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Microreactors Change Propane into Hydrogen

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the gas-into-other-gases dept.

122

Roland Piquepaille writes "Microreactors have already been used for on-site reforming of fuels, such as methanol or propane, to produce hydrogen to be used in fuel cells. Now, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have designed very efficient ceramic microreactors to do this task. The scientists say that their microreactors are much better than other fuel reformer systems. They are now trying to reform gasoline and diesel, which are more widely distributed than propane. Does this mean that one day we'll be able to go to a gas station to refill the fuel cells powering our laptops? Probably not before a while, but read more for additional details, references and a picture of a prototype."

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122 comments

Merely a slight improvement to existing technology (0, Troll)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171627)

Oh, it's a Roland P article, of course....

How come YOU didn't tell us about it? (-1, Flamebait)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171727)

Roland did. I guess if you think he's despicable, it tells us more about you than him, since while he posted the link, you just posted flamebait.

Do you live for these moments? Roland apparently spends a lot of time online looking for interesting news to tell slashdot readers; you spend a lot of time online flaming Roland for doing so.

I wonder which one contributes more to slashdot ...

Re:Merely a slight improvement to existing technol (1, Redundant)

Fordiman (689627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172025)

Feh. I'm not impressed until it'll convert ethanol. Anything less is just another use for petrochemicals.

Re:Merely a slight improvement to existing technol (2, Informative)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172163)

ethanol is a waste, to fill up an SUV it takes enough ethanol to feed a family for a year with the grain instead of turning it to ethanol, and using corn ethanol you burn more petroleum making the corn than you get in ethanol out of it

Re:Merely a slight improvement to existing technol (4, Insightful)

el_womble (779715) | more than 7 years ago | (#16173567)

Now look at what you've written and tell me where the inefficiency is.

I'll agree that using corn to make ethanol is brain dead, but thats got more to do with voters in Iowa than it does about saving the environment. Sugar cane and sugar beet do a much better job and with a net gain in energy - even when using diesl machinary. But if you do grow corn for transportation energy it is possible, and with zero fossile fuel consumption - its called manpower. The Greek and Roman Empires ran off it, most of South America, India, China and Africa still do. So where is the inefficiency. Is it in the use of corn, the use of ethanol or the use of diesel guzzling mechinary.

I'm not going to tell you that working a corn field using ox/shire horse and man power is fun and good, honest work. Its not. But using fossil fuels to replace man power is a stop gap. It might mean that the US is able to compete with northern Africa or Asia for corn, but at some point, unless we figure out a way to replace the internal combustion engine, we will have to force the poor in to peasantry again - I guess we might get away with communism for a couple of years - that tends to take the edge off being a slave.

Then there is the other statement: "to fill up an SUV it takes enough ethanol to feed a family for a year" I'm not sure if thats entirely true, but I suspect its not that far off. Now is it the ethanol that is inefficient or the SUV?

The energy in gas, doesn't just appear, it had to be stored at some point so the surely the issue is that the SUV eats more in a week than your family eats in a year, be it fossil fuel or corn.

Lets look at some other options. Smaller EU cars like the Smart or Japanese minis like the Yaris get twice as much bang per gallon. 125cc four stroke motorbikes make Smart cars look like SUVs (two strokes are as bad as diesels for pollution). A 500cc bike will eat up american highways, carry a passenger and enough luggage for communting. They're faster than 90% of cars and still get over 50 mpg. Oh, and they're fun. If you can swap to a bike for your commute and all the single passenger journeys you'll actually save money, time and the environment. Better yet, fuel cell motorbikes are starting to be produced in the UK albeit with a very young technology (they kind of remind me space age Indians... you can see that they have the potential for greatness).

Then there is the use of horse. They sure eat a lot of grain, but is it anywhere near as much as an SUV? Sure you've got long highways to deal with, but America was forged with the horse. It can be so again, although I'd be suprised if it could stay a federation. Fedral government needs good communication to survive. Even was spilt into many kingdoms before the Romans came along and gave us roads (oh and Alfred the Great kicking some danish arse didn't hurt either).

Or perhaps the real answer is bread power. One loaf of bread contains enough energy to propel a bicycle for over a hundred miles. If you want to do a direct comparison, you could even run the bike of ethanol (although most civilized nations have rules about drink driving).

Like I said, I agree there are better options than ethanol from corn for powering an SUV. But you I think the real question is, is there a right way to power an SUV?

Re:Merely a slight improvement to existing technol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16175237)

One loaf of bread for over a hundred miles?

Buddy, you either eat way less than the average cyclist, or your loaves are way, way bigger.

Wow. One loaf.

Re:Merely a slight improvement to existing technol (1)

Fordiman (689627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16175571)

Wow. GP is one extreme, you're the other.

What, exactly, is wrong with fueling agro-fuel vehicles with a part of the fuel you're producing? What's wrong with replacing the ICE with DEFC driven hub motors (Internal Combustion Engine / Direct Ethanol Fuel Cell)?

The idea for stopping both greenhouse emissions and dependance on foreign oil is to use a fuel that is biologically based (to re-close the carbon cycle) and locally grown (to re-close the fuel cycle).

Sure, gasoline is of a higher energy content (120% that of ethanol), but ethanol can be burned far more efficiently (25% for gas/ICE v. 80% for Ethanol->DEFC->Motor). People pooh-pooh electric cars, but the fact is the limitation _was_ batteries. With the new DEFCs, you can get the kind of wattage you need to pull one ton from zero-to-sixty in under ten seconds at 80% drivetrain efficiency (82kW to obtain 88HP).

Re:Merely a slight improvement to existing technol (1)

el_womble (779715) | more than 7 years ago | (#16175699)

In theory there is no difference in fueling agro fuel veheicles with the fuel your are producing, except for one scary fact: you use more fuel in the agro vehicle than you reep from the field. Thats what the GP was getting at. Its a genuine fudge up. You may think you are using less fossil fuels by using corn ethanol, but witha all the processing etc you end up using the same or more! (Sugar cane/beet are notable exceptions... by a small margin)

Re:Merely a slight improvement to existing technol (1)

Fordiman (689627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16174591)

Which is why, of course, I don't understand the purpose of making corn into ethanol. You get much higher yield out of jerusalem artichokes per unit plant mass, and you barely have to care for the plants.

