×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

New Process Allows Fuel Cells To Run On Coal

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the brown-green-or-green-brown dept.

Earth 125

Zothecula writes "Lately we're hearing a lot about the green energy potential of fuel cells, particularly hydrogen fuel cells. Unfortunately, although various methods of hydrogen production are being developed, it still isn't as inexpensive or easily obtainable as fossil fuels such as coal. Scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, however, have recently taken a step towards combining the eco-friendliness of fuel cell technology with the practicality of fossil fuels — they've created a fuel cell that runs on coal gas."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

125 comments

Hydrogen is not a fuel (0, Offtopic)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 2 years ago | (#36568168)

It is a type of fish, red in colour. Often smoked.

Re:Hydrogen is not a fuel (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 2 years ago | (#36568276)

Tell that to the volks on das Hindenburg. Lighting farts will get you in trouble everytime.
Like the smart fellers who jumped on a 55 gal barrel w/ 5 gal of Methyl Ethyl Ketone in it and figured they'd get a rocket ride, they got smoked, probably red, therefore they are fish.

Re:Hydrogen is not a fuel (1)

camperslo (704715) | about 2 years ago | (#36571328)

smart fellers

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Spark_gap#Visual_entertainment

Out of the box thinking to get that housemate that doesn't have a fracking clue to save water:

Remind them that the cancers from radon gas in tap water generally aren't from drinking it, but instead come from inhaling the gas released while taking a shower.

http://info.ngwa.org/gwol/pdf/882546405.PDF [ngwa.org]
http://www.santamariasun.com/news/6651/frack-that/ [santamariasun.com]

What's next, a hybrid motor that runs on baby seal (-1, Flamebait)

2bfree (113445) | about 2 years ago | (#36568220)

What's next, a hybrid motor that runs on baby seal fat?

Re:What's next, a hybrid motor that runs on baby s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36568336)

If they genetically modified seals to be long like a weasel, it would take fewer baby seals to make a coat and therefore be more humane.
Perhaps genetically modified to be more like a manatee for more fat and less brains for fuel seals.
Seals should definitely be farmed, I commend you on the idea and give you the full credit.
I bet seals taste somewhere between pork and fish. Hmmm another white meat.
mmmmm,seal bacon......

Re:What's next, a hybrid motor that runs on baby s (1)

slackbheep (1420367) | about 2 years ago | (#36568744)

Actually for those suddenly curious seal in my experience is a little gamey very dark and extremely oily, it's almost comparable to a fishy version of the liver of larger game like caribou, moose, or I suppose beef. I've not tried seal blubber but I've had whale skin and blubber which... well tastes mostly like you'd expect it to.

Re:What's next, a hybrid motor that runs on baby s (1)

pnewhook (788591) | about 2 years ago | (#36569408)

Baby seals are no longer killed for their coats. This is a myth continued only because it generates sympathy and revenue for whomever shows those images.

Re:What's next, a hybrid motor that runs on baby s (3, Funny)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#36568450)

I'd actually buy that, just to piss off the overbearing Greens movement of today and their insane and self-destructive attitude on power generation.

Re:What's next, a hybrid motor that runs on baby s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36568968)

I think a lot of fisherman on the Pacific coast of the US would buy it. Some seal species are now LC (Least Concern) and they eat fish. Dead seals turn up on the beach with gunshot wounds sometimes. You know no matter how overpopulated they get, there will never be a seal hunt. If anything needs protection it's the sharks which also eat seals. Well you know, in a world dominated by humans, cuteness is a survival strategy. I shudder to imagine the sparkly hello kitty world we will inhabit if this continues for a million years.

Re:What's next, a hybrid motor that runs on baby s (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#36569208)

Hello kitty shark. Ugh.

UGGGGGH. Thanks for that mental image.

Re:What's next, a hybrid motor that runs on baby s (1)

Unkyjar (1148699) | about 2 years ago | (#36569718)

You know no matter how overpopulated they get, there will never be a seal hunt.

But there's a seal hunt every year.

Yay! (1, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | about 2 years ago | (#36568222)

This is excellent - we now have another way to use up the diminishing supplies of fossil fuels even faster! What will they think of next?

Re:Yay! (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#36568294)

For better or worse, coal won't run out any time soon, in fact we have a huge amount right here in the US. It will be setting a very low, if destructive, baseline for the price of renewable energy sources for a long, long time.

Re:Yay! (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | about 2 years ago | (#36568498)

We're out of coal that we can get from a mine for the most part.

