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New Catalyst Allows Cheaper Hydrogen Production

timothy posted about a year ago | from the keeping-the-attic-warm dept.

Canada 191

First time accepted submitter CanadianRealist writes "Electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen is very inefficient without the use of a catalyst. Unfortunately catalysts are currently made of crystals containing rare, expensive toxic metals such as ruthenium and iridium. Two chemists from the University of Calgary have invented a process to make a catalyst using relatively non-toxic metal compounds such as iron oxide, for 1/1000 the cost of currently used catalysts. It is suggested this would make it more feasible to use electrolysis of water to create hydrogen as a method of storing energy from variable green power sources such as wind and solar."

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191 comments

No, it won't (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316789)

but keep dreaming anyways

Re:No, it won't (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316999)

Can't argue with that logic.

Re:No, it won't (1)

belthize (990217) | about a year ago | (#43317779)

If possible I'd mod GP as -5 Informative (i.e. intended to be informative but failed miserably) and you at +5 insightful.

As someone pointed out elsewhere... (1)

wanfuse123 (2860713) | about a year ago | (#43317981)

The problem with using this material is that it breaks down during the conversion process. This leaves you with a catalyst that doesn't work any more. Anyone know if this is true? rawcell.com [rawcell.com]

In Other News (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43318075)

Twenty years without warming [theaustralian.com.au] and the wheels are starting to come off the AGW bus.

Re:In Other News (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43318139)

Twenty years without warming [theaustralian.com.au] and the wheels are starting to come off the AGW bus.

In 36 days you will learn that you have terminal cancer, and
that your useless existence will soon come to an end.

The world will be better off when you die. That much is certain.

Nonsense. (3, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year ago | (#43316809)

There may be some benefit to lowering the cost of electrolysis, but the real problem is still the cost of fuel cells, or the inefficiency of producing power from the hydrogen through conventional means.

Re:Nonsense. (3, Insightful)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about a year ago | (#43316835)

If you lower the cost of the fuel enough, the cost of the engine becomes moot.

Re:Nonsense. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316929)

Cheap fuel means you can spend a little more on the system, sure, but there are limits.

In stationary power plants this is true, but cars have to move. A moving power plant has to worry about its power-to-weight ratio, and its power-to-volume ratio. Would you really want to drive a minivan that seats two people just to have a cheap fuel cell?

Re:Nonsense. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317237)

Cheap fuel means you can spend a little more on the system, sure, but there are limits.

In stationary power plants this is true, but cars have to move. A moving power plant has to worry about its power-to-weight ratio, and its power-to-volume ratio. Would you really want to drive a minivan that seats two people just to have a cheap fuel cell?

So use it for stationary power plants. Wind and such tend to produce energy when it's not needed; this would be an excellent way to mitigate that.

Re:Nonsense. (2)

RicktheBrick (588466) | about a year ago | (#43317859)

Here is a link http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-03/uoc-dod032113.php [eurekalert.org] . It mentions a beer refrigerator size unit. I would imagine that would be smaller than a normal refrigerator. I live near a water pumped storage unit. They are investing close to a billion dollars in changing the turbine blades. They also built 56 windmills here at a cost of around 250 million dollars. It would seem to me that the money spent for the blades would be better spent on the home units since they would be much closer to where the electricity is being used. I would think that they could make bigger units for industry. I would hope that the units would be free and it would be like an air conditioner unit so it would be external to the house.

Re:Nonsense. (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | about a year ago | (#43318129)

It mentions a beer refrigerator size unit. I would imagine that would be smaller than a normal refrigerator.

Depends on how much beer you have.

Re:Nonsense. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317281)

"Would you really want to drive a minivan that seats two people just to have a cheap fuel cell?"

I drive such a minivan, it's called a bike.

Re:Nonsense. (2)

gatkinso (15975) | about a year ago | (#43317389)

>> Would you really want to drive a minivan that seats two people just to have a cheap fuel cell?

Yes.

Re:Nonsense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317363)

If you lower the cost of the fuel enough, the cost of the engine becomes moot.

OK, I will sell you my car for a billion bucks, and give you all the fuel you need to drive it for free.

Re:Nonsense. (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about a year ago | (#43317757)

COST =/= PRICE

Re:Nonsense. (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43317925)

COST =/= PRICE

That billion bucks is a cost not a price. Get it now?

Re:Nonsense. (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43317901)

If you lower the cost of the fuel enough, the cost of the engine becomes moot.

No, high fixed costs can trump low variable costs easily. Keep in mind opportunity costs. You could have put that money into something else, like an investment, rather than an expensive engine. So a cheap engine with moderate fuel costs can beat a very expensive engine with no fuel costs.