I also don't get why they don't run tractors off of the other potential by-product of corn production for ethanol production: corn oil sourced biodiesel (or just heated corn oil).

Of course, the ideal solution here would be for Changing World Technologies to produce self-contained small-scale TCP devices for use on farms.

Meanwhile, while ethanol is less efficient than gasoline for use in an internal combustion engine, I say that a fault of the engine rather than an issue with the fuel. Even highly-tuned ICE's max out at about 25% efficiency (work output relative to chemical energy in fuel).

But on the other side, ethanol in a DEFC gets about 80% efficiency, and hydrogen in a PEMFC gets anywhere from 85% to 99% (so the overall efficiency of an ethanol-converted PEMFC is dependant of the efficiency of the converter). The fact that ethanol can presently burn in almost all cars (with a modification), just makes them an expensive way to use the stuff.

Re:Merely a slight improvement to existing technol (1)

donaldm (919619) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172495)

Ethanol does not have a very efficient growth, conversion, delivery and use cycle, although in some countries that have an abundance of sugar the creation/use cycle and government subsidies can can make a difference. For a country like the USA and other industrialised countries there are better uses for the land than growing ethanol fuel crops. After all it is rather pointless consuming 2 units of fuel to make 1 unit of fuel (use gallons or liters for units and you get the picture).

Even growing for bio-diesel which has a positive efficiency cycle has issues, since you need to determine what land is to be used for food to land that is to be used for bio-diesel production. It is rather pointless growing bio-diesel rich plants in marginal soil if the production costs wipe out the positive side of the energy equation or worse distroy the land. As countries such as China and India become more industrialised this problem is going to get worse.

The holy grail seems to be hydrogen fuel cells but there are enormous issues with efficient manufacture , safe storage and eventually disposal. It is rather pointless developing this technology if it is going to be put in inefficient vehicles so a whole range of new transports will have to be made, for many the transition is not going to be comfortable.

There is no easy solution to the energy needs of all nations, although energy efficient vehicles and effective food distribution would go along way. I personally think that there is something slightly obscene in countries importing items that upsets the energy equation (growth + harvesting + delivery costs) such as bottled water to name one, still people can justify anything given the chance.

Unintended consequences (-1, Offtopic)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171631)

I can see the advertising synergy already. Situation, wearable computers are going to become more popular, right? Also, it stands to reason that as CPU speeds go up, some performance happy overclockers will end up with some pretty hot equipment.

Once you add propane to the mix, "Taste the heat, not the meat" takes a whole new meaning when you have people getting burns from their laptops, I like it.

Re:Unintended consequences (1)

dohzer (867770) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171871)

Not to mention the burn in people's pockets from having to pay to refuel. I know I'd prefer to have to refuel rather than just plug my device into a power socket.

huh? (4, Insightful)

Dan Guisinger (15506) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171645)

I don't get it..... ......aren't there better things we should be trying to turn into hyrdogen?
I mean.... propane, oil, gasoline, thats great......but half the problem is we are running out. And what happens to all the carbon when its converted to hydrogen? (I admit I didn't read). I would hope its not released as an emission of sorts, that wouldn't help what so ever....other than localizing a problem possibly making containment easier.

Re:huh? (1, Insightful)

caseih (160668) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171751)

The "Hyrdogen Economy" will never exist. It has not been and never will be an energy source. Energy storage maybe, but not a source. Even if you can take cleanly generated electricity and make hydrogen via electrolosis, I don't think it's viable, except in small applications like laptop fuel cells. Today almost all hydrogen comes from natural gas anyway. I guess these guys have just developed a more efficient way to get get the hydrogen extracted from it, but the byproducts are still the same (carbon dioxide gas).

In the long run, I think it is better to work on a carbon-neutral way of generating more complex hydrocarbons, such as bio-diesel, which will not release any greenhouse gases, yet have a very high energy density that we need. I believe it is harmful to be releasing so much net carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the oceans.

Re:huh? (0, Troll)

Daemonik (171801) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171943)

The last time I checked with NASA, the shuttle didn't run on Premium Unleaded, so I think that shoots down your whole "hydrogen will never be a fuel source" comment.

Let's also consider that in the entire bredth of human history, it wasn't until the last century that petrolium caught on as a fuel source. Oddly enough right around the time that the technology came about to take advantage of it. So it's not that "hydrogen has never been a fuel source", cause crazy ass comments like that make me want to grind your nose against a nuclear reactor and ask you questions like how many of these did the Romans build. No, the point is that until recently we have not been able to take advantage of hydrogen on a wide scale, and indeed the technology is still in it's early stages.

Oh, and talk about non-viable energy sources, calculate how many food crops would have to be diverted exclusively to bio-fuel purposes to run the US alone for more than a year.

Re:huh? (2)

Shimmer (3036) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171991)

Where do you think the hydrogen on the shuttle comes from? Not from the Great Offshore Hydrogen Mine, I'll tell you that much. Hydrogen is like a battery - it's a good way to temporarily store energy that you've obtained from somewhere else. This is why the GP is correct in saying the hydrogen is not a fuel source. Most likely, the hydrogen on the shuttle comes from a source such as (gasp) fossil fuels.

Re:huh? (2, Insightful)

Daemonik (171801) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172031)

Hey guess what, nothing is a fuel 'source', as energy can not be created or destroyed, only stored and transferred. That lovely black gold we call oil didn't magically appear, it's just a storage medium. Nor does gas jump straight out of the ground and into my car either, energy must be expended to drill, pump, process, refine and distribute it. Still doesn't get around my point.

Re:huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16172227)

That is not entirely true. Sure, fossil fuels are nothing more than a storage medium for energy, but where do you think all that energy ultimately came from? That's right, the sun. And the sun IS a source of energy since it converts matter into energy via nuculear fusion.

The law of conservation of matter and energy states that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed by physical or chemical means. So if we can find an efficient and clean way to directly convert the sun's energy into a fuel we can use (such as hydrogen), then we will have the holy grail we seek.

Re:huh? (1)

whm (67844) | more than 7 years ago | (#16173757)

Nobody is suggesting otherwise. You're argument over the terminology here ('source' versus 'storage') is pedantically accurate, but it's irrelevent to the overall issue that the previous poster was commenting on. In practical terms, fossil fuels are an energy source because we are able to extract energy from them directly. We suck the crap out of the ground.

