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Fuel Cell-Powered Data Centers Could Cut Costs and Carbon

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the fill-it-up dept.

Data Storage 108

angry tapir writes "A group of Microsoft researchers believe that using fuel cells to power data centers could potentially result in an 'over 20% reduction in costs using conservative projections', cutting infrastructure and power input costs. In addition, using fuel cells would likely result in a smaller carbon footprint for data centers. The researchers looked at the potential of using fuel cells at the rack level to power servers in data centers — although they note there is a long way to go before this could become a reality (not least of the small worldwide production level of fuel cells)."

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Cell powered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45327303)

That's what that dash is doing to that headline.

Let's eat, Grandma! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45328369)

Vs. "Let's eat Grandma!" kind of thing...?

What's a fuel cell? (4, Insightful)

BringsApples (3418089) | about a year ago | (#45327307)

A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent. Hydrogen is the most common fuel, but hydrocarbons such as natural gas and alcohols like methanol are sometimes used. Fuel cells are different from batteries in that they require a constant source of fuel and oxygen/air to sustain the chemical reaction; however, fuel cells can produce electricity continually for as long as these inputs are supplied.

So it's better to have the fuel cell at your place, rather than the fuel cells be at some electric company that then sells you the electricity at a higher price than you would pay for the "inputs".

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

BringsApples (3418089) | about a year ago | (#45327323)

Woops, I meant to credit Wikipedia with the info regarding what a fuel cell is.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year ago | (#45330721)

Sen. Paul, is that you? ;-)

Re:What's a fuel cell? (0)

randomErr (172078) | about a year ago | (#45327725)

So the fuel cell is creating a emissions of sort. It looks like they're using hydrogen and natural gas. Hydrogen will raise moisture levels and possible damage to the equipment. There is research to suggest that that burning hydrogen may have negative environmental impacts. Natural gas still has a carbon footprint and the switch to using it in wide scale production will cause a rise in price for all consumers.

The more we try find solutions to old problems the more we create new ones. If we switch to fuel cells we'll see a new green movement to fix those new issues.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (4, Insightful)

Trouvist (958280) | about a year ago | (#45328241)

Combustion of Hydrogen Creates Water. The hydrogen reacts quite powerfully and rapidly with the oxidizing agent (in this case, Oxygen) and creates water. If that harms the atmosphere in any way, I'd be quite surprised.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | about a year ago | (#45328435)

Actually, large scale deployment of hydrogen fuel cells will lead to significant leaks of hydrogen gas. Hydrogen gas also leaks as it diffuses through metal. Hydrogen gas depletes ozone. Not catalytically like chlorofluorocarbons do, but if you have massive and continual emissions of hydrogen, it can really do harm.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (3, Insightful)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year ago | (#45328573)

Creation of Hydrogen gas is only commercially viable though reforming natural gas, which produces C02 as a byproduct. Electrolysis is not cost effective and requires more electrical power than your fuel cell could produce. Generation of electrical power usually requires a release of CO2 as well.

If you have a fuel cell that burns methane (i.e. Natural gas) or other fuels the fuel cell will have to reform it into Hydrogen (releasing CO2) before it's used. If you burn just Hydrogen, somebody else did the reforming (releasing the CO2 for you).

The only way this works out as a plus for the environment is by making it possible to use LESS fuel for the same amount of power. And in this way it *might* work out to be marginally better, based on the possible efficiency gains of fuel cells.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a year ago | (#45328797)

They could use solar for daytime running, and electrolysis of water into hydrogen, and then use the hydrogen produced during the day to run their servers at night. Obviously, they would need to run the numbers to see if the cost of solar + conversion losses are cheaper or more expensive than the alternatives, but it should be a lot cleaner.

It has always seemed to me that the obvious use for fuel cells was to act as a storage/smoothing device to be coupled with photovoltaic.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year ago | (#45329077)

Your idea has merit, but there are more efficient ways to store electricity than fuel cells and hydrogen, at least on a small to midsize scale. There are no large scale examples, so I assume it is not viable at that scale either. It's just cheaper to just buy power at night.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

mlts (1038732) | about a year ago | (#45328917)

I can see fuel cells being useful where natural gas is plentiful so the data center can use CNG cells as an auxiliary generator. In Europe, Truma sells a propane fuel cell for RVs so that the house batteries are always charged, even if the RV solar system is not making any wattage.

I don't see how fuel cells can be useful as energy storage devices just due to the fact that we have electrolysis, and that's it for splitting water into its component atoms.

Instead, why not do like solar plants do, use supercap batteries as a "buffer", then use high-capacity batteries? A couple weeks ago, there was mention of various batteries with impressive (almost within 1-2 orders of magnitude of gasoline) energy density. Why not just go that route?

Hydrogen has its own hazards, and I don't mean Hindenburgs. Why not just put more research into high capacity lithium-air or other batteries and go from there?

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about a year ago | (#45331783)

Electrolysis is not cost effective and requires more electrical power than your fuel cell could produce.

By the same argument, power grids "are not cost effective" because they require more electrical power input than they deliver to the cu
stomer.

Electrolysis may be VERY cost effective. Just think of it as a different sort of energy distribution system, not as a conversion of fuel to electricity, and compare its costs to what it replaces.

(This is similar to the bogus argument against solar panels: "They take more energy to make than they deliver over their lifetime." First that's false - they reach energy breakeven very early in their life. Second, they produce post-carnot-cycle electricity, while most of the energy going into making them is pre-carnot-cycle heat. Third, you need to compare their energy consumption apples-to-apples: How much energy does it take to build and fuel the fraction of the power grid that would deliver the same amount of electricity to the same site - from melting steel to build transformers, to clearing trees and stringing poles, to building power plants and switchgear, to fueling the plants to make the electricity (digging for and transporting coal, drilling for and pumping oil, disposing of radioactive waste, ...) to losing a fraction of that to carnot cycle efficiency, transformer losses, corona discharge, resistive heating of transmission lines, ...)

