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Ethanol to Hydrogen Reactor Developed

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the second-law-of-thermodynamics-still-problematic dept.

Science 839

guacamolefoo writes "CNN reports that researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a small (2 ft. high) hydrogen reactor that turns ethanol into hydrogen and then uses a fuel cell to turn the hydrogen into electricity. It notably does not use fossil fuels in the process. I knew that liquor would save us all some day."

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GNAA! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272855)

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Re:GNAA! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8273018)

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Not now..... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272856)

It notably does not use fossil fuels in the process.

It'll never make it in this country. Bush and Cheney will make sure their funding gets pulled. :-)

Re:Not now..... (3, Interesting)

queequeg1 (180099) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273122)

Of course it will get funding. ADM makes big oil look like a bunch of neophites when it comes to political lobbying. Just take a look at the latest farm bill.

diesel engines (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272861)

Linux still sucks

YES, LICK HER WILL SAVE US ALL... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272862)

from FROSTY PISS! Boo yeah!

Honesht Offishur (5, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272863)

Foster Brooks takes a drive: "Honesht Offishur, I washunt drinking, I hadda shiphon shom gash *hic*"

Re:Honesht Offishur (1)

DreadSpoon (653424) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272954)

"But I was only going one way, occifer." *hic*

Re:Honesht Offishur (2, Funny)

Bob McCown (8411) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273111)

"Didnt you see the arrows?"

"Arrows, I didnt even see the indians!"

Dihorrea to constipation covertor (-1, Offtopic)

(TK18)Dessimat0r (736369) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272865)

-INSANE-PRIEST--INSANE-PRIEST--INSAN
I___________,.-------.,____________I Slashdot
N______,;~'_____________'~;,_______N fucking
S____,;____LINUX FUCKING____;,_____S sucks
A___;___SUCKS, YOU FUCKING____;____A
N__,'____SLASHDOT RETARDS.____',___N Rob Malda
E_,;___GET IT INTO YOUR HEAD___;,__E is a
-_;_;______._____l_____.______;_;__- cocksucker
P_l_;____________l____________;_l__P
R_l__`/~"_____~"_._"~_____"~\'__l__R Slashdot
I_l__~__,-~~~^~,_l_,~^~~~-,__~__l__I fucking
E__l___l________}:{__ (O) _l___l___E sucks
S__l___l_ (o) _/_l_\_______!___l___S
T__.~__(__,.--"_.^._"--.,__)__~.___T Rob Malda
-__l_____---;'_/_l_\_`;---_____l___- is a
-___\__._______V.^.V___((oo))./____- cocksucker
I__O_VI_\________________ll_IV___O_I
N_____I_lT~\___!___!___/~ll_I______N Fucking
S_____I_l`IIII_I_I_I_IIIIll_I__o___S lameness
A_O___I__\,III_I_I_I_III,ll_I______A filters,
N______\___`----------'__ll/____o__N will
E____O___\___._______.___ll________E this
-_________\..___^____../(_l___O____- ever
P_________/_^___^___^_/__ll\_______P fucking
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The bishop, while living, was a follower of God.
Now dead, his rotting fingers are able to raise
an army of skeletons from the grave.

Trollkore
"I hate you, I hate your country, and I hate your face!"

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BRAVO! (0)

Rassendyll (680617) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272866)

Good show 'ol chaps! The more of this we see the better!

Re:BRAVO! (1)

ktanmay (710168) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272995)

The reactor is a relatively tiny 2-foot-high apparatus of tubes and wires that creates hydrogen from corn-based ethanol.

What this means is that production of hydrogen will compete directly with traditional farmland, so if there is some way of getting ethanol without using precious arable land...

Hmm (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272867)

My dad has one of these apparatus, but it works the other way. It's about 8ft tall and converts hydrogen (and some other chemicals) TO ethanol

Re:Hmm (5, Funny)

wwest4 (183559) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272985)

My dad has one of these apparatus, but it works the other way. It's about 8ft tall and converts hydrogen (and some other chemicals) TO ethanol

My dad is about 6 feet tall and converts ethanol to methane.