Rocket Fuel? (1)

sanman2 (928866) | about a year ago | (#43316857)

Good for rocket fuel, perhaps? Although there's still the cost of storage

Re:Rocket Fuel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317117)

I suppose it could lead to a more 'low-tech' way of producing fuel on the Moon, asteroids, or the like.

Re:Rocket Fuel? (2)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#43317283)

"I suppose it could lead to a more 'low-tech' way of producing fuel on the Moon, asteroids, or the like."

It's Mars you're thinking of, it has so much of that stuff that you can see the red glow from earth with the naked eye.

Re:Rocket Fuel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317531)

In a way you are correct. There are Ions in abundance in neat space. by the gravity wells, you just have to be able to mine them. A storage solution, magnetic boottle, does not have too be high pressure, Motor-ion engines, jet thrusters, yoou just have to pump out the "whatever" t create a thrust. ionized or ice cubed. Look back at what the german rocket engineers proposed in the 1930, the same era as goddard here. You would be supprised with what we are relearning.

Re:Rocket Fuel? (1)

FishTankX (1539069) | about a year ago | (#43317703)

Generally most hydrogen is produced from breaking down natural gas. So this won't really impact rocket fuel until it can get hydrogen produced by electrolysis below that of natural gas. With the glut from fracking, I don't see this happening, as alot of our energy now is generated from natural gas. Generating energy from natural gas to use it to split water is likely not as efficient as stripping off the hydrogen directly.

Re:Nonsense. (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#43317021)

Transportation and storage are huge problems as well. Tiny leaks that don't really matter for methane or propane would be a big problem for hydrogen. Meanwhile, hydrogen makes metals brittle.

Re:Nonsense. (2, Funny)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year ago | (#43317233)

Transportation and storage are huge problems as well. Tiny leaks that don't really matter for methane or propane would be a big problem for hydrogen. Meanwhile, hydrogen makes metals brittle.

Like everything the fuels industry touches, it will make water more expensive than it already is.

Re:Nonsense. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#43317617)

Like everything the fuels industry touches, it will make water more expensive than it already is.

Water expensive? Maybe in a desert, but everywhere else, distilled water falls from the sky. Most of the Earth's surface is good old dihydrogen monoxide. How is the fuels industry making water expensive?

Re:Nonsense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43318107)

Well, obviously we need a better way to store the hydrogen. Perhaps reacting it with oxygen, which produces a dense liquid which can be transported through pipes.

And the reaction is quite exothermic, and could be used to produce electricity.

Re:Nonsense. (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#43317599)

It looks like I'm a bit more ignorant than I thought. Hello, wikipedia?

Electrolysis

Currently, the majority of hydrogen (â¼95%) is produced from fossil fuels by steam reforming or partial oxidation of methane and coal gasification with only a small quantity by other routes such as biomass gasification or electrolysis of water.[14] There are three main types of cells, solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOEC's), polymer electrolyte membrane cells (PEM) and alkaline electrolysis cells (AEC's). SOEC's operate at high temperatures, typically around 800ÂC. At these high temperatures a significant amount of the energy required can be provided as thermal energy (heat). This energy can be provided from a number of different sources, including waste industrial heat, nuclear power stations or concentrated solar thermal plants. This has the potential to reduce the overall cost of the hydrogen produced by reducing the amount of electrical energy required for electrolysis.[14][15][16][17] PEM electrolysis cells typically operate below 100ÂC and are becoming increasingly available commercially.[14] These cells have the advantage of being comparatively simple and can be designed to accept widely varying voltage inputs which makes them ideal for use with renewable sources of energy such as solar PV.[18] AEC's optimally operate at high concentrations electrolyte (KOH or potassium carbonate) and at high temperatures, often near 200 ÂC.

Nope, I'm still ignorant. I thought all it took was a DC current and saltwater, with oxygen bubbling from one lead and hydrogen from the other?

Can one of you guys enlighten me? I hate being ignorant.

Re:Nonsense. (2)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about a year ago | (#43318105)

Nope, I'm still ignorant. I thought all it took was a DC current and saltwater, with oxygen bubbling from one lead and hydrogen from the other?

Can one of you guys enlighten me? I hate being ignorant.

You are more or less right. That does work. However, the question is not just whether you can do it, but also how fast it happens and how much energy is lost in the process. Catalysts, like the one in the article, reduce energy barriers / increase the probability of a reaction and so make the whole thing more efficient. That can take things from "theoretically interesting" to "profitable industry".

