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Study: Energy self-sufficiency is closer

 
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 9:19 pm    Post subject: Study: Energy self-sufficiency is closer Reply with quote

http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2010/08/23/Study-Energy-self-sufficiency-is-closer/UPI-19241282609051/

Quote:
BOSTON, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've made a discovery that could bring the era of energy self-sufficient homes and small businesses one step closer.

Scientists at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society have reported the discovery of a powerful catalyst that would be a key element in inexpensive solar energy systems that could free homes and businesses from dependence on the electric company, a society release said Monday.

"Our goal is to make each home its own power station," study leader Daniel Nocera said. "We're working toward development of 'personalized' energy units that can be manufactured, distributed and installed inexpensively.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Related...

200-fold boost in fuel cell efficiency advances “personalized energy systems”

Quote:
Nocera’s report focused on the electrolyzer, which needs catalysts — materials that jump start chemical reactions like the ones that break water up into hydrogen and oxygen. He is with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. Good catalysts already are available for the part of the electrolyzer that produces hydrogen. Lacking, however, have been inexpensive, long-lasting catalysts for the production of oxygen. The new catalyst fills that gap and boosts oxygen production by 200-fold. It eliminates the need for expensive platinum catalysts and potentially toxic chemicals used in making them.

The new catalyst has been licensed to Sun Catalytix, which envisions developing safe, super-efficient versions of the electrolyzer, suitable for homes and small businesses, within two years.






http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_ARTICLEMAIN&node_id=222&content_id=CNBP_025400&use_sec=true&sec_url_var=region1&__uuid=df878d4b-b6c8-413b-b0d5-645a149759a7
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jabailo



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Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Artificial photosynthesis could power your house, even if it's not green (video)


http://www.engadget.com/2010/03/05/artificial-photosynthesis-could-power-your-house-even-if-its-n/

Quote:
It's a sad state of affairs: your lawn is better at converting the sun into energy than that $23k solar array your neighbors just threw on their roof. Sun Catalytix wants to show that grass what's what with a new process for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen -- artificial photosynthesis. In a presentation at the ARPA-E conference (the Advanced Research Projects Agency -- basically DARPA minus the military bent) Sun Catalytix founder Dan Nocera indicates that the process his company is developing could, with a photovoltaic array, four hours of sunlight, and a bottle of water, generate 30 kilowatt-hours of electricity.
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 1:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm confused by the results that you mention...


Quote:
...Good catalysts already are available for the part of the electrolyzer that produces hydrogen. Lacking, however, have been inexpensive, long-lasting catalysts for the production of oxygen. The new catalyst fills that gap and boosts oxygen production by 200-fold...


Why is it necessary to catalyze oxygen? Isn't there plenty of it
in the atmosphere? Isn't the hydrogen the only thing we're after?
On first glance, and after looking at the article and such, a 200 fold
boost in oxygen catalysis efficiency doesn't seem very significant,
at least with regard to energy production. Maybe it would be good for
making an air cleaner...

I'm happy for you to correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like the
author should have gone a little deeper to tell us why this result
is significant.
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

brian-hansen wrote:
Why is it necessary to catalyze oxygen? ...Isn't the hydrogen the only thing we're after?


Yes, it's very confusing, and unfortunately, the "science press" seems to just reprint the same (thin) explanation over and over.

As I understand, what is different with Nocera is that he uses ordinary water rather some some kind of "drugged solution". Part of the process is liberating the H from H20, but if too much O stays in the water (as an ion, I imagine) the H2 process becomes more and more inefficient.

So his work involved producing an effective oxygen catalyst to remove the O as 02 gas while at the same time producing the H2.

Faster Catalysts Improve Hydrogen Generation
http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/26095/

Quote:

Whereas the catalysts used in commercial electrolyzers require acidic or highly alkaline solutions Nocera's can function in ordinary neutral water. Nocera says the catalysts can even work with water taken directly from rivers or the ocean, making them more consumer friendly and practical for small applications. He envisions a small $30 electrolyzer being linked to solar panels and a fuel cell or generator in parts of poor countries where there's no access to the electrical grid. In such settings, he says, the ability to use local water from rivers or the ocean would be a particular advantage, since pure water might be unavailable.

[...]

Water-splitting reactions involve depositing separate catalysts on two electrodes. One catalyst facilitates hydrogen production; the other facilitates oxygen production, the most challenging part of the process and the one that limits its rate. Nocera first announced new oxygen-producing catalysts in 2008, but they didn't work very fast. Now, he says, they generate oxygen 200 times faster. The key is that his system now deposits the catalyst on a porous electrode, increasing the amount of catalyst in a given area. But the speed must increase 10 times to equal rates seen in commercial electrolyzers.
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jabailo wrote:
... he uses ordinary water rather some some kind of "drugged solution". Part of the process is liberating the H from H20, but if too much O stays in the water (as an ion, I imagine) the H2 process becomes more and more inefficient.