CO2 (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about a year ago | (#45331887)

If you have a fuel cell that burns methane (i.e. Natural gas) or other fuels the fuel cell will have to reform it into Hydrogen (releasing CO2) before it's used.

And if you're ultimately running from fossil fuels, methane is the least carbon-emitting choice.

Burning the hydrogen atoms to water produces MOST of the power from fossil fuels. Burning the carbon to CO2 produces a little more. But in gas and oil it's mostly there to make the hydrogen easier to handle than H2.

Methane has four hydrogens per carbon (4:1), the best ratio of all hydrocarbons. Ethane: (6: 2 = 3:1), propane: 8:3 = 2.666..."1, and so on. As you transition from gasses to oil you're approaching the large saturated hydrocarbon molecule limit of 2:1.

Then there's coal, where you're JUST burning the carbon. All CO2, much less energy (though still plenty if you burn ENOUGH of it).

Tell me when they come up with a range of affordable, small, light weight, fuel cells that efficiently make a couple hundred to a couple thousand watts by burning odorized propane with ambient air. I want one for my car, one for my travel trailer, and one for each house.

Re: What's a fuel cell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45328709)

The number one greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapor. I believe it makes up around 98% of the greenhouse gasses. So in reality it won't stop anthropogenic climate change.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#45329585)

There is research to suggest that that burning hydrogen may have negative environmental impacts.

WHAT?? What research has suggested that WATER has negative environmental impacts?

Natural gas still has a carbon footprint and the switch to using it in wide scale production will cause a rise in price for all consumers.

So you are assuming the electricity they are using now is free? Natural gas is the cheapest fuel, even cheaper than coal (at least in America). And a fuel cell will convert more of it into electricity than a gas turbine will. So in most cases this will result in less CO2 and lower prices (excluding the initial capital cost of the cell).

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#45331517)

"What research has suggested that WATER has negative environmental impacts?"
Home ownership for one. I used to love water, then I bought a home. That shit is sneaky and will destroy your home environment if given half a drip.

Also:
I'm pretty sure the water from a store surge could also have an environmental impact.

You do know that in a real world, there will be other products in the air and not just Oxygen, right? Right?

Not that any of the other waste is worth worrying about, but it's there.

"Natural gas is the cheapest fuel"
depending on how you define cheap.

Also, he is simply stating the price will rise due to demand. Will it rise higher than current methods?
And IF so, is it worth paying a but more to produce less CO2?

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#45332189)

The hydrogen doesn't get to where you burn it by magic. Please stop pretending to be stupid enough to think so, it's demeaning.
We should be comparing burning natural gas to using it in fuel cells instead of such hysterical sillyness.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#45327729)

So it's better to have the fuel cell at your place, rather than the fuel cells be at some electric company that then sells you the electricity at a higher price than you would pay for the "inputs".

Assuming, of course, that the overhead of a place to keep the fuel cells & their fuel, and the extra manpower needed don't add up to more than the electric company charges you.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (3, Informative)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about a year ago | (#45328505)

I have a furnace that is hooked up to a natural gas main. I have a faucet that's hooked up to a water main. I have a water heater that's hooked up to both. They all work fine with occasional maintenance. Commercial/industrial buildings just do it on a larger scale. A fuel cell would just be another appliance hooked up to a supply main. If the technology scales well--which it does--there's no reason to add all the overhead (cost/reduced efficiency) required to centrally produce and distribute. The only problem with local/hyper-local production is the business model of power companies.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

mlts (1038732) | about a year ago | (#45329169)

Fuel cells used as emergency "generators" make sense. There have been times where power may be off, but the natural gas pipes still have pressure.

If we have advances in fuel cell technology, I'd like to see them in making small devices that work with either (or preferably both) CNG and propane. Right now, if I don't have electric and gas, my water heater and furnace become inoperable. Same with my gas dryer. Older RV refrigerators used to be able to run solely off of propane. Now, they require it and 12 volts for the control boards.

It would be nice to have a fuel cell that would give enough power to run an appliance's control board, especially if it already requires gas to function. That way, a gas dryer will work completely independently of the electrical system, similar with a place's HVAC system (although it would be tough for a fuel cell to keep enough juice for an A/C compressor in summer.)

In Europe, Truma sells exactly this, so one doesn't have to use an absorption refrigerator, but can use a regular dorm fridge from the RV's batteries, and the batteries are kept topped off by their propane fuel cell.

Your heater and furnace need electirc? Mine don't (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about a year ago | (#45332245)

Right now, if I don't have electric and gas, my water heater and furnace become inoperable.

In my remote house my heat and water heater both work fine on only propane. As long as the tank is not empty we're fine (and the tank only needs filling about three times a year).

The water heater is gas with a pilot light and no electric controls (except for the pilot light safety thermocouple, which generates enough power from the flame's heat to control the safety shutdown).

While the regular furnace has electronic controls and blower, I also have a backup: A propane "fireplace" stove in the great room, with a room layout that lets it heat the living area and keep the pipes from freezing.

Again it works with a pilot light, and the thermocouple's few millivolts also provide enough power, controlled by a mechanical-switch thermostat in the middle of the house, to operate the main gas valve as well. Though the stove's room blower will also fail in an outage, convection is more than adequate to circulate the heat in the big-open-space-in-the-middle house design. Kept things nice and comfy when we had a day-long outage in deep winter.

When away the stats are set to 55 for the furnace, 50 for the backup stove. This worked just fine one winter, when the furnace's draft sensor failed and the furnace was dead for weeks until we got there and discovered the issue. That definitely paid for the stove in one event.

Re:What's a fuel cell? (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#45333497)

Years ago I lived in an area where propane was commonly used for both heating and hot water. Having a fuel cell in the chain to output electricity would be golden.

Btw, I keep seeing people saying that electrolysis for hydrogen sucks; why not use windmills to spin generators for the juice and maybe the compressors?