The previous poster was making the accurate point that hydrogen doesn't replace anything. Pedantic positioning over the terminology does not diminish this fact.

Re:huh? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16172011)

The last time I checked with NASA, the shuttle didn't run on Premium Unleaded, so I think that shoots down your whole "hydrogen will never be a fuel source" comment.

Last time I checked, you were a jabbering, innumerate idiot without the faintest clue about physics.

Hint: there are no hydrogen wells.

Hint: every bit of hydrogen burned as a fuel must be produced by using another fuel as an energy source.

Hint: that process will never be 100% efficient.

Hint: that means that using hydrogen as a fuel requires the input of MORE energy than you get back from burning it.

Where the FUCK did you go to school?

Re:huh? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16172137)

Hmmm. there are huge amounts of hydrogen floating around in space though... What Jupiter made of?

Re:huh? (1)

njh (24312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172219)

Production of fossil carbon fuels is also not 100% efficient (in fact it is less than 1% efficient). You seem confused about the point of using hydrogen as an energy transport. The point is that there are lots of ways to produce heat and electricity, and only a few ways to connect them to your car. We want to do that without producing CO2.

Your logic would imply that we should never use any energy as no energy transformation is 100% efficient. Clearly a laughable position.

Perhaps the original poster didn't go to school, but you need to learn to avoid personal attacks.

Re:huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16178853)

Translation: the first poster is innumerate, and you're illiterate.

The point is that you can't "produce hydrogen" without using some other energy source. Right now, the possible energy sources boil down to:

1) Fossil fuels (which makes the CO2 problem you're yammering about EVEN WORSE, due to the inherent inefficiencies involved in converting the fossil fuels into hydrogen).

2) Nuclear.

That's it. Wind, solar, tidal, etc. are just elaborate hippie fantasies, and always will be. Note that as soon as one of these actually starts looking like it might be used, the hippies start screeching about them in turn.

Sorry.

Now, if you want to advocate building lots of nuclear plants to produce hydrogen, I'm 100% in agreement with you. But that still won't make hydrogen an "energy source". It's an energy storage mechanism, and not a particularly convenient one.

Dipshit.

Re:huh? (1)

njh (24312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16179909)

Dear Mr Dipshit,
Did I say that you can produce hydrogen without using another energy source. I suspect you are the same poster as the original person I replied too, with the same irrelevant person attacks and misunderstandings. Do you have to attack every person you meet? You must be very unpleasant to live with (or clinically depressed - you're displaying classic symptoms).

And there are plenty of other ways to produce hydrogen other than fission power: Given a high enough temperature it is quite practical to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen using an 'atomic sieve'. Producing a high enough temperature means a suitably large array of mirrors. You can turn water and carbon into CO and H2 (coal gas/producer gas) - this carbon can be produced from waste straw. Alternatively, you can produce hydrogen directly from the sun using algae in a low sulfur environment.

Converting fossil fuels to hydrogen is not necessarily a bad idea, as the resultant CO2 can be stored away underground (geosequestration); fuel cells are more efficient than ICEs, so if you can solve the hydrogen storage problem there will an efficiency gain too.

I think producing hydrogen is a currently an impractical way to transport energy, with all the associated difficulties with sealing, storage and safety. I'd rather transport my hydrogen on a carbon backbone.

Re:huh? (2, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171977)

Even petroleum is only "energy storage", it didn't get there by itself, but through millions of years, solar energy, and decaying plants/animals life cycle as far as we know.

But agreed, current electrolysis is too costly, perhaps high temperature steam electrolysis too. Perhaps Fusion, when it comes, will solve these problems with sheer energy production, or high-efficiency solar panels or some other thing we can't currently imagine.

But whatever the case, "never" predictions have a long time coming to be proven right or wrong - so I don't bank on them.

Re:huh? (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172425)

"It has not been and never will be an energy source."

on the contrary, Hydrogen has been the primary energy source for this planet for the last 4.5 billion years, and is likely to remain so for many years to come. The problem is that the reactor is 93 million miles away, so we only get a very small percentage of the generated energy.

Re:huh? (1)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172513)

we only get a very small percentage of the generated energy.

Oh no, we get enormous quantities of it. Far more than we could easily use. I'd say the problem is that it rains down in the form of high-energy photons which are difficult to collect and store.

Re:huh? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172639)

Regardless of the quantity that the Earth receives, it is still a miniscule fraction (9.088*10^-8% or 0.00000009088%) [hypography.com] of the energy that the sun puts out.

Re:huh? (1)

localman (111171) | more than 7 years ago | (#16174727)

You are absolutely right about the energy source / energy storage confusion. I've had a really hard time explaining that to even smart people. However, hydrogen doesn't need to be an energy source to be useful; a good energy storage & transportation medium would be a very useful thing over time. What I mean is that there is an advantage to abstracting our fuel sources; it allows us to switch out the underlying enegy gathering mechanism from the infrastructure. If we're on hydrogen already when fossil fuels run out, we can switch to another method of generation without having to retool the whole world.

I agree on your last point too, though. Biodiesel may very well be a better storage medium. Aside from the higher energy density it is far easier and safer to store and handle. I think one of it's biggest problems is that it's not sexy sounding enough for most people. They associate hydrogen with the hydrogen bomb (despite the reaction being unrelated of course) and they associate biodiesel with greenpeace and smokey oily truckers.

Perhaps if someone made a biodiesel fuel cell of sorts to power laptops... :) We'll see what happens, I suppose :)

Cheers.

Re:huh? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16176721)

All biodiesel needs is a better name. The current name evokes images of decaying vegetation and 'dirty' commercial vehicles. I propose we call it, "Energon," assuming Hasbro can be convinced to play along. It even already has the proper connotations as an energy transport system rather than an energy "source."

Re:huh? (5, Funny)

CoderDog (782544) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171825)

Suckered by a Roland Piquepaille submission, Again. Hate it when that happens.

They mentioned that the reactor operates at high temps (800 C. to 1000 C.) to avoid carbon (as soot) fouling of the reactor. So, they've either got an ash bin somewhere downstream or they sprew CO and/or CO2. The other boast was that they'd reformed ammonia (at 1000 C.) to produce hydrogen. No word on whether the waste was gaseous nitrogen or nitrous oxides. Hope it's not nitrous oxides. Denver's "brown cloud" used to be mainly nitrous oxides from car exhaust.