Liquor! (3, Funny)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272871)

The cause of, and solution to, many of the world's problems.

look out for morgan freeman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272872)

so much for the scientests

an old saying (3, Funny)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272877)

So, I see that part of the saying "Beer is the solution to all lifes problems" is partly true.

Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (4, Interesting)

WayneConrad (312222) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272882)

It notably does not use fossil fuels in the process.

It most certainly does use fossil fuels.

Ethanol takes energy to make. Lots of energy, possibly more than it contains [straightdope.com] . That energy comes from fossil fuels. Ethanol is not an energy source; it is a different way to store energy, and not a particularly efficient one.

Using Ethanol as a fuel is mostly a way to funnel money to Corn Belt farmers.

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (2, Insightful)

l810c (551591) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272950)

Growing all that corn also takes a Lot of Water. more water than rain. The High Plains Aquifer [usgs.gov] is steadily being drained and by some estimates may not last as long as the world's petrolium reserves.

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272996)

Ethanol takes energy to make. Lots of energy, possibly more than it contains. That energy comes from fossil fuels.

No.

Our current industrial-ag model of crop production consumes quite a lot of fossil fuels. That does not mean the same thing as "growing corn and converting it to ethanol requires fossil fuels".

Producing ethanol requires nothing more than the sun, some corn, and bacteria. Yes, you'll notice that list includes an energy source, but not "oil".


Using Ethanol as a fuel is mostly a way to funnel money to Corn Belt farmers.

To that extent, I will agree with you, because we do use an industrial-ag model of crop production. We don't need to, though.

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (3, Insightful)

Djinh (92332) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273085)

Please tell me how you will plow your farm, plant your corn, harvest it, process it and transport it to the ethanol plant, what you'll make your fertilizer from and how you'll get your ethanol to your hydrogen plant all without using any fossil fuels...

Or even with fossil fuels, in such a way that it makes sense to do at all...

Inquiring minds want to know.

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (5, Insightful)

mattdm (1931) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273097)

Please tell me how you will plow your farm, plant your corn, harvest it, process it and transport it to the ethanol plant, what you'll make your fertilizer from and how you'll get your ethanol to your hydrogen plant all without using any fossil fuels...

Using the hydrogen of course. Duh.

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (1)

Eric Damron (553630) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273110)

I think the parent post may have been talking about the distilling process. I don't no if one can extract the Ethanol from the mixture using only solar power.

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (5, Funny)

DaHat (247651) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273012)

As a resident of the great state of South Dakota who has an hour commute each day through corn fields... I thank you for your federal tax dollars, not just for the corn, but also for the highways... bowahahahaha!

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (4, Informative)

Bendebecker (633126) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273022)

As taken from here [doe.gov] .

Ethanol is an alcohol-based alternative fuel produced by fermenting and distilling starch crops that have been converted into simple sugars. Feedstocks for this fuel include corn, barley, and wheat. Ethanol can also be produced from "cellulosic biomass" such as trees and grasses and is called bioethanol.
Yes it takes a lot of energy to make - a lot of solar energy and water in a method commonly known as 'growing'.

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (1)

KarmaMB84 (743001) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273025)

Back when the corn pushers wanted to use ethanol to fuel cars (directly), it was speculated that even if we planted corn on every inch of the US from east to west, we still wouldn't have enough to produce the ethanol to power our *cars*. These guys want to use it to power everything? Granted it might be more efficient to convert to hydrogen cells, but isn't this a bit far fetched?

Sounds like yet another attempt to get more subsidies for corn (as pointed out already).

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (1)

BagOBones (574735) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273099)

This is a very good point. If using ethanol directly is too costly how are we going to use hydrogen made from ethanol efficently?