Wake me up... (5, Informative)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a year ago | (#45327329)

Give me a call when those fuel cells are ready for deployment, then we can talk about all these wonderful uses. No talk about the carbon footprint of operating fuel cells?

The article mixes the use of fuel cells as a power source with efficiency improvements. The only place that makes sense is with the minor savings that may be seen by eliminating DC converters, but you will still need DC regulators which will have some losses.

A major oversight of this article is the fact that fuel cells are major heat generators, not something you want in a data center. They would need to be installed in a separated structure, therefore idea that "Rack-level fuel cells would do away with data-centre-wide electricity distribution for servers" is hard to imagine.

Re:Wake me up... (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about a year ago | (#45327489)

The article talks about fuel cells at the data center, server, and rack levels. At the center level, this can be done today, and I guess the researchers didn't mention Bloom box [wikipedia.org] . At the server and rack level, I do agree with you that heat may be a a problem.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a year ago | (#45328059)

The article talks about fuel cells at the data center, server, and rack levels. At the center level, this can be done today, and I guess the researchers didn't mention Bloom box [wikipedia.org] . At the server and rack level, I do agree with you that heat may be a a problem.

You might want to read one particular line in that product link which reads....."Assuming a 50% future cost reduction........"

Re:Wake me up... (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about a year ago | (#45328333)

First of all you mentioned nothing about "cost" only that to let you know when it was available for deployment and that you expressed concerns over cooling. As far as Bloom is concerned, it's available today. At the data center level, these boxes are normally installed outside and rely on ambient air cooling.

Second you might want to read statement yourself:

Assuming a 50% future cost reduction, one could argue that the best case scenario for the 200 kW unit would be a capital (installed) cost comparable to today's 100 kW units, i.e. . .

Re:Wake me up... (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#45327691)

A major oversight of this article is the fact that fuel cells are major heat generators, not something you want in a data center. They would need to be installed in a separated structure, therefore idea that "Rack-level fuel cells would do away with data-centre-wide electricity distribution for servers" is hard to imagine.

Microsoft imagined tablets back in the 90s. Nobody cared. Apple imagined them a couple years ago and people wet themselves like an excited dog. You have to admit that at least part of your skepticism is based on the messenger, not just the message.

The only thing that makes fuel cells more attractive in this scenario is that the cost is controlled; It is not tied to your geographic location. I'm sure you've read several dozen articles by now about how various data centers were built in various parts of the country due to low electricity costs, only to find that once they had built it, the utilities and local municipalities decided to jack the rates up. This famously happened to the NSA data center.

If we had a high density energy storage solution, like fuel cells, then the local monopolistic energy companies wouldn't be able to dictate terms to anyone anymore. In effect, it would break their natural monopoly.

All that said... let's be honest... it's still on the drawing board. Just like the flying car.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

orzetto (545509) | about a year ago | (#45327833)

I'm sure you've read several dozen articles by now about how various data centers were built in various parts of the country due to low electricity costs, only to find that once they had built it, the utilities and local municipalities decided to jack the rates up.

And how are they not going to do the same for natural gas, or any other form of energy? The one you describe is a regulatory problem, not a technical one.

Re:Wake me up... (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#45328667)

And how are they not going to do the same for natural gas, or any other form of energy? The one you describe is a regulatory problem, not a technical one.

It may surprise you to learn, but many advancements in technology are due to "regulatory" problems. And it isn't a regulatory problem; energy service providers have a natural monopoly. Before you comment about how that's a regulatory problem, please google what a natural monopoly is. The fact is, you don't want a half-dozen power grids all in the same area competing; AC power doesn't take well to getting out of phase across the grid. And by not taking well, I mean, shit explodes. Violently. You can have many power plants, but really only one grid. It is non-trivial to connect two grids together... it requires a lot of high-power equipment to correct for phase variance, proper isolation, etc. In fact, there are only about 6 major power grids in the United States, and about 10 on the continent. That speaks volumes to the price of having multiple grids.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about a year ago | (#45327855)

Difference being Apple had an actual product for sale as in the iPad. I've yet to see the fuel cell technology produced that delivers on the promises we've been hearing for the past decade or more.

Again, when one of these companies produces a fuel cell that can power rack level servers with low heat, then there's something to talk about.

Until then it's a lot of pie in the sky.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

mlts (1038732) | about a year ago | (#45330133)

Fuel cells are getting there, but it seems to be a matter of getting a market for it before they start becoming mainstream.

For RV-ers, we already have Truma (Europe only) who makes propane fuel cells, and EFOY, who makes methanol based cells, both coupled with 12 volt charge controllers for RV use. These don't put out a lot of wattage (250 watt/hours), but are good enough to keep batteries topped off when one runs an RV furnace (where the fans take 7-10 amp-hours), or a laptop computer.

Fuel cells are making the absorption refrigerator obsolete (and for those RV-ing, that is a big thing), so I'm hoping economies of scale bring the price down.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a year ago | (#45327875)

You have to admit that at least part of your skepticism is based on the messenger, not just the message.

No, my entire skepticism is based entirely on the content of the article, not the messenger. I will admit I am naturally skeptical of any claims for fuel cells as an economical solution for power supply where normal means already suffice because I have researched them for several uses and I monitor their progress. Change location to an isolated island, that would be a bit different.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#45328837)

Microsoft imagined tablets back in the 90s. Nobody cared. Apple imagined them a couple years ago and people wet themselves like an excited dog

Actually, Apple imagined them back in the 80s, and nobody cared. See the Newton.

various data centers were built in various parts of the country due to low electricity costs, only to find that once they had built it, the utilities and local municipalities decided to jack the rates up.

And the EXACT SAME THING could happen with the natural gas utilities just as easily.

the local monopolistic energy companies wouldn't be able to dictate terms to anyone anymore. In effect, it would break their natural monopoly.

