Beta
×

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!

Inexpensive Nanosheet Catalyst Splits Hydrogen From Water

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.

Science 141

An anonymous reader writes "Traditional methods of producing pure hydrogen are either extremely expensive or release lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Now, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed an electrocatalyst that addresses one of these problems by generating hydrogen gas from water cleanly and with drastically more affordable materials. Goodbye platinum; hello nickel and ammonia."

cancel ×

141 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

You know... (-1, Offtopic)

bsnapnude (2637325) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973879)

I'm a big ol' buttnude. That makes me an authority on this subjective. As a bootynude, I command that you use Gamemaker!

Of the 8 scientists involved in this project ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39976153)

... none were Black, nor Latino

There were 4 Caucasians, 3 Chinese, and 1 Japanese involved in this project

Where are the Blacks? Where are the Latinos?

Re:Of the 8 scientists involved in this project .. (-1, Offtopic)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977595)

Outside stealing 8 cars?

noobs.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974023)

old story for the internets .... and crappy synopsis as usual...GO SLASHDOT!

THIS IS IT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974413)

This is teh year of Hydrogen!

Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974043)

Because they're converting it all into flammable lifting gas!

Whatever will we do?

Re:Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974159)

Flammable lifting gas? Are you trying to tell us you don't know how important the Hydrogen extraction process is for our future fuel and energy needs?

Re:Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink (0)

jenningsthecat (1525947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975823)

Flammable lifting gas? Are you trying to tell us you don't know how important the Hydrogen extraction process is for our future fuel and energy needs?

Sheesh! I'd mod you down for this, but I can't find the selection for 'utterly lacking a sense of humour'.

Re:Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39976749)

I often wonder how many people would even come here if they suddenly found a sense of humor. Some seriously hilarious shit goes down here but there are a large number of people who just. don't. get. the. joke.

Re:Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink (2)

dwye (1127395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976949)

Just repeat after me:

Whoosh!

Re:Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink (1)

kurzweilfreak (829276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39979959)

Whoosh, incidentally, is also the sound that the flammable lifting gas-filled balloon makes as it either flies over your head or ignites. :P

JOKECEPTION!

Re:Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974353)

Light a match and BOOM! More water :)

Re:Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974647)

Yay! Instant water, just add()&(&7987 NO CARRIER.

Re:Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink (1)

Pathoth (2637433) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976887)

put these things in the ocean and let it all burn

Re:Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink (1)

gentryx (759438) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977421)

Easy: just put a cup to the exhaust of your hydrogen car, add a bit of Earl Grey and you'll be good.

Will it work? (3, Insightful)

Auroch (1403671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974077)

This article is an excellent example of the types of future-energy that we'll need to rely on.

Unfortunately, many people don't believe that spending money now is in our best interest - they'd rather wait until gas hits $10/gallon to invest in reducing the average price of energy. There are already many semi-viable alternative fuels, but for some reason, a large majority of people are content to continue "as-is", and let the current energy crisis continue.

Most of those people though, claim "What energy crisis?"

Re:Will it work? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974229)

Few are content, but far fewer can do anything about it. We live in a capitalist society, and our challenges are cost and logistics, not complacency.

Re:Will it work? (5, Interesting)

Githaron (2462596) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974245)

I want to know why we have not gone nuclear across the nation. The latest nuclear fission technologies are a lot safer than most people believe. Renewable energy is a nice thought but it is not going to do it in the short term. Perhaps in the future when it is more advanced but not right now.

Re:Will it work? (4, Insightful)

Stewie241 (1035724) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974363)

The latest nuclear fission technologies are a lot safer than most people believe.

I think you answered your own question there.

Re:Will it work? (0, Flamebait)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975027)

Nuclear is bad. Nuclear is not safe and never will be. It is also going to be necessary for the next 50-100 years.

Nuclear plants simply can not fail which is why they make them so massively redundant, expensive and exhor. And yet if humans are involved in the design, planning, construction or operation of something, there will be failures.

Newer nuclear plants are indeed 'safer' than previous ones. So is my 2000s honda safer than my 1980s honda. People still die in cars. Nuclear plants will still fail. None has yet failed in a truly catastrophic manner thankfully, but no other source of power has such potential destruction if it does fail catastrophically.

Coal has many operational issues, but failure is limited to the plant and extremely immediate surrounding area. Likewise mining and coal slag ponds are limited to their destructive area. Hydro-dams can be planned around for failure and you can walk in the next day to do clean up.

We need to be investing heavily in renewable techs and energy storage so that it can be grid scale ready down the road, yet we're still giving 40 billion a year to the oil companies who make nearly that much profit each year.

Re:Will it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39975149)

That's somewhat negative, don't you think? We just need to build the nuclear plants in a manner that will prevent failure from affecting large areas, as opposed to being all negative and panicky about it. They test nuclear warheads all the time, underwater, underground, in the desert - countries have enough of them to equal thousands of nuclear power plant explosions, yet everyone is terrified of the clean energy source because it's dangerous... if we spent nearly as much energy and resources as we do for the "green" initiatives, to improve nuclear energy safety, we'd be rocking portable generators in our homes by now, with no emissions.

Re:Will it work? (5, Insightful)

nbsr (2343058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975253)

Nuclear is bad. Nuclear is not safe and never will be. It is also going to be necessary for the next 50-100 years.