Now we cut off the tops of mountains to get it. It might be there to get, but the cost of extraction (to the environment) has been skyrocketing.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36568640)

Absolutely, positively, untrue. Take a trip to the Power River Basin sometime. The quality of outright lying on Slashdot has gone down.

Re:Yay! (3, Informative)

maeka (518272) | about 2 years ago | (#36568752)

We cut the top off of mountains because it is cheaper not because "coal that we can get from a mine" is running out.

Re:Yay! (4, Interesting)

maeka (518272) | about 2 years ago | (#36569212)

We're out of coal that we can get from a mine for the most part.

We cut the top off of mountains because it is cheaper not because "coal that we can get from a mine" is running out.

Sorry about the self-reply, but let's clarify this a little more.

Cutting the top off of mountains to get to coal is the logical consequence of regulations in the United States and modern technology. Our government (arguably that means our society) values people more than it values the environment.

Shaft mining is risky, and it always will be. Mountaintop removal takes more machinery, more energy, but less people, and less risk. Machinery (technology) is cheap in the USA, as is energy. People, both in terms of labor cost and in terms of safety regulation cost, are expensive. It is no wonder we do it.

Re:Yay! (1)

cobraR478 (1416353) | about 2 years ago | (#36569290)

Our government (arguably that means our society) values people more than it values the environment.

Do you disagree with that?

Re:Yay! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#36569938)

Our government (arguably that means our society) values people more than it values the environment.

                Do you disagree with that?

people live in the environment, so that's a dumb thing to say. If you crap on the environment you crap on ALL people. If a few miners die, then a few miners die. Of course, when you burn coal (does anyone really believe that the byproducts from the coal to coal gas process will be disposed of properly?) then you release radioactives that also crap on ALL people. You kill people with cancer. So really we should be spending our energy moving away from coal. We also have no strategy for sequestering the CO2 as fast as we can release it so if you love life you should hate coal.

Re:Yay! (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 2 years ago | (#36571120)

people live in the environment, so that's a dumb thing to say. If you crap on the environment you crap on ALL people. If a few miners die, then a few miners die.

Drinkypoo is on the roll again.

Of course, when you burn coal (does anyone really believe that the byproducts from the coal to coal gas process will be disposed of properly?) then you release radioactives that also crap on ALL people. You kill people with cancer. So really we should be spending our energy moving away from coal. We also have no strategy for sequestering the CO2 as fast as we can release it so if you love life you should hate coal.

And knowing this, you still oppose nuclear power [slashdot.org] . Not because of any actual accidents, but because "Remember how we treated DDT or thalidomide before we admitted they were evil?"

Where do you think the power is going to come from? Pixy dust?

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36569472)

Shaft mining is risky, and it always will be.

That's an awfully pessimistic attitude toward remote operation technology.

Re:Yay! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36569682)

Log in if you actually want a discussion.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36571480)

"Our government (arguably that means our society) values *profit* more than it values the environment."

There. Fixed that for ya in light of the fact that:

"People, both in terms of labor cost and in terms of safety regulation cost, are expensive."

Re:Yay! (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#36572552)

This is probably gonna sound stupid, but I don't care if it does because I'm genuinely curious. Aside from the damage to the scenery, are there any environmental consequences of shaving off the top of a mountain? I can't think of any offhand (that's not to say they don't exist; I'm genuinely ignorant of them).

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36572726)

They dump the waste (i.e. the mountain) off into the surrounding valleys, covering soil and plants, and choking streams. That's pretty harmful.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36573056)

And lest one think the "waste" = benign limestone, we're talking the low-grade coal with all its heavy metal contaminants exposed to the environment for the first time in millions of years.

The damage due the the subsequent leeching can be massive.

Re:Yay! (0)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 2 years ago | (#36574700)

>>Our government (arguably that means our society) values people more than it values the environment.

Uh, a lot of this sort of stuff is banned now. Hydraulic mining (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_mining) for example is now illegal. Doesn't really fit well into your thesis.

Hell, we can't even build dams or canals these days due to environmental laws. I hope you like all of the water you're putting into reservoirs now - that's going to be all you get for a while.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36575470)

Uh, a lot of this sort of stuff is banned now.

this stuff? Thanks for the point-by-point refutation of my statements.

Want to rant about environmental laws? Pick a more relevant thread to reply to. You're bringing nothing to this discussion with your off-topic charges.