Major consumers are NOT at the mercy of the power grid. Many, MANY companies have built their own generators on-site. There's no reason Google, Facebook, Microsoft, the NSA, or others, couldn't build a power plant next to their data centers, and get electricity at COST. And they can get good prices for dumping any excess power into the grid. Just ask Alcoa about all that... In fact several of them HAVE installed large PV solar arrays on-site to cut down on their electrical costs already, so they're quite familiar with the concept.

All that said... let's be honest... it's still on the drawing board. Just like the flying car.

The real problem is that they're comparing hypothetical fuel cells, with real-world electrical prices.

Fuel cells absolutely have the potential to greatly increase the efficiency of converting natural gas into electricity, but there's no reason at all for them not to just be tied to the grid as soon as they become practical, getting maximum utilization, and driving down wholesale electricity prices.

They're also foolishly pretending that fuel cells would be 100% reliable, and would allow complete elimination of battery banks and on-site backup generators, which is laughable.

Microsoft's tablets sucked 10 years ago (2)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#45328865)

Microsoft imagined tablets back in the 90s. Nobody cared

That's because Microsoft's implementation of those tablets back then SUCKED. I used some of their tablets and they simply weren't a good product. They treated a pen like a mouse and slapped some half-baked afterthought software for using pens on top of their mouse/keyboard oriented products. The result was extra cost for very little benefit to most people. They never really understood that a pen is NOT a replacement for a keyboard. A pen is ONLY useful for drawing. As a result Microsoft's tablets were an answer to a question nobody asked.

Apple imagined them a couple years ago and people wet themselves like an excited dog.

That's because Apple's product actually worked fairly well and filled a need many people didn't even know they had. My 94 year old computer illiterate grandmother uses an iPad daily and there is no way in hell that would have happened with Microsoft's tablet.

Re:Microsoft's tablets sucked 10 years ago (0)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45329207)

My 94 year old computer illiterate grandmother uses an iPad daily

If she's using an iPad daily, she's obviously not that computer illiterate (at least not anymore).

Re:Wake me up... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#45331449)

Because MS tables in the 90's sucked. Their was a strong spike in interest until the landed in hands. They where ugly, had no support, and as it turned out a key infrastructure piece was missing: Easy to load small apps delivered via wireless.

They have tendency to focus on the great idea, but none of the ancillary pieces. Also, their marketing isn't really that good.

I still shake my haed over the fact they made their initial Zune brown.
Here is a turd, you can squirt files with it. In all way it was a superior device, but Ballmar has no design aesthetic.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45327839)

Give me a call when those fuel cells are ready for deployment

Bloom Energy [wikipedia.org] is calling...

Re:Wake me up... (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year ago | (#45328753)

I took the call and 8-10 cents /Kilowatt Hour is decidedly NOT competitive cost numbers. Commercial power prices are less than half that at wholesale levels. Sent them to voice mail. Darn telemarketers!

Wakey wakey (1)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#45327965)

Give me a call when those fuel cells are ready for deployment...

Ok, what number should we call to wake you since industrial fuel cells are already available [ballard.com] and apparently work fairly well.

Re:Wakey wakey (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a year ago | (#45328015)

Sorry, I forgot to clarify...ready for "cost effective and practical" deployment "for this type of use case". I just figured those parts would be obvious. But those that claim Fuel Cells are ready for mass adoption don't like to talk about those qualifiers in any kind of detail.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#45328183)

Also, This [wikipedia.org] and this [wikipedia.org] . They store more energy per mass, but batteries can release power faster and have roughly as good storage capacity.

In this case, the energy-per-mass storage capacity is not important: We're talking about hooking fuel cells to a gas distribution line, using them essentially as hydrogen or natural gas generators. This is something more like you'd do with a back-up generator (diesel, nat gas) rather than for full-time operation.

So this is a bunch of herpderp about "Natural gas is plentiful and cheap right now! It's slightly cheaper than electricity, so you should invest tons of money into converting to natural gas, which then when the price comes back up will require tons of investment to convert back to electricity!" The increase in demand if this caught on would make natural gas a lot more expensive than electricity.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year ago | (#45328233)

So, I can run lots of wire or I can run... enough gas pipes that errors are inevitable? When those servers blow up they'll really blow up!

Plus as I'm sure you know the platinum used as a catalyst in fuel cells has no major cost to it either.

Microsoft. Full of Win. As usual.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | about a year ago | (#45328597)

It depends on the fuel cell and the fuel. Platinum is used in lightweight, low-temperature fuel cells meant for rapid load changes (as in cars and such). If you are running from natural gas or other fuel sources, and are running with a high-temperature fuel cell, you don't need platinum.

But people are forgetting about the distribution costs with electricity. A significant portion of the energy is lost as heat in the distribution system - both as I2R losses in the wires and inefficiencies in the transformers. Unless you have a big leak in the piping, shipping natural gas around is basically loss-less aside from pumping costs.

Fuel cells running more or less at steady state at the point of use are very economical.

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/pdfs/fccs_omaha10.pdf [energy.gov]

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1139680 [eetimes.com]

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-06-21/ebay-fuel-cells/55732562/1 [usatoday.com]

Re:Wake me up... (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45329283)

A significant portion of the energy is lost as heat in the distribution system - both as I2R losses in the wires and inefficiencies in the transformers.

Average loss in the electrical grid from generator to customer is only 7%.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year ago | (#45330725)

High temperature fuel cells. Right. You can indeed eliminate the platinum catalyst if you're willing to run the fuel cells at the better part of the temperature of molten lava.

And they'll slag those hard drives for you when you're ready to dispose of them too.

Of course, you can't really do that inside the cooled computer cabinet, so you don't actually eliminate power distribution within the data center that way.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Quila (201335) | about a year ago | (#45328379)

Apple has been installing massive fuel cell power at its new datacenters.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about a year ago | (#45332413)

Give me a call when those fuel cells are ready for deployment, then we can talk about all these wonderful uses. No talk about the carbon footprint of operating fuel cells?

