Free energy breakthrough

jfh

perpetual student
Joined
Dec 3, 2007
Location
Texas, USA
(NaturalNews) A team of scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder, have achieved what appears to be the "holy grail" of water splitting technology for the production and storage of clean, abundant energy. Because sunlight is free, I'm calling this "free energy."

To understand this breakthrough, it's important to first understand why solar power has so many limitations. Solar is great when the sun is shining, but storing solar power require the deployment of a large array of heavy, expensive and toxic electrical storage devices known as "deep cycle batteries." To put it in street terms, deep cycle battery technology sucks. The batteries suck, the chemicals suck, the weight sucks and the cost sucks. There is absolutely nothing to like about batteries unless you enjoy hulking around with heavy, useless objects.

So the "holy grail" of solar power has always been finding a way to store solar energy that's portable, dense and relatively lightweight. Until now, that discovery has been elusive.

But now a team of scientists in Boulder, Colorado say they have come up with "a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to efficiently split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel."

Sunlight, mirrors and a reaction chamber

The system works by exploiting a large array of ground mirrors to focus sunlight onto a tall reaction tower. There, the intense heat (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit) powers a reaction chamber containing metal oxides. The heat drives oxygen atoms off the metal oxides, causing them to "soak up" the oxygen from steam vapor introduced into the chamber. Steam vapor is, of course, made of water (H2O), so stealing the oxygen atoms from water leaves hydrogen gas that can then be collected.

In effect, the tower uses sunlight to split water into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. The hydrogen gas is then collected, purified and pumped into high-pressure hydrogen containers which, pound for pound, are extremely dense "batteries" of energy that far out-perform chemical batteries.

Better yet, hydrogen gas then holds all this energy with 100% efficiency, losing no potential whatsoever, even if stored for decades. From an environmental perspective, hydrogen is also a super clean-burning fuel, producing no carbon dioxide emissions or particulate matter. (The reason hydrogen does not produce CO2 when combusted is because it does not contain carbon, obviously. CO2 production requires a carbon-based source of fuel such as hydrocarbons -- coal, gasoline, diesel, etc.)

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the 4% of the universe we've so far discovered

Scientists like to say that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. But since 96% of the known universe is actually a mysteries unidentified "dark matter" that cannot be seen or touched, this is really just a guess. There may, in fact, be a "dark hydrogen" equivalent that is far more abundant than the hydrogen we know.

Nevertheless, in terms of the stuff we can see, feel, touch and produce, hydrogen is incredibly clean and readily abundant. Planet Earth, being a "water planet" with abundant water sloshing around, has a massive supply of hydrogen fuel locked up as water molecules. If solar energy can be efficiently used to split H2O into clean hydrogen fuel, then we finally have a realistic pathway for transitioning away from the fossil fuel economy and toward a hydrogen fuel economy.

This sunlight-powered water splitting tower could be the miracle breakthrough the world needs to end its hydrocarbon addiction. It could also turn northwest Mexico into an energy production hub, as the best places to build these hydrogen production towers would be in dry, cloudless deserts that are near a source of ocean water. The Mexican lands surrounding the Gulf of California would be ideal for such projects.

Burning hydrogen is child's play; fusion reactors are the far better way to go

Despite all the promise of splitting water and burning the hydrogen as fuel, I think it's worth noting that burning hydrogen gas is a stupid way to turn hydrogen into fuel. The far smarter use of hydrogen is to use it as a fuel in fusion reactors that produce "gobs" of electricity if I may humor you with yet more street slang.

Theoretically, hydrogen isolates extracted from seawater through the use of simple chemical separation techniques can be used as a fuel in hydrogen fusion reactors. In a fusion reactor hydrogen mass is turned into energy according Einstein's famous equation E=MC2.

Via mass-to-energy conversion, a very small amount of hydrogen can produce many orders of magnitude more energy than burning the same hydrogen (which is only a chemical reaction, not a nuclear reaction). I don't know exactly how many orders of magnitude more energy we're talking about here, but I'm guessing somewhere in the range of 9 - 10 (and I welcome anyone who has the actual answer to let us know so we can update it here). Nine orders of magnitude is a billion times more energy.

To get an idea of how much energy hydrogen can produce, you've probably heard the term "hydrogen bomb." This is a bomb constructed to turn hydrogen (and special isotopes) into pure energy in order to cause maximum tactical destruction.

Ultimately, the energy goals of human civilization should include finding ways to run hot fusion reactors that produce excess energy. Until that day comes, burning hydrogen fuel is at least a cleaner chemical reaction than burning hydrocarbons. And solar-powered water splitting technologies may be the key to making hydrogen production cheap and abundant.

Oh, and don't worry about running out of hydrogen. When you "burn" it, it reacts with oxygen in the air to form water, the byproduct of hydrogen combustion. Hydrogen isn't destroyed in the process, so you never run out. As long as the sun keeps shining, you'll always have abundant hydrogen energy here on Earth, as hydrogen is merely the "carrier" of the energy, not a consumable fuel itself like oil.
 

Solstice Goat

Frater Aegagrus
Joined
Aug 7, 2012
Location
Seattle, WA
I guess provided the equipment to do it is free and the maintenance, storage, and generators that burn the hydrogen are free, then yes, it's a free source of energy. :mrgreen:
 

Mad Scientest

New member
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Apr 11, 2006
Location
Illinois
[FONT=&quot]One of the big problems with hydrogen, aside from how to produce it economically, is how to store it. Stuffing it into high pressure cylinders for use at a latter time requires a lot of energy. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The ideal solution would be find away to produce it on demand as needed. [/FONT]
 

BigAl

New member
Joined
Mar 6, 2009
I have not been keeping up with the latest developments but at one time hydrogen was considered difficult to store and transport because under pressure it would seep through the walls of the container and thus escape. I hope this problem has been solved.
 

liverock

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Jul 18, 2008
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Out of sight
[FONT=&quot]One of the big problems with hydrogen, aside from how to produce it economically, is how to store it. Stuffing it into high pressure cylinders for use at a latter time requires a lot of energy. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The ideal solution would be find away to produce it on demand as needed. [/FONT]
Years ago the British Government had a bright idea to overcome the problem of producing hydrogen on demand for use in their weather stations, which required hydrogen for their weather ballons, as shipping in the heavy hydrogen cylinders was very expensive.

John Brown Shipyards in Glasgow used to make a fairly small piece of plant which was installed in Navy submarines, to seperate the Oxygen out of water( the O out of H2O) to provide oxygen when the subs were submerged.

The logic was why not have each weather station have one of these plants to take out the H2 (instead of the O) out of water for their weather ballons.

Unfortunately, while these plants worked very well at extracting oxygen they were useless at extracting hydrogen instead and the plants ended up as seized up rusty wrecks and wasted millions of ££££££'s.:roll:


The principle of using sunlight to seperate H2 from water is not really a new breakthrough. A British company has been using this technology for research since 2004 using special elecric cells as a power source.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3536156.stm#map

.
 

jfh

perpetual student
Joined
Dec 3, 2007
Location
Texas, USA
Original Poster
Some breakthrough must have happened, because California has been building hydrogen fuel stations for cars for a few years. I don't know how the fuel cell is built, but I heard it is stored in something like lava rocks that have little holes throughout.
 

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