Re:Yay! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36569540)

Coal won't run out, but we are definitely past "peak coal." Instead of hollowing out a mountainside, companies are force to use more risky/dangerous/environmentally devastating ways to get at the coal.

Oh, don't forget quality of coal. Lignite coal is very polluting. The good stuff, anthracite is effectively all gone, so no coal plant is going to be running it. Instead, the coal being used is bottom drawer stuff that either spews toxins in the air, or if filtered, ends up at the coal site.

There was a /. post a few weeks back of some innovative poster who managed to compute the total of deaths per terawatt caused by energy sources. Believe it or not, nuclear was dead last in confirmed kills, and coal was pretty high on the list.

The reason why coal is so common is that it is cheap and relatively plentiful. Even though it will turn areas into environmental nightmares [1]. Coal also has a large lobby behind it, while people will piss their shorts if they hear "nuclear", or "noo-clu-ear" like our last CIC.

Bottom line: We need to leave the dirty brown shit in the ground where it belongs and start splitting the atom for energy sources. Unless we want gas masks to go from a cool fashion statement for a date on a Saturday night to a necessity.

[1]: Compare the areas left by coal mine tailings to the area around Pripyat. One of which has plentiful flora and fauna running around. The other is just barren with only a few strains of bacteria existing.

Re:Yay! (1)

osu-neko (2604) | about 2 years ago | (#36571106)

Oh, don't forget quality of coal. Lignite coal is very polluting.

If you burn it, yes. One assumes you didn't read the article, or else you'd realize that's a moot point here.

Re:Yay! (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | more than 2 years ago | (#36572484)

There was a /. post a few weeks back of some innovative poster who managed to compute the total of deaths per terawatt caused by energy sources. Believe it or not, nuclear was dead last in confirmed kills, and coal was pretty high on the list.

Probably at the top of the list, with almost 13,000 dead annually. Or maybe not. http://www.coalcares.org/cleanenergy.html [coalcares.org] teaches us that wind power kills a lot more.

Re:Yay! (1)

catprog (849688) | more than 2 years ago | (#36574308)

I have seen statements saying that the US has 500 years of coal left at current usage. and is about 20% of the energy mix.

now if their is a 5.00% annual growth in coal usage that 500 years drops down to 67

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36568318)

There is more coal then oil though, this way we can ensure that the atmosphere will be 100% saturated with crap before we have to bother doing anything different.

Missing the point (4, Informative)

Scareduck (177470) | about 2 years ago | (#36568320)

The point of a fuel cell would be to burn fossil fuels more efficiently.

Re:Missing the point (1)

Arlet (29997) | about 2 years ago | (#36569648)

Except that in this case, the fuel cell is not more efficient than directly burning the coal. According to the article the efficiency is 50%, and that probably doesn't include the losses incurred in producing coal gas out of coal.

The major advantage is that coal gas is much easier to transport and store compared to coal, which could make useful as an automotive fuel, for instance. Also, when you clean the coal gas at the production plant, you don't have to worry about nasty emissions when you use it in a car.

Re:Missing the point (1)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | about 2 years ago | (#36569720)

it truly is about automotive uses... I would like to point out though, coal gas, used in a fully electric car would end up being a lot more efficient in terms of power that hits the road than any ICE engine right now and coal gas could replace foreign and most domestic oil and reduce the load on the power grid for full electric cars to nothing

Re:Missing the point (1)

osu-neko (2604) | about 2 years ago | (#36571142)

Except that in this case, the fuel cell is not more efficient than directly burning the coal. According to the article the efficiency is 50%, and that probably doesn't include the losses incurred in producing coal gas out of coal.

It is more efficient that burning the coal. Read the entire sentence, not just the first half. From TFA:

The fuel cells are also said to capture about half of the energy in the coal gas, as opposed to the third captured by burning.

Umm, the supply of coal is far more plentiful (4, Informative)

VAElynx (2001046) | about 2 years ago | (#36568398)

than oil. Plus, using fuel cells to generate electricity is generally more fuel-wise efficient than trying to do it via combustion - so far , combined cycles (and there's few of those) have efficiencies between 50-60 % IIRC - in other words technology like this will make our stockpiles last *longer* not shorter.

coalgas != coal (2)

goombah99 (560566) | about 2 years ago | (#36568308)

Coalgas is what you get when you break down coal to things like hydrogen and water and co. you can run anything on that gas. No need for a fuel cell.