Natural gas (methane) has the highest energy/carbon emission ration of any saturated hydrocarbon (gas or oil) and beats the HELL out of coal. If you're going to use fossil fuels (or renewable fuel from biodegrading vegetable waste, sewage, or cow flops), and a fuel cell is in the efficiency ballpark with a grid plant, why not put the fuel cell in the rack?

The article mixes the use of fuel cells as a power source with efficiency improvements. The only place that makes sense is with the minor savings that may be seen by eliminating DC converters, but you will still need DC regulators which will have some losses.

Fuel cells are not limited by the carnot cycle efficiency limt. They can be FAR MORE EFFICIENT than a heat-engine based power plant.

Modern circuit boards in servers ALREADY HAVE switching regulators near the chips. With the very low operating voltages of modern electronics, the supply currents are SO high that you lose less energy by running 48V on the power planes of the PC board and regulating it down at the load than you do running, say 3.3, 2.5, or 1.8 volts and a correspondingly higher current across several inches of thin copper.

Remember: I-squared-R losses go up with the SQUARE of the current. So running 1.2V across a board to your chips loses 400 TIMES as much power as running 48V to the regulator next to them. It's like high-tension transmission lines in miniature. (They'd go higher except that over 50V gets you out of the easy part of the electrical code and into the region where electrocution becomes a major issue.)

Putting the switching regulator next to the chip also gives you much more stable voltage. When it's already there to save power, this makes good regulation "cheaper than free".

A major oversight of this article is the fact that fuel cells are major heat generators, not something you want in a data center. They would need to be installed in a separated structure, therefore idea that "Rack-level fuel cells would do away with data-centre-wide electricity distribution for servers" is hard to imagine.

They also need and external air supply and to have their exhaust removed rather than dumped into the room air. So you're going to give them their own plumbing. You want to SAVE that heat to keep the oxygen-transport style cells at operating temperature without wasting fuel or power to do it. So you insulate the box and run the ventilation plumbing like a stove pipe - coaxial, with the hot exhaust in the middle and the cool incoming air on the outside. This minimizes the heat loss to the room and acts like a counter-current heat exchanger to preheat the fresh air with the heat from the exhaust, while cooling the exhaust.

It's similar to what I did with my first unix box, back in the '80s or so: The thing put out as much heat as a space heater. So I hooked up a dryer vent hose to the 4" exhaust fan and dumped the hot air outside. Cooling problem solved. (In the winter I dumped it INSIDE to save on heating bills.)

Re:Wake me up... (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about a year ago | (#45332435)

Remember: I-squared-R losses go up with the SQUARE of the current. So running 1.2V across a board to your chips loses 400 TIMES as much power as running 48V to the regulator next to them.

Oops. Make that "loses 1600 times as much power". (Multiplied the 10s but forgot to multiply the 4s.)

When a board has several chips running at 10 or more watts apiece you can easily be dealing at currents where the heating of the board consumes more power than the heating of the chips. With a rack of electronics dissipating several KW you can pay for a LOT of tiny switching regulators to avoid more than doubling that.

This is dumb (-1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#45327353)

Fuel Cells are a method of energy storage not power generation. Someone has to spend the energy to separate hydrogen and oxygen.

Unless the underlying claim is that the grid is less efficient than that process. In which case, it seems bizarrely specific to only apply it to datacenters alone.

Re:This is dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45327701)

i could see a system where a data center uses, and stores for later use, lower-cost off-peak electricity, then uses that stored power during peak rate periods. if a typical server consumes 500 watts, 24/7, and the rate difference is $0.06 per kwh, that's $263 per year saved, per server (on 4380 kwh per server, per year), not including the lower taxes paid on the now-lower utility bills... and it provides a source of power for building UPS for before (and while) generators for longer-term power outages are started up, replacing the lead-acid and other types of batteries currently being used for that purpose. however, we're a number of years away from low enough costs, and high enough production, to make fuel cells viable for pretty much any commercial use on even a modest scale.

Re:This is dumb (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#45327977)

Any sensible infrastructure would either run directly off methane, or would produce hydrogen gas from methane. No one in their right mind is considering using electrolysis to generate hydrogen.

Re:This is dumb (1)

compro01 (777531) | about a year ago | (#45328105)

They're not talking about hydrogen. They're talking about methane (i.e. natural gas) fuel cells, hence the mention of the "gas grid".

Re:This is dumb (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | about a year ago | (#45328639)

Fuel cells, as discussed in the article, are not at all a method of energy storage. They are a method of power generation.

You got it exactly backwards.

Only some kinds of fuel cells can be run backwards (such as platinum catalyst hydrogen fuel cells) to do things like split water into hydrogen and oxygen using an external source of electricity (solar cell, power line, etc) - which can then later be recombined into water to generate electricity.

and thats not all! (4, Funny)

nimbius (983462) | about a year ago | (#45327377)

Fuel Cell-Powered Data Centers Could Cut Costs and Carbon,
belch candy and caviar,
increase ROI, MTTF, MTBF, LMNOP,
and even brew a cuppa tea!
but just listen to Microsoft, dont take it from me!

P.S.: dear god someone please use Azure. I know its not the datacenter its the cloud, but we've pissed cash into it like a shit-faced geriatric at a slot machine and so far it generates more heat than revenue...
P.P.S: also try Bing, Windows Phone, Windows Tablet, and windows 8.1 app store moneytrain edition for workgroups. god christ i cant take another quarterly 'why arent we relevant anymore' meeting.

--Gil in sales.

Re:and thats not all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45328073)

Blowjobs. You forgot the blowjobs. There are a few people out there crazy enough to risk it :)

Re:and thats not all! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45328117)

moneytrain edition

LOL

Turbines (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about a year ago | (#45327407)

Considering that a major power plant typically outputs electrically about 1/3rd of its thermal power, can we invent a technology to connect a turbine to the rack cooling system? Given that processors won't directly generate steam, you may lose another 1/2 in that conversion, but that's still over 16% of the data center that could power itself...
That's a lot less exotic than fuel cells.