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (4, Informative)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273031)

Ethanol takes energy to make. Lots of energy, possibly more than it contains. That energy comes from fossil fuels.

Today that may be the case. It may not always be that way. I think that if we used more nuclear power, ethanol would make even more sense.

I am not opposed to "alternate energy" sources. I think that ethanol, wind, geothermal, fusion, and solar power should all be researched. We have to use what works for now, and that is fossil fuels, but we won't have fossil fuels forever. We need to look towards the future. We need to be prepared to use other sources of energy.

Even if we didn't use ethanol as a primary fuel source, it can have other benefits. Mixing ethanol with gasoline reduces emissions.

LK

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (5, Informative)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273045)

I call bullshit.

It's true that energy is required to make ethanol, but the most of that energy is bioenergy from the yeast, converting the starch to ethanol + C02. The starch must be heated before it can be converted (gelatinized), and there is some energy required for that but typically done simply from the heat of crushing the corn.

The bulk would be the distilling process, but you could EASILY create a solar distillery or gelatinizing process, too, which is where the bulk of any added energy comes from.

Point is, you can be as inefficient as you like and claim that it's some corn cartel. But I'm not pulling out my tinfoil hat just yet.

As an aside, it's fairly trivial to get a BATF license to distill for fuel.

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (3, Interesting)

WankersRevenge (452399) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273047)

Do you think it will be possible to switch over the conversion techniques of ethanol to a hydrogen based method once the process gets tooting? So, in a sense, use fossil based methods to get the process started, and then use some of the outputted hydrogen to keep everything moving.

I'm not a scientist, but I do play one on Slashdot ;)

Another article (1)

C0untZer0 (58753) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273065)

A Cornell University professor [cornell.edu] has researched this thoroughly. To summarize the results, ethanol from fermented corn is not gonna work, primarily since all of the farm machines need gasoline.

Re:Another article (3, Informative)

John Fulmer (5840) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273102)

>ethanol from fermented corn is not gonna work, >primarily since all of the farm machines need >gasoline

Uh. Diesel. Almost all farm equipment have run on diesel for the last 40 years. And bio-diesel is a reality....

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273070)

Ethanol takes energy to make. Lots of energy, possibly more than it contains.

Everything takes energy to make, one way or another. The closest thing anyone has ever to come up with to a free energy source is Hawking Radiation [wikipedia.org] , and that takes a Black Hole.

The question is: is ethanol a convenient and useful method of transporting energy?

Read the fine print (5, Informative)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273114)

It takes about 30% more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol that one gets out of burning that same gallon of ethanol. Therefore, each gallon of ethanol pumpled into a car and burnt for energy represents a net energy loss.

But there are two considerations to make here that are not part of the above statement:

  1. Converting surplus and/or waste products into ethanol would not have the same drawback. Only the energy spent in the actual conversion to ethanol (and not the manufacture of) the base products turned into ethanol would need to be considered.
  2. Converting ethanol into hydrogen and then burning the hydrogen may be far more efficient than burning ethanol. If so, it is possible that each gallon of ethanol represents a net gain of energy.

Re:Making ethanol uses fossil fuels (1)

Bendebecker (633126) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273128)

In addition (from the same site listed in my last post):

The ethanol production process starts by grinding up the feedstock so it is more easily and quickly processed in the following steps. Once ground up, the sugar is either dissolved out of the material or the starch or cellulose is converted into sugar. The sugar is then fed to microbes that use it for food, producing ethanol and carbon dioxide in the process. A final step purifies the ethanol to the desired concentration.

Plus when you read the article you linked it speaks of burning ethanol as fuel, not using ethanol to create hydrogen and then using the hyrdogen in say a fuel cell. Different chemistry, different equations. (Yes I know about the laws of thermodynamics - but we're talking about the effeciency of a chemical process not its net energy - you burn say oil and a energy equivalent of wood and you'll get more useful energy from the oil becuase it is a far more effecient reaction [less byproducts].)