Re:coalgas != coal (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 years ago | (#36568554)

coal contains many other items. Sulfur, Nitrogen, Mercury, Uranium, lead, etc. In fact, some of the worst coal is in China, and it is LOADED with those items. I wonder if those will be cleaned first?

Re:coalgas != coal (1)

osu-neko (2604) | about 2 years ago | (#36571174)

Coalgas is what you get when you break down coal to things like hydrogen and water and co. you can run anything on that gas. No need for a fuel cell.

But, if you read the article, you know that using the fuel cell will allow you to get more energy from that gas than simply burning it.

Interesting, but ignoring some issues (2, Insightful)

The Great Pretender (975978) | about 2 years ago | (#36568310)

Interesting solution, but the article misses some pivot points.

The fuel cells are also said to capture about half of the energy in the coal gas, as opposed to the third captured by burning.

and

Because solid oxide fuel cells have traditionally operated best at temperatures above 850C (1,562F), they have had to be made from relatively expensive heat-resistant materials. When treated with barium oxide and running on coal gas, however, they can operate at temperatures as low as 750C (1,382F).

How much energy does it take to gasify coal? - Deduct that. Also deduct the energy required to keep the fuel cell at 750C. Fuel cells currently run about 40% efficient, so multiple the previous number by 0.4. It's going to be a lot less than 30%.

Unlike hydrogen fuel cells, these ones do create carbon dioxide in the course of operation. Part of that CO2 is reused, however, for gasifying the coal. The rest is in a much more pure form than that produced simply by the burning of coal in a power plant, so extensive separation and purification wouldn't be required for sequestration.

So what CO2 sequestration are they envisaging? I'm not aware of anything that is truly commercial yet, except for the paper accounting job of claiming biomass production for a CO2 removal brownie point.

How much energy

Re:Interesting, but ignoring some issues (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#36568472)

If this was something concrete, you'd be seeing it across papers everywhere. This is nothing but a working theory, and yet another hope for a solution to mobile energy problem.

Re:Interesting, but ignoring some issues (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36568932)

While it's good to be skeptical of these claims, you're being too skeptical. This is not really a new fuel cell, but a new catalyst for the solid oxide fuel cell, which has been built and commercially sold and is known to have efficiency of ~45%+.

To give you some numbers, gasification is ~80%+ efficient depending on scale. The fuel cell process is exothermic, so you get the heat needed to keep the reactor at 750C for free except for the initial few minutes when you turn on the reactor--which won't happen very often because solid oxide fuel cells don't like being turned on and off frequently (big thermal stress). Finally, the 40% figure you quote is the overall efficiency for existing fuel cells, so it doesn't make sense to multiply that again.

Re:Interesting, but ignoring some issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36569056)

So what CO2 sequestration are they envisaging?

You plant a tree everytime you take the car driving.

Re:Interesting, but ignoring some issues (1)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | about 2 years ago | (#36569764)

how much energy is passed to the wheels of a car using an ICE? How much load would there be on the power grid to charge cars over night? How far can you get on a charge up car before you are out of luck? how long will it take to recharge that car?

This tech allows for the efficiency of electric cars on the road in terms of power that reaches the road, easy refueling, unlimited range, and no power grid impact.

Even though the energy conversion is not perfect, it is a better product that what we have on teh road right now and will last us a hell of a lot longer than what we have on the road right now.

Coal is not green or clean (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 years ago | (#36568340)

Any way you burn coal, the result is CO2

We may have enough coal to last us a thousand years, but nowhere on the planet would be inhabitable by then.

Re:Coal is not green or clean (1)

petteyg359 (1847514) | about 2 years ago | (#36568404)

Did you mean nowhere on the planet would be habitable, or everywhere on the planet would be inhabitable? "in-" is a negative prefix.

Re:Coal is not green or clean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36568546)

Actually, "uninhabitable" [google.com] is the negative form.
Maybe you're thinking of "inhospitable"?

Re:Coal is not green or clean (3, Informative)

mevets (322601) | about 2 years ago | (#36568568)

"in-" is a negative prefix.

I was going to mod you in-sightful ; but I doubt anyone would get the joke.

Are you in genius, in competent, in capable... - BB.

Re:Coal is not green or clean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36569816)

Enter the grammer nazi. I modded him up for ya. Slashdot is no place for grammer nazi's.

Re:Coal is not green or clean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36570230)

The funny part being that your comment has been modded in-formative.

Re:Coal is not green or clean (1)

petteyg359 (1847514) | about 2 years ago | (#36570468)

Ingenious has no prefix, nor does insightful, because they are not modifying genius or sight. They are ingenuity and insight. One of them does have a suffix, though...

