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Hydrogen Fuel Balls from a Gas Pump?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the quite-a-racket dept.

280

navalynt writes "New Scientist reports that the Department of Energy has filed a patent for hydrogen fuel balls. From the article 'The proposed glass microspheres would each be a few millionths of a metre (microns) wide with a hollow center containing specks of palladium. The walls of each sphere would also have pores just a few ten-billionths of a metre in diameter.' They are supposedly safe and small enough to be pumped into a fuel tank in the same manner as gasoline."

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280 comments

Government patents and other considerations. (2, Insightful)

sbaker (47485) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385073)


Isn't is a bit disturbing that the government files patents to prevent us from using stuff that we paid them to invent?

So what happens to all the bits of glass and palladium after it releases its hydrogen load?
I guess ideally, it would get saved somewhere for recycling - but presuming that doesn't happ
en - is it going to be OK to breath microsopic bits of that stuff?

Re:Government patents and other considerations. (4, Insightful)

Spasemunki (63473) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385105)

How do you know that that is why the government filed for the patent? It could instead be a defensive measure; the DOE doesn't want a private organization to build off of its research and then file their own patent, preventing a wider field from employing the technology. The DOE can file a patent to prevent this sort of abuse, and then decline to charge any licensing fee for companies or individuals that want to employ the technology. Doing it this way avoids future court battles over who gets to profit from the results of government research. It's all in how the patent is used. I imagine that there is some official government policy on how these things are done; I doubt that this is the first time that a government body has taken out a patent on new technology.

Re:Government patents and other considerations. (1)

Initri (266958) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385376)

When can you trust the government not to abuse this ? You mention possible protection for corporations which I'm all for, but a patent is a patent and does not show their intent. As far as I know, they still have to protect their patent, preventing other companies (or ME) from using it.. or license the technology.. and if they license it for revenue, where's my cut ? This is crap without them showing the intentions of this patent.. anything that the government has a patent on should be usable by ANYONE, any CITIZEN, and any coporations for any reason.

For the people, by the people. We own anything the government does, or at least we should.

- Initri

Re:Government patents and other considerations. (2, Informative)

mr_zorg (259994) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385415)

As far as I know, they still have to protect their patent, preventing other companies (or ME) from using it..

No, they don't. You only have to protect a patent if you want to retain the rights to profit from it. If they don't defend the patent, they will lose the right to do so in the future, but at the same time that effectively prevents anyone else from filing one by creating a very public and well documented case of prior art.

Re:Government patents and other considerations. (3, Informative)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385474)

I can at least speak for what happens in the Navy. Navy researchers are encouraged to file for patents, so that the govt. can license the patents to private companies.

I think it's theoretically part of a goal to do a "technology transfer" from the DoD to the private sector. But I don't see why patents need to be part of that. Patents were meant to give you a limited monopoly SO THAT THE RESEARCH EFFORT WAS A GOOD INVESTMENT. But the DoD (and taxpayers) *already* covered the cost of investment.

Re:Government patents and other considerations. (4, Informative)

chuckT (12278) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385852)

This seems prefectly reasonable. Patents are not always bad.

The idea goes something like this:

Technology takes time and money to develop. Unprotected ideas are of no interest to an investor, as there is no guarantee that someone else will simply walk up and make off with the idea. Patenting an idea means that you can then license it to someone who can raise the millions of dollars it takes to develop a working device, driven by the incentive to make money.

This ensures that the initial idea can actually get developed. It doesn't matter how good an idea it is, if there is no economic incentive to get it working. Otherwise it simply gets left by the side of the road.

Ideally the license deal should also return some money to the state, to the benefit of the taxpayers who initially funded the concept. It is also worth bearing in mind that the patent only lasts for 20 years, and is written in such a way that it is a full, public disclosure.

And, yes, I have worked in IP.

Re:Government patents and other considerations. (0, Troll)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385742)

you actually think the US Government is that benevolent?

that seems naive to me.

Re:Government patents and other considerations. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385873)

More like the gov't gets the patent so they can give them away to the company that's the highest bidder and gives the most moeny to their political campaign.

They auction off most things at tiny percentage of their value.
(And I'm not just talking risky stuff/tech).

Give something to the public domain? Not if a corporation can make money off of it.

Isn't that great... the American tax payer funds the research and the 'ruling class' gets to exploit it.

Re:Government patents and other considerations. (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385106)

So what happens to all the bits of glass and palladium after it releases its hydrogen load?

Obviously, it gets recycled into Aero Glass [wikipedia.org] and Trusted Computing [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Government patents and other considerations. (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385126)

they patent it so it's not patented by a corporation.

Strange... (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385144)

...because I thought, just as wikipedia states in its citations, that all work by the United States Government is automatically in the public domain.

Re:Strange... (1)

n0nsensical (633430) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385160)

copyrights != patents

probably wouldn't be transferred around (4, Informative)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385166)

I guess ideally, it would get saved somewhere for recycling - but presuming that doesn't happ en - is it going to be OK to breath microsopic bits of that stuff?

The technology is probably similar to current "sponge" type hydrogen tanks; right now you can buy a hydrogen storage tank that uses some sort of metal hydride (I forget which) that can soak up a huge amount of hydrogen, similar to this. You heat it up to release the hydrogen stored or to recharge it, similar to how you 'recharge' that volcanic rock that absorbs odors.

The stuff theoretically wouldn't leave the "tank"; this wouldn't be like going to the gas station and filling up with little 'balls' of hydrogen. Still, I agree, it's worrying. What happens when a car is involved in a serious accident that breaches the tank, and the stuff gets all over the place? Or the stuff gets contaminated with impurities and needs to be recycled?

Carbon fiber seemed like a great idea for race cars, until track workers had to start picking up bits of the stuff. Guess what? It's the same color as asphalt, and it tends to break into very sharp shards, and the particles are really nasty if you breathe them in. Ask any track worker- the stuff is a BITCH to clean up, and if you miss any, it -will- cause someone to blow out a tire.

Re:Government patents and other considerations. (1)

Rothron the Wise (171030) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385240)

Is it going to be OK to breath microsopic bits of that stuff?

Probably not [wikipedia.org] , but I guess it would depend on the shape of the glass fragments and the amount.

Law of Nations: body corporate != body politic (0)

NRAdude (166969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385494)

Department of Energy has filed a patent...
 
Isn't is a bit disturbing that the government files patents to prevent us from using stuff that we paid them to invent?