XBox rules!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272885)

first post!!! you lame assholes... I can post first because my XBox is a american product and my pride in my great country and my great XBox accelerate everything...

If only they would make games for that bitch... IAve played Metroid Prime and it ruled... I hope M$ will buy those japanese bastards and port Metroid to my great american console system!!!

Join the fun!!! [slashdot.org]

It ain't mella skrill tho (2, Funny)

pc-0x90 (547757) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272889)

A 40 of bacardi still costs more than the amount of gas to fill a geo..

Is this better/more efficient.. (4, Interesting)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272891)

.. than an ethanol powered engine?

Re:Is this better/more efficient.. (5, Informative)

saderax (718814) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272981)

The IOP web site here [iop.org] claims that ethanol to electricity is 3x more efficient than ethanol for powering vehicle engines.

Not just Transportation, think Home Electricity! (1)

Jammer@CMH (117977) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273103)

If this is slightly less efficient than an internal combustion engine, I'd be very pleased, because it would still be an electricity source that is much more efficient and nicer for the environment than the coal-fired power plants that currently produce for my home and office.

Good Thing Prohibition was Repealed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272893)

It sure is a good thing that Prohibition was repealed. Can you imagine having to buy your fuel for your home generator on the black market, from bootleggers like Al Capone?

More efficient (5, Informative)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272897)

A short press release that contains a bit more information about how this works can be found here [iop.org] , on the Institute of Physics web site.

One item of interest is that this new technique converts ethanol to hydrogen at a 60% efficiency rate, compared to the 20% efficiency rate with current technology.

Re:More efficient (1)

Alice Springs (752282) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273074)

But (a lot of) oil is still used in the production of ethanol and to grow the corn from which the ethanol is made. I'd like to see a complete energy loss statement: it would include the oil-to-ethanol phase.

Back to the Future (3, Funny)

nycsubway (79012) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272901)

This kind of reminds me of when marty got stuck in the 1800s and the doc tried to put alcohol in the delorean, and it blew out some part of it...

Um.... anyway. This technology is a much better thing than the movie.

Re:Back to the Future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272979)

That would be the fuel injection manifold... God I watch movies too much :P

How to make the Ethanol (2, Redundant)

JungleBoy (7578) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272903)

I wonder how much Fossil Fuel is needed to produce the Ethanol? I seriously doubt this is a truly Fossil Fuel Free[tm] method of making Hydrogen fuel.

And they laughed at the guy.... (1)

aralin (107264) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272904)

... who poured beer in his car's fuel tank.

If its good for you, its good for your car too.

Reverse Engineer...literally (2, Funny)

ivan1011001 (751254) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272910)

Hmmm... Now all we need is a way to take electricity, turn it to hyrdogen, and then turn into ethanol. That would be a real achievement. As a matter of fact, I'll get started on that right away.

Great, it only takes a gallon of fossil fuel... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272911)

to create a 1-1.5 gallons of ethanol. Cover article of Harpers last month...

Re:Great, it only takes a gallon of fossil fuel... (1)

enosys (705759) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273051)

to create a 1-1.5 gallons of ethanol. Cover article of Harpers last month...

Also, an article mentioned earlier [straightdope.com] says that Ethanol contains only about two-thirds as much energy per gallon as gasoline

OB Simpsons quote (5, Funny)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272914)

Homer: "one for you" [fills tank]
Homer: "one for me" [fills mouth]

Another one ;) (1)

BHearsum (325814) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272967)

To Alcohol! The cause of -- and solution to, all of life's problems.

heheh (3, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272915)


Cop : You're under arrest for making illegal alcohol in a still.