Re:Coal is not green or clean (1)

mevets (322601) | about 2 years ago | (#36571790)

Would injest be a prefix?

Re:Coal is not green or clean (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36574986)

Yes. Look at the etymology of the word. A Jester is a joke teller. To jest is to be joking, To injest would be to not be joking.

As in: I do not injest; I've ingested poison!

Re:Coal is not green or clean (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36575000)

Ingenious has no prefix, nor does insightful, because they are not modifying genius or sight. They are ingenuity and insight. One of them does have a suffix, though...

I believe you take the words to mean the incorrect things.

For example: sight and insight. The former deals with vision, the second deals with things invisible...
To be insightful you have to comprehend things that can not be seen on the surface. An insightful person can see beyond, into the inner workings of things. A sightful person would be one who has much sight.

genius and ingenious: the former relates to things requiring higher levels of thought than average, the latter deals with things that anyone could have thought of, but didn't.

Ingenuity is a term for the quality required to produce ingenious solutions. Genuity would be apt for describing qualities of geniuses.

Before you throw the book at me I think it best you should consider the source. For example: lipsync is in the dictionary, as well as asshole. You can argue the etymology of these compound words, or tell me that prefixes and suffixes don't apply to this or that with no supporting evidence whatsoever; However, this only further proves my point: The English language is all made up, on the spot based on popular opinion. Dost thou deceive thy self into believing thine own illogic prattling? The language evolves: Words' meanings change and fall out of use as well.

English has no rule that it does not break itself.

Re:Coal is not green or clean (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36569280)

Any way you burn coal, the result is CO2

We may have enough coal to last us a thousand years, but nowhere on the planet would be inhabitable by then.

You must be new to this planet. We've had much higher amounts of circulating carbon. How do you think the coal was formed?

Re:Coal is not green or clean (1)

mevets (322601) | about 2 years ago | (#36569672)

I'm a very big supporter of bringing back a favourable climate for dinosaurs and such.

I saw a documentary once where they experimented with genetically reviving dinosaur DNA; and it looked pretty cool. If we made a more hospitable climate for them, maybe it could work in the future.

In the past, people used to keep them as pets, and bbq'd brontosauruses; that would be cool too. This time round, we would still have the oil from the 1st Gen Dino's; so we wouldn't need those foot powered cars.

Lets get burning everything we can.

Princess (1)

hoborg1 (1977356) | about 2 years ago | (#36568380)

Did anyone else read the headline as "New Princess Allows Fuel Cells To Run On Coal"? Though I suspect she's in another castle.

cool, (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 years ago | (#36568524)

but, will it require that the coal be clean FIRST? If so that will be difficult. But if all it emits is CO2, and water, that is not that bad. This is then no different than running natural gas, so that at large plants, the CO2 can be directed into the ground.

Re:cool, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36569268)

Under what set of physics and chemistry does burning CNG create CO2 and water? I'm really terribly interested... can you explain that?

Re:cool, (2)

Arlet (29997) | about 2 years ago | (#36569412)

Coal gas is a mixture of CO and H2, combining that with oxygen in the fuel cell yields CO2 and H2O. Pretty basic chemistry, actually.

Re:cool, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36574180)

CNG is methane, CH4, burn with O2 and you get CO2 and H2O, that's early high-school chemistry.

Re:cool, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36573900)

There is no such thing as "clean" coal. All coal combusts/breaks down to CO, CO2, H2, etc. Nearly all coal also contains sulphur, which exacerbates the problem(s). Simply directing the CO2 gas into the ground is not a solution!

Direct Carbon Fuel Cells? (4, Informative)

Rhinobird (151521) | about 2 years ago | (#36568812)

Whatever happened to just carbon fuel cells?

from 2005: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7891-coalpowered-fuel-cell-aims-for-efficiency.html [newscientist.com]

and some unknown date: https://www.llnl.gov/str/June01/Cooper.html [llnl.gov]

Re:Direct Carbon Fuel Cells? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36568974)

Your article just talks about a battery, plain and simple. The carbon acts as one of the electrodes and the reducing agent. Generally, carbon is used as an electrode when one of the substances used in the battery is water-soluble (as carbon is notoriously difficult to oxidize or reduce). Here, the article states that they're actually oxidizing carbon -- stealing away electrons from it. I don't see how that would work, honestly, but that's probably a deficiency of my chemically-oriented education. I would see that as something that could be more efficiently (in terms of energy expended and CO2 produced) with a battery lacking carbon as the oxidizing or reducing agent, charged via conventional combustion. In any case, that's interesting.