We don't need to ask misleading questions when it has already been defined; the difference between a body politic from a body corporate is evinced in the Law of Nations. [constitution.org] Where we begin is the first book, which clearly details that "A NATION or a state is, as has been said at the beginning of this work, a body politic, or a society of men united together for the purpose of promoting their mutual safety and advantage by their combined strength." If anyone could comprehend that the people are inducted into a state known as "California", where is prohibited a state within a state yet a foreign CONGRESS libel the people/state "California" to be nothing more than territory in its records -- and CONGRESS creates a state simply called "State" within the verry territory that it libeled. "State" of California is the feud of CONGRESS, whereas California is a state, yet "The State of California" is a corporation. Doesn't that sound fishy? In the "Bill of Rights" at the 10th Ammendment, it determined a federal State that allowed the people/organic-state to induct into the federal State; insofar as acknowledging the several states/people are "respectively" preeminent to the federal State.

"Department of Energy" is a corporation chartered from Washington's District of Columbia. It is corporate, not politic; meaning its agents are idolaters trying to coerce politic into their private trust.

Government is a "public trust", not a private trust as evinced by that DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY.

[See: 22 U.S.C.A. 286(e)] lays down its sovereignty and takes on that of a private citizen. It can exercise no power which is not derived form the corporate charter. [64.233.161.104]

When an agent of a corporation conducts negotiation, it presumes a corporation with the same name to subject the politic, but the politic is layed dormant by its name being inducted for that verry name of the corporation. Securities necessary for inducting the trust between the politic and the government "public trust" are secured by credit as a bank note titled "Certificate of Birth" and the private trust is secured by debt as a bank note titled "Certificate of Live Birth" with the entity in all-upper-case letters "JOHN QUINCY DOE"
Show a colorable Name for a person that isn't to a aaman (politic: human, woman, german, roman, etc), and by that truth is it proved nothing more than a corporation.

Re:Government patents and other considerations. (2, Insightful)

smchris (464899) | more than 8 years ago | (#15386037)

Being one of those who thinks hydrogen is a shuck -- an energy storage medium instead of an energy source -- my initial thought was about how much more energy is consumed as overhead creating, charging and transporting the extra weight of this "refined" storage medium.

But, yes. My second thought was noting that after the hydrogen has been sucked out of the medium, you are left with a tank of hi-tech doped glass -- and the article doesn't get into the excretion side of things.

Presumably, before you next fill up at the station, you have to take a dump. And the medium has to be transported back for recharging or proper disposal. And it better be recharging. How large would the disposal facility become if every tank of "gas" used by the nation created a tank of worthless glass? If it is recharged -- how many times can it be recharged before it becomes a tank of worthless glass?

Just another article that adds weight to my feeling that hydrogen is a con.

The article also comes off as insincere fearmongering about the explosive danger of hydrogen. 35 of 97 people died on the Hindenburg -- mostly from jumping. Compare that with:

"As dozens of scorched corpses awaited collection, grim-faced rescue workers swung others into a mass grave.

Gasoline gushing from a ruptured pipeline exploded Friday as villagers scavenged for fuel, setting off an inferno that killed up to 200 people in this oil-rich country of mostly poor people. It appeared some victims tried to flee the unfolding disaster only to be overtaken by flames spreading across the fuel slick.

More than 1,000 people in Nigeria, Africa's oil giant, have died in recent years when fuel they were pilfering from pipelines caught fire - and officials said it would likely happen again."

http://www.heraldnet.com/stories/06/05/13/100wir_a 3pipeline001.cfm [heraldnet.com]

Uh huh huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385074)

You said balls.

Not compatible, sorry. (5, Funny)

charlesbakerharris (623282) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385075)

My balls run on diesel. I guess I'm doomed to a life of ball-ular pollution... Plus if I use the wrong grade, they knock.

I wonder... (0, Redundant)

Gyga (873992) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385076)

What keeps the glass from breaking, and how do you get them out of you car's hydrogen tank?

Re:I wonder... (1)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385086)

Also, it seems like this would not have a very good mass or volume energy density...

Is this what AC/DC meant by (2, Funny)

1155 (538047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385077)

big balls?

Re:Is this what AC/DC meant by (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385173)

I'm sure their song "Balls to the wall" was an inspiration to these scientists... that's the fuel tank wall, okay...

Re:Is this what AC/DC meant by (1)

Who235 (959706) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385214)

"Balls to the Wall" was by Accept, not AC/DC. Come on, man. . .

http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:uz adqj2boj0a [allmusic.com]

And as for the GP, I think "Big Balls" would be a little more than a few microns in diameter, don't you?

Goodness Gracious... (5, Funny)

Flimzy (657419) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385079)

Great balls of fire!!

Oh no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385083)

The walls of each sphere would also have pores just a few ten-billionths of a metre in diameter

Just what we needed. DRM for our gas.

Chef's Hydrogen Fuel Balls (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385099)

Say everybody, have you seen my Hydrogen Fuel Balls?

        They're big and salty and brown.

        If you ever need a quick pick-me-up

        Just stick my Hydrogen Fuel Balls in your mouth.

        Oooh, suck on my chocolate, salty Hydrogen Fuel Balls .

                (Put 'em in your mouth!)

        Put 'em in your mouth and suck 'em...
 

so when the vehicle backfires... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385102)

you're showered with glass splinters instead of smoke?

Hydrogen sponge (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385104)

So, it's a glass substance that's like a hydrogren sponge and it's made of a solid material yet flows like liquid.

And why does the gov't need to patent something like this?

Re:Hydrogen sponge (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385128)

because it's fucking inovative? would you rather them not patent it? what would that do? let exxon patent it? yeh good job assmunch, as least if it's the governments then it's easier to say that it therefore belongs to us.

Re:Hydrogen sponge (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385450)

Prior art. Fucking dimwitted inbred. Grow a brain comparable to a dirty ape before you post.

Not being a chemist (5, Informative)

localman (111171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385109)

I didn't understand what the palladium was for. But from the Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] :

Pallaium has the uncommon ability to absorb up to 900 times its own volume of hydrogen at room temperatures.

The page includes lost of other tidbits, too. I had no idea it was such a useful metal.

Cheers.

Re:Not being a chemist (1)

Der Huhn Teufel (688813) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385115)

Unfortunately, Palladium is also prohibitively expensive and rare.

Re:Not being a chemist (5, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385143)

True, but every car on the road today in the U.S. (or at least the great, great majority of them) have a fairly substantial mass of palladium already: in the catalytic converter. I'm not sure exactly how much palladium a car would need in order to hold a full charge of hydrogen, but I think if you started recycling the stuff that's in catalytic converters, you'd have a good start towards the amount you'd need to start using it as a hydrogen carrier, at least to start out.

Also, from an environmental standpoint, the fact that it's valuable and rare is probably better than if it were currently cheap, since it keeps it from be being implemented as a throwaway, and creating shortages and problems later on. At least this way, we'll implement the full reclamation cycle from the beginning.

Re:Not being a chemist (1)

Mahou (873114) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385145)

does that not make any sense to anyone else? absorb 900 times its own volume? absorb? what?? should that be adsorb or maybe they mean 900 atoms of hydrogen or something? or does it compress the hydrogen and does actually absorb it and they mean '900 times' is the uncompressed hydrogen volume vs. the palladium volume. are there any sources for that statement or is it just kind of there.