It might be helpful. (4, Interesting)

Mr. Chow (2860963) | about a year ago | (#43316813)

You never know. If the catalysts are relatively cheap, instead of trucking or piping hydrogen to stations to fill up people's cars, you could generate the hydrogen from water and electricity on site. That might be safer because you may not have to store a large amount of hydrogen and the infrastructure is already there (the water and electricity I mean). Of course, that does not solve the storage problem in cars nor the fact that water and electricity aren't free, nor the relatively low efficiency of using hydrogen as a fuel...

Re:It might be helpful. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316913)

Even better, if you can generate hydrogen with a large efficiency, it might be more efficient to transport the gas, instead of electricity.

People seem to think that electricity is efficient. In practice, very large amounts are lost during transport, and not only during production.

At a certain point, it may be more efficient to transport a fuel, and not only for 'mobile' use. We already do so with natural gas, there is no reason not to do so with hydrogen. Maybe not on a household scale, but to local small-scale electricity stations that produce 220 or 110V 100 meter away from your house. What you loose in efficiency generating it, you win back in efficiency savings transporting it.

Re:It might be helpful. (5, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#43316941)

People seem to think that electricity is efficient. In practice, very large amounts are lost during transport, and not only during production.

Less than 5% of the power in the US is lost in transmission. This is significant, but hydrogen has many special problems which will probably make your idea a non-starter for the foreseeable future.

Re:It might be helpful. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316979)

Mea culpa, you are right.. While a lot of power is lost in daily use, the grid itself seems to be remarkable efficient with only 5-8% losses typical - so the real losses are at home with the various appliances, not in the distant transports within a country - then it only plays a role at very large distances, which they dodge using DC current.

Re:It might be helpful. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317045)

Also, massively high voltages help.

Re:It might be helpful. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317205)

Like this : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NorNed [wikipedia.org]

That's 'only' 580 km of cable, providing the european continent with cheap and green hydro power from Norway. Despite the inefficient conversion and huge investment in this convertor, the DC current is more efficient on that distance. High voltage AC is simply not suited for such range.

In contrast are gas- and oil pipelines that happily, and relative cheap and safe, manage to traverse entire continents.

Re:It might be helpful. (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year ago | (#43317359)

"That's 'only' 580 km of cable, providing the european continent with cheap and green hydro power from Norway."

I thought Europe was bigger than that. At least it was when I last looked at a map.Even if you put this cable straight across the Baltic, its not going to reach all the way to Italy or Greece.

Re:It might be helpful. (1)

bn-7bc (909819) | about a year ago | (#43317895)

You are right about that, IMHO the qoute was badly formulated, i this reffers to NorNed [wikipedia.org] which connects the south of Norway to the north of The Netharlands thus giving Norway the possibility to directly import/export electricity from/to central Europe.

Re:It might be helpful. (3, Informative)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | about a year ago | (#43317343)

Less than 5% of the power in the US is lost in transmission. This is significant, but hydrogen has many special problems which will probably make your idea a non-starter for the foreseeable future.

Problems such as the fact that hydrogen electrolysis loses way more than 5% of the energy. It was around 50% last time I checked and most of the new research that gets mentioned on slashdot completely fails to mention efficiency at all leading me to believe they have not improved it.

Re:It might be helpful. (4, Informative)

mpe (36238) | about a year ago | (#43317163)

At a certain point, it may be more efficient to transport a fuel, and not only for 'mobile' use. We already do so with natural gas, there is no reason not to do so with hydrogen.

Hydrogen is a much smaller molecule than methane which means that it's harder to make pipes and tanks which don't leak. In addition it reacts with a lot of things methane dosn't react with. So there is less choice of materials to make those pipes and tanks out of.

Re:It might be helpful. (2)

Khalid (31037) | about a year ago | (#43317187)

Or you can generate liquid fuels (methanol, ethanol, gasoline, diesel) using Fischer and Tropsch style reactions which has been making a lot of progress lately. It's a better way to transport hydrogene.