This looks like a really cool trick, but otherwise nearly worthless at this late date. I really don't want to run down to the gas station every couple of hours for a hydrogen recharge, and really, really dont't want a long warmup 800 C. appliance running in the house -- unless it also cooks 60 second pizzas. Additionally, the world's running out of their feedstock. If they had something that took plastic packaging, waste paper, saw dust, or the neighbors yapping little pets as an input and efficiently produced butane, propane, diesel or gasline, along with nicely segregated saleable piles of sulfur and laser printer toner, that'd be a newsworthy dazzling thing.

If it also made nutritious little green biscuits (maybe call 'em Soylent Green?) that'd be extra special.

Re:huh? (1)

Bozdune (68800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171881)

Mod this guy up. Still chuckling.

Re:huh? (2, Informative)

bloobloo (957543) | more than 7 years ago | (#16174255)

At 1000C it's likely to be nitrogen coming out. It's got to be hotter to form significant amounts of NOx.

Soylent Fuel - It's People! (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 7 years ago | (#16179747)

I believe it is possible to have a system where -- people go in, and fuel goes out. This is something I think about, and discuss with friends. Yes, they do think I'm nuts, but it makes sense. What else are we going to do with out unemployed government contractors and former human resources people? I say, to turn them into gas for my Subaru, so I can get to work.

First, you need a victim-hopper. This is where you put the people. I think you could also use, like you mentioned above: plastic, sawdust, printed pages, extra cigarette packets, too-old leftovers, farming waste, chicken processing waste -- anything you can find.

You'll need to grind everything up into a slurry -- a victim slurry. They'll hate this, but I'm sure there's some engineer out there, who can design a giant mascerator. I can imagine it large enough to handle the daily waste of a City, or other trucked-in waste, plus the populace of any conquered city, or other undesirables.

And then the refining would begin. New Jersey might be an idea place for this kinds of action to occur -- they already have refineries, and lots of 'em. 'Cause what you're talking about, is the refining of bulk material. You're going to have to react this material in some way, and collect and refine the raw materials. Since we're talking about using humans as a fuel source, I am going to suggest humans, their waste (sewage), and the waste used to feed the humans (farm and animal processing waste).

This isn't a new idea. Wikipedia has a great article on thermal depolymerization [wikipedia.org] , which describes things better than I can, but put simply, cooking stuff breaks molecules into smaller molecules.

I believe a process involving this procedure, things like fermentation and other types of biological digestion, with various types of refinement processes, would be able to produce just about any type of chemical you'd need -- gasoline (or diesel, hydrogen, etc.) included.

To put it another way:
1) grind up people into slurry
2) digest and refine raw materials
3) ...
4) profit!

Re:huh? (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171959)

As I understand it, this is not so much aimed at being the transportation fuel technology of tomorrow, but supplanting the battery in applications where longer running times or higher energy output is needed.

Re:huh? (1)

mark_osmd (812581) | more than 7 years ago | (#16175573)

Another really good point about this kind of energy source is that a fuel powered system creates just as much power at the last second before it runs out of fuel as it did when it had a full tank. With a chemical battery you have real problems using that last bit of energy because the voltage and other factors of the battery change radically as the battery is drained. So you need complicated regulation circuitry to even do it well.

Re:huh? (1)

Superpants (930409) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171999)

I agree that this is a complete waste of time. Aside from the fact that they are trying to extract hydrogen from a scarce commodity, what purpose will this hydrogen serve? I can see an application for lab use or research or maybe a theoretical fusion reaction, but it's a very inefficient application for fuel cells or any other environmentally-conscious endeavor. Maybe i'm just frothing from the mouth a bit after just seeing "who killed the electric car".

Re:huh? (3, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172021)

aren't there better things we should be trying to turn into hyrdogen?

Right now, today, we only have one, maybe two, wide-scale energy distribution systems. Its gasoline. If we can easily and cheaply make a gas station do double-duty as a hydrogran station that solves the short term problem of how to fill-up hydrogren powered cars. The expectation is that over time, as hydrogren powered cards theoretically become widespread, we can slowly build up alternate distribution system(s) to support them as we wean off of gasoline.

PS - the other "maybe" distribution system is electricity. I say "maybe" because we do a power grid, but we don't have metered charging stations nor do we have the capacity to support wide-scale automobile recharging. Yet. Start putting some nukes online and we might get there pretty quick.

Re:huh? (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172353)

PS - the other "maybe" distribution system is electricity. I say "maybe" because we do a power grid, but we don't have metered charging stations nor do we have the capacity to support wide-scale automobile recharging. Yet. Start putting some nukes online and we might get there pretty quick

It would definitely have to be nuke, or some form of efficient alternative source, because burning more coal is just a non-starter.

A big problem, though, is transmission. 5,000,000 electric cars would add a huge load to the existing wire transmission system, and I don't think that the US grid could handle that much extra load.

Re:huh? (1)

strstrep (879828) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172573)

Adding electric cars won't happen purely overnight. It will happen gradually, and the grid will expand to handle the demand.

Re:huh? (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 7 years ago | (#16176077)

It will happen gradually, and the grid will expand to handle the demand.

Power companies are very reluctant to restring thousands of miles of wire. They'd rather live with the status quo.

Re:huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16173919)

On the other hand, the situation in the US is probably irrelevant.
When we want to save the environment, it is best to leave the US alone. They don't care about the environment, and value short-term issues like "will our workers have jobs" much higher than longer-term issues like global warming. Or at least their mentally challenged president does.

When we want to save the enviroment, it is best to start in countries that care. And in countries that are still developing.
When others have developed and implemented the new way of doing things, it may be possible to get the US on board. If that is still relevant.

Re:huh? (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 7 years ago | (#16175791)

Right now, today, we only have one, maybe two, wide-scale energy distribution systems. Its gasoline. If we can easily and cheaply make a gas station do double-duty as a hydrogran station that solves the short term problem of how to fill-up hydrogren powered cars. The expectation is that over time, as hydrogren powered cards theoretically become widespread, we can slowly build up alternate distribution system(s) to support them as we wean off of gasoline.