Me : Isth not a thtill, isth a react..er..belch

Cop : Your reactor made you puke on my shoes.

corn barron? (1)

moojuece (661296) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272919)

does this pave the way for a move from texas oil barrons and billionair middle eastern oir sheiks to mid-western multi billionair corn barrons...i shudder to think of it

Not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272927)

Judging by the stinking aroma hovering around my bed on Sunday mornings, I've been doing this for years.

Corn ain't free! (3, Redundant)

leoxx (992) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272934)

Unfortunately it still takes fossil fuels to grow corn. I didn't see any mention of this in the article, but it would be insteresting to find out if the total amount of fossil fuels (from things like farm equipment, fertilizers, etc) that goes into growing the corn to create the ethanol to create the hydrogen is the same, lower, or even more than that required to turn fossil fuels into hydrogen directly. If its the same as or higher than the direct route, then this "breakthrough" isn't all that great.

Re:Corn ain't free! (5, Insightful)

vaguelyamused (535377) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273067)

It also takes lots of fossil fuels to remove more fossil fuels from underground. We don't have to ship corn from Alaska, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Moving and placing oil rigs and driling equipmen, laying pipelines and fueling supertankers has got to be more fuel intesive than plowing, planting and fertilizing a field.

How many gallons of oil does it take to put a gallon of gasoline in your tank. And remember one gallon of oil does not equal one gallon of gasoline.

Also, if you are going to be paying money to fuel your car would you rather pay it to American farmers and corporations or foreign oil barons and corporations.

Re:Corn ain't free! (1)

Marillion (33728) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273115)

Agreed. Any energy source ultimately gets it's energy from the sun or from geothermics. And geothermics might be leftover solar too - I am not an astronomer.

The laws of physics, notably the conservation of energy says that energy is neither created nor destroyed. Any time energy is converted from one form to another form it is never a pure convertion. There is always some "loss" of energy due to some energy being converted into non-useful form - usually heat.

Average Slashdot user (4, Insightful)

dethl (626353) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272936)

The Minnesota researchers envision people buying ethanol to power the small fuel cell in their basements. The cell could produce 1 kilowatt of power, nearly enough for an average home.

But not anywhere close enough for your average Slashdot user.

Re:Average Slashdot user (1)

SpudB0y (617458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273002)

Yeah, I wonder how they came up with that figure, the average hairdryer uses over 1000 watts, not that the average slashdot user needs one of those.

Re:Average Slashdot user (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273107)

Yeah, I wonder how they came up with that figure, the average hairdryer uses over 1000 watts

Do you run a hairdryer all day long?

A 1Kw fuel cell, running 24/7 and charging a battery array, would almost take care of a typical home's electricity needs. I agree only 1Kw seems a tad low, but 2Kw would more than suffice for most homes.

For comparison, in CA, on-grid "normal" homes (ie, all the standard electric-sucking toys) with a supplimentary 3Kw solar array (which only really helps for less than eight hours per day) can basically break even on their electic bills.

Re:Average Slashdot user (1)

jonatha (204526) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273092)

My latest electric bill (all electric house, well insulated, mid-south) shows 4 1/4 KW per hour average for the month.

I'll take 4 cells...

So much for $2.50 gas prices... (1)

some2 (563218) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272937)

...Too bad liquor is going to cost you $50/litre! .. In other news, AA claims victory, while college students world wide go out in protest.

What we REALLY need (0)

first.last (751698) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272938)

Is a piss-powered car for all the alkis here...

Oh, great! (1)

dacarr (562277) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272945)

Now when the world ends thanks to the Vogons, it's not five pints of bitters that'll save us, it's five fifths of everclear into some reactor that we power up to fire back at the damn paver ships!

Missing info (4, Informative)

bravehamster (44836) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272947)

That article is pretty damn skimpy on the details. Check out this one [nature.com] which I found at ArsTechnica. Perhaps the most important detail is that a rhodium-based catalyst needs to be heated to 700 celsius for the reaction to have any efficiency.