Re:Not being a chemist (4, Interesting)

shawb (16347) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385177)

My guess is that absorb is really not what is going on, they just use that term as the article is for non-scientists. Adsorb is likely alot closer to the truth, although maybe a modified version. While it doesn't actually compress the hydrogen in the traditional sense, what I assume what is really meant is something to the effect that 1L of the substrate could bind to the equivalent of 900L of uncompressed Hydrogen. That seems like a ridiculous amount of compression, but it is probably similar to compressing it to a liquid state. From Wikipedia liquid hydrogen has a density of 70.8 kg/m while gaseous hydrogen has a density of 0.08988 g/L. Since 1 liter is 1/1000 of a m^3 the units are equivalent, so liquifying hydrogen produces a compression ratio of around 787:1. Since the hydrogen is being stored as a solid one could expect even more density gains and additionally concerns of danger due to pressure and innefficiencies due to molecular loss (since hydrogen is so small a significant amount will seep through any seams in the storage tanks) are pretty much negated.

It seems that once the spheres are created it is possible to essentially refill them by exposing them to a high pressure hydrogen solution, and then the hydrogen can be liberated with the application of heat and a partial vacuum. My concern is how much energy would be required to complete these processes. Although engineering techniques could allow waste heat from the combustion process to be used to liberate the majority of the hydrogen, with a small amount of energy from a battery or other storage system being used to liberate the original heat needed to start the engine or fuel cell. The vacuum possibly needed to liberate the hydrogen could be obtained relatively trivially if the hydrogen is used in an Internal Combustion Engine, but it seems likely that this would be used more with fuel cell technologies which means the vacuum would have to be specially created leading to some level of innefficiency. There would also probably be some overall energy consumption required in returning the glass balls to the recharging plant, although it may be possible to recharge the balls at the gas station economies of scale would seem to dictate returning to a central processing plant (although I have absolutely no data to confirm this, simply a gut feeling.)

And of course all of this does not get beyond the fact that hydrogen is not an energy source, but simply an energy storage medium with a fair amount of innefficiencies involved in creating it. The whole process from cradle to grave is going to be extremely expensive, using a large amount of relatively rare materials in a system whose components would likely degrade over time and require replacing and servicing. I really have my doubts that this invention is going to be the final key to solving all of our energy problems, but it could very well be one more tiny tiny push for some specific applications on the way to eventually weening society from the direct need for fossil fuel usage. A cheap, convienient, plentiful, clean, safe and renewable power source is still needed to drive the whole system, and right now I believe fossil fuels as a whole are the best compromise for the whole range of requirements. Although significant technological advances in alternative energy sources as well as the eventually inevitable reduction in fossil fuel supplies will eventually tip the scales to the point that fossil fuels are no longer the most economical energy source (economical including both internal and external costs.)

Re:Not being a chemist (2, Informative)

tsa (15680) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385244)

Hydrogen is a gas at room temperature. In a gas the molecules are very far apart. Therefore one mole (6.02*10^23 molecules) of hydrogen takes up 22.4 l, whilst one mole of Pd atoms take up only a few cubic cm. The hydrogen is so small it can easily penetrate the Pd crystal. It likes to sit between the Pd atoms, and can be easily transported in this way.

Re:Not being a chemist (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385255)

I forgot to add that the hydrogen molecules in the Pd structure are much closer together that the hydrogen molecules in the gas. That's why Pd can absorb 900 times its own volume of hydrogen.

Re:Not being a chemist (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385148)

Sorry, but I took a glance at that article and (like most else on Wikipedia) it's riddled through and through with errors of omission, scope, and categorization, not to mention misplaced emphasis and outright factual mistakes. I'd fix the article, but why bother, when any meaningful contributions will succumb so soon to entropy?

Re:Not being a chemist (4, Insightful)

localman (111171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385380)

why bother, when any meaningful contributions will succumb so soon to entropy?

Heh. That's a pretty reasonable question to ask about life itself :) Nonetheless, I take part. Both in life and Wikipedia.

Cheers.

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385724)

(like most else on Wikipedia) it's riddled through and through with errors of omission, scope, and categorization, not to mention misplaced emphasis and outright factual mistakes.

Wrong. What you mean is, "like a few things on Wikipedia", but then that's a property of everything around us. Surely you don't believe everything your government tells you too, do you?

Your post is just Wikipedia trolling, dear AC. It's as good as most things, and only a fool criticizes it for lack of perfection.

Re:Not being a chemist (1)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385158)

The Beastie Boys [lyricsdepot.com] must not be made of hydrogen.

Re:Not being a chemist (1)

grammar fascist (239789) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385367)

I had no idea it was such a useful metal.

I knew that Palladium [palladiumbooks.com] had the ability to absorb a month's worth of attention span in just a slim book, but I hadn't heard about the hydrogen thing. Thanks!

Re:Not being a chemist (1)

rve (4436) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385899)

Palladium sells for about $340,- per ounce, slightly more than half that of gold.

And that is with a relatively low demand. It is quite rare, at least more so than gold. If they start burning it with fuel, the demand will push the price more in the direction of that of platinum (about $1290) or above.

who said high gas prices were bad? (2, Insightful)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385123)

Well, at least it's got some people THINKING about alternatives. Now, if anything pans out, that is another thing...

Re:who said high gas prices were bad? (1)

Plunky (929104) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385248)

Now, if anything pans out, that is another thing...

Thats something about TFA that struck me:

The glass spheres should be so small and slippery that they ought to flow through pipes like a liquid, the patent says.

Surely when you patent something, you should be patenting something that demonstrably works, not something that ought to work? I glanced at the patent but its incomprehensible to me, I'm not sure if this is something they have tried it or not. Anybody know anything about this?

Re:who said high gas prices were bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15386003)

Jesus Christ on a fucking motorbike! It might surprise you to learn this, but THOUSANDS OF TONNES of powders are pumped like liquid every day in a wide variety of industrial applications.

It's not exactly fucking rocket science, shithead.

Re:who said high gas prices were bad? (1)

jcorno (889560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385954)

Now, if anything pans out, that is another thing...

It won't. The whole concept is pretty ridiculous. The patents says these things have to be heated to 450C, which they did at 50C per hour, probably to avoid cracking the balls and/or the fuel tank. That means it takes 8 hours of warmup time to get your car started. It would also take a lot of heat, which probably wouldn't be easy to reclaim. And on top of that, how would you know when you're empty?

I know it's best to be open-minded about research like this, but the temperature problem is inherent to the operation of these spheres, and a fuel level indicator is a basic necessity in a vehicle. I can't imagine a simple way to overcome either one.

Let me be the first to say... (0, Redundant)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385132)

Great Balls of Fire!

Re:Let me be the first to say... (1)

vandoravp (709954) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385275)

Ooo the irony [slashdot.org] .

Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (5, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385133)

Hydrogen is often promoted as an ideal clean fuel for cars. But the explosive stuff is also darned dangerous to transport and store.

Actually, it is far safer than gas to transport and store compared to gasoline. Why? A)It requires a stronger fuel:air mixture than gas to ignite B)It is incredibly light, so except in buildings with sealed ceilings, the stuff just isn't very dangerous (gasoline vapors are heavier than air, hence why you should NEVER store it indoors) C)It is 100% non-toxic and disperses instantly (say, in an accident.) If a tanker full of gasoline crashes- you've got a HUGE fire hazard, a major environmental disaster so you have to do something about it fast (especially if the gas contains MTBE), and the fumes are pretty toxic (and flammable, and hug the ground.) If a hydrogen tanker cracks open on the highway, the fire department just has to stand around and watch until the stuff finishes leaking out. No fire hazard since the stuff rises away almost instantly.

The biggest technical hurdle for hydrogen in a distribution network is with seals and hoses; H2 is so damn small that keeping it from escaping through seals and the walls of hoses is very difficult (same reason helium escapes so quickly from balloons, except H2 is even smaller.)

The REAL problem with hydrogen, which everyone loves to ignore, is that there IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to produce hydrogen efficiently, from a renewable resource, without leaving toxic byproducts; current methods either involve hideously inefficient electrolysis, toxic catalysts, or non-renewable resources. Guess why Bush is so hot to trot on Hydrogen? Natural gas is the current "favorite" source. Except you've got to do some nasty processes to natural gas to get the hydrogen, and you have to do something with the carbon leftover when you remove all the hydrogen atoms. The whole point of going OFF hydrocarbon fuels is to get off the CARBON which usually ends up in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide! Not to mention, natural gas is NOT RENEWABLE!

"Fuel cells!" you say. Except they're very expensive, have toxic catalysts in them, and have a very finite lifetime unless you use very, very clean water. Distilled/deionized water takes a lot of energy to produce...

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (4, Funny)

enjo13 (444114) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385159)

H2 is so damn small that keeping it from escaping through seals and the walls of hoses is very difficult (same reason helium escapes so quickly from balloons, except H2 is even smaller.)

Hydrodgen just wants to be free.

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (1)

DJAthens (687111) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385225)

"The REAL problem with hydrogen, which everyone loves to ignore, is that there IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to produce hydrogen efficiently, from a renewable resource, without leaving toxic byproducts; current methods either involve hideously inefficient electrolysis, toxic catalysts, or non-renewable resources."


In a few years these guys [stirlingenergy.com] will get their R&D phase finished and roll out an enormous array of these [stirlingenergy.com] . They already have operational test units at Sandia National Labratories, and are scoping out some expansive real estate out in the desert northeast of Los Angeles.

Quibble (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385256)

That was a highly factual post (and a great point, severaly underreported, about the *environmental* impact of making hydrogen), except
>It requires a stronger fuel:air mixture than gas to ignite

Hydrogen is remarkable for the wide range of concentrations at which it will go boom. CERN's safety page lists 4% to 74% concentrations in air as the explosive range. Gasoline is much more finicky: before microprocessors and smog controls, cars had elaborate mechanical computers called carburetors to keep the mixture in a range that would sort of burn.

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385268)

"The REAL problem with hydroge ... IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to produce hydrogen efficiently"
Add the word "Yet" to the end of that, and it's accurate.

Once there's more demand for hydrogen, cleaner methods of producing can be found.

For example
Setup a wind warm in some place that's to far a way to be useful as a powerplant, and have it produce hydrogen all day long.
Solar having problems because of clouds? produce hydrogen whenever you can and burn it during peak energy loads, or heck all the time, just have an excess of solar plants to carry you through long cloudy peroids.

Lots of ways to produce it cleanly, the demand simply isn't there yet.

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (2, Interesting)

parlyboy (603457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385285)

Insightful comment, and almost entirely right. But you're forgetting something, too: hydrogen might not ignite at quite as low levels, but it is flammable over a MUCH wider range of concentration [engineeringtoolbox.com] compared with gasoline.

My uncle is a rocket scientist. A couple decades ago, he was working on a NASA contractor test in Florida. One of the technicians was badly burned in a hydrogen fire. It was a hot day, and the tech walked right into the fire without seeing it. That doesn't happen with gasoline.

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (2, Interesting)

RsG (809189) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385288)

Actually, I saw a /. article some time ago about using a combination of high temperature + electrolysis to get hydrogen from water*. My memory may be wrong, but I think the gist was that it's easier to split water molecules when they're heated and/or under pressure (the electrical input needed is lowered). All you need to increase electrolysis effeciency is an abundant source of heat.

Now, where do we have tonnes of hot, pressurized water going to waste? Nuclear plants! The stuff in the heat exchangers is reused, but the stuff used in the turbines isn't. We could presumably use this as a hydrogen source - pipe the stuff through an extraction facility while it's still superheated, and split the water using electrolysis. You might have to construct a dedicated plant for this, one that doesn't produce commercial power, but it would be a self contained hydrogen source.

Now some people would argue that this is just trading Co2 for nuclear waste. Fine, that's still an improvement in my books, since the later is easier to contain, and can be recycled back into fuel. Plus, the final leaving sof nuclear power don't need to be contained forever - just bury them far below the water table in a subduction zone, and collapse the tunnel behind you. It'll eventually suck them back into the mantle.

But in the long run there's no requirement to get the superheated water from fission plants - if we can get fusion working, we'll have another source of power that presumably will produce lots of steam to run the turbines with.

Of course, the best solution in the meantime is a combination of different fossil fuel alternatives. Biofuels may be easier to convert our existing vehicles to, and might even be easier to make by using waste products (see the other /. story recently about using raw sewage to produce the stuff). But hey, having more than one approach is a good thing, and not hinging everything on fusion is sensible, given that the reactor technology is still many years away.

*Note: I am aware that I'm taking a /. science article from memory and assuming it was factually correct. In my defense, I did RTFA at the time and it seemed like it wasn't quackery.

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385709)

Now, where do we have tonnes of hot, pressurized water going to waste? Nuclear plants!

Bullshit. Nothing goes to waste there, every calorie you take from whatever water in a nuke plant cannot be converted to electricity. Waste heat is given off at the lowest temperature possible, to maximize thermodynamic efficiency. Carnot says, there's nothing left to take for free.

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (2, Interesting)

RsG (809189) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385800)

On the contrary, there is waste heat from nuke plants. There is heat lost from any form of steam power.

You boil the water to make steam (under very high pressure), you run it through the turbines, and you release it. When it leaves the power plant, it's still signifigantly hotter than the surrounding environment, so obviously you haven't taken all the potential energy out of it - however you've gotten what you can from turbines.