So his work involved producing an effective oxygen catalyst to remove the O as 02 gas while at the same time producing the H2.


No offense, but it seems to me that you are just guessing.

Most claims I've seen along these lines say that the catalyst itself is
cheaper, less toxic, lasts longer, is more efficient at generating
Hydrogen, etc. , and don't make claims about the quality
of the water that is required.

Moreover, if the increased efficiency of Oxygen catalysis increased
the efficiency of the Hydrogen extraction, then I think that this claim
would have been made, but I have not seen such. For instance, if
normal catalysis processes only stripped one hydrogen from water,
and his allows two hydrogen atoms to be stripped, he would have
claimed as such -- something like a doubling of efficiency.

Looking more closely, I now see that the 200 fold improvement is
based on comparison with his own (earlier) attempt, not upon
whatever standard , or competition, there might be from other
technologies. It would not be surprising to see him getting a 200-fold
improvement, but that this still does not equal existing
technologies because he does not compare his approach to others
with regard to oxygen catalysis. It would not be hard to get a 200-fold
improvement because his first pass was not "tuned" to extract Oxygen.

If I were inclined to put the most hostile interpretation on this article,
I might compare it to the fact that my new spreadsheet program
plays checkers 200 times better than my old one. It is unclear that
my program plays better than others, and, meanwhile, it is unclear
whether playing checkers well is of any value to spreadsheet users.

He certainly seems enthusiastic from his video, but he doesn't seem
to make his case. We can use Hydrogen "batteries" instead of
electrical ones, but have we gotten any more efficient? And what
about all the other problems associated with the use of hydrogen
(like, to mention one, the cost of compression so as to be able to
fit it in reasonable volumes)?

To not have these questions addressed, or even acknowledged makes
me feel like I'm being spun.
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

<b>India's Tata invests in MIT spin-off Sun Catalytix</b>

http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20018870-54.html

Quote:
Nocera's research has focused on designing a catalyst made of inexpensive materials to break off hydrogen from water. Sun Catalytix envisions distributed energy where hydrogen is created by splitting water at people's homes and fed into fuel cells to make electricity
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 07, 2010 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

brian-hansen wrote:

Most claims I've seen along these lines say that the catalyst itself is
cheaper, less toxic, lasts longer, is more efficient at generating
Hydrogen, etc. , and don't make claims about the quality
of the water that is required.


That's not true at all. The people working with the newer non-platinum catalysts are all saying they can work with seawater, or sewer water..

brian-hansen wrote:
For instance, if
normal catalysis processes only stripped one hydrogen from water,
and his allows two hydrogen atoms to be stripped, he would have
claimed as such -- something like a doubling of efficiency.


There is the water. H2 must be stripped from the water. But that leaves an 0 molecule. What Nocera does is remove the 0 molecule from the remaining solution. I thought that was made clear.

brian-hansen wrote:

We can use Hydrogen "batteries" instead of
electrical ones, but have we gotten any more efficient? And what
about all the other problems associated with the use of hydrogen
(like, to mention one, the cost of compression so as to be able to
fit it in reasonable volumes)?


A battery is a reuseable back and forth chemical reaction. Chemical batteries are a 19th century technology that has languished for a century and despite the current spin, they are highly inefficient, and take a long time to charge.

Compression.

Air Products Makes Compression-less Retail Hydrogen Fueling Station a Reality

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/air-products-makes-compression-less-retail-hydrogen-fueling-station-a-reality-103306659.html
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jabailo wrote:
brian-hansen wrote:

Most claims I've seen along these lines say that the catalyst itself is
cheaper, less toxic, lasts longer, is more efficient at generating
Hydrogen, etc. , and don't make claims about the quality
of the water that is required.


That's not true at all. The people working with the newer non-platinum catalysts are all saying they can work with seawater, or sewer water..

Maybe it's just a quibble, and doesn't reflect well on how up-to-date
I've kept on the subject, but the statement I made *is* true. It probably
reflects the idea that earlier claims required specialized input
conditions without mentioning it.

jabailo wrote:

brian-hansen wrote:
For instance, if
normal catalysis processes only stripped one hydrogen from water,
and his allows two hydrogen atoms to be stripped, he would have
claimed as such -- something like a doubling of efficiency.


There is the water. H2 must be stripped from the water. But that leaves an 0 molecule. What Nocera does is remove the 0 molecule from the remaining solution. I thought that was made clear.