Re:It might be helpful. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317547)

never worked around hydrogen, have you. Mean and nasty stuff. How about this. Dream the next size larger. Go for the double cheese on the burger, ok? H2 personal motiation pack. You have the pack hooked to your engine, engine to a generator, and a 10 start capicator ,for shopping trips. You have just eliminated gasoline for the future. You generate h2 out of the mooisture oof the air. Eliminates the warming of the earth. Until it gets to freexing, when the plants die and the hydraulic cycle stops.

hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (3, Insightful)

slack_justyb (862874) | about a year ago | (#43316821)

Hydrogen is a very poor storage for energy. It takes a lot of energy to get a small amount of hydrogen and takes a lot of hydrogen just to store a small amount of energy. We are better off with the current system of pumping water up a hill than with anything hydrogen can give us. You need a more energy dense fuel to compete, and using the least dense thing in the universe is the dumbest idea. Pair that with the fact that hydrogen is an atomic whore and binds strongly to everything. Making it that more difficult to get it all by itself.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316843)

Actually the exact opposite is true, the specific energy density of hydrogen is higher than gasoline.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316893)

Per kilogram it is more dense energy dense but not by volume. You still have to carry somewhere around 6 times the volume of hydrogen to equal the same volume amount of gasoline. Look at wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1, Informative)

slack_justyb (862874) | about a year ago | (#43316959)

You obviously don't get how hard it is to get one kg of the stuff. Sure whatever. At this point it's obvious that no one has ever actually tried hydrogen fuel.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316849)

Another person saying why something can't be done. I guess you either didn't read the articles or didn't understand the implications.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (-1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#43316889)

Mod Troll, we have a failure in basic high school chemistry, here.

If hydrogen were so shitty in energy density, why would we use it in nuclear weaponry?

nuclear weaponry != chemistry (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316919)

While we are at it, E=mc^2, all matter has the same energy density. Stop making useless comparisons. If you have a fusion reactor in your phone, my anti-matter+ air battery will beat it. What we care about is usefulness. Hydrogen fuel cells have good energy density for the mass yes, but for the volume the suck.

Re:nuclear weaponry != chemistry (3, Insightful)

rossdee (243626) | about a year ago | (#43317705)

All the energy we use (apart from Fission reactors and geothermal) comes from a fusion reactor, its just that the reactor is 1 AU away. Most of the energy we use has been stored in the form of carbon (coal) or hydrocarbons (oil and gas) over millions of years. But we can't continue using that source since there is already too much CO2 in the atmosphere..

We can utilise some of tthe energy from that fusion reactor directly (solar) or indirectly (wind) but its not a constant reliable supply. Extracting hydrogrn from water is a way of storing that energy so we can use it when the wind is not blowing and the sun is blocked by clouds or at night, and also as a war of fueling transportation which currently uses carbon based fuels.Hydrogen atill has a better energy density per weight than batteries.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (3, Insightful)

dmbasso (1052166) | about a year ago | (#43316925)

I don't wanna be mean, but you have a glass roof... Chemistry is not the right level of abstraction, if you are going to talk about nuclear interactions...
And if you wanna consider the potential nuclear energy of matter, you yourself are a huge walking fuel depot, the only problem is fusing your atoms...

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316947)

Hey look somebody who failed basic high school physics.
You realize a hydrogen bomb does not contain hydrogen right?

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316991)

A hydrogen bomb contains deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen. Tritium, another isotope of hydrogen, is obtained from fissioning lithium, stored in the form of lithium deuteride.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317417)

Apparently weaponeer insiders never used the term "hydrogen bomb' as it is incorrect in virtually every context.

Most modern weapons do not employ fusion at all, save for a bit of boosting in the primary. While info on the subject is scant, it would seem that most modern weapons use a pure fission radiation imploded secondary which as it turns out was Ulam's initial idea all along. Perhaps the secondary is boosted as well, who knows (well, someone does but they aren't talking). While this places a fairly undefined (in unclassified literature at least) upper limit on yield between 1 - 3 megatons and they usually only are a fraction of that, the resulting weapons are small, light, rugged, easier to maintain, and have a longer shelf life.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (0)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#43316993)

Umm, you do know many thermonuclear weapons are called 'Hydrogen Bombs' because they fuse hydrogen caused by means of uranium/plutonium fission, right?

Look who failed what, here.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

AxeTheMax (1163705) | about a year ago | (#43317043)

The only way you have not completely lost the thread of the original story is unless you are suggesting that this new process provides an easy way to create deuterium (and it looks as though you need to read up on what deuterium is). And as far as I know there is no shortage of deuterium to cause difficulty in either nucleary weaponry or nuclear energy.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#43318035)

"The only way you have not completely lost the thread of the original story is unless you are suggesting that this new process provides an easy way to create deuterium"

It appears you cannot read and comprehend what is being talked about. Let me reiterate for you.

GP claims Hydrogen has shit energy density. I counter with "If it has shit energy density, why is it used in nuclear weapons as the secondary fusion detonation?"

You suddenly come in and your brain segues over to the other side of the conversation without thinking.

Also, Lithium deuteride is used as a fission casing of the secondary fusion bomb to generate tritium.