Probably more economically viable to come up with a non petroleum source of gasoline. At least some sort of fuel which is liquid between -50 to +60 Celsius and 1 bar pressure.

PS - the other "maybe" distribution system is electricity.

You missed out piped methane...

Re:huh? - (1)

John Jamieson (890438) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172235)

What you turn into hydrogen is really not the issue.

Where you get the energy is. As long as we are still using fossil fuels, it is better to be able to put them into a fuel cell and get almost all the energy out in the form of electricity, instead of burning it in turbines and internal combustion engines where we only use around 25% of the energy converted. (the rest is mostly waste heat)

Re:huh? (1)

coolcold (805170) | more than 7 years ago | (#16173705)

I believe they are finding cheap ways to produce hydrogen first and get the population to start using hydrogen. Producing hydrogen using different resource would probabily be the next step. Besides, if they dont use up all the propane, oil etc first, how could hydrogen be cheaper?? XD

Re:huh? (1)

tacocat (527354) | more than 7 years ago | (#16175495)

This is a rather stupid concept. Take a readily available, limited, and consumable product and turn it into another consumable prodect that has limited distribution and use. The whole point in pushing this hydrogen fuel cell economy isn't so that we can continue to invade middle easter oil rich countries for sources of hydrogen instead of oil, but that we don't have such a dependency upon them.

Think how the entire Middle East history of the last 100 years would be if there was no oil there? No one would care what they did and we wouldn't really care what they did to the Sunni's, Shiites, Jews... Don't believe me, look at Darfur. No oil, no one cares.

In the long run of human history, I think we would all be much better off if there was not the intense need for the oil resources of the middle east. At least not in most of the Western Civilisation and those countries attempting to modernize themselves into an industrial or technological nation. We would really benefit if we could simply find a practical replacement to all of the above. Right now, seriously, the best contender is bio-diesel. It comes from a dozen plants that can grow in just about every climatic zone on the planet and uses less energy to produce than it provides. A sure win over Ethanol, Hydrogen, Gasoline, Diesel, Nuclear... And it's effectively GREEN because the crap you release in the air, you trapped out of the air last year, not 50 million years ago.

Re:huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16176813)

And what happens to all the carbon when its converted to hydrogen?


Its not. Thats just it, these kind of reactors still produce carbon dioxide in equal or greater amounts than traditional combustion engines. (Bring on the heat death!) However marketing executives, investors and the public are impressed by the words "fuel cell" much like internet types are impressed by buzzwords like SOAP, AJAX or "Web 2.0" It sounds cool, therefore it must be good.

Nuclear power is the most environmentally responsible energy solution, period. (Canadian technology of course, not the irresponsible Russian or American technologies).

Re:huh? (1)

ShimmyShimmy (692324) | more than 7 years ago | (#16177107)

"but half the problem is we are running out."

No, that's not half the problem at all. Or even close to it. The bulk of the problem is the lack of a better alternative. Ethanol is great in concept, but cannot be very efficiently produced in the US (it takes almost as much energy to produce it as you get out of it, etc). Solar and Wind power are very clean and cheap, but generally don't produce enough energy to power most devices (does your car look like this [www.web.ca] ?).

When you say we are running out of oil, you are thinking in very, very long term. As of now, oil is the most plentiful, cheap, and standard fuel source available. We are not running out of it anytime soon, certainly not in the next ten or twenty years. Furthermore, it is available at every gas station in the country, and there are a lot of those.

Sure, we need to break or dependence on oil, but do you have any idea how much inertia is in the petroleum-power market? There is no way you can expect the whole industry to turn around overnight. Don't go around scolding scientists for coming out with great inventions like this. Instead, you should be applauding them for coming out with ways to use this fuel source more efficiently. Yes, it is unfortunate that the vast majority of our energy consumption comes from fossil fuels, but it's still the most economical way to use energy (What if your rental car company forced you to use an ethanol fueled car, and told you that you just had to find ethanol blend gas stations around an unfamiliar town?)

Let me summarize: petroleum is unfortunately the cheapest and most plentiful fuel source available. These guys just found a way to make it work better and cleaner. Now you criticize? F*ck you.

Re:huh? (1)

freqres (638820) | more than 7 years ago | (#16178573)

This does break open the chicken-egg problem with hydrogen vehicles and a distribution system for hydrogen. If all of the currently operating gas stations can easily offer hydrogen with some kind of on-site converstion unit it creates a much better position to get people to buy hydrogen or multi-fuel vehicles. Once people have hydrogen powered vehicles on the road you just change the way hydrogen gets to the fuel stations. Right now the investment in a whole new hydrogen distribution system is probably one of the biggest obstacles to overcome.

the Roland article template (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16171651)


guess whos site come up #1 for a phrase search on "read more for additional details" [google.com]

at least on Digg he can get modded into oblivion for his pathetic spam, im just glad im not a paying subscriber here

Spam, is it? (-1, Troll)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171741)

Roland contributes to slashdot by providing links to informative news for nerds, stuff that matters, but all you have contributed is a slam on someone useful.

Good work. Go to Digg, it fits you.

Re:Spam, is it? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16171953)

This isn't news or stuff that matters, this is MORE Roland junk "Science" more spam for us, more clicks for him, more money in taco's pocket.

How much better is it? (4, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171673)

One thing I would like to hear is if you really get much better results with this and hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells than you would get with a propane-oxgen fuel cell. If it is a much larger difference than you get with reforming the propane then it is interesting - propane is easier to store and ship around.

Re:How much better is it? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171725)

> One thing I would like to hear is if you really get much better results with
> this and hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells than you would get with a propane-oxgen
> fuel cell.

Where do I get a propane-oxygen fuel cell?

Re:How much better is it? (1)

crmartin (98227) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171823)

Don't know where you'd buy one, but they certainly can be (and have been) made. My family sold propane and propane equiment when I was a kid (yes, they had fire then) and we had, as an advertising gimmick, a gas TV to go with our gas refrigerators and gas dryers. Propane fuel cell gave us 12 v DC for a small black and white TV.

(Yes, we had fire, but it was black-and-white fire --- I don't remember color TV until I was rather older.)

Re:How much better is it? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172017)

> Don't know where you'd buy one, but they certainly can be (and have been)
> made.

There are devices that are marketed as propane fuel cells, but they are actually hydrogen fuel cells with reformer front-ends to produce hydrogen from propane.