I guess someone with enough billions has already done that math and the return wasn't there...

Re:Turbines (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#45328009)

It's called "combined heat and power". You bypass the inefficiencies of a generator and motor by using the thermal energy of the power plant directly.

Re:Turbines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45328265)

Considering that a major power plant typically outputs electrically about 1/3rd of its thermal power, can we invent a technology to connect a turbine to the rack cooling system? Given that processors won't directly generate steam, you may lose another 1/2 in that conversion, but that's still over 16% of the data center that could power itself...
That's a lot less exotic than fuel cells.

I guess someone with enough billions has already done that math and the return wasn't there...

Sadly, Carnot efficiency (the best you can achieve with any heat engine) depends on the ratio of the maximum temperature to the minimum temperature of the cycle. The difference in temperature between CPU cooling air and room temperature air is actually very small. If you assume a 20 C room temperature and 50 C air coming off the CPU the best you can hope for is about 9% conversion efficiency.

Re:Turbines (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year ago | (#45328829)

The first three laws of thermodynamics rule that out. Not going to happen.

cutting costs is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45327509)

but what benefit is reducing carbon output?

Did they take into account... (2)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | about a year ago | (#45327543)

...the energy cost of separating the hydrogen from the oxygen? That is currently the Achilles heel of fuel cells. It takes more energy to do that than to burn fossil fuels or nuclear directly. Though every once in a while someone comes up with a lab-proof for doing it more efficiently. Anyone have the latest on that technology?

Re:Did they take into account... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45327681)

You know, when NASA ships computer equipment to another planet they tend to include a nuclear power source. Is it too much to ask for servers that include such power supplies that will power them until they're obsolete? This should result in incredible reductions in energy distribution losses...

Re: Did they take into account... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45327933)

nukes I don't rhink that will be safe with the low cost rent a cops on site at the data centers

Re:Did they take into account... (1)

Amouth (879122) | about a year ago | (#45328041)

NASA uses RTGs which are HORRID when it comes to efficiency. BUT they are extremely simple, reliable, and have a very long very predictable lifespan and usability. Also do to it being on another world they don't have to worry about it's interaction with people or even the environment.

RTG's are the exact opposite to any power problem on this little world.

Re:Did they take into account... (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a year ago | (#45327715)

There's really nothing new wrt Hydrogen production. Methane reforming and high temperature electrolysis are the methods for bulk production. Both require a lot of energy. The DOE had at one time been working on Very High Temperature Gas Reactors (VHTR) for the purpose of supplying high enough temperature process heat to make the conversion reasonably efficient, but industry interest has not been strong enough to keep it going.

Re:Did they take into account... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45327747)

No, they didn't. That's not the main issue as you get that back times the efficiency of the fuel cell (which is _always_ less than 1). The issue is that the energy comes from a power plant in the first place. The laws of thermodynamics can be summed up in many ways, one of which I will apply here: nothing is 100% efficient. Therefore, adding steps will always complicate what you're trying to do.

What they have here is the fuel cost of running the power plant at normal efficiency, plus the cost of transportation, plus the loss in efficiency of converting water to hydrogen and then hydrogen back to electricity. Adding steps _always_ creates inefficiencies. The only question is whether that process, plus the cost of building the thing (from expensive and rare metals like palladium) is less than the transmission cost over a wire? Almost certainly not. /end rant.

Re:Did they take into account... (1)

compro01 (777531) | about a year ago | (#45328125)

No, because they're not talking about hydrogen fuel cells. They're talking about methane fuel cells.

Re:Did they take into account... (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year ago | (#45328867)

Methane requires "reforming" into hydrogen before a fuel cell can use it. Some fuel cells do it within the cell, but it happens none the less.

Re:Did they take into account... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45329145)

Fine, but it's alot easier to get a supply of methane (natural gas) than it is to get a supply of hydrogen...it stores and transports more easily, and its supplied ready-made by nature, and there's probably a commercial supplier in your neighborhood.

I Wanted to Put in A Fuel Cell Into My New House (1)

Ferretman (224859) | about a year ago | (#45327655)

Ten years before I got ready to build I went to an Open House at a new development north of here precisely to see the house that had the fuel cell generator. At that time it was about the size of two or three large freezers and ran on natural gas.

The tech and I talked a lot. He figured that within ten years the same product would be about the size of a cabinet freezer and perhaps $10K in cost. It would easily run on propane (which is what I knew I'd have in the mountains).

Flash forward ten years, I'm getting ready to build and search online for fuel cell companies--and find virtually no changes since that initial visit. Nobody was selling a house-capable fuel cell generator, they were more custom built than mass produced, and finding a good way to handle the recharge filters wasn't really standardized yet.

Needless to say I was quite disappointed. Ended up going with solar which I do like, but not making power 24x7 is quite annoying.

Maybe someday.....either this or Mr. Fusion!

Ferret

Re:I Wanted to Put in A Fuel Cell Into My New Hous (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#45331395)

Should have bought something on some land. Then you could build a 1Mw solar furnace yourself.

Push the technology forward (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year ago | (#45327673)

I actually like the idea as a concept. Fuel Cells have been used in small applications and there was talk from the Doe PNNL about a new system just last year. [gizmag.com] I think if a large scale consumer of power, Microsoft, were to start pushing the tech you'd start to see more commercial viability of these kinds of projects. I'd also advocate going the geothermal or solar route as well to look at powering data centers but ultimately I think power efficiency will render more savings. This year we've seen AMD roll out the first ARM based server [engadget.com] , which although not as powerful as say a Xeon class server, does offer significant power savings in terms of compute-per-watt. With the usual technology refresh cycles that occur in all data centers we may see power reduction occurring gradually. Obviously other Server manufacturers are pushing on compute-per-watt as well with other architectures but we also have more and more servers going into production so you still have to solve the power generation side of the equation as well.