All strong sources of energy are inherently dangerous and expensive (in absolute terms). They differ enough from each other to make you choose your poison, that's it. For the amount of energy nuclear plants produce, they are relatively cheap and safe.

Coal has many operational issues, but failure is limited to the plant and extremely immediate surrounding area.

Coal plants are failing continuously (as a part of their design), and by doing so they affect much larger area than nuclear plants will ever do.

Re:Will it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39975533)

Replace "Nuclear plants" with "airplanes":

"Airplanes simply cannot fail which is why they make them so massively redundant and expensive. If humans are involved in the design, planning, construction or operation of something, there will be failures."

I suppose that means we should stop using airplanes as well... after all, they're not necessary. You can get anywhere you need to go using a combination of cars and boats, it's just less efficient.

Re:Will it work? (0)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976513)

I want to know why we have not gone nuclear across the nation.

Nuclear is dead. The reason can be summed up in two words: Shale Gas.

Besides, nuclear is a way to generate electricity, and TFA is about hydrogen which is used as a vehicle fuel. These are two separate markets.

Re:Will it work? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39976579)

You're either an idiot or a shill.

Re:Will it work? (1, Offtopic)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39978127)

dunno about that. economically it makes sense, and has a similar amount of environmental concern surrounding it.

a frack is cheaper than a new nuke plant, and governments are more willing to sign off on one.

Re:Will it work? (3, Insightful)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977369)

You use the electricity generated by nuclear power stations to drive the (energy intensive) process of generating hydrogen, that you then use for fuelling vehicles.

It's the same process as simply charging up an electric car, it's just a different energy storage method.

Like the purely electric car, however, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have the problem of range brought about because hydrogen has an extremely low energy density and is difficult to store effectively as a gas or a liquid (compared to a liquid hydrocarbon fuel, for example).

The market is all interlinked, and that market is energy.

Re:Will it work? (2)

bogjobber (880402) | more than 2 years ago | (#39978099)

want to know why we have not gone nuclear across the nation.

I know it was a rhetorical question, but it's really simple: fear and ignorance. When a nuclear plant fails it's on the front page of every newspaper in the world for months, and a significant percentage of our population doesn't even climate change is happening.

Re:Will it work? (2)

cupantae (1304123) | more than 2 years ago | (#39980807)

Another portion of society don't even all the words in their sentences.

Re:Will it work? (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39978629)

The future is in solar power satellites.

Re:Will it work? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974255)

That is because "most people" refers to the 1% who have the money necessary to invest in this sort of thing. And of course they don't believe there is an energy crisis they aren't effected by it.

Re:Will it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39977261)

Horseshitfeathers.

The 1% (or rather, their corporations)already fund research into this stuff because they know there is an energy crisis, and a corporation with the essential patents on renewable fuels stands to make a killing off it. They don't do as much as they should, because of Wall Street's focus on quarterly profit, but it does happen.

Re:Will it work? (3, Interesting)

Delarth799 (1839672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974267)

Most people could care less about the future. Thinking ahead seems to scare a lot of people so they concentrate on the here and now until that future they ignored comes and smacks them in the face.

Re:Will it work? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974551)

Most people could care less about the future.

Couldn't care less.

Re:Will it work? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39976171)

Maybe the parent meant that people care quite a bit about the future, therefore 'could care less' would be correct.

Re:Will it work? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39977493)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om7O0MFkmpw

Re:Will it work? (2)

nbsr (2343058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975363)

That's where speculators come in handy. Hypothetical situation: people don't care about energy, use plenty of fuel for as long as they can (come on, production of gas isn't all that more expensive, is it?), and, suddenly, they wake up with gas prices od $100/gallon. It's hypothetical because there are people who try to predict the future. If they are right - they get plenty of money, if not - they loose (pretty damn good incentive for being right). If many of them expect a hike in prices of oil - the prices will slowly ramp up and at the same time some amount of oil will be stock piled for later use. Voters don't like that ("let's just burn all the oil now") and politicians are pushing for moving the reserves back into retail. But, voters don't care, and politicians only care about the next election. Who do you believe then?

Re:Will it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39977377)

>Most people in the USAcouldn't care less about the future.

There, fixed that for you.

Re:Will it work? (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974273)

The problem with this particular approach, if it does turn out to work well commercially, is that GW Bush will then have shown to be prescient in his hyping of the Hydrogen economy.

I, for one, have some very serious issues with this concept. Very serious indeed.

Re:Will it work? (0)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977607)

GW Bush will then have shown to be prescient in his hyping of the Hydrogen economy.

This has got to be wrong. I seriously doubt he could even pronounce it.

Re:Will it work? (0, Flamebait)

PaulBu (473180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974291)

This article is an excellent example of the types of future-energy storage that we'll need to rely on.

FTFY

I also hoped that that would be some fancy catalyst to convert sunlight + water into O2 and H2 -- sadly, it's just improvement in electrolysis catalist.

This is total BS (from the article):
The electrolysis of water, or splitting water (H2O) into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2), requires external electricity and an efficient catalyst to break chemical bonds while shifting around protons and electrons.

Hell no!!! I remember as a kid, after overgrowing joys of running around electric toy trains, I repurposed pretty heavy-duty DC current supply (couple of Amps up to 24 volts, I think) to doing much neater experiments, and water electrolysis using just a pair of steel nails was the simplest one. If a 8-10 year old in Soviet Russia could do it withouot fancy Pt-based catalyst, I would expect BNL geeks to know how to do it as well -- but no, I would not expect green-washed hyped-up "science" journalists in this country to have a slightest clue! :(

Paul B.