I think that this whole area is pretty unclear, even before I dipped my toe in.
If you strip the hydrogen atoms from water, then all that is left is oxygen.
There is no need to strip anything from anything else. Since you
are talking about dirty water, I guess that this means you can strip
out the O part and be left with just the "dirt". While I can easily imagine
that this makes it possible to make cleaner output water, it is totally
unclear how it improves the efficiency of hydrogen extraction. And,
meanwhile, I see no claims along these lines. I'm left to believe that
improving the efficiency of oxygen stripping does not improve the
efficiency of hydrogen stripping, because if it did, the author would
have claimed such, since hydrogen stripping is the goal of his technology.


jabailo wrote:

brian-hansen wrote:

We can use Hydrogen "batteries" instead of
electrical ones, but have we gotten any more efficient? And what
about all the other problems associated with the use of hydrogen
(like, to mention one, the cost of compression so as to be able to
fit it in reasonable volumes)?


A battery is a reuseable back and forth chemical reaction. Chemical batteries are a 19th century technology that has languished for a century and despite the current spin, they are highly inefficient, and take a long time to charge.

The author is describing using hydrogen *as* analogous to saving
electrons, in a battery, which, incidentally, is consistent with your
definition. Extract hydrogen during the day (other approaches would
extract electrons), store them (as in a "battery") for later use.
A technology that stores hydrogen for later use would be properly
called a battery, in my estimation.

jabailo wrote:


Compression.

Air Products Makes Compression-less Retail Hydrogen Fueling Station a Reality

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/air-products-makes-compression-less-retail-hydrogen-fueling-station-a-reality-103306659.html

It is nice that this technology might make distributing compressed
hydrogen easier or safer, but it does not remove the need to compress
it in the first place, nor does it claim to improve the efficiency of
compressing it. Compression cost seems to remain as a drag
on using hydrogen as a medium for storing energy.
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 07, 2010 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

brian-hansen wrote:

If you strip the hydrogen atoms from water, then all that is left is oxygen.


No. What is left is an oxygen ion in the remaining water solution.

Those ions have to be extracted, combining them to form 02 gas, the typical form of oxygen.

brian-hansen wrote:

A technology that stores hydrogen for later use would be properly
called a battery, in my estimation.


So is a gas station pump, "a battery" ?
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2010 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jabailo wrote:
So is a gas station pump, "a battery" ?


I might be guilty of speaking loosely. Nocera describes what seems
like a pretty complete *system* for hydrogen-based power. His focus
seems to be in the generation of hydrogen atoms, using sunlight to
help split them from water molecules. He describes the storage of
the hydrogen. The clear implication is that one will not always have
a use for the generated hydrogen at the exact time that it is generated.

He uses the possibility of the storage of this generated hydrogen as
a reason to value the results of his research more highly. After all,
since it can be stored, then it need not be wasted when there is more
production than need. Finally, in such a system there will be a distribution,
or use of the generated and stored hydrogen fuel.
Naturally, Nocera doesn't have so much to say about this part of the
system.

So, I don't think of a gas pump as a battery, but rather the distribution
technology of a fuel system. Gas pumps are associated with gas stations,
which serve multiple customers instead of just one. This in another
way that thinking of a gas pump as a battery would be problematical.
One does not generally have gas pumps built only on the outskirts
of refineries, so gas is necessarily distributed to gas stations, rather
than generated (pumped and refined) on-site. This is another
difference.

If you had your own oil well, and your own refinery, and it worked
on solar (or even wind) power, say, then you would want to run your
refinery at a high capacity while the sun shone (or the wind blew),
and at least temporarily store the fuel you produced. If you did not
distribute your gas to others, or ship it elsewhere, then I think you
wouldn't be far off to think that you were storing that gas in a "battery"
(in this case a storage tank). The concept applies widely: you could
also think of it as a "capacitor" or a "buffer".

I'm a bit at a loss, since I am trying to understand why you ask the
question you do. A gas pump at a gas station is not a battery, though
I guess, as an exercise, I've found a way you could get to that view.
Namely, add generation on-site with no transport, limit to a single
customer, have a mismatch between production rates and use rates,
and throw in the odd bit of metonymy (the part - the pump - standing
for the whole - the station). Then note that the whole -the station-
requires the tank.

Frankly these last bits are tortured reasoning, and the first part is so
elementary, that I wonder how you could arrive at the question you do.

The implication of the question is that you might have caught me in
a philosophical contradiction. I think I've shown the difference
between the 2 answers (yes versus no). A yes answer requires
ignoring elementary everyday understanding regarding transportation
and distribution, and requires 2 rather tortuous reasoning steps.

A gas station pump, therefore is not a battery. The tank he describes
for saving hydrogen for later use *is*.
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