Haven't heard this one yet (1)

putzin (99318) | about a year ago | (#45327719)

Find all articles related to renewable energy in the last 10 years. Too many hits to count. Find all articles related to massive improvement in battery technology in the last 10 years. Too many hits to count. The broken record continues to turn.

Installing FCs in servers/racks won't work (4, Informative)

orzetto (545509) | about a year ago | (#45327793)

The article does not mention it clearly, but those fuel cells are likely natural-gas powered. They are either very high-temperature cells [wikipedia.org] (800 degrees C) or low-temperature cells (70-120 degrees C) with a reformer somewhere that converts natural gas to hydrogen. In the former case you would need to handle fuel at insanely high temperatures close to a bunch of electronics (you can guess what happens at the first leak), in the second you have to handle a hydrogen distribution network, and hydrogen is a nasty gas to work with (see for example hydrogen embrittlement [wikipedia.org] ); nothing that cannot be handled, but providing it to single servers or even racks? Hydrogen-proof piping is expensive, and even worse are the valves.

In any case, gas piping is never going to be as practical as power cords. You cannot bend it, coil it, join it easily, and you will need also piping to collect exhaust gases: since this hydrogen comes from natural gas, it travels with CO2, and you don't want it to accumulate in the data centre. You may also need another line to provide oxygen if the data centre ventilation is insufficient.

The argument that one would do away with power supplies is foolish: simply provide a network of DC power instead for all required voltages. FCs produce DC power, but their output voltage is unsteady and needs to be converted to the right voltage; and there are several voltages that a server requires anyway.

So, if FCs have to be, they need to be placed outside the data centre, and function as their power stations. At this point, one wonders, why should we ever consider to install FCs in power stations? Simply build a FC power station and export to the grid.

The main driver for FCs in power generation in the US is the low price of natural gas due to high shale gas production.

Re:Installing FCs in servers/racks won't work (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45328461)

I agree. You should NOT use Fedora Core in a rack server in a production environment. You should use CentOS instead.

Re:Installing FCs in servers/racks won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45331353)

How about powering electronics with compressed air? Expanding air serves as coolant, although condensation might be a problem. Large reservoirs would be required, and what is the efficiency of conversion?

Re:Installing FCs in servers/racks won't work (1)

orzetto (545509) | about a year ago | (#45331613)

Efficiency of conversion for gas (any gas) compression and expansion is pretty poor, and requires turbomachinery for high yields (which are not so high). In addition to that you would need strong piping for the compressed air (the FC gases run at atmospheric pressure), and you open the gates to a whole new class of problems with high-pressure equipment.

Really, electricity is the most efficient and convenient way to move power around. Efficiency is essentially 100% with proper cabling and safety is well understood. I have no idea what advantages one might harvest from using fuel cells in that context.

Mind you: I am a researcher in fuel cells. I lead a multi-million project in fuel cells, dammit. There are lots of good applications for fuel cells, this is not one of them. This is as stupid as fuelling a vibrator with gasoline.

Re:Installing FCs in servers/racks won't work (1)

adolf (21054) | about a year ago | (#45332565)

In any case, gas piping is never going to be as practical as power cords. You cannot bend it, coil it, join it easily

Hmm.

The rubber gas "piping" on my propane grill is pretty easy to use and connect. It coils nicely, and survives handling and use outside, unprotected from the sun/rain/snow/heat just fine.

Rubber not good enough? Armor it with braided strainless steel. Too easy to fray? Put another layer of rubber on the outside of the braid. (You use a rubber hose built like this every time you put gas in your car...some of these hoses survive many years of being dragged across rough, brush-finished concrete.)

Still not good enough for long distances? I've got a long-ish corrugated flexible stainless steel line running my natural gas range. Add easy-to-use fittings instead of (or in addition to) the pipe thread that I've got, and, yeah: It's an easy distribution method, whereby it could connect to a manifold that serves one or more racks with rubber hose.

And of course, there's always good old-fashioned black iron, and a myriad flexible of plastics that are good for all kinds of low-pressure gasses...

IMHO, distributing gaseous fuel has been a solved problem for a very, very long time.

The biggest problem will be the need for shutoff valves, since unlike electricity, the energy does leak out of the wall socket...but even the kids in my 7th grade science class were aware enough not to turn on the natural gas shutoffs along each wall (which were ostensibly for running desktop Bunsen burners, and always live such that flammable gas was just a quarter-turn away...), and modern fittings should make it a relative non-issue.

(I might be a bit cavalier about these things, since I grew up in a gas boom town where natural gas was once so plentiful that it was given away for free, and the distribution lines were just cast iron pipes alongside the road, laying on the ground: So the stories go, if one of these lines ever sprung a leak, the common practice was to set the leak aflame and forget about it.)

Waste heat (2)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year ago | (#45327847)

Assuming they're going to put fuel cells into racks and power DC power supplies directly, there's all sorts of little complications to work out.

Like -- what do you do with all that extra waste heat, and what impact would that have on overall costs, versus simply having the electricity fed in conventionally?

And what about the safety -- or lack thereof -- of running gas lines to every rack in a large facility?

Fuel cells don't exactly grow on trees either. The savings would have to be massive to justify the significant costs of the cells themselves.

Eco Idoits will love this (1, Interesting)

frovingslosh (582462) | about a year ago | (#45327949)

What a great idea. Fuel cells produce no nasty carbon emissions. So as long as you ignore how the hydrogen that feeds them is produced in the first place (generally from an extremely dirty and wasteful natural gas extraction process) and the pollution involved in actually making extremely expensive fuel cells in the first place, this makes perfect sense.

Re:Eco Idoits will love this (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#45328775)

What a great idea. Fuel cells produce no nasty carbon emissions. So as long as you ignore how the hydrogen that feeds them is produced in the first place (generally from an extremely dirty and wasteful natural gas extraction process) and the pollution involved in actually making extremely expensive fuel cells in the first place, this makes perfect sense.