Re:Will it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974519)

Right, okay, I'm sure electrolysis via steel nails is economically viable.

Re:Will it work? (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974605)

You didn't tell us if your toy trains always ran on time in Soviet Russia?

Re:Will it work? (1)

PaulBu (473180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974669)

;-)

Mine was high-end, actually built in Eastern Germany, so it *was* possible for it to run on time -- but when power supply cranked all the way up it was also relatively easy for it to derail, depending on how track was assembled...

Satisfied your curiosity? ;-)

Paul B.

Re:Will it work? (5, Informative)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974767)

Your way to do it probably had shitty efficiency. 1-2% of the electrical energy probably ended up used to produce hydrogen. With fancy catalysts and carefully controlled temperature, it's possible to improve that efficiency by a factor of 30 or so, with the best methods now getting efficiencies between 30 and 60%. The problem is that those schemes tend to either rely on very expensive catalysts (like platinum ), or they are chemical processes which produce CO2 as a by-product ( steam reforming, in which hydrocarbons are reacted with water to form hydrogen and CO2 ).

What the article seems to speak of is that they've found a catalyst that drastically improves the efficiency of electrolysis, without resorting to expensive materials.

Re:Will it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39976249)

You're missing a necessary fact, which is that electricity to power the process of electrolysis can be produced cheaply from the Sun. So who cares if it's an inefficient process as long as it's an effective process?

Re:Will it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39977071)

Of course that electricity could also be used elsewhere. So an efficient process still wins.

Re:Will it work? (0)

tirefire (724526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977779)

The problem is that those schemes tend to either rely on very expensive catalysts (like platinum ), or they are chemical processes which produce CO2 as a by-product ( steam reforming, in which hydrocarbons are reacted with water to form hydrogen and CO2 ).

(emphasis mine)

What is the problem with expensive catalysts? My chemistry knowledge is not the greatest, but I thought that catalysts were not used up during chemical reactions... meaning that even if you needed to buy an expensive chunk of platinum to get this electrolysis doohickey working, it wasn't a big deal because you could always salvage the platinum and liquidate it (in the financial sense) if you wanted to shut down the operation for whatever reason.

Re:Will it work? (2)

Frenchman113 (893369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39980655)

I am a chemical engineer by education, if not by practice. There are several reasons why catalysts are degraded despite not being consumed in reaction.

The issue is that catalysts are typically formed into fine, spherical pellets to maximize the surface area of catalytic material exposed. This is because catalytic reactions are characterized by an intermediate reaction between the reactants and active sites on the catalyst. As a result of their being made into pellets, a variety of things can occur that reduce the active surface area. As a result of temperature and pressure, the pellets may adhere to form larger particles, which will hence have lower surface area. Additionally, chemical entities present in the reactor may physically adhere to the pellets creating a diffusive barrier to the catalyst. The catalyst can probably be recycled after its effective lifetime, but the cost is certainly not zero (probably similar to production costs in ore refining).

Additionally, although catalysts are not consumed <b>in the reaction they catalyze</b>, they may take part in reactions other than the one of interest. In this way, catalytic material may degrade over time, although platinum is fairly inert.

Re:Will it work? (0)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974485)

The only semi-viable fuels are Oil-Algae derived biodiesel, possibly TDP derived diesel, and possibly cellulosic butanol.

Pretty much everything else ISN'T viable. Not ethanol. Not really CNG. Without subsidies, Ethanol's just another waste of time. CNG's buring just a different "fossil" fuel.

It's not so much "what energy crisis", as people are already saying enough's enough. As for not wanting spend money now...that's more due to the economy and people seeing the Obama administration (and similar) pour money into failed projects like Solyndra. Seriously.

Re:Will it work? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974569)

Solyndra did not fail because of any technological fault or even internal corruption.

They failed because China shattered the price on solar panels, with their own subsidized production, which meant Solyndra couldn't effectively compete.

People are seeing the wrong lesson from what happened. It's like the flooding in the upper Mississippi. People got all worked up over the dams and reservoirs not working, but they never noticed that the reservoirs were kept full because of their use in fishing. Which made people money. Or like the California power crisis. Everybody swore up and down that the problem was California hadn't built power plants or some such, but they didn't notice that it was Enron's deliberate shut-downs of functional plants in order to create an artificial crisis. So they could make money.

Perception and reality are often quite different.

Re:Will it work? (5, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974499)

Blame Wall Street friend. Myself and many others have said that long term research is essential for the very survival of our race and its pretty obvious to anyone with eyes that wars for resources will replace wars for territory in the future. the problem is on wall street if you don't say "Damn everything but the quarterly earnings!" then your stock is gonna take a big old dump and bye bye buddy.

Personally i believe in a broad approach, i think we should be building at the very least small scale test reactors for thorium and for reprocessing our nuclear waste into usable fuel, we should be investing in battery tech and fuel cells and every other possibility that has any real chance for success because frankly the one that trips over a viable replacement for gasoline is gonna make Gates and Buffet look poor and whatever country they are in will probably have a new golden age but sadly the USA is just too short sighted thanks to the government sucking the dicks on wall street to do anything that the money men don't approve of.