Now add an electrolysis plant to the mix. You've lost some of your power output - the water needs to be kept contained so it doesn't cool via evaporation, which limits your ability to use turbines. However, you can now derive hydrogen from it at greater power effeciency than you could before with cold water, which is the whole point of the exercise. This is because regular electrolysis, as the OP pointed out, is grossly ineffecient.

You aren't getting power from nowhere, you're getting slightly better use of the energy you input into the electrolysis. All the system does is improve an otherwise severly ineffecient process. And as an added bonus, while you still need to transport the fuel to it's destination (which is a problem for all alternative fuels), you're no longer losing power in transmitting electricity from a power plant to a hydrogen production plant, since they're at the same site.

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385884)

Oh, and just to further clarify, I did specify in my post that the plant would likely have to be dedicated to hydrogen production. However the simplified point was that nuclear -> hydrogen via superheated electrolysis is much more effecient than nuclear -> electricity -> low temperature electrolysis.

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (1)

gatzke (2977) | more than 8 years ago | (#15386035)


Right. It costs about $100 to make a vehicle flex fuel that can run E85, 85% Ethanol. Of course you can make arguments that biomass to ethanol is not an efficient route, but if all the US had the option of not using gas, it may make things interesting. Corn harvesting and distillation of EtOH takes a lot of energy.

Another thing I would like to see more of is LPG or LNG conversion for autos. You can still run internal combustion, but now you have a big tank in the trunk. You can always switch back to gas (or E85). LPG and LNG burn cleaner but still produce CO2. Problem is, it costs a little more, maybe $1000 per car, but it is another option.

Flexible fuels would basically provide competition for gas.

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385294)

H2 is so damn small that keeping it from escaping through seals and the walls of hoses is very difficult (same reason helium escapes so quickly from balloons, except H2 is even smaller.)

Actually, you're wrong about that. Helium gas is more difficult to contain than hydrogen gas. (And, in some ways, liquid helium is still more difficult.)

The reason is that hydrogen is diatomic, while helium is monatomic. A helium atom is basically like a sphere with diameter of an angstrom. A hydrogen molecule is like a prolate spheroid with longest dimension of around two angstroms.

It will have more spin-spin interactions than the helium atom, and it has a vibrational degree of freedom. I don't know if the latter two details help in keeping hydrogen from passing through a barrier, but they won't hurt.

I do agree that hydrogen as a fuel is overhyped at present. (So are windmills, for that matter). But the process used to make hydrogen from methane is actually not all that "nasty".

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (1)

redhat421 (620779) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385319)

If a hydrogen tanker cracks open on the highway, the fire department just has to stand around and watch until the stuff finishes leaking out. No fire hazard since the stuff rises away almost instantly. I think that in general, peoples fear of H2 is disproportionate with the actual risk. But isn't it true that H2 tends to self ignite when leaking out of small holes?

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (3, Interesting)

JSchoeck (969798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385333)

Your information is not correct. As already stated by another reply (which didn't get modded above 3) Hydrogen (H2) will form a very explosive mixture with air, also called detonating gas (if the translation from German is correct where it is "Knallgas"). This mixing happens always when you have Hydrogen meet regular air. So saying Hydrogen would be safe and just rise into the atmosphere is nothing but completely wrong and unsafe. In case of an accident there will be heat sources (be it a fire or a hot engine or the rapid compression of a gas tank) which will easily ignite the hydrogen:air mixture and cause a nasty, big explosion. Keeping Hydrogen gas inside metal gas containers is no problem, by the way. You can buy and store it, just like other gases (for regular materials the size difference of He- and H2-molecules really don't matter). On another note, it doesn't really matter if a catalyst is toxic, since by definition a catalyst is only needed in small amounts and will leave every chemical reaction unchanged. Thus it can be reused unlimited as long as it does not physically get thrown out of the fuell cell.

Hybrids (See April Sci Am) (2, Insightful)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385393)

An article in April 2006 Sci Am puts the case that hybrid vehicles are far more cost effective and feasible than a hydrogen economy. Ni metal hydride and LiIon batteries are already commercial whereas fuel cells have been just around the corner now for 50 years (if it's true that fuel cells for notebook computers are coming very shortly, why does a 100W marine fuel cell cost $6000?). The cost of NiMH has fallen 50% in the last 8 years, and the excess weight has halved. And NiMH doesn't need palladium.

The argument is that hydrogen uses a completely new infrastructure for transport,storage, generation and end user while hybrids only need incremental improvements to battery technology. Hybrids also create the huge distributed electrical storage grid that allows conventional generator capacity to be used more efficiently (in the US, power stations have spare capacity at night in summer because of the need to meet daytime air conditioning load, and this capacity can be used to charge hybrid vehicle batteries. Smart chargers such as the ones already in long term marine use could be remotely controlled to supply current according to spare capacity, meaning that generators can run at constant output.)

Hydrogen is popular, I suspect, because it is a technical fix that appeals to some engineers (gee whiz, new technology) and to the oil industry because they get to retain control over the power infrastructure instead of those boring electrical utilities. Whereas a vehicle economy running mainly on electrical utility power and biofuel would take away a good part of the power over consumers currently enjoyed by Exxon and the like. A farm cooperative could easily produce its own biodiesel and bioethanol with a surplus for sale.

Every time I make this point I get banged on by somebody who claims that the likes of Exxon only do what they do to make shareholders happy. It's good to know that oil industry PR people can not only read but can navigate Slashdot, but at the end of the day a hydrogen economy just hands over too much power to the technocrats, whereas a mixed hybrid electric/biofuel economy leaves far more power in the hands of communities. The shareholders are happy when they can see no way that their monopoly can be challenged or dismantled, because it guarantees a continued revenue flow. If that means distorting markets, they are all for it.

Calm down. It's not that simple (3, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385410)

The problems with hydrogen are many, and handwaving some in, some out, just seems weird.

E.g., energy density is a real problem. While H2 does have 3 times more energy density than gasoline per weight unit, it's about 10 times lighter than gasoline even in liquefied form, and thus has worse energy density per _volume_. (And hideously less energy density if you use it as compressed gas.)

But transporting and storing it liquefied is harder than you'd think, because it boils at around -253 Celsius. That's cold enough to _freeze_ air on contact. It's also going to be a pain to keep it that cold, and even in the best insulated tanks it's going to constantly evaporate. In fact, a lot of it will evaporate every day.

And unlike natural gas, you can't just compress it until it stays liquid at room temperature. If you look at its phase diagram, a liquid phase just doesn't exist anywhere above -240 C. That's where its critical point lies. No matter how much you compress it, it just won't liquefy above that. So you _have_ to keep it that cold.

E.g., if you want to talk energy, there you go, there's even more energy spent cooling it to those temperatures, and a massive waste of energy when then it just evaporates in a car sitting in a garrage for a month.