Coal air Fuel From 1970 - 1980 NO Gasification REq (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36568938)

This is nothing really new. Back in the Late 1970's and early 1980 I was part of a team at SRI international that used Bituminous coal as the fuel source for a molten Carbonate fuel cell that ran at near 500 deg C. The eutectic combination of Sodium Potassium and Lithium Carbonate would absorb the Sulfur, and ash content of the Bituminous coal. I found that series 300 stainless steal would form a very nice passivation layer as long as there was some oxygen around inside the fuel cell, so the cell could be contained in relatively cheap 316 steel. The molten carbonate would need to be cleaned every so often to remove the sulfur, and other solid ash from the coal. The output of the fuel cell was about 1.2 volts, and pure CO2. The only processing of the bituminous coal that was necessary was to solidify the bituminous coal into an electrode with a wire mesh of conductive wire that would not be corroded by the molten carbonate at 500 degree C. NO GASIFICATION WAS REQUIRED. from our experiments the fuel cell plant would have an overall efficiency of about 35 - 40% which is much higher than coal burning plants, plus all the sulfur, and ash would be contained in the molten carbonate rather tan spewed into the atmosphere. The project was killed when the Government deemed in the early 1980's that we were beyond the research stage, and the team at SRI international and EPRI could not find funding for a pilot plant operations. if you are interested in furthering this project, you just need to look for papers with the authrs of Robert Weaver, Steven Leach and/or Michael McKubre. There are papers in the EPRI archives, as SRI international reports and in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

The problem with Gasification is the SULFUR, and the FLY ASH from the coal. SULFUR KILLS Fuel cells that use most catalyst , and fly ash is the BIGGEST issue with coal burning plants. I wish this tam all the best in commercializing this process, but I also know that while this process will be more efficient than using steam conversion teh biggest issue will be the SULFUR and Fly ASH.
GOOD LUCK and may the US Government and the big power cartel treat you better than they treated our team.

Re:Coal air Fuel From 1970 - 1980 NO Gasification (1)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | about 2 years ago | (#36570044)

Are you using the 300 stainless as a container for the electrolyte or the air electrode? What about the 316 stainless? I'd love to make one of these as an experiment. I'd also like to see what you think about the idea of using charcoal instead of coal for this system? Thanks for posting this. I've been reading this old research. Please get an account here so more people can read your posts!

Moronic Surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36569356)

Next thing you hear is that coal may be a very usefull energy source. of course you van run coal gas through a fuel cell, it's called the bloom box.But you don't want to because emissions are exterminating us!

Neat, but not New (4, Informative)

coffeegoat (1751644) | about 2 years ago | (#36569436)

These guys are working on a new SOFC catalyst that will allow them to run gasified coal at lower temperatures without running into problems with coking. The basic idea is to gasify coal and then use internal reforming (a standard benefit of SOFC technology) to reform the hydrocarbons into CO and H2 which can be used directly as fuels. The new part is that this new catalyst is capable of running at lower temperatures without seeing a buildup of carbon, generally this is a problem that is solved by higher temperatures/power densities (which causes faster degradation) or more steam injection (more water needed).

The problem itself was the entire goal of the SECA program in the US because there is so much coal, and this gets better efficiency than just burning it normally. However, it looks like funding is on the way out for these programs, fossil fuel guys don't like fuel cells and vice versa. Most of the big players, GE, Siemens, etc have already bailed.

Some companies that use similar technology: Versa Power (US & Canada), Bloom Energy (US), Staxera (GE), Ceres Power (UK), CFCL (AU) and others

Coal is carbon. Leave it in the ground (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 2 years ago | (#36569470)

Coal is a hydrocarbon whose molecular structure means it has more carbon in it per amount of energy extractable than does, for example, crude oil.

Coal has roughly twice as much carbon.

Using coal for energy produces roughly twice as much CO2 as using oil, which is bad enough.

If you had really effective sequestration, maybe this could work, but sequestration is really, really expensive, still basically untested for long-term storage ability, and no where near 100 percent effective.

Leave the coal in the ground and turn your deserts into solar farms and mountains into wind farms instead.