I bet the next big breakthrough will probably come from China, they are investing heavily in science and like Japan in the 50s they are learning and improving daily thanks to all the work we have given them. Remember when made in japan meant shit? In a decade i wouldn't doubt if the same change happens in China. Looking at history one has to wonder if this is not inevitable, if once an empire gets to a certain size the wealth becomes too concentrated and apathy and trying to hang onto what those at the top have becomes more important than innovation and stagnation simply can't be avoided.

Re:Will it work? (3, Interesting)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975299)

Consider this.

Apple's cash reserves are $110 billion. Microsoft has $60 billion. Google has $40 billion.

U.S. is spending $8 billion per year for TSA (and growing).

Direct spending on Iraq War is over $800 billion. In Afghanistan, over $400 billion.

According to MIT fusion researchers we've had here on Slashdot the other day, we could have had fusion today if we were willing to spend $80 billion on it in the last 20 years. If true, it means that Apple alone could fund it if they wanted!

Let's assume that they are overly optimistic, and increase that figure by an order of magnitude - even then it's what was spent with zero benefit on Iraq alone.

When we fuck up our civilization by over-reliance on a single oh-so-convenient power source, we'll have no-one but ourselves to blame.

Re:Will it work? (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976829)

But you missed my point friend, in that if say Apple WERE to announce they were gonna fund such a thing to that amount of money wall street would take a massive dump on their stock and then they simply wouldn't have the funds.

The entire system IMHO has been taken over by leeches, you have corps that literally are doing NANOsecond trades, now how is that in ANY way helpful to innovation? The original intent of trading stock was like what kickstarter is now, you have an idea and need funding, others believe your idea will work and provide funding for a piece of the proceeds. I would argue that the lack of tech actually helped because one had to focus on the long term.

But now the entire system is completely short sighted because any other view is crucified by wall street, it is the reason why you have companies sitting on piles of money instead of investing it into more plants or better infrastructure, simply because anything that affects the bottom line in any way that isn't immediately positive is shat upon. in my own area neither DSL nor cable has moved a single foot in over a decade, even though the town has grown by over a third, why? Because they are both publicly traded companies and their stock goes down when they spend money on lines but goes up when they buy out some other company, so that is what they do instead.

Like I said looking at history i have to wonder if this is simply inevitable because in every empire you see the same progression, first growth and innovation followed by wealth concentration then finally stagnation and downfall. Just as once the sun never set on the British empire so too it appears our own day in the sun is setting, most likely to be replaced by China and India. lets just hope they find the answer before we are all out of time.

Re:Will it work? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977165)

Apple's cash reserves are $110 billion.

But you missed my point friend, in that if say Apple WERE to announce they were gonna fund such a thing to that amount of money wall street would take a massive dump on their stock and then they simply wouldn't have the funds.

Cash is cash, it's totally unaffected by the stock price.

Re:Will it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39977719)

Friend, I'm afraid that basic economics disagrees with you.

If the nett asset value of a publically traded corporation greatly exceeds its market capitalisation, everyone with half a brain will buy as many shares as they can collectively either 1) liquidate the company for an immediate profit or 2) fire the managers and hire someone who knows how to exploit the company's assets for a longer-term profit, which would raise the share price (and thus translate into an immediate profit).

Re:Will it work? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977383)

Apple's stock price has no bearing on funding fusion if they wanted - they have $100 billion in actual cash assets that they could simply withdraw from the bank in quarters (if they wanted to be douches) or dimes (if they were total douches). Well, assuming the bank could raise that sort of money in cash on hand in one place.

Re:Will it work? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977407)

This is the biggest annoyance that scientists have at the moment. So much is said about the "wasteful" spending on things like the LHC or fusion research, or various other "big budget" science projects, and people lap it up because they don't get a sense of scale. Sure hundreds of millions of dollars is a lot of money in real terms, but compared to the 8 billion spent on the useless TSA, or the $20 billion spent air conditioning Afghanistan?

Fusion needs a cash injection that we (as in, humans) could easily afford, but instead the media talks instead out the the two main competing research streams competing for the comparative scraps of money provided. Why not fund both?

Fusion power is not out of our technical reach, it's just out of reach right now because the funding is a comparative trickle compared to two useless wars for oil in the Middle East. The real worry for energy companies is that fusion becomes commercially viable, then the price of oil will plummet (it will still be an essential commodity, but the days of it being the thing we invade countries for will be over).

Energy independence and near-limitless power from commercial fusion plants is a very scary thought... for those in control of the current energy supply (oil, gas, coal etc).

Re:Will it work? (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39978309)

short sighted energy companies will shit bricks. but smart energy companies will fund fusion etc. and own it all.

H2 is not a form of energy, it is energy storage (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974641)

The article doesn't say anything at all about future energy. It presents a cheaper way to make a catalyst that performs as well as platinum. It still requires an external source of energy to actually do the H2O splitting. Because the catalyst is efficient the H2 created will store *almost* as much energy as it took to split apart the H2O.

Re:Will it work? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974929)

This article is an excellent example of the types of future-energy that we'll need to rely on.

So, you're thinking that, if we burn enough hydrogen to produce the equivalent amount of energy we consume daily, now, that it will not have an effect on the natural cycle? How much water vapour do you think Mama Nature is capable of enduring?
I'm not disagreeing with you, burning hydrogen has it's place, but it will be a mix of all sources that gets us through, in the future.
Personally, I'm digging on Thorium fast breeder reactors, and we eject the spent fuel rods into the sun. But that's just me.