E.g., energy density isn't really helped if you have to pack it in a massive tank, either to hold it under pressure or to keep it cold. If the tank itself adds an extra half a ton to your car, you haven't really won much. (Rememeber the lower energy density, so the tank will also have to be bigger to get the same mileage out of it.)

E.g., if you want to talk safety, you don't want to be the guy that gets splashed by liquid at -253C when the tank ruptures in an accident. Or yes, when a tanker ruptures on the highway. Yes, it will eventually just rise up, but in the meantime it will instantly kill anything it spills onto.

E.g., yes, a problem is that it leaks, so you'd have hydrogen constantly leaking in your garage. Whether your roof is sealed tight or not is a moot point when you have a couple percent of your tank's capacity evaporating daily in it. That's a _lot_ more vapour produced than gasoline produces. And you can't just seal the tak shut to keep the vapours in, since the resulting pressure will eventually be tremendous. So you don't want a garrage that's just not sealed shut, you'll want one that's ventilated constantly, even in winter. Otherwise it can jolly well blow up.

E.g., the problem is made worse by the fact that hydrogen has no colour or smell of its own, so you can't _know_ if you've walked into a room full of it or not. Gasoline, for all its other problems, does have a smell. Sure, it's _unlikely_ that you'd find the room just full of it, but do you actually want to take that risk? Plus, when you talk hundreds of millions of cars, some poor bugger may blow himself up every hour. (As they say, if you're one in a million, there are 6000 just like you. Probabilities are funny like that when they involve large numbers.) Do you want to be the car manufacturer hit by the lawsuits and negative PR of that?

E.g., worse yet, it also _burns_ with an invisible flame, so you could walk into a jet of flame from a punctured hose or tanker that did ignite, and not even know it until you get burned by it. Again, you can handwave that as _unlikely_, but it's a very real problem and given hundreds of millions of cars, somewhere it will eventually happen.

And so on. And, yes, I'd be interested to know how these palladium balls address those problems. E.g., will it actually make the energy density worth it, or just dillute it some more?

And conversely, hand-waving the energy and carbon concerns as some global catastrophe is... uninformed, to say the least.

E.g., yes, we already knew that on the whole you don't get more energy from burning hydrogen than you put into splitting the water. That's obvious. The problem is that while we're damn good at producing electricity, and outstanding at making electrical motors too, we royally suck at packing electricity for later use. Batteries are way too heavy and store way too little, and some have other problems too. (E.g., you don't want a electrical car whose "tank" loses maximum capacity each time you recharge it.) Hydrogen was supposed to just be the kind of energy you can pack in a tank _and_ which, as a side-benefit, doesn't produce CO2 when you run the car off it. Basically the whole idea was, yes, to lose some electricity producing hydrogen, but get something you can run a car on.

E.g., yes, some processes also produce carbon, but that may actually be ok. Carbon is only some dangerous pollutant if it ends up in the atmosphere. If you mostly end up with a ton of coke and don't burn it, then you _haven't_ polluted anything. So hand-waving some "you're still left with carbon, therefore it's still pollution" argument is missing the whole point.

Re:Calm down. It's not that simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385781)

And, yes, I'd be interested to know how these palladium balls address those problems.

They address the transport problems. Hydrogen absorbed into palladium is stable at room temperature and low pressure and it won't leak, so ruptures, spills, evaporation are no longer of concern. Energy density by volume would be of the same order of magnitude as for liquid hydrogen, but energy per mass will be much, much worse, even counting the massive pressure vessel, because you have to lug around 130 kilograms of palladium to store just one kilogram of hydrogen.

Come to think of the losses associated with every step of the hydrogen lifecycle, I'm starting to believe that synthetic fuel made from hydrogen (your guess where that should come from is as good as mine) and air through Fischer-Tropsch-Synthesis is more efficient, even though FT itself is only 40% energy efficient.

Not really true (4, Interesting)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385503)

"there IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to produce hydrogen efficiently, from a renewable resource without leaving toxic byproducts;"

I'm not sure where you got that idea. High temperature electrolysis, for example, just uses really hot water and electricity. It's about 70% efficient.

"you've got to do some nasty processes to natural gas to get the hydrogen"

Well, there are a couple things wrong with that statement. First of all, hydrocarbon reformation could hardly be described as a "nasty process". You put you hydrocarbon in with some solid catalyst, hot steam, and that's all. Second of all, it can work with virtually any hydrocarbon. Thirdly, natural gas is primarily methane, which can be produced in other ways.

"Fuel cells!" you say. Except they're very expensive, have toxic catalysts in them, and have a very finite lifetime unless you use very, very clean water. Distilled/deionized water takes a lot of energy to produce...

Fuel cells do not have toxic catalysts in them, they have platinum, which is just about as non-toxic as a material can get. Though they are expensive and short lived.

The idea behind hydrogen is that it can be implemented now, and is compatible with existing infrastructure. Automobiles and power-plants that exist now can be converted to use hydrogen. Hydrogen can be produced using conventional energy inputs, but can also be produced using many other inputs. So the advantage is versatility, and the potential to operate industry without producing CO2. Of course, it's not ready for prime time yet.

Re:Not really true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385890)

"unless you use very clean water"?
  You don't use water in a fuel cell either.

What about the sulfur-iodine cycle of producing hydrogen?

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (1)

aug24 (38229) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385945)

I saw a hydrogen accident once... a truck delivering H2 to the University of Southampton Physics Department (where I was an undergrad) went to fast over a speed-bump and fractured a canister (well, prolly the valve actually).

The H2 went up in a huge column incredibly quickly. How could we tell, you may ask, as it's transparent! Well, the condensation made a thick black column like a very small thunderhead rain cloud.

Certainly not dangerous by any measure. Unless you were on top of it, or possibly indoors.

Justin.

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (1)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385948)

I wouldn't have thought steam reforming of methane [wikipedia.org] (Natural Gas) was a particularly nasty process, which is how most hydrogen is produced nowdays. More particularly so, given the context of most other petro-chemical processes.

Nuclear power generating H2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385962)

Indeed, H2 is only an energy storage medium, and up till now there is no way to generate H2 from a 'renewable' source. But, quite some new nuclear reactor designs (especially G4) are specifically designed to produce H2 next to electricity. Not renewable, but as fuel efficiency increases dramatically, as some designs only produce waste with a very short half-live (in the order of tens of years) and as promising new ways to treat classical nuclear waste are being developed, this seems like the way forward to me..

Re:Oy, the usual hydrogen myths (1)

gatzke (2977) | more than 8 years ago | (#15386026)


They are working on H2 production at nuclear plants. There are a variety of cycles that would allow for something much more efficient than nuke->heat->steam->turbine->electricity->electrolo sys. Problem is we are still scared of nuke plants. The rising good solution, build more plants at existing sites. You already have a lot of the infrastructure and permiting / social battle complete.

The best part (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385154)

...is that we can make cars powered by laser fusion [wikipedia.org] ... and we can use the same fuel!