Or... they could use solar cells to do it when the sun is out. Somehow you sound like one of those people who are always whingeing about how solar only works when the sun is out. Maybe it's the "eco idiots".

Re:Eco Idoits will love this (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#45331373)

Or use a solar furnaces.

Of course, if they just built these thing where land is cheap and use a solar furnace to power them we could skip the whole fuel cells.

Re:Eco Idoits will love this (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#45331355)

Because you can us solar to generate hydrogen?

How about ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#45327983)

... looking at utility level generation in a combined cycle with absorption cooling [wikipedia.org] ? At industrial levels, this cooling technology is approaching economic parity with vapor compression cooling. Even better, if the waste heat is free.

Electricity is too easy to control compared to other energy sources in spite of a few significant examples to the contrary [slashdot.org] .

Ain'tNoAppleFanbut... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45327999)

If only Apple had thought about this before...Oh wait, they already have Data Centers that are at least partially powered by Fuel Cells. Strange there is no mention of this anywhere yet.

Re:Ain'tNoAppleFanbut... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#45328243)

If only Apple had thought about this before...Oh wait, they already have Data Centers that are at least partially powered by Fuel Cells.

Are they built into the walls because if they were in cabinets the doors would look unsightly?

Must cost a fortune shipping the building to China when they need changing.

This will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions (2)

presidenteloco (659168) | about a year ago | (#45328121)

In the short term, the Microsoft report is about natural-gas fuelled fuel cells.
New analyses are showing natural gas to be about equal to coal in CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions per amount of energy output.
The reasons are basically two-fold. One, there is a lot of gas escape and energy usage during the extraction and transport of natural gas, and two, natural gas is methane, which when it escapes into the atmosphere is 20-30 times worse in greenhouse warming effect than CO2 over a 100 year lifecycle in the atmosphere.

Now if microsoft was talking about putting in really large fields of PV or solar thermal electricity generators around each data center, and generating the hydrogen from water, then that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but then in that case, is hydrogen the best energy storage medium for a solar data center? Maybe molten salt (heat storage) or compressed air or underground pumped hydro or sodium-sulfur batteries would be better than compressed or liquid hydrogen.

Conservative Projections? Why not use Liberal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45328323)

If conservative projections yield a 20% reduction in costs, then liberal projections would yield a 100% reduction in costs because the Federal Government would be paying for it with money taken from evil rich people.

I think this is 'feel-good' BS (3, Interesting)

xtronics (259660) | about a year ago | (#45328433)

Fuel cells need ultra pure fuel in order to not spoil their extremely expensive reactors. Creating this fuel and transporting it cleanly is not cheap.

I've seen no end of articles claiming that fuel cells are the cure to everything. Tons of grant money has flowed and no products are displacing other technology.

The market place is far from perfect, but it is far better than any panel of pointy headed academics at providing workable solutions. M$ has shown the lack of ability to create new profitable products for many years now - this looks like yet another windoze fone effort.

Re:I think this is 'feel-good' BS (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | about a year ago | (#45328601)

The market may provide the most cost-effective workable solutions, but if we define the problem as "stop contributing to global warming, humanity" it is pretty clear that governments have to set a significant and growing price on carbon, then we can let the market sort out the solutions.

Right now, the market provides no incentive to solve this problem. The market seems generally to be unable to look ahead further than a decade, and the fossil-carbon-based energy economy emissions problem is a multi-hundred-year debt being accrued by us.

Only the insurance industry seems to be starting to price in global warming into the cost of insurance, but that industry is too small a piece of the global economy as a whole (and the market as a whole) to turn the steering wheel of the entire economy. By the time the market reacts to this problem, it will be way too late, and the market will no doubt shift to how make profit off the various economic, health, and warfare disasters that ensue from global warming, fresh water scarcity, and widespread crop failure.

Boom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45328575)

I wonder what Elon Musk would have to say about putting explosive fuel cells in the heart of our data centers.

Great news for EPOs (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about a year ago | (#45328729)

Well, that little red button at the doors is suddenly going to get a lot more important. Not too keen on having automatic shut-off valves on the fuel supply to the fuel cells, especially if it is natural gas (or hydrogen gas) connected to the Emergency Power Off.

Also curious how you deal with the CO2 exhausted from the reformers in the room. That impacts a lot of the traditional assumptions for outside air ventilation rates.

They could use ammonia... (1)

technosaurus (1704630) | about a year ago | (#45329021)

They could use a contained ammonia system to both cool and power the place.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absorption_refrigerator/ [wikipedia.org] The refrigerator in my RV can use 3 different heat sources to cool the contents (AC,DC and propane)

Combine it with a multistage turbine generator with a separate natural gas powered stage and you have a working regenerative power system.

For that matter, you don't even _really_ need to use the ammonia, you could just pipe the natural gas directly across the cooling surfaces after it expands (and thus cools) from the gas line... but they aren't already designed for such things, and what works with what you have in place is often more economical.

Eructatech! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45329619)

I believe that cows presently a considerable source of methane. They eat vegetation. That means they recycle carbon. Biodigestors can also supply a lot of methane. Feeding the methane to fuel cells that produce will reduce some of that threat. Using the biodigestion remains for ferilizing or as base for biodiesel, and otrher sturr. There are surely others.

The Nucalar Option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45330173)

micro, modular nuclear reactors and nuclear batteries are the way forward.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_nuclear_reactor

new research area:
electricity is created by encouraging 'free electrons' to flow through a conductor. nuclear fission generates 'free neutrons and proton'. can we find a way to channel and conduct these free neutrons and photons in much the same way we channel and conduct the free electrons of electricity? neutricity, if you will.

Global warming (1)

shimul1990 (3413815) | about a year ago | (#45333115)

Now a days global warming is the burning issue across the whole world.
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