Re:Coal is carbon. Leave it in the ground (1)

poly_pusher (1004145) | about 2 years ago | (#36569770)

We need some form of energy to sustain us until other sources of energy such as solar and/or wind become practical. I welcome any innovation that will improve that possibility and this sounds like a potentially relevant advancement that could allow things like hydrogen fuel cell technology to mature.

If you are willing to live a life that in no way utilizes energy from fossil fuels I'll take your perspective seriously...

Re:Coal is carbon. Leave it in the ground (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#36569968)

We need some form of energy to sustain us until other sources of energy such as solar and/or wind become practical.

No, we need coal or similar to sustain our GREED etc etc. We COULD support a modern, industrial society with solar and wind in a VERY short time if only we actually spent the effort developing the production capacity. Solar cells paid back the cost of their production in under seven years in the 1970s and thin film panels can get in under three years today. If we had started building these plants in the 1970s then we could be in a much better position today. However, there is more money in releasing CO2 to the detriment of all, and since most of the execs involved will not suffer significantly in their lifetime they don't care.

If you are willing to live a life that in no way utilizes energy from fossil fuels I'll take your perspective seriously...

I'm more than willing, but unfortunately, the "powers that be" do not want that to happen in some way that will permit me to remain a functioning member of society.

Don't act like we CAN'T do this thing. We CAN DO IT. We went to the fucking moon on decades-old technology, if you really don't believe we can serve our needs through altpower then I think you are sorely lacking in imagination. Of course, some factories might have to cut their production in the winter months to cope with a reduced power budget, and we can't have that in our modern capitalist reality of greed, can we? We must wring the maximum amount of profit out of every action.

Re:Coal is carbon. Leave it in the ground (1)

Arlet (29997) | about 2 years ago | (#36570162)

Solar and wind are pretty useless as an automotive fuel, unless you have much better batteries. Developing better batteries is not an engineering problem that only needs a bunch of money to solve. It needs Nobel-worthy scientific breakthroughs that are usually the result of messing around with something else, and muttering "hmm.. that's funny...".

Re:Coal is carbon. Leave it in the ground (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#36570246)

Solar and wind are pretty useless as an automotive fuel, unless you have much better batteries.

Better than what? People having to commute so far is just another one of those problems caused by greed. We should structure our society such that people can live close to work, and then we don't need cars at all; there goes a sizable slice of our energy consumption and pollution. Reduce the number of goods that are made in other countries which can be made in your own country but which aren't simply to improve someone's profit ratio, and we can reduce the number of container ships running around. Build stuff to last instead of for maximum profit (whether through engineering them to fail right after the warranty period, or just making crap) and we don't have to have as many factories because we won't need as much stuff. I am not against developing technology, but again, technology is NOT the limitation in our ability to live in harmony with other species on this planet, or indeed, our ability to maintain a biosphere which will support is. Greed is.

Right now we have EVs which will go 100 miles on a charge, and we even have relatively cheap EVs which will go 40. I've never had a commute longer than about 30 miles in my life and hope never to. People should live close to work. If the true cost of commuting were reflected in the prices then more people WOULD live closer to work, and/or there would be more public transportation to get them there.

Re:Coal is carbon. Leave it in the ground (1)

Arlet (29997) | about 2 years ago | (#36570358)

Greed is a basic human instinct. Any plan that ignores that will be doomed to fail. Except for a tiny minority, everybody will seek as much comfort in their lives as they can get away with.

And even ignoring greed, restructuring current society such that we can all live close to work is not really realistic on a short timescale. It's grown too big for that. You'll need a plan that involves a series of gradual modifications, which is feasible every step of the way.

we have EVs which will go 100 miles on a charge

But no charging stations, and no grid capacity to transport the electricity at the necessary scale. Also, if you're going to charge at night, you'll need to store your solar/wind energy during the day. Also, we'll need trucks and vans, and some people would like to take longer trips.

Re:Coal is carbon. Leave it in the ground (1)

jeppen (1377103) | about 2 years ago | (#36570772)

You're an American, right? Most Americans seem to ignore the rest of the world... Problem is, for the most part, coal and oil use is about quite basic necessities and basic civilisation. It may be called "greed" for a chindian to want a nice house, 24/7 electricity, a productive job and a modern life for himself and his family, but I would rather frame such ambitions in a bit more positive light. Making rich people poor and making it harder for corporations or limiting US urban sprawl may make a small dent in the rising curve of global CO2 emissions, and it might give us two years extra before climate tipping points hit us, but not more. Limiting international trade is just madness, btw - trade is the most civilisatory force in the world. What we need is not wind or solar, those are just coal's alibies and, as such, they make matters worse, not better. Intermittent sources won't cut it. We need a rush to nuclear power, we need better battery tech and we need national carbon taxes with a globally agreed floor. If not, global CO2 emissions will just keep on rising whatever we do.