(give or take a few neutrons, anyhow)

Re:The best part (1)

adyus (678739) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385281)


Ah yes, never thought I'd see the day when a bloke would need a nuclear physics degree in order to become a simple mechanic... :D

Are the spheres recycleable? (2)

Alicat1194 (970019) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385175)

Considering the current cost of palladium (~$338 an ounce), you'd hope so.

Too complicated (5, Interesting)

MichailS (923773) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385205)

Hydrogen is theoretically the most effective and clean fuel, but practically it is a nightmare.

Forget hydrogen. There is an abundance of alternatives out there already that can utilize the current infrastructure and car fleet with little or no cost, like ethanol and SVO and RME and so on. My personal fav would be hydrogen peroxide, but then again I am just a geek.

Governments and universities and car manufacturers like to speak of big, expensive and complex system changes because

1 - they won't happen. Keeps the oligopoly happy.
2 - they make politicians look smart and progressive.
2 - they require aeons of scientific funding to universities and such.
3 - they require us to purchase a new car from the manufacturers.

Thus, simple infrastructure changes such as using ethanol or RME aren't favoured because they are cheap and simple and only benefit us, the plebs.

Re:Too complicated (1)

NKJensen (51126) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385398)

I thought that RME was quite hard to use in combustion engines because of very high NOx emissions?

Re:Too complicated (1)

MichailS (923773) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385568)

Well, that problem is not specifically tied to RME but generic for all diesel engines (for which RME is targeted as a replacement to the petroleum based kerosene/naphta fuel used today).

The problem is that diesels generally work with a surplus of air and when you heat air a lot its nitrogen starts to react with the oxygen and you get NO and NO2 which cause smog and cancer and what have you.

NOx is hard to decompose in catalysators so the best remedy is (probably) to see to it that the air/fuel mixture is stoichiometric - that is, balanced such that all air reacts with all fuel. Preferrably in a perfect combustion that leaves only carbon dioxide and water steam for exhaust. This is what Otto cycle (gasoline, ethanol, etc) engines do.

The Diesel cycle is slightly more energy efficient than the Otto cycle, but the emissions are thusly harder to remedy. I'm actually not that sure what diesels DO in order to decrease NOx emissions. ?=/

RME is basically vegetable oil that has reacted with methanol in some kind of way to leave a fluid that behaves very much like diesel fuel. The advantage is that it can be fed to diesel engines with little or no adjustment.

But I suppose it would be smarter to skip the extra step and run diesels on SVO (straight vegetable oil) instead. This requires some modifications though, and SVO varies heavily in composition and quality.

To be even more energy inefficient? (1)

BadassJesus (939844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385222)

Considering how much energy is required to create hydrogen alone now add another energy to fit it into this kind of containment and you end up using a hell lot of fosil fuels to create this "clean" fuel.

Re:To be even more energy inefficient? Cleanup? (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385379)

Well, just wait til people start trying to mix these palladium balls with 50% restaurant grease.

Lardy lardy, my sticky balls are cloggin' my fuel injectors.

It'll be messy.

But, maybe it'll won't be as messy as trying to extract fuel from the politicians...

(hides behind desk after hearing agents knock on door..)

Raises some questions (1)

Null Nihils (965047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385232)

I know this is just a tentative thing - they won't be implementing this tech immediately - but how expensive will these glass/paladium spheres be to produce? Let us also consider the volume of fuel the USA et al consumes. And then of course, there is the issue of disposing of or recycling them. IMO, the idea behind the patent raises more questions than it answers. Of course, TFA was fairly brief, perhaps there's more to the idea.

At any rate, the only reason we come to expect the conveniences of today's fuel and transportation tech is due to the fact that we can just pump up the fossil fuel and dump it in a container for later use. However, said fossil fuel could rapidly grow scarce, and emulating that convenience with other fuels may prove to be too expensive to be even remotely practical, at least in the near future with our current tech.

(This is not to say we shouldn't keep researching! There are solutions out there for sure... I just doubt this glass sphere idea is one of them.)

How Safe are These Glass Balls? (2, Interesting)

ferrellcat (691126) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385315)

I am not a doctor, but for some reason the thought of millions of micron sized glass shperes does not seem very healthy to me. What would the effect of these glass bubbles be upon their entrance into a cut or other opening in the human body?

I once dropped a glass on my bare foot, and it shattered into thousands of incrediblly tiny shards. At the hospital, it took them hours to remove *most* of the pieces. Almost 20 years later, I still have pieces of fine glass sand in my foot. Now take this type of tramua, and miniturize it down even smaller. A powder so fine it acts like a liquid...Liquid glass. My foot throbs just at the thought of it!

Again, I have no idea if my experience is even relevant to this new technology. I guess I just wonder if anyone else has thoughts on this matter.

Re:How Safe are These Glass Balls? (2, Insightful)

aXis100 (690904) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385360)

Better not walk on a white sand beach then, it's practically the same thing.

Re:How Safe are These Glass Balls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385404)

Silica, a component of glass, causes the disease silicosis when many particles are inhandled and build up in the lungs. Since silicon/silica/glass doesn't react with a lot of other substances, it's hard for the body to get rid of and leads to scar tissue forming in the lungs.
If it got into the bloodstream, it could become embedded in soft tissue or arteries, possibly doing the same kind of thing.

That's all assuming the balls wouldn't burst under normal air pressure or the expansion from just room temperature.

Re:How Safe are These Glass Balls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385783)

Such tiny (micron-sized) particles are not a danger to the skin, but potential damage to lungs or other delicate tissue would obviously be a concern. Interestingly, the USA's drug approval body (FDA, I think) recently approved a way to deliver insulin to diabetics through inhaling a cloud of tiny glass spheres full of it. They have done a fairly long term study of possible respiratory damage and concluded (so far!) that it's safe. It's marketed as Exubera, if you're interested. On the other hand, tiny bits of palladium may be dangerous, even if the glass is not..

Re:How Safe are These Glass Balls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385803)

I can't imagine these tiny spheres to be safe at all. Breathing fine quartz dust (which essentially is what these spheres would be) causes an incurable disease of the lungs called silicosis as the quartz cannot be cleared from the alveoli in the lungs, which eventually results in scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs. So I would think that getting these spheres into your lungs by inhalation would be extremely dangerous.

small and slippery glass spheres... (0, Offtopic)

layer3switch (783864) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385357)

"The glass spheres should be so small and slippery [...] there would be no risk of explosion or fire if a leak occurs."

I sense, "slip and fall" litigation rate on the rise. Harvey Birdman, where are you?

How many kg of hydrogen per kg of palladium? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385391)

When I last checked palladium was USD338 per ounce.

If the palladium required costs more than the hydrogen it carries then you have one of the following problems:

a) People paying for the hydrogen at the fuel station, but not returning the palladium.
b) People not being able to pay for both the hydrogen and the palladium and thus not using your fancy new fuel.