I know how my (USA) nukes work. It's France and other countries that don't employ hydrogen as a primary fusion fuel in their thermonuclear weaponry.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (3, Informative)

gatkinso (15975) | about a year ago | (#43317623)

The term "hydrogen bomb" has always been a misnomer. Also most modern weapons dispense with the fusion altogether - the secondary is simply another fission core imploded by the primary radiation rather than by conventional explosives. Fusion it seems has gone out of style and with today's accuracy is no longer needed aside from boosting which is rather trivial.

Weapons that do use fusion mainly employ fusion as a neutron generator to cause fission in a fissile tamper thus dramatically increasing yield (fission 1%-fusion 15%-fission 84% portion of yield respectively). The weapons that use fusion for primary weapon effect are either banned and out of production (so called neutron bombs which is basically just a bomb as mentioned above without the fissile tamper) or are three stage weapons so huge as to be impractical these days like the Tsar Bomba. Some bombs produce tritium by bombarding lithium deutride with neutrons from a fission "spark plug" in the secondary which is in turn fused producing neutrons for the above cycle... but this can hardly be called a "hydrogen bomb". "Lithium bomb" would be better.

Of course this is all open source regurgitation.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#43318037)

"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermonuclear_weapon"

Second sentence - " It is colloquially referred to as a hydrogen bomb or H-bomb because it employs hydrogen fusion"

Plenty of our nuclear weapons stockpile employs fission/fusion combo detonations that utilize hydrogen. This is the USA. Other countries don't employ the use of hydrogen, or only have a couple of weapons that utilize it (typically done in the gun-format when utilized.)

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317009)

> You realize a hydrogen bomb does not contain hydrogen right?

Chez watt??

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1, Insightful)

slack_justyb (862874) | about a year ago | (#43316949)

Oh I'm going to have a fun night with you.

The story said jack crap about Hydrogen storage for fusion, in addition, we don't have a method at the moment for using Hydrogen fusion as an energy source.

I like your bit about nuclear weaponry (sic), the reason we use it as oppose to, I dunno, Lithium, just something out of the air here, is because it is simpler and therefore easier to build a detonation device out of. Not because we feel that we're going to get more bang per buck with Hydrogen. When it comes to leveling cities, cheap and effective is favored more over costly and unsure.

Another thing, even if we used Hydrogen for energy in the fusion way of things, it's still pretty shitty compared to say Helium or Boron, wild guess as to why Einstein,

Finally, basic high school chemistry would have taught you JACK SHIT about fusion since that's not fucking chemistry!!! Please feel free to educate yourself about the difference between nuclear physics and fucking chemistry. You have an awesome rest of your life.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (0)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#43317023)

" we don't have a method at the moment for using Hydrogen fusion as an energy source."

Yes we do, just for destructive purposes, not transportation or electrical generation (well, besides the resultant EMP.) It's called a thermonuclear weapon. You know, the hydrogen bomb?

"the reason we use it as oppose to, I dunno, Lithium, just something out of the air here, is because it is simpler and therefore easier to build a detonation device out of."

Umm, lithium is used, ever hear of lithium deuteride as part of the secondary in a nulcear weapon to allow for during-detonation tritium production? The main reason it's not used as the primary fusion material is because it's a bit more of a bitch to make it go critical and fuse, and is better served in on-site tritium production, where hydrogen is much easier to compress and fuse, and thus make it release practically all of its energy.

"Another thing, even if we used Hydrogen for energy in the fusion way of things, it's still pretty shitty compared to say Helium or Boron, wild guess as to why Einstein,"

Umm, boron requires temps of a few billion Kelvin to fuse. Hydrogen fuses roughly around 100 million Kelvin. Try again. You'd need a nuclear detonation currently to even get the thing cranking and going. Maybe when the new plasma pulse tech comes around, but that'll likely take another fifty years because nature doesn't play fair. Also, it wouldn't be helium, it'd be helium-3, which has totally different properties than its source isotope.

"Finally, basic high school chemistry would have taught you JACK SHIT about fusion since that's not fucking chemistry!!!"

It still teaches you enough to know your comment about hydrogen and low energy density being total bullshit.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#43317201)

Unless I misremember fusion isn't actually used for energy in hydrogen bombs so much as for an extra flood of fast neutrons to since the fission reaction is otherwise too slow to consume more than a tiny percentage of the material before it gets blown apart.

As for p-B11 fusion - I believe the Polywell folks were scheduled to demonstrate it last year as one of their progress milestones, and the Navy reported satisfactory progress. Take that as you will, the details will likely remain secret for another decade.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317471)

Unless I misremember fusion isn't actually used for energy in hydrogen bombs so much as for an extra flood of fast neutrons to since the fission reaction is otherwise too slow to consume more than a tiny percentage of the material before it gets blown apart.