Re:Will it work? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975901)

Gas IS $10/gallon in many countries. Just not in the USA. Even in those countries where gas actually is $10/gallon, people are still buying it, and no one's selling electric cars. That's should tell you something.

Re:Will it work? (2)

nbsr (2343058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976321)

This may change overnight (I've seen that in some coutries where, at least at some point in time, majority of cars on the road were using LPG).
Performance of EVs is no longer a problem - there are batteries, which can take you 300 miles on a single charge. They are just not yet economically viable for lower segments of the market.
The good news is that there is absolutely no reason for the batteries or other EV components to be more expensive than, say, a gas engine. They are a lot easier to manufacture and take less resources (amount of lithium in an Li-ion battery is pretty miniscule). It's just a matter of ramping up the production.
Also, markets don't respond linearly, especially in emerging applications (Apple didn't just put a hardisk in an iPod - they put a disk big enough to store all you music in it). There's almost always a threshold "good/cheap enough", which makes all the difference. But, if you want to cross the threshold you have to reach it first (which isn't nearly as flashy). OTOH, once you're above it, it doesn't matter if your camera has 10Mpixels or 100Mpixels - you're probably better off fighting challanges that matter.

Re:Will it work? (3, Interesting)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976089)

My friend, please compare the energy density (in Mj/L) of gasoline, coal, and hydrogen. - I'll even allow you to use liquid hydrogen.
There is a reason engineers choose the materials they do.
Another hint: the price of oil is not based on the amount of it in the ground. We'll burn gas till the last drop. If you think gas is expensive, wait till your plan comes true and see how much you pay then.
If it makes you feel better, the entire planet receives lots more energy from the sun than we use. Sunlight is free, yet we don't use it. Why? - energy density. Converting this almost limitless source of energy into useful energy is not only inconvenient, but also because it's expensive.
Most people like you will still claim "the sky is falling." Relax. We are engineers. We will do it for you. When the time comes.

Re:Will it work? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977681)

How many times have we been offered a magic solution to all our problems if we just stuff all our money in the man's bag... an then trust him to spend it wisely and in our interests... while of course keeping our hands over our eyes and not peaking while it sounds suspiciously like he's running away giggling?

We're all out of trust. If you've got a magic solution that will fix all our problems not theoretically but ACTUALLY then we'll give you trillions. For your promises hopeful assertions though? They're not worth anything. Airplanes don't fly on wishes. I don't eat dreams. And good intentions don't make the harvest come in.

This tech sounds promising and we all look forward to results that are useful. The big corporations are just as interested in getting out of the energy trap as anyone. Think the big companies like paying lots of money for over priced and often unreliable energy? They do not. Not all companies are the oil companies. For every company that profits from high energy prices there are a thousand that don't.

But if you want people to switch, you need to deliver the real deal. Lots of businesses have put solar panels on their roofs to show solidarity with the environmental movement or to improve PR. But how many of them have actually cut their net energy expenses by doing so? None of them. Until it is even technically possible to do that, no one is going to make the plunge.

Think of it like the days when everything was horse power and here comes along this guy trying to get everyone to buy steam powered engines.

Do you know what the first steam powered engines looked like? They were pathetic. Hardly any power, very energy inefficient, they broke constantly, and they were very expensive. Where as the horse was a fairly abundant resource. If you've got fodder you can double your herd every year with literally no industrial base what so ever. The skill set required to keep horses happy and keeping the machine working are totally different as well. The conversion from one system to the other is not easy.

Just as we saw in the past, the first people making the leap are wealthy enthusiasts. The first people to own cars were wealthy people that could afford to spend too much on what amounted to a technological toy. Horse drawn carriages remained much more practical for many years. They were cheaper, much more reliable, "fuel" was more widely obtained, and if there were a problem it wasn't hard to find someone in the area that knew how to fix it. Try getting a gallon of gas in the 1880s throughout much of the world. What happens if a tire pops or you need a mechanic? Have fun. And that was the point of those cars. Mostly toys.

But eventually the technology progressed and it out competed the horse. Not because there was a law or everyone said they should rally against the evil horse. It was just naturally out competed. The quality of the cars improved. The prices came down radically. And the infrastructure to handle them was expanded to the point where they became practical.

This is all happening with various types of new technologies but it isn't reasonable to expect this to be instantaneous especially when the prices are often much higher and reliability is a very serious concern.

Even the evil oil companies between mouth fulls of baby flesh (/s) will admit that renewable energy is the future. The future isn't now. Now is now. And now if you want the jet to take off the field you had better top off the tank with jet fuel or you're not going anywhere.

NO! (1)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | more than 2 years ago | (#39978171)

This article is an excellent example of the types of future-energy that we'll need to rely on.

Please people. I love clean renewable sources of energy and argue in favour of them at every opportunity. Hydrogen production is not a source of energy. The primary cost of mass producing hydrogen is not platinum. Hydrogen is merely a very inefficient and unsafe way to store energy. Hydrogen is produced by expending twice as much energy as the thermal energy it contains. This means that even if you can burn it in an engine with 100% thermal efficiency you are roughly on par with a finely tuned engine burning any other fuel. But you can't burn it in an engine with 100% thermal efficiency and you never will. So it is worse. It is worse than petrol, it is worse than diesel. If you make hydrogen using electricity generated from brown coal, it is the most polluting fuel you could ever run an engine off. Energy crisis does not mean we have a crisis of not enough ways to waste energy. Hydrogen is a dead end, combustion engines are a dead end, private vehicles are a dead end. Move on please.