If it turns out you can squeeze so much hydrogen into your palladium you might end up replicating the cold fusion thing by accident. ;).

Re:How many kg of hydrogen per kg of palladium? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385564)

What if the fuel tank always was full of paladium pellets? The article states the balls are "charged" under pressure... Why do the pellets need to be pumped in charged? I wonder if they could charge the pellets using pure hydrogen, under pressure, at the fuel pump. If they could do that, the cost would be fixed into the purchase price of the vehicle. I guess it all depends on how difficult the hydrogen charging process is........

Re:How many kg of hydrogen per kg of palladium? (2, Funny)

zCyl (14362) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385840)

What if the fuel tank always was full of paladium pellets?

1. Setup fake gas station.
2. Substitute hydrogen gas pump for vacuum cleaner.
3. Profit!

Re:How many kg of hydrogen per kg of palladium? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385863)

Actually fusion by putting deuterium, etc inside palladium (or other similair metals) have been researched, ofcourse no usable results

breakable? (2, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385400)

I just saw "glass spheres" and thought about bumping around in a fuel tank while you are driving. Just a-wondering how tough a glass sphere one buhzillionth of an inch would be.

To *me*, and I readily admit I am skeptical and suspicious when big business and government collide (and collude), but the "hydrogen economy" seems designed on purpose to keep the same billionaires and their corporations...billionaires and "in control" of transportation and energy.

      I think I prefer right now and for the near future just normal liquid biofuels. We don't have to do any radical change to either vehicles or fuel delivery infrastructure, a pumpable liquid is a pumpable liquid after all. And the tech is here and it works, we really don't need a lot more government and industry billion dollar "studies", we just need the fuel produced in larger quantities and shipped. For example, using existing gas stations, just trash midrange, keep low test and high test, and use the midrange tanks for E-85, done, maybe swap out a bit of the plumbing perhaps, but nothing like setting up hydrogen production facilites and massive miniature christmas tree bulb factories, etc.

  Then we need a switch (an option at the car dealers at all the current various price ranges, same as the "normal" cars) to "plug in" hybrids, which they could make right now if they wanted to, a lot of backyard gadgeteers have built them already to prove it is possible. This could offset a large part of the transportation load, especially for short and mid range commuters, drastically reduce the concentrated pollution in the urban areas, the fuel part would be almost all carbon neutral, and a lot of the battery part can be addressed by such things as home solar panel arrays with overnight charging to the plug in hybrids from the home battery bank. This would also improve the over-all national "fuel" supply but with little to no impact on the normal electrical grid demand. The Sun is practical fusion power,the only one we have really, we have the existing tech to use it directly, and plants use the same fusion energy to grow and we can get a large percentage of the fuel we need from them. What's not to like?

An individual can now purchase and own a vehicle,but you'll still pay "rent" forever on making it run, and the rent money goes to already uberrich guys, who already have enough political and economic power, IMO. Remember that picture of the exxon hog jowled CEO giggling as he testified in congress over the massive petroleum price hikes? The dude who got hundreds of millions for selling gas, like that's a problem right now? Do we really need to keep paying that guy and dudes like him like that, letting this energy cartel just keep dictating prices to us and how we do our transportation? I think *not*, we can do better, and right now.

    It would be nice to start to become your own fuel producer. Even just some significant part would help your wallet, the economy, and the environment. The Sun -practical fusion power- helps solve these problems with tech we have today.

Gas stations of the future... (1)

SonicSpike (242293) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385405)

...will have attendents that will pump balls. Heh Heh Heh.

H2 in balls doesn't make it not a boondoggle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15385407)

The hydrogen economy is still just an energy boondoggle and a codeword for enormous subsidies. Hydrogen is just about the worst energy storage and transport system you can come up with, and storing it into microscopic engineered glass balls with a spec of (expensive and rare) palladium in them doesn't make it any cheaper or safer. Have they done studies on what happens when these microscopic balls are inhaled into the lungs? How does this make hydrogen cheaper? Given that hydrogen comes from natural gas, why not just burn the natural gas directly? We already have economical and cheap natural gas engines, natural gas is easy to distribute, so why go to the trouble of converting it into hydrogen before using it? Is there anyone out there (other than me) saying, "hey, wait a minute, why are we spending billions of taxpayer dollars on a technology which will never work in the marketplace, which no one will ever use outside of experimental vehicles?"

------------
Diesel Car Forum [dieselcarforum.com]

Re:H2 in balls doesn't make it not a boondoggle (2, Insightful)

fluffy666 (582573) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385812)

"hey, wait a minute, why are we spending billions of taxpayer dollars on a technology which will never work in the marketplace, which no one will ever use outside of experimental vehicles?"

Well, it's a great way to LOOK like you are doing something whilst being sure that nothing actually changes. After all, one of the few reasons to use hydrogen is the high energy density per unit mass - binding it to a heavy metal such as palladium removes even this advantage. I strongly suspect that it would be more efficient (not to say much cheaper and simpler) just to have a battery powered car.

Of course, if your average 2-car family converted to one battery powered runaround for short/local trips and one modern diesel for the longer journeys, then you would make some serious fuel savings with minimal/no lifestyle sacrifice. But that would be far too easy..

So close to AM2 (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385739)

AM2 (Anti-Matter 2) was a power source used in the Sten novels by Alan Cole and Chris Bunch. It was anti-matter contained in a non-reactive coating. Very similar idea to what is here. How to move a volatile substance and still retain usuability.

Health risks? (3, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385753)

What happens if you inhale these little suckers? You know it will happen. How do they break down over time and how do they break down in a catastrophic accident? Spill cleanup? Do I just vacumn them?

Lots of promise but all the negatives are curiously missing. This sounds more fantasy than real, the old "patent the idea" and then try to make it work.

Those Americans . . . (1)

Jarth (666336) | more than 8 years ago | (#15385943)

Making society independent of fossil fuels - Danish researchers reveal new technology

Scientists at the Technical University of Denmark have invented a technology which may be an important step towards the hydrogen economy: a hydrogen tablet that effectively stores hydrogen in an inexpensive and safe material.

http://www.dtu.dk/English/About_DTU/News.aspx?guid =%7BE6FF7D39-1EDD-41A4-BC9A-20455C2CF1A7%7D [www.dtu.dk]

This i do remeber from at least half a year ago. Never got much press though. Did even submit this to the Green Party over here in Antwerp, no effect. Sigh.

Sounds like a great technology for meth labs! (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 8 years ago | (#15386015)

Palladium preloaded with hydrogen would make a GREAT hydrogenation catalyst for use in illicit drug labs. Meth, MDMA, or any of the more exotic phenethylamines could be easily produced using this stuff. Currently, powerful reducing agents (LiAlH4, etc.) are pretty closely watched by the DEA, but if this stuff is going to be as close as your local gas station, expect a upturn in illegal drug production!
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