You mis-remember. Modern fusion bombs are incredibly "clean" I.e. the majority of their energy comes from fusion rather than fission primary.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year ago | (#43317495)

the details will likely remain secret for another decade.

If they have something viable, I really hope not.

The Navy could do more for world peace than they ever could with ships and subs if they have their hands on a fusion reactor that works (read : is practical).

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317989)

>> we don't have a method at the moment for using Hydrogen fusion as an energy source."
> Yes we do, just for destructive purposes

An uncontrolled reaction isn't a different way of saying "usable for an energy source" and you know that. This is why you attempted to redefine "energy source" to suit your weird thought process. If you can't efficiently harness it, where does the "use" come in, in the context of fuel cells, which the entire thread is about? "Of course I can make a car that runs on water but it only goes downhill." - Not contributing to the discussion in a meaningful way and making you look dumb.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#43318045)

"If you can't efficiently harness it, where does the "use" come in,"

Implying the direct purpose of harnessing energy to destroy things isn't efficient.

No wonder you posted as AC. You know about as much as the GP to this entire convo.

Fusion candidates (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#43317189)

Actually for energy from single-step fusion fusing deutrium into He4 is as good as it gets at about 6MeV per nucleon. Nuclear binding energy per nucleon (MeV, negative): from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Binding_energy_curve_-_common_isotopes.svg
H1* - 0
H2 - 1.1
He3 - 2.5
H3 - 2.9
He4* - 7.1
Li6 - 5.3
Li7* - 5.7
Be9* - 6.5
B11* - 6.9 ...
Fe56 - 8.8 (atom with minimum energy) ...
U235 - 7.6
(*dominant natural isotope)

He4 is already pretty close to the minimum energy state, so you're not going to get much more energy out of it, and He3 has a similar problem to H2 - there just isn't all that much of it around. Moreover virtually all fusion has the problem that it releases far more neutron radiation than fission per MeV, and most of the remaining energy is usually released as gamma rays. In the medium term H1-B11 fusion is likely the best candidate for clean fusion since it uses common isotopes, produces minimal neutron or gamma radiation, and releases virtually all of its energy as fast He4 nuclei from which energy could (in principle) be extracted with high efficiency. The problem is simply a smaller reaction cross section requiring much greater "temperatures", I think the Polywell folks are the only ones making any noise about being able to pull it off any time soon. Of course the energy per nucleon is no better than fission, but that's not actually much of an issue unless we're talking the fuel mass requirements for interstellar voyages.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about a year ago | (#43317431)

Fusion is not in the realm of chemistry.

All fusion is not the same. Stellar fusion employs different nuclear reactions than what a weapon employs. A fusion reactor is different yet again, but more closely resembling stellar fusion.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316917)

On the other hand, hydrogen has a higher energy per unit volume than even the best batteries, and is more than 50 times lighter for the same amount of energy.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316945)

Water pumped up a hill is very inconvenient for mobile energy-consumption needs.

Energy density and even efficiency are not the only considerations in a fuel, or we'd all be driving cars with nuclear reactors in them.

Sometimes "worse" is actually fine, good, great, and/or better.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43316989)

In the future, hopefully we'll have nuclear reactors in every car. A small fusion generator powering every car. If we can shrink it small enough and keep it energy positive, it'll be everywhere.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

JakartaDean (834076) | about a year ago | (#43317051)

In the future, hopefully we'll have nuclear reactors in every car. A small fusion generator powering every car. If we can shrink it small enough and keep it energy positive, it'll be everywhere.

Sure, sounds good to me. If we're thinking big, make mine the flying car I've been waiting for ;-)

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43317161)

http://moller.com/dev/ [moller.com]

We've been 5 years away from the flying car for the last 30 years.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317223)

flying cars are called 'aircraft'.

most people have enough trouble travelling in 2 dimensions without introducing a third one.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43317253)

VTOL aircraft design for mass use are considered a special class, especially if they road legal. Flying cars aren't "just" aircraft if they are road legal.

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#43317241)

Maybe one day, if we can manage some sort of low-energy fusion. Most fusion research I've seen though seems to have efficiency scale with size, with breakeven power production being virtually impossible in a volume smaller than several meters without some sort of near-perfect high-temperature superconductors. Moreover most fusion reactions release far more neutron radiation per watt than a fission reaction, requiring thick shielding, and aneutronic fusion reactions all require drastically higher energies = larger reactor.

