lot of energy to extract from carbon dioxide. Any hydrogen in air is held in water and again will take a lot of energy to extract.

This idea will fly like a lead balloon.

Can you say government grant money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166564)

light + CO2 + living creature.....that sounds so familiar, wait don't tell me.....

Another "new" tech break through that is nothing more than repackaged old tech.

If they could magically get the bacteria to live in a matrix of some sort, repopulate themselves as they die off without clogging up the matrix, produce a gas in usefull quantities (which happens to be toxic to them), presurize said gas, and all fit in a small container that allows light and air to reach then we could use this as a "free" fuel source.

Or here is a crazy thought. Use these things called tractors to "harvest" plants and put them in a big container called a "digester" which helpful bacteria eat the biomass and produce methane, which a small compressor pumps the methan gas into a line, which can tie into a system that already exists in every major city, which in turn fills a tank attached to something you most likely already own called a car.

What and you say we can do this with 1940's technology now?! The modification to exisiting infrastruture and automobiles would cost less than $3,000 per household. Sounds good but, T think I'll wait 50 years and a few hundred billion in government grants for the magic "free" solution instead.

Obligatory name change (1)

xactuary (746078) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166614)

"It's very, very difficult," to extract the vanadium nitrogenase, said Ribbe.

Until extraction becomes easy, let's call it unobtainium nitrogenase.

Whatever happended to the Energy principle (1)

veeren76 (456888) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166674)

When i learnt Science in school, we were taught that "Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but can be transformed from one form into another" (I know this doesn't hold true especially under Einstien's equation E = mc2), but i guess you get the point.

So if we are going to spend the energy doing "work" by travelling, then it begs the question where we would get it from all the time?
I don't think car would run just on its exhaust, if there is not external energy system,
If the scientist succeeds then he might be on a brink of discovering something we call as a "Perpetual Machine"

Re:Whatever happended to the Energy principle (1)

trapnest (1608791) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166968)

I wonder if people on /. use "begs the question" improperly just to see if it will get a reaction. PS it's e = mc^2, not e = mc2.

Re:Whatever happended to the Energy principle (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167338)

Or, E=mc**2 (if you're into fortran-style notation)

Re:Whatever happended to the Energy principle (1)

1s44c (552956) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167028)

Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but can be transformed from one form into another" (I know this doesn't hold true especially under Einstien's equation E = mc2)

Yes it does. The fact that energy and mass are the same thing doesn't prove you can make energy.

So if we are going to spend the energy doing "work" by travelling, then it begs the question...

Don't start that again. Have you really not read begthequestion.info yet?

FUCKING GNAA CUNTS! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166712)

Suck my nigger cock!!!

Spceballs! (1)

MadGeek007 (1332293) | more than 4 years ago | (#33166770)

There goes the planet.

If it doens't defy thermodynamic law it has future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166828)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_thermodynamics

If it does, then good luck!

A little too thin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33166916)

I wouldn't want to have enough CO in the air to make appreciable fuel. Anhydrous ammonia can be made from N and H split from water. I seem to recall reading somewhere it's got about half the energy density of gasoline. It's just a lot more hazardous to fill your tank; but if we ever get that desperate to drive, you know we'll do it.

Oh, and while so many people are floating their own far-out ideas, I've always wondered why we can't find a way to power our cars with California brush. Every Summer, some guy from the FD in on TV talking about the "fuel load" up in the hills. Well, instead of letting it burn and pollute the atmosphere willy-nilly, why not do a "controlled burn" in our cars. A lot of that brush could be processed into methanol, terpentine, and various other volatile compounds. It would require building a different kind of refinery, and finding a way to harvest the hills without bringing in poison oak and other toxins; but it could be done.

Either that, or burn the brush in a regular power plant to generate steam. Control emissions at the plant instead of having the sun turn red from smoke every summer. We're getting off easy this time, because it's cool; but the last two summers were like something out of Blade Runner.

Sick of perpetual motion machine articles (3, Insightful)

PingXao (153057) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167076)

These are a staple on slashdot lately. Every crackpot scheme to extract energy from X very cheaply seems to get immediate front page coverage. There's at least one a month and they range from overblown PR at best to outright snake oil at worst. /. seriously needs a "Perpetual Motion" category for these stories so I can ignore them completely.

Won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33167176)

How are they supposed to get all the CO they need to fill up the tank to start with? By burning gas inefficiently? Duh.

Atmospheric engine developed, but not by J Galt? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167242)

What the hell is going on. Finally some one develops an Atmospheric Engine, but it is not John Galt? I'll just shrug and walk away.

The summary makes it sounds like a scam (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167270)

Running off your own exhaust? Like other have written I don't think that's legit. Still, if you could make gasoline out of air even if you had to add energy it could still be useful. Basically you're making a pumpable battery out of air. On top of that after you're done "discharging" your battery it turns back into air. Never mind the fact that if you could create this the infrastructure to use it is already here. (Let me guess, either they can't scale it up or it's no where near efficient enough.) Actually come to think of it if you could do that you could use it to solve issues with wind farms and solar power. (IE when the sun is out and the wind is blowing store the extra energy as gasoline in huge tanks and have your plant burn it when the sun is down or the wind isn't blowing.

TANSTAFE (1)

dwbassett42 (752317) | more than 4 years ago | (#33167350)

Paraphrase of TANSTAAFL: There Ain't No Such Thing As Free Energy.
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