> Propane fuel cell gave us 12 v DC for a small black and white TV.

Are you sure it was a fuel cell?

> Yes, we had fire, but it was black-and-white fire --- I don't remember
> color TV until I was rather older.

Young, aren't you?

Re:How much better is it? (2, Funny)

sydsavage (453743) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172397)

My family sold propane and propane equiment when I was a kid

Bobby Hill, is that you?

Re:How much better is it? (1)

njh (24312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172239)

Here: http://www.powergeneration.siemens.com/en/fuelcell s [siemens.com] They are actually hydrocarbon-air fuel cells (or indeed a range of other suitable reductants). And they exist (I've held one in my hand).

Re:How much better is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16171995)

IIRC, a methane or propane fuel cell is a hydrogen fuel cell with a built-in converter to liberate hydrogen which it uses to generate electricity, and it generates carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and a lot of waste heat in the process of conversion.

That's a cool thing, but what about (3, Insightful)

KalElOfJorEl (998741) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171685)

Turning hydrogen into fossil fuels. Now THAT would be something to see.

Re:That's a cool thing, but what about (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171781)

Synthesizing hydrocarbons is quite straightforward. It just requires a lot of energy (and a supply of carbon and hydrogen, of course).

Re:That's a cool thing, but what about (1)

tetrahedrassface (675645) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171829)

How about turning Carbon Dioxide into hydrcarbons via solarvoltaics?

This link goes there. [europa.eu]

This link goes projects home. [europa.eu]

It also uses nanotubes, and we all know how cool they are. :)

Re:That's a cool thing, but what about (1)

tetrahedrassface (675645) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171853)

Sorry about the spelling folks...

Re:That's a cool thing, but what about (1)

o2sd (1002888) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172855)

How about turning Carbon Dioxide into hydrcarbons via solarvoltaics?

You mean, like a tree does?

Re:That's a cool thing, but what about (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172305)

Turning hydrogen into fossil fuels. Now THAT would be something to see.

They're called "plants" and "fungi." Perhaps you've heard of them? The hydrocarbon compound they produce is often refered to colloquially as "vodka."

KFG

Re:That's a cool thing, but what about (1)

modecx (130548) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172891)

Hey, that's just what we need to do. We need to engineer plants to secrete ethanol directly, so we can skip providing food for trillions of fungi. We can siphon it off just like maple syrup!

Muahaha!

Of course the damn government will have to come in and spoil our fun by requiring our vodka trees to output denatured vodka syrup.

Bastards.

Re:That's a cool thing, but what about (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16173301)

Of course the damn government will have to come in and spoil our fun by requiring our vodka trees to output denatured vodka syrup.

I fooled them, Grandma, I switched to biodiesel. For purely asthetic reasons I prefer my long hydrocarbon chains capped by an oxygen finial. The particular formulation of biodiesel I'm partial to is refered to colloquially as "Gouda." In order to assemble the long chains from the plant matter you will require a processing device known colloquially as a "cow."

KFG

Synthetic Fossil Fuels (1)

SMACX guy (1003684) | more than 7 years ago | (#16176027)

Fossil fuels in the last century reached their extreme prices because of their inherent utility: they pack a great deal of potential energy into an extremely efficient package. If we can but sidestep the 100 million year production process, we can corner this market once again.

vaporware (4, Funny)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171805)

Microreactors Change Propane into Hydrogen

Finally, a good example of vaporware. And not in the Duke Nukem Forever sense of the word.

Parent was meant as funny, not troll (1)

nonlnear (893672) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172113)

Duh. Parent even said "And not in the Duke Nukem Forever sense of the word." Mods these days.

Whatevs (4, Funny)

Y-Crate (540566) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171849)

This shit is nothing. I'm putting the finishing touches on a process that will turn diamonds into multifunction printer paper.

Let me guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16173111)

you work for haliburton?

Great (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171859)

Hank Hill can get into the Zepplin buisness now.

Feelin' Hot! Hot! Hot! (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171873)

From the article:

In their latest work, the researchers incorporated the catalyst structure within a ceramic housing, which enabled the steam reforming of propane at operating temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Celsius. Using the new ceramic housing, the researchers also demonstrated the successful decomposition of ammonia at temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Celsius. High-temperature operation is essential for peak performance in microreactors, said Kenis, who also is a researcher at the university's Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. When reforming hydrocarbons such as propane, temperatures above 800 degrees Celsius prevent the formation of soot that can foul the catalyst surface and reduce performance.

1000 degrees Celcius? Makes a Dell exploding battery look positively chilly! How are they going to remove that heat from the laptop, assuming this is where they're headed?

Re:Feelin' Hot! Hot! Hot! (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171919)

He said that we're not gonna see it in laptops for a while for a reason, man.

Re:Feelin' Hot! Hot! Hot! (1)

ScottBob (244972) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172817)

Well, maybe if it was inside a tiny thermos bottle, it wouldn't be so bad... Heck, if it was made to the same size and form factor as a vacuum tube, it would be more readily acceptable, since vacuum tubes have been with us for a long time. Think about it- The filament in a vacuum tube gets way, way hotter and nobody complains about that, because it's insulated by the vacuum inside. Besides that, people can show off the glowing innards of their micro-reactors the way they do with high end tube powered stereo amplifiers... "Oooh! Fire bottles!" And if installed in a laptop, heat removal would be through standard heatsink + fan, I suppose, because tubes don't get that hot on the outside surface. (I'm pretty sure some hack has grafted vacuum tubes into a laptop for that vintage tube warmth coming from the sound card, if not, anyone wanna try? Of course, it wouldn't run very long on batteries, you'd have to supply external power...)

Re:Feelin' Hot! Hot! Hot! (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 7 years ago | (#16175705)

Heck, if it was made to the same size and form factor as a vacuum tube, it would be more readily acceptable, since vacuum tubes have been with us for a long time. Think about it- The filament in a vacuum tube gets way, way hotter and nobody complains about that, because it's insulated by the vacuum inside.

Have you ever seen/felt vaccuum tubes in operation? You can very easily burn yourself on them. I remember old tube type televisions, and the red glow inside from the hot tubes. I've heard of people burning fingers trying to remove tubes still hot from use, though I was smart enough to never have done that myself.