I'm holding out more hope for supercapacitors or carbon-fiber flywheels for personal transportation, lets keep the nuclear reactors someplace less volatile. Have we learned nothing from the radioactive explosive traffic jams in Fallout?

Re:hydrogen equals poor storage of energy (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43317265)

If you have a very dirty nuclear bomb, the fallout will settle radioactive dust inside cars that have broken windows. Explosions would spread that radioactive dust. That, and didn't we learn that we can get 1.21 gigawatts from banana peels from Mr. Fusion in a safe flying car/time machine?

Cheap hydrogen? (3, Funny)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | about a year ago | (#43316903)

Cheap hydrogen? This lad here only settles for premium. Not only are the atoms more shiny but all my my friends use it and I really want to be part of the in crowd.

Hype as usual (5, Informative)

JaWiB (963739) | about a year ago | (#43316905)

Basically the same catalysts have been reported previously [acs.org] . In this new paper, they don't bother to highlight the fact that their films are extremely thick, so of course they get great catalytic activity (though it's an oxide, so the series resistance might just be a problem...)

catalyze (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43316907)

dogalyze
birdalyze
horsealyze
totoisealyze
yackalyze
star-bellied-sneechalyze
nematodealyze
amoebalyze
anteateralyze
giraffealyze

Re:catalyze (3, Funny)

RandomUsername99 (574692) | about a year ago | (#43316921)

Yeah... I remember the first time I slashdotted on weed.

Re:catalyze (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | about a year ago | (#43316935)

I see you got some THC catalyzer...

I'll believe it when I see it in production (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about a year ago | (#43316971)

Until then it's just so much hot...um...hydrogen gas.

Hydrogen fuel cells are a dead end (3, Interesting)

AaronW (33736) | about a year ago | (#43316997)

I think hydrogen fuel cells are a dead-end technology. Batteries are steadily improving and by the time they're able to solve the fuel cell issues there won't be demand. By then batteries or possibly graphene supercapacitors will have taken over, with much higher efficiency. Lithium batteries are very efficient at storing energy and it's a lot simpler to just use a battery, an inverter and an electric motor than a hydrogen storage system, fuel cell, inverter and electric motor.

They're already able to give cars 150 miles worth of charge in 30 minutes and the batteries will last for many years before they need replacing.

Even with a catylist, cracking water to make hydrogen then storing it will be nowhere near as efficient. The energy density of hydrogen is also fairly low. I believe the future belongs to batteries and all-electric vehicles. I realized this after having acquired an EV of my own, a Tesla model S.

EVs are a different mindset. Each night when I come home I spend about 10 seconds plugging in. In the morning it takes 10 seconds to unplug and I basically have a full tank. Even the current wait at a supercharger is not necessarily time wasted unlike when filling a gasoline car. There is no reason for me to stand next to the car waiting for it to fill up. I can just as easily walk over to a restaraunt and have a nice meal for the price of filling up a tank, or I could surf the web, read E-mail, whatever.

Right now the biggest limitation is there are not enough of these rapid charging stations, but that will change as the infrastructure improves. The other biggest limitation is the cost, but the cost of batteries is steadily declining while the capacity is steadily increasing. The cost of electric motors like what Tesla uses should not be that high, especially since their induction motors do not contain any rare-earth minerals.

-Aaron

Re:Hydrogen fuel cells are a dead end (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317289)

Or the opposite: batteries are a dead end.
Batteries may be improving but the power needed for fast charging will not.

It works now because since there are only a few EV, and you don't need new infrastructures for a few cars at a time (wikipedia gives 40 to 50kW to charge a car in 20-30 minutes). But if EV become popular, then that will change...

Re:Hydrogen fuel cells are a dead end (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317325)

"[Every number you mentioned]"
Citation needed.

Seriously, This isn't a cost issue. It's a feasibility issue. Just the thermodynamic of charging this big of a battery in such a short time... And the capacitors ! Can you imagine the charging stations ?! I'm not versed enough in the physics, but just the amperages and voltages in question are enough to raise an eyebrow...

Re:Hydrogen fuel cells are a dead end (3, Interesting)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about a year ago | (#43317737)

Batteries are also a dead end. I'm sure that is hard to hear since it is your pet technology and the one you have invested in, but there is little reason to change the entire automotive culture to fit EVs when there are green technologies closer aligned to the better performing fossil fuels.

I'm sure there will be EVs for a while, but the fuel of the future will very likely be algae based ethanol. It has close to the energy density of gasoline (much better than batteries for decades to come) and doesn't require long charging times. It is also close to carbon neutral (and I think, given the feed potential, could be considered carbon negative). And it is efficient enough to be practically grown.