Affordable (2, Funny)

Dan East (318230) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974203)

Cat pee and pocket change. I can handle that.

More seriously though... (1)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974209)

If you combine this catalyst and gravity? Free energy for the mechanical limits of the device. And all it would use would be gravity.

Re:More seriously though... (2)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974371)

Free energy? "Electrocatalyst", you also need to plug some electric juice to split the water, and the process is "under unity" efficient, that's for sure.

Re:More seriously though... (1)

SurfsUp (11523) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974515)

Solar panels perhaps? And use the hydrogen to store the intermittent solar power.

Re:More seriously though... (1)

wiedzmin (1269816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975201)

Solar panels perhaps? And use the hydrogen to store the intermittent solar power.

Maybe, once we're generating enough solar power to have an excess of it.

So where is my car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974231)

That runs on water?

Re:So where is my car? (2, Funny)

user flynn (236683) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974343)

Silly mortal, only Jebus runs on water.

Re:So where is my car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974617)

Jebus...and a bunch of Lizards. Who have begun to invade Florida.

Careful, the native Floridians might adopt a new God.

That's not where most of the cost comes from (5, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974531)

I wouldn't have made this post a few weeks ago, but reading other people's comments about hydrogen fuel made it painfully obvious that many people have a fundamental misunderstanding about how the hydrogen economy works: There is no free energy. You cannot convert water into hydrogen with little energy, then burn the hydrogen with oxygen to get lots of energy.

The amount of energy you put in to break water into hydrogen and oxygen has to be more than the energy you get out when you burn (or combine via a fuel cell) the hydrogen with oxygen. There is no getting around this; it is simple thermodynamics. This is why many people refer to hydrogen as a battery, not as a fuel. Free hydrogen is exceptionally rare to find, so when you manufacture atomic hydrogen gas you're storing energy in it like in a battery. When you burn the hydrogen, you're extracting that energy like from a battery.

With electrolysis, typically you're looking at about 50%-70% of the energy you put in ending up in the hydrogen gas. The rest is converted into waste heat. With a non-research grade fuel cell, you're looking at about 50%-70% efficiency there as well (the rest going to waste heat). So for the cycle overall, you're at 25%-50% efficiency. That is, only 25%-50% of the energy you put in to create the hydrogen ends up actually doing useful work, which is absolutely abysmal for a battery.

The cost of materials like platinum is also a bit misleading. The platinum is not consumed during the electrolysis process. While the high cost of platinum does affect the cost of the device used to generate hydrogen, it has no effect on the cost of the hydrogen gas itself. Almost the entirety of the cost of hydrogen gas is the energy used to create it by cracking water.

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (3, Informative)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974667)

Yes but the cost of Platinum has been holding back the wide adoption of fuel cell technology. At one point only NASA could aford to use them. Most of the cost of a fuel cell is in the platinum. Say you want or need to live off the grid, this process can make afordable equipment possible for producing hydrogen at home. You can use it to store energy for lean days or refuel the car. Not caustic and expensive batteries and the fuel cells can be recycled. Hydrogen was never a solution. Bush only pushed it after it was pointed out to him that most hydrogen in use now is produced from fossil fuel. How about this for crazy, install one on an offshore wind farm and run a pipe back to shore and have a wind farm producing not electricity but hydrogen gas! No line loss and you can have a car hydrogen fueling station on shore. Hydrogen does escape mostly at fitting and valves since it's so small it's nearly impossible to completely contain hydrogen but in a closed line there would be less loss than the bleed that happens in power lines which could offset some of the energy lost in producing the hydrogen.

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (4, Insightful)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974789)

Say you want or need to live off the grid

If you need to live off the grid you're already such an edge case that we don't need to be optimizing for you. Living off the grid is expensive. And if you just want to live off the grid, then you're obviously not optimizing for 1) low cost or 2) efficient use of resources, so why should I care about your problem?

How about this for crazy, install one on an offshore wind farm and run a pipe back to shore and have a wind farm producing not electricity but hydrogen gas!

Yes, it's crazy alright, but what good is that? The electricity->H2->electricity round trip efficiency is something like 25%, and that's not counting the massive amounts of energy required to compress the H2. 25% sucks bad enough that you can't change things with handwaving as you scale that efficiency to the transportation sector.

Put the energy directly into the battery (we already have better batteries than H2 fuel cells) and drive several times as far. There's a reason electric cars are here today, but fuel cell cars are not.

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39977275)

> there would be less loss than the bleed that happens in power lines
Not if you use DC transmission.

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39977291)

How about this for crazy, install one on an offshore wind farm and run a pipe back to shore and have a wind farm producing not electricity but hydrogen gas! No line loss and you can have a car hydrogen fueling station on shore.

No line loss? hogwash. Pumping anything means a pressure gradient;; work is done to compress it, then lost to frictional heating.
Hydrogen's only selling point is energy/power density -- batteries or electric transmission lines are better in every other way. And for typical applications, it doesn't even win there anymore.