It's probably to deal with byproducts of biodiesel (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171905)

and/or landfill methane. OTOH, a process that turns those into CO2 probably isn't the best, unless we have a way to convert that waste stream into something more useful. I've seen, and worked on some chemistry, for that, but not really on the scale they'd need here. I suppose we could use a varient of carbonic anhydrase to convert the carbon dioxide to carbonate anions, which could be co-precipitated with calcium to form the Great DuPont Reef of Northern Delaware, but that's a different project.

[OffTopic Rantlett] Today, we have a real science, or at least engineering, article with real applications. Yesterday we had another "oops, I waved away a couple of integrals and invented a reactionless space-drive". Take bets on which one accumulats more total responses, and is duped more frequently.

Re:It's probably to deal with byproducts of biodie (2, Informative)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172539)

I think the point is to be able to generate electricity much more efficiently. This is not a replacement for a gasoline engine in your car. It's a replacement for a laptop battery for a traveling salesman or satellite-phone battery for a USMC lieutenant in the field.

As such, it's a big win. Batteries are an environmental disaster, since they often need nasty heavy metals (e.g. lead or mercury), and they don't last very long. Furthermore, you waste a lot of transportation energy transporting around the mass of batteries in something that's supposed to be portable. Finally, the process of generating and distributing the electricity you need to use to recharge the batteries is itself not very efficient at all. Generation losses, transmission losses, the fact that you can't store the stuff easily and have to have it running all the time for the intermittent occasions you need to recharge your batteries, et cetera.

This way, you generate your electricity on the spot, very efficiently (hence fewer emissions). And you don't need a heavy battery containing noxious metals.

Re:It's probably to deal with byproducts of biodie (1)

bloobloo (957543) | more than 7 years ago | (#16174303)

This isn't the only research on the subject at the moment. From The Chemical Engineer magazine:

HUI Tong Chua, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Western Australia (UWA), believes he has cracked the problem of how to break up methane into its constituent components of hydrogen and carbon without creating carbon dioxide - which, while much less potent than methane, is still an important greenhouse gas.

The process, which is currently under consideration for the UWA "Inventor of the Year" award, could make a significant contribution to the development of a "hydrogen economy" fuelled by abundant natural gas reserves, allowing people to exploit these fossil fuels without contributing to global warming, Chua says.

"It is actually a very simple process. What is required firstly is heat - about 800 C - and a catalyst, and then you can easily convert the natural gas into hydrogen and carbon." He adds that to make the process work, he and his collaborator Lizhen Gao, a lecturer in the same mechanical engineering department, had to find a catalyst with a long lifespan and a high conversion efficiency. He claims success: "We have achieved 65% conversion efficiency rate from methane into hydrogen over five days' uninterrupted operation."

The inventors are now trying to determine whether their reactor could also be used for other forms of methane, such as biomethane from agriculture or coal seam gas, which is found in considerable concentration in many mines.

Chua and Gao recently received a grant from the Australian Research Council to build a prototype reactor to test their process, and hope to advance to pilot plant stage within two years.

Benefits. (2, Insightful)

Jartan (219704) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171937)

I think the point of turning gasoline into hydrogen would be that it would finally solve one of the biggest problems with fuel cell acceptance. The problem of where do you "fill up".

If your car has a method of efficently turning gasoline into hydrogen then a huge distrubition problem is solved. Fuel cell cars could become accepted much more easily because you wouldn't have to worry about being out of fuel. Yet in a large majority of the cases you'd never actually need to fill up at the gas station assuming you recharged your fuel cells overnight.

Of course that's assuming this is really efficent instead of just more efficent than an already unefficent process.

Re:Benefits. (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172247)

Yet in a large majority of the cases you'd never actually need to fill up at the gas station assuming you recharged your fuel cells overnight.

Fuel cells are "recharged" with. . .hydrogen, not electricity. The electricity is stored in. . .the hydrogen. When the hyrdrogen is gone, so is the electricity. That's the way it works.

If you want to recharge your electric car overnight without going to a filling station you'll need a battery. Perhaps you can use it to make it back to the filling station.

http://www.howstuffworks.com/fuel-cell.htm [howstuffworks.com]

KFG

Re:Benefits. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16173733)

He was probalby being lazy and didn't metion the car could do electrolysis when plugged in.
Or you're right and he doesn't understand fuel cells.

Re:Benefits. (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16174249)

He was probalby being lazy and didn't metion the car could do electrolysis when plugged in.

Requiring your car to be able to deal with low density gaseous hydrogen, doubling the size of the car if you want any range and obviating the whole point of having a reformer in the first place.

http://www.navc.org/storage.html [navc.org]

KFG

Yet again... (2, Insightful)

just_forget_it (947275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171951)

Making a fossil fuel "alternative" with fossil fuels.

Hydrogen and fuel cell technology as it stands today is a white elephant of epic proportions. When you convert one form of energy to another, there is always a loss of efficiency. Instead of just converting the fossil fuel to energy in the vehicle, it's converted into another form of fuel, losing efficiency.
 
You actually use MORE petroleum running a hydrogen car than an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle.

Re:Yet again... (1)

Inverted Intellect (950622) | more than 7 years ago | (#16173775)

...converted into another form of fuel, losing efficiency.
Very true. However, that doesn't neccessarily mean that the end result is less efficiency. There are other factors, such as how efficient the process of extracting power from hydrogen is (the answer to which is very, compared to good-old gasoline combustion). Efficiency = total input/usable output

Re:Yet again... (1)

Inverted Intellect (950622) | more than 7 years ago | (#16173801)

Yay, I fucked up the blockquote tag.

Re:Yet again... (1)

just_forget_it (947275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16174983)

Hmmm. I didn't think about that. The problem is though, we're still using fossil fuels. The whole point of using alternative fuels like hydrogen is to be free of them.

Re:Yet again... (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 7 years ago | (#16175819)

Yeah, I'm thinking the same.
Kind of like being stranded in the desert and making Koolaide to drink to conserve water.

Zonk and Roland... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16172223)

Zonk can't get enough of Roland's well used ass...

Information on fuel cell vehicles (4, Interesting)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172427)

Here's a paper from AC Propulsion that explains why fuel cells are the technology that never will be. The smart money got out of fuel cells years ago.