Why Hydrogen? (2, Insightful)

polyfaze (713109) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272953)

Why not work on fuel cells that can work directly with ethanol. Hydrogen is a pain to store and transport. Alcohol is trivial. IIRC, methanol has better energy density but ethanol is ubiquitous and has other wonderful properties instead....

We already have a renewable fuel source (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272955)

The problem is the Drug War won't allow it [hempcar.org] .

It won't be long now. (1, Offtopic)

blair1q (305137) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272957)

Just a few more technological advances, and your notebook will page your crack dealer when your blood levels start to dip.

Ebaum's World (-1, Offtopic)

ShipsToday (752056) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272964)

is THE lamest sight on the internet not because of content, which is simply sucked off from other websites that host original artwork, but because their forums depict horrible a failure of a follower group. First of all, they consider the number of posts they make a sign of superiority and veteranship. lame. This little factoid is even more appalling because if you were to take a look at the CONTENT of their posts, you'll see that they are nothing but idiotic losers. The most insightful thing they can manage is to yell and scream like a whiny, ignorant infant at anyone not posting utter praise and devotion to Ebaum and all of his 100% unoriginal content. For instance, one post made by a visitor to the sight stated that the caption of a video showing two men tumbling down a cliff was incorrect. It was a clip from a Univision newscast, in which the anchor at the end informed the viewers that the two words survived the fall. However, the video caption on the Ebaum site stated something to the effect that workers fell to their death. Upon the presentation of this point in a non-flammatory, calmly stated post the Ebaum forums lit up in fire and flame. The Ebaum "community" (ie, rejects and professional losers) lashed out, like they do when there is ANY hint of criticization of the "perfection" of Ebaum's wonderful unoriginal content. The stated example is only one of several. I hope that now you are more informed, and know the truth about "Ebaum's world" and their non-existent right to exist on the face of the earth. Adios.

Re:Ebaum's World (1)

GeneralTao (21677) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273057)

Hmm.. Ebaum sounds like Slashdot. :)

Okay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8272968)

But What about the energy it takes to make the ethanol?

Ethanol production? (3, Interesting)

crushinator (212593) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272970)

How is ethanol produced, commercially?

Beer has taught me that yeast create ethanol as a metabolic waste product, right? I believe that yeast also create carbon dioxide as a waste product.

I doubt that large-scale industral ethanol plants are using yeast colonies for production... but what do they use? And what are the waste products from that process?

I understand that reducing our reliance on fossil fules is a good thing. However, if substantial amounts of greenhouse (or other undesirable) gas emissions result from the ethanol production process, aren't we just playing Whack-A-Mole with the source of the pollution?

Re:Ethanol production? (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273072)

CO2 is only one polluting by-product, and not nearly the most important one. Try all the other sulfur-based oxides and nitrous compounds, along with the various hydro-carbon compounds a normal car exhausts. Without those, our air will be much cleaner, even if the amount of CO2 remains constant.

Truly renewable (2, Interesting)

addie (470476) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272973)

This is very good news. I already use ethanol blend gasoline in my car. Although it is a bit more expensive, it burns cleaner and (obviously) uses less fossil fuels to produce. There was a saying in the mining engineering department at university: If it can't be grown, it's gotta be mined. If we can move more and more toward the growing, then we're finally truly moving toward a renewable energy economy.

Those GM Hywire commercials are pretty to look at, but don't make it clear to the general public how difficult energy-wise it is to actually produce hydrogen. I hope more research funds get pumped into this kind of technology so we can move toward a hydrogen future at a meanginful pace.

Ugh... (3, Interesting)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272975)

We have an Ethanol plant in our town. It smells awful. When the wind changes a bit - usually when it's getting colder, around football season - it blows right across campus. Freshman used to think it smelled like baking bread. OT, I know. But I wouldn't wish Ethanol on anyone. It'll make you sick, and you don't even have to ingest any..

Kiss my shiny metal... (1)

mws1981 (643309) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272983)

We are one step closer to developing a bending bot!