Re:Hydrogen fuel cells are a dead end (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43317883)

One can also react that hydrogen with other chemicals to create more conventional (and useful) chemicals such as methane, ethane (useful base compound for making gasoline), ethylene (common plastics building block), and ammonia (usual starting point for fertilizers).

Re:Hydrogen fuel cells are a dead end (2)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#43318099)

I think hydrogen fuel cells are a dead-end technology.

Probably. Hydrogen's a lousy fuel for a lot of purposes.

They're already able to give cars 150 miles worth of charge in 30 minutes and the batteries will last for many years before they need replacing.

Where many is "2". Long-lasting rechargeable batteries are like clean diesel, solar power or good fluorescent bulbs; there's always someone swearing that THIS iteration doesn't have the problems the previous iteration did. And they're always wrong.

Reading this half asleep (2)

davorh (2494696) | about a year ago | (#43317015)

and thinking to myself ... how can be AMD latest drivers be connected to hydrogen production ... my brain is just to preconditioned :)

Great news! (1)

Loki_1929 (550940) | about a year ago | (#43317041)

This is great news for all you Hindenburg reenactors out there!

The catalyst is not the problem (1, Insightful)

blogagog (1223986) | about a year ago | (#43317173)

If you had a perfect catalyst that allowed you to convert water to hydrogen and oxygen 100% efficiently (which of course we can never find), it would still not be cost effective. All you'd be doing is converting fossil fuels --> energy --> hydrogen. There is no good reason to do this. Hydrogen is significantly less easily transported than liquid fuels. It's even significantly less transportable than CH4 if you compare the energy/volume ratio. Making a grid of hydrogen suppliers would be painfully inefficient to the point of absurdity. H2 is not the energy of the future. I'm not knocking hydrogen. It works great in the sun. Just not as a non-fusion source of energy.

Re:The catalyst is not the problem (2)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year ago | (#43317579)

We'll find a good use for hydrogen one day. The idea of sunshine + sea water + rust = hydrogen + ??? = portable energy sounds so good though. We just need to solve for ???

Maybe it's not portable though, maybe it's just a temporary store that then takes more sunshine to convert back to electricity.

Not terribly efficient but if the hard components are cheap enough it's really just wasting a little sunshine. Not too bad as a trade off for base load from solar/wind power. It has its uses in any case.

Re:The catalyst is not the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317699)

Finally, someone connected the right dots in this pattern.

Take a given number of kWh of electricity and use it to make H2 via electrolysis, then compress that H2 up to 5,000 psi, feed it into a car, and drive. You go X miles.

Take that same number of kWh and charge EV batteries, and you drive 3X miles.

As we continue to wake up to the urgency of climate change, we will be increasingly desperate to clean up not just transportation, but all parts of our economy, including electricity generation. This means we not only need to make our electricity sector far less carbon intensive, but we have to use as little electricity as possible. The last thing we need is HFCVs propping up demand for coal- and natural gas-generated electricity.

Paywalled (1)

jamesl (106902) | about a year ago | (#43317361)

Once again, Slashdot promotes and links to a paywalled source.

Re:Paywalled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43317387)

This is Slashdot. You're not supposed to RTFA!

Toxic? (1)

cnaumann (466328) | about a year ago | (#43317625)

Neither ruthenium nor iridium should be particularly toxic. Because of their rarity, very little is actually known about their toxicity. The metals are very inert, and most of the salts are insoluble in water. Their toxicity should be similar to platinum. Ruthenium currently trades for about US$100/troy oz, iridium trades for about US$1000/troy oz.

Re:Toxic? (1)

hvdh (1447205) | about a year ago | (#43317805)

For those who have never heard about troy ounces: that's around 3200US$/kg (2500€/kg) for Ruthenium resp. ten times that for Iridium.

Snake Oil (1)

tomhath (637240) | about a year ago | (#43317711)

Linked articles are long on hype and short on data. The "green" angle is irrelevant, but this would be the perfect complement to the cold fusion reactor we'll all have in our basements.

Re:Snake Oil (1)

belthize (990217) | about a year ago | (#43317875)

What link did you click, here's the paper linked to:
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2013/03/27/science.1233638.full [sciencemag.org]

The last sentence in the paper:

Given the broad applicability of this approach and the acute stoichiometric control of the metal compositions, we contend that the PMOD technique opens an entirely new parameter space for discovery and optimization of new heterogeneous electrocatalysts.

is the "hype", which is preceded by several pages of data.

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