Perspectives on Fuel Cell and Battery Electric Vehicles [acpropulsion.com]

Re:Information on fuel cell vehicles (1)

donaldm (919619) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172689)

Mod this up.

The pdf "Perspectives on Fuel Cell and Battery Electric Vehicles" is quite an informative read although it was written on 2002, but a lot of what is said is still relevant today.

I think the summary says it all:

  Battery electric vehicles based on the same platform as fuel cell vehicles can have
greater range than the fuel cell version if latest battery technology is employed.

  Making hydrogen with electricity is very inefficient. Compared with battery electric
vehicles, electricity consumption will be from 3 to 6 times higher per mile.

  When hydrogen is produced from natural gas, fuel cell vehicles can, at best, only
match the fuel economy of a comparable natural gas hybrid vehicle, and will have
less than half the driving range for given tank volume and pressure.

With fuel-cells, petrol or diesel electric or just mono fuels such as [bio-]diesel, ethanol, gas or petrol there is always an energy equation that contains factors such as production, delivery, use and eventual disposal, so making a so called "green" consideration can be quite difficult. It is easy for an individual to make a choice since it depends on what they can afford and to hell with everyone else but can society afford this?

I hope I am wrong but as more and more third world countries become more mechanised we are going to see a much greater demand for fuel with its associated problems and unless something radically new is invented we as a global community are going to be in big trouble.

Re:Information on fuel cell vehicles (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16173277)

Nice article, untill it told me that 1 KG of Hydrogen weighed the same as 1 gallon of gas. 1 gallon of gas weighs 6.5 lbs, or 2.9 kg and at 45 or so miles per Kg, you could get approx. 130 miles by carrying the same weight as the equivilant amount of gas. It's just a personal bais of mine, but when i see an article lie to me i stop listening to it.

Propane is more useful than hydrogen. (1)

Jim Logajan (849124) | more than 7 years ago | (#16172549)

Propane is a nice alkane between ethane and butane whose properties are very useful in certain applications. Nothing is accomplished by converting it to hydrogen. Go pick on water or methane!

Re:Propane is more useful than hydrogen. (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16173101)

From what I am looking at, ceramic micro reactors sound a whole lot like what a Catalyst could do. Now if the folks that made this reactor could go stare at Lake Michigan and ask themselves, "How can I get Hydrogen from this lake?" Now we got a news article worth perking our ears up about. I am hoping that some pre grad student at U.I.C. does not get the memo that says you can not get hydrogen from oceans, and large lakes; And this student starts looking at some kind of algae that outputs hydrogen, and oxygen; let fractionating separate them. Then use the sun to kick start anything that needs starting. This is not a trivial task, but worthy of any chemical engineer worth their 'salt'.

Fuel cells are not the answer! (3, Insightful)

bradbury (33372) | more than 7 years ago | (#16173331)

People in developed countries have largely been duped by the so called "green" arguments that hydrogen (and indirectly fuel cells) are the solution to their energy problems. This is because you combine hydrogen with oxygen and get nonpolluting water (thus no CO2 and no CO). If done in a fuel cell the secondary reactions with N2 are avoided and thus no NO. This means no pollution. But existing automobiles through the proper management of the air fuel mixture (computer controlled fuel injection) and catalytic converters have minimized the NO problem.

You have to separate the problem of the energy carrier from the energy source. All current existing methods to make hydrogen available start with upstream in-the-ground based energy sources (methane, propane, gasoline, etc.) and involve dumping the CO2 that results from extracting the hydrogen into the atmosphere. So long as the hydrocarbon (or carbon) source is coming out of the ground you have only solved the NO pollution problem -- you haven't solved the CO2 part of the global warming problem. I.e. you have not produced a sustainable solution.

The only sustainable solutions involve producing hydrocarbon carriers using carbon extracted from the atmosphere -- that currently means biodiesel, bioethanol or biomethane. Propane, methane and gasoline in our current economy are energy carriers produced using solar energy harvested in ancient times. Until one switches to an economy based on energy harvested or created in real time one has an unsustainable reality. That means one has to be harvesting solar energy (incident visible or IR energy, wind or hydroelectric) or nuclear energy (in the long term using breeder reactors or fusion). The bio-carrier sources are inefficient (harvesting 1-2% of incident solar energy) but there is a large installed infrastructure designed to produce them. As whole genome engineering and/or mass production of inexpensive photovoltaic cells increase the solar energy harvesting efficiencies it will become completely feasible to migrate from a "steal from the past" to a "harvest the present" sustainable economic framework. It would help if people could keep this straight in their minds (and if people in leadership and press positions would not mislead or misdirect where the emphasis should be placed).

So I agree with comments that better reformers are not particularly worthy of attention. A more efficient catalytic system for splitting water (compared with photosynthetic efficiencies) would be worth getting excited about.

Of course I'm waiting for the day when our fusion reactors are powering the breeding of Gd-148 which in turn is used to power the nanorobots and/or replicators which will sustain our economy. But we are probably a several decades away from that at this time.

Re:Fuel cells are not the answer! (2, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#16177073)

All current existing methods to make hydrogen available start with upstream in-the-ground based energy sources (methane, propane, gasoline, etc.) and involve dumping the CO2 that results from extracting the hydrogen into the atmosphere.

I think the issues that should be discussed is how terribly ineffecient such conversions are, plus the ineffeciencies in the fuel cells, etc. It would be far more effecient to burn the propane/gasoline in a power plant, and charge a battery-powered car from the grid, and batteries are improving more quickly than fuel cells...

Already got one of those (1)

Gaima (174551) | more than 7 years ago | (#16173491)

Does the conversion to useful energy without any intermediate step of a fuel cell too.
It's otherwise known as the petrol engine in my car. LPG [wikipedia.org]

I didn't see any mention of efficiency in TFA, apart from it being "very efficient". I do however recall something about how much more efficient an internal combustion engine would be if made from ceramic, and allowed to run at much higher temperatures.

petroleum to hydrogen (1)

howard_coward (735813) | more than 7 years ago | (#16175359)

Bad news, folks. This is a standard PR release to hype up the chemists results. Thr problem with this work is simply that it has to be carried out at 500 to 1000 degrees. Do you really want to power your PDA with that? And besides: the conversion of propane etc to H2 and C is endothermic at 25 deg. This accounts for the 1000 deg microreactor.
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