Just burn the fossil fuels (3, Interesting)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272988)

Yeap, the second law of thermodynamics IS a problem. Let's see, efficiently convert ethanol into hydrogen? Fine. Have a fuel cell that efficiently converts hydrogen into power we can use? Great.

But it uses no fossil fuels? Well, maybe not directly, but... let's see, where do we get ethanol? Hmm. Well, most of it comes from corn. Corn treated with heat. That heat comes from natural gas, usually. So there's a fossil fuel. What else? Corn has to be harvested. Usually this involves tractors, harvesters, and other large pieces of farm equipment that generally run on.. d'oh! More fossil fuel!

According to the US Dept. of Energy, creating ethanol takes about 29% more energy than it provides. Since most of that energy going into the ethanol-creation process is fossil fuel-based, we'd probably be better off just burning the fossil fuels directly. Using ethanol just burns them up even faster.

A source for more ethanol numbers: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/031128.html [straightdope.com]

Be carefull (1)

theirishman (749404) | more than 10 years ago | (#8272999)

They may take all the alcoholic and turn it in to power is that a world want to live in...? Give me a bottle of Whiskey and a hole in the ozone!!!!

i have BIG plans!!! (0, Troll)

bongobongo (608275) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273011)

i'm going to use the power generated by the booze i pour in to RUN MY OWN BOOZE FACTORY !!!!!!!!!11!!

I shoulda patented it when I had the chance. (1)

Matey-O (518004) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273013)

_I_ can turn alcohol to Hydrogen too. (and other various sulfrous compounds)

siphoning gas... (1)

CmdrMooCow (213594) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273014)

I cant wait until some dude tries siphoning gas....

Yeah - good luck keeping those 16 year olds dry too.

Prosit! (1)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273023)

I'll drink to that!

$1 of profit of Ethanol maker costs Taxpayer $30 (5, Informative)

so sue mee (660717) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273024)

Ever noticed how most foods and drinks are sweetened with "high fructose corn syrup", rather than the simpler "sugar", and thought it was a bit odd? I'd always just assumed that it was to disguise the ingredient, but that seemed pointless given the nutritional listing of sugar content. Apparently the resolution is that the US government mandates a price for sugar which is about twice the global one. It does not mandate such a price for corn syrup, so corn syrup is cheaper. The major manufacturer of corn syrup (Archer Daniels Midland [admworld.com] ) "donates" generously to both parties to ensure the continuation of this policy.

(ADM also runs a mammoth ethanol boondoggle [cato.org] based on government subsidies. Every dollar of profits earned by their corn sweetener operation costs consumers ~10$, every dollar earned by their ethanol operation costs taxpayers ~$30.) (ADM also runs a mammoth ethanol boondoggle based on government subsidies. Every dollar of profits earned by their corn sweetener operation costs consumers ~10$, every dollar earned by their ethanol operation costs taxpayers ~$30.)

Ethanol-Hydrogen-Heat? (1)

ianr44 (562580) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273027)

What's the point in converting ethanol to hydrogen, then using the hydrogen to heat houses? Ethanol burns cleanly already!

booze! (1)

MoFoQ (584566) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273036)

yes! I knew there was some plus side to college!

(btw, for those humor-challenged ppl, this is meant to be funny. If you still don't get it, go rent "Animal House" or any of the "Revenge of the Nerds" movies)

What happens to the Carbon?? (2, Insightful)

aszoth (641889) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273046)

The little news blerb definately peaked my interest. But it left me asking what happens to the Carbon and oxygen? when the Ethanol is processessed to make the hydrogren. Sure the Hydrogen is clean, but you have two carbon atoms and an oxygen atom left as by products. Oh well just have to go check out the Journal.

Whats a Fossil Fuel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8273066)

There's a growing body of scientific evidence that hydrocarbons are completely unrelated to decaying organic matter.
"fossil fuels" may very well be a misnomer.