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (2)

bolt_the_dhampir (1545719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974717)

Unlike the batteries however, it can be stored indefinitely without degrading, and be "charged" (tank filled) in a matter of seconds. Also it doesn't wear down (to anywhere near the same degree, anyway) when recharged.

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (2)

QQBoss (2527196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975905)

Ummm, yeah, sure. Tell you what, you go get a container made out of the material of your choice (not including unobtanium, that would just be cheating) able to hold a meaningful level of PSI (or the metric of your choice) of hydrogen. Hermetically seal the container (I won't even expect you to have a hole in the container via which you can connect it to whatever you plan to generate work with).
Come back in a day, a week, a month, a year....

Then realize your concept of "stored indefinitely without degrading" probably needs some significant rethinking. Even if the hydrogen is still hydrogen (not physically degraded), it can't do you any useful work if it is sneaking out of any container you can make and off wafting through the atmosphere looking for other atoms to get jiggy with.

This is only one of the reasons why the ability to generate hydrogen on demand as close to the source that will use it is fairly essential for a hydrogen engine to be viable.

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (2)

nbsr (2343058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976495)

One thing he is right about, though, is that battery cells developed for portable applications aren't particularly well suited to EVs.

Don't get me wrong - it is fantastic we have them, and have them manufactured at a mass scale. This way we can piggy-back on decades of intensive R&D that went into them. Without that there wouldn't be mass manufactured electric cars on the road now. Portable batteries have even proven pretty good in that application, but it doesn't mean we can't improve on that.

In a long term we probably want batteries where reactants are not stored in a solid form, separated only by a thin layer of electrolyte. We can afford having a pump here and there, or add a couple of (refillable?) tanks for keeping reactants and their byproducts. There were already some attempts of doing just that, but at the moment such batteries simply can't compete with the whole industry backing up the development of portable batteries. This will have to wait until EV's gain more market share.

Although I consider hydrogen a dead-end (maybe except for special applications, like airplanes), the research that goes into fuel cell may produce something useful (who says the reactants must be "H_2" and "O_2" after all?).

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977223)

According to Graham's law, it would appear that the solution is to make the molecules bigger. However hydrogen doesn't seem keen to associate into groups larger than pairs.

Some have suggested that attaching the hydrogen atoms to chains of carbon atoms (say, six to ten of them) might do the trick, but I reckon that's crazy talk.

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (1)

QQBoss (2527196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977767)

Damn good thing I have a keyboard cover, I don't own a mechanical keyboard I can just toss in the dishwasher anymore!

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (4, Interesting)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974749)

Almost the entirety of the cost of hydrogen gas is the energy used to create it by cracking water.

Don't forget that you have to compress the H2 before you can use it, too, and that takes a huge amount of (usually electrical) energy. Enough energy that you could put it into a battery electric car instead and drive a significant fraction of the distance the fuel cell would take you without the stupid fuel cell.

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974867)

Which is why I'll just steal the hydrocarbon fuel I need...

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (3, Interesting)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974879)

Gasses can be condensed using temperature as well, imagine this process happening in space, where an absence of heat is abundant. Gaseous hydrogen will gladly float beyond our atmosphere, at which point it can be easily compressed and then gravity will bring it back down to earth. I don't think this problem has to require an enormous amount of energy to solve. And that process of moving hydrogen to space can also generate electricity...

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39975511)

the hydrogen is exceedingly thin up there, how do you propose to collect it? how do you compress huge volume hydrogen at near vacuum pressure and wind up with anything more than a drop?

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (3, Insightful)

ljw1004 (764174) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975039)

The platinum is not consumed during the electrolysis process. While the high cost of platinum does affect the cost of the device used to generate hydrogen, it has no effect on the cost of the hydrogen gas itself. Almost the entirety of the cost of hydrogen gas is the energy used to create it by cracking water.

You think so? I reckon you're missing the "thermodynamics of capital". If you have to borrow $10k to start your electrolysis company, then the prices you charge will have to cover the $1k/year repayment on that loan. But if you only borrow $1k to start your electrolysis company, then the prices you charge will only have to cover $0.1k/year repayments.

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (1)

wiedzmin (1269816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975219)

While the high cost of platinum does affect the cost of the device used to generate hydrogen, it has no effect on the cost of the hydrogen gas itself.

That kind of attitude will leave the hydrogen industry, that will replace the oil industry in the future, unable to arbitrarily raise price at the pumps when some Platinum manufacturing country starts a civil war... you cut that out. Now.

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (1)

KittenJuicer (898234) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975997)

What would be interesting would be a catalyst that could use brownian motion or something to split hydrogens off oxygens in water ... the energy of the motion would automagically slow down the ambient motion of the other molecules, so you'd have an "over-cooling" problem where the water kept freezing around the catalyst if it was very efficient. I'm not sure if that's how these things work, but all you'd need would be something that could efficiently turn heat into hydrogen splitoffs then there you go (could use the earth's heat, maybe slow down global warming, who knows.)

Re:That's not where most of the cost comes from (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977659)

You just need the right catalyst. Something like powdered unicorn horn should do it.

Gotta go, some guy called Maxwell on the line...

EI/EO is all that matters (1)

nickull (943338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974571)

Most people do not understand that Hydrogen, due to it's inherent instability and desire to chemically change in a volatile manner, is simply an anergy storing devices. Hydrogen is not very energy dense. Understanding it's role is important to determining whether or not to us it as it essentially acts as a battery. If you have X units of energy (electricity), the key question is how many units will you get back out of the hydrogen. So far most the most advanced systems have show that Energy in (Ei) has an Energy out (Eo) roughly equal to Eo = Ei/10. Not anywhere near as efficient as a lithium ion battery. Even lead acid batteries have better performance.