Re:Coal is carbon. Leave it in the ground (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#36571508)

In no particular order; I am an American, but I think we need to converge on "one solution" for the whole world, which is to say, whatever is appropriate for each region and culture inhabiting it that will enable us to go forward without further destroying our habitat. To me that means some sort of heavily ecologically-oriented system such as "bioregionalism". What it particularly does not include is more ridiculous excuses for nuclear plants like the ones which dominate the landscape today.

I am not actually against nuclear, although I am utterly against reactors which do not fail safely, as well as any reactor which produces waste which cannot (or will not) be managed responsibly on a human time scale.

I reject the notion that wind and solar cannot provide for the bulk of our power consumption. There are power storage technologies which are feasible for current use in every way which matters; flywheels are my favorite, but everyone has their own.

I agree that the already-developed world needs to curtail its own emissions, but not that the developing world should be permitted to spew endlessly. Along those lines, I thought the Kyoto protocol was a load of crap. Or is, I guess, but not for us. We will crap on our own terms, unfortunately.

Re:Coal is carbon. Leave it in the ground (1)

jeppen (1377103) | more than 2 years ago | (#36574516)

No, there is definitely not any storage tech that is feasible to fix the intermittency. Flywheels? So, we should add some 50,000 tonnes of flywheels to each wind turbine to ensure two weeks of storage? You are utterly against reactors that do not fail safely? There is no such thing as absolute safety and it is beyond me why anybody should ask for it. It should suffice that nuclear, on average, does little harm per TWh. Bioregionalism? Me, I reject any solution that is not based on monetizing environmental costs and then letting the market do its thing. The answer to our problems is NOT about being less efficient or putting up artificial barriers to cooperation.

Re:Coal is carbon. Leave it in the ground (1)

cavreader (1903280) | about 2 years ago | (#36570798)

What you call greed most people call survival or living life. You seem to think that re-ordering the entire world will be fast and easy with no negative consequences. Just the re-allocation of labor would create massive problems. If fixing the energy problem was easy don't you think we would have made more headway then we have? Saying it is greedy corporations that won't allow new energy resources ignores the simple fact that those profiting from the oil and coal supplies can continue to make the same if not more in an alternative energy market. Environmentally safe does not mean cheap or free and there are plenty of profit incentives in a market as large at the energy market. The existing oil companies already have the money and influence to get in on the ground floor of any new emerging energy platform and continue making profits. The good news is that people like those in this story are spending the time and money actively looking for alternatives. This effort has been steadily growing over the past couple of years and eventually someone will attain a breakthrough in the technology barriers.

Re:Coal is carbon. Leave it in the ground (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36571820)

We should structure our society

Let me guess, kill anyone with an education because they leech off the working class? Kids, turn your parents in if they talk bad about our dear leader.

Add me to the "not a mobil energy solution" list (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 2 years ago | (#36569760)

This sounds like it has the potential to replace coal burning power plants that refuse to switch to another fuel. Outside of that, I don't see wider use of coal as a fuel as a good solution. Extracting it does more carbon harm than any other fuel source I can think of.

Re:Add me to the "not a mobil energy solution" lis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36572632)

Carbon harm ... sigh, can anyone tell me how much carbon dioxide it takes to increase global temperature by even 0.1 C? We don't know a gosh darn thing about the true interaction between CO2 and Temperature other then from the ice records that show that CO2 increases after the planet temperature increases. We don't know to what extent the so-called greenhouse effect actually contributes to global temperature. Getting all super sensitive about this stuff is not being smart ... its buying into hysteria.

Re:Add me to the "not a mobil energy solution" lis (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36575010)

Getting all super sensitive about this stuff is not being smart ... its buying into hysteria.

"Better safe than sorry" I suppose the chances of a car crossing my path at 3:30 AM on a Sunday morning are vanishingly small, however, I always stop at the red-lights and stop signs anyway.

We really only get one shot at this planet. What's more foolish: Being needlessly careful or being heedlessly careless?

Source material (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#36571708)

What is with all the gizmag source stories. So much of the stuff I've read from them ends up to be bunk science.

What the fuck... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36574398)

Great idea.... can we get the money back that was WASTED on this hairbrained idea?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...