So does this mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8273068)

... there's finally a use for Budwieser?

XBox rules!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8273083)

first post!!! you lame assholes... I can post first because my XBox is a american product and my pride in my great country and my great XBox accelerate everything...

If only they would make games for that bitch... IAve played Metroid Prime and it ruled... I hope M$ will buy those japanese bastards and port Metroid to my great american console system!!!

Join the fun!! [slashdot.org]

Fossil fuels to grow corn? Not! (2, Interesting)

Lafe (595258) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273088)

I keep seeing comments talking about how much fossil fuel it takes to grow the corn.

Y'all just aren't looking far enough down the road. When hydrogen power is cheap and available, all of the places that we currently use fossil fuels to produce the corn can change to hydrogen power as well. If this is pooh-poohed now, we'll never get to the point where we can make the transition.

I look forward to the day when the harvesters, trucks used to transport the grain, air conditioners cooling the fermentors, and heaters powering the industrial stills are all powered by nuclear and/or hydrogen power right along with my SUV. ;)

Eh (1)

Cody Hatch (136430) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273094)

I'll believe it when I see it. Their technology may well work exactly as they say, but consider this - if you take 100 kJ of ethanol, no conversion process will get you more than 100 kJ of hydrogen - indeed, while the CNN article didn't say, I'd be pretty surprised if the effeciency was over half. Even if it was 100%, the amount of ethanol required to fuel any significant number of hydrogen cars is stunning - we're talking about many billions of gallons. This sounds less like an environmentally sound tech trick, and more like a pipe dream from the minds of Archer Daniels Midland's lobbyists (who are to thank for the impressive sums already wasted^H^H^H^H^H^Hspent on ethanol fuel production - which has been so far a net environmental loss).

Oh, and also, why on earth would you want to convert the ethanol to hydrogen, anyhow? (For that matter, I've yet to be convinced that converting sunlight to ethanol is a wise move - plants don't really make very efficient solar cells).

The problem is.. (1)

mysterious_mark (577643) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273100)

Having to choose between booze and electricity.

a little bioengineering? (2, Interesting)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273101)

Now all we need is to bioengineer some organism (start with some plant, since you've got the chlorophyll already) to turn sunlight into ethanol without messing around with separate fermentation steps. Set up a vat of it in your back yard, and presto, you've got your home of the future which produces it's own electricity. (and party supplies!)

Now where's my jet-pack?

no fossil fuels? (3, Insightful)

flint (118836) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273108)

Maybe someone with more expertise can clarify this or tell me I'm missing the point...

Since ethanol is usually made from plants which have to be cultivated by equipment that burns oil -- combines, tankers, pumps, etc -- my understanding is that the production of ethanol is actually wasteful of fossil fuels. I've read (but haven't been able to corroborate) that the energy required to produce a gallon of ethanol is actually more than the energy produced by a gallon of ethanol.

So, is it really cleaner when you look at the big picture? Is it more efficient?

There's also the cost. Corn-based ethanol is inexpensive because of the huge subsidies the US government gives corn growers. There have been some primetime specials lately connecting the dots between lobbyists, corn production, and the ever growing waistlines of Americans. The small blurb in the article regarding economic potential for farmers is a huge understatement considering these subsidies.

Is this just cool a Good Thing?

Obligitory joke. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8273117)

I, for one, welcome our beerfly overlords.

The key is efficiency of the process (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8273118)

The key is efficiency

Almost any car with trivial modifications can run on ethanol by burning it. The problem is that in this way ethanol can compete with gasoline only if oil would cost about 50-60 USD/barrel.

If the announced process would double efficiency of ethanol usage, then ethanol would be able to displace gasoline NOW or at least cup oil prices to 15-20 USD/barrel.

All we need now... (1)

MinorHeadWound (710187) | more than 10 years ago | (#8273127)

is some oil to power the conversion plant. Or maybe coal!
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