Re:EI/EO is all that matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39975591)

Not anywhere near as efficient as a lithium ion battery.

You're comparing apples to appleseeds. Electrolyzing water to get hydrogen is more like creating batteries, literally because the electrolysis device is not required to be connected to the system that uses the hydrogen (in other words, the gas is portable, the generator doesn't need to be attached).

Are batteries capable of storing energy cheaper than hydrogen gas? At a very small scale yes, but on a large scale to store a gigawatt with batteries would be too costly. It is possible to do with hydrogen gas - a couple billion joules housed in a big storage tank.

If you're storing energy from wind or solar, when you generate more than the capacity of the battieries, the excess is wasted. Creating fuel is a solution to deal with excess energy production.

That said, I'd personally use gassification rather than electrolysis to generate hydrogen, then use any elaborate catalysts to create hydrocarbons. All because liquid fuels are much easier to deal with.

Its probably 5 to 10 years out (3, Insightful)

asm2750 (1124425) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975111)

Seriously I am tired of all these researchers saying they found a way to break bonds in water to make hydrogen a feasible long term energy source or a new photovoltaic technology that has 40% efficiency and then say down the road "oh the commercial version is 5 to 10 years out". Its always 5 to 10 years out, heres a suggestion how about announce your results or accomplishments when you ACTUALLY have a working commercial product that is in production. Maybe then I'll give a fuck.

Re:Its probably 5 to 10 years out (1)

nbsr (2343058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976587)

That's a broader problem with the way the science works. Scientists are rarely interested in applications. The have to give some "justification", which looks reasonable enough to earn them a grant. But that's where work on applications often ends.

Remember, you get, what you measure. What matters in the academic world is the number of publications (and to a lesser degree their quality). Making breakthroughs isn't the best, or certainly the easiest way of becoming a successful scientist. It's way better to throw ideas left and right producing incremental (if any) improvements, and not to dwell on a single idea for too long.

Re:Its probably 5 to 10 years out (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977453)

You're blaming the wrong people. Scientists do this work and publish it, knowing full well it;s not commercial yet and needs a lot of work, or is 5% efficient etc. However, that's not sexy enough for the media, or likely to generate many ad impressions, so they draw ridiculous conclusions that are a long way away from being reality.

Scientists may say that *in the future* a mature process might provide a viable way to produce hydrogen from water (low energy catalytic splitting of water to make hydrogen/protons and oxygen in a mimic of Photosystem II is one of the holy grails of energy research), but they're not saying it's anywhere near ready.

Your suggestion that they wait until they have an actual commercial product is nonsense - they are not working on a commercial product, they are doing research into the processes behind science that can be maybe be used in the future in a commercial product. It might never be used - it might be a dead end. That's all part of scientific research.

HOPE (1)

glorybe (946151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975527)

Time will tell how well this process works for both small and large scale production. I live in a condo with 160 apartments. We have huge spans of roof space including the roofs over our covered parking. It is perfect for solar power or even solar water heaters and we have enough wind that a windmill would also be productive. But most of the residents are retired or view their ownership as temporary so getting people to vote on that kind of upgrade simply will not occur until they get their finances so twisted that they start to want change. Most would probably prefer death to change. Oddly they will spend money on cosmetic items but nothing that improves function is considered at all. The best hope for all of us is to reverse population growth. That is the big secret that politicians will not discuss at all. technology can not sustain us with any degree of reliability. We can keep the technology but need to reduce population such that if technology breaks down life goes on. As it is we could have mass starvation in one week with great ease. Disrupt the flow of oil and we would have total failure and chaos.

Re: HOPE (1)

QQBoss (2527196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975977)

While I am completely with you on the solar water heating (especially for a community pool to make it useful at least 8 months a year instead of the 3-4 that most of them are good for where I live), and possibly even solar power if the demonstrated efficiency year round proves it to be viable, the fact that you are suggesting people put windmills on the roof to generate electricity suggests to me that you have never stood anywhere close to windmills that actually generate meaningful amounts of power. No matter how quiet the mechanics of the windmill are, those blades swooping through the air will not be a sound that lulls you to sleep, from experience, unless the unit is so small that you are only trying to power a handful of LED light bulbs on occasion and not a meaningful amount of the power consumption of 160 units of people trying to live with modern conveniences. To have them at a business where no one sleeps can be meaningful, though (just ask Jay Leno).

As for the Malthusian nonsense, you first.

Hydrogen Win-Win factor (1)

ElitistWhiner (79961) | more than 2 years ago | (#39979289)

Intellects love to proselytize against Hydrogen's long checklist of negatives. The ONE advantage it holds is ' Single Point Capture'.

The manufacture of Hydrogen in vast quantities at a fixed plant location enables economies of scale to be leveraged upon a single point to capture, control, clean and manage pollution at the source. A hydrogen powered economy promises to replace the millions of pollution sources in the Oil powered economy providing a structured ecosystem that enables the replacement and elimination of millions unmanageable hydrocarbon pollution sources with zero-emission hydrogen power.

The difference with a distinction...Hydrogen is ecologically manageable.

Best in class

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?