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Old 08-02-2008, 12:56 PM   #21
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Samclem, I agree, that is what I would like to see. You do see papers with the sort of analysis that you suggest at technical conferences, etc. Unfortunately you don't see that sort of substance in the popular media very often. In defense of the jounalists I suspect that it is a difficult thing to sell to the public.

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Old 08-02-2008, 01:39 PM   #22
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Generally when clearly articulated facts are not in evidence, it means that the facts arent very good and dont contribute well to the general urgency to get everyone excited about something.

Looks to me like the big plus with this is cheap catalysts on the electrolysis side of things. IIRC the energy available from the resulting hydrogen has historically been about half of the energy cost to separate it from water. Still leaves me the question about why we dont just capture the electricity from the solar panel into a battery and skip a couple of levels of efficiency loss.
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Old 08-02-2008, 02:07 PM   #23
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I am a chemical engineer and I cannot figure out what this new advance does from the press release.

I agree with cfb on batteries.
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Old 08-02-2008, 02:11 PM   #24
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It seems like the tech writers would go at least this far in their articles.
No. They know their audience.
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Old 08-02-2008, 02:16 PM   #25
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Still leaves me the question about why we dont just capture the electricity from the solar panel into a battery and skip a couple of levels of efficiency loss.
The implication is that Joe Homeowner can store more energy more easily and efficiently in his garage hydrogen tank than in his electric car's batteries. But they haven't told us explicitly that this is true.

If it is true, perhaps Joe could drive 400 miles in his $750,000 hydrogen fuel car instead of only 60 miles in his electric car.
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Old 08-02-2008, 02:37 PM   #26
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Looks to me like the big plus with this is cheap catalysts on the electrolysis side of things. IIRC the energy available from the resulting hydrogen has historically been about half of the energy cost to separate it from water. Still leaves me the question about why we dont just capture the electricity from the solar panel into a battery and skip a couple of levels of efficiency loss.
Yes, I agree, a solar cell battery system is currently a more efficient way to do this. Improving the oxygen reaction efficiency makes it a closer competition and although I can't give you the actual numbers I'm pretty sure that the conventional solar cell/battery will still have an advantage.

I think that perhaps the more important point is that there are many other industrial applications many of which the public doesn't know about where this could improve efficiency and save millions of $ in energy costs long before the so-called "hydrogen economy" comes into existence, if indeed it ever comes into existence.

But a story suggesting that maybe, just maybe, in the future, we will use this to run our cars or heat our homes and perhaps give some relief on energy costs and reduce oil imports sells a lot better than one saying some chemical company is going to save $/year in energy costs starting a year or two from now because they now have a better catalyst.

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Old 08-02-2008, 02:50 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by cute fuzzy bunny View Post
Generally when clearly articulated facts are not in evidence, it means that the facts arent very good and dont contribute well to the general urgency to get everyone excited about something.

Looks to me like the big plus with this is cheap catalysts on the electrolysis side of things. IIRC the energy available from the resulting hydrogen has historically been about half of the energy cost to separate it from water. Still leaves me the question about why we dont just capture the electricity from the solar panel into a battery and skip a couple of levels of efficiency loss.
I agree about the lack of facts being annoying. However, in one of the articles I skimmed they made a point of saying that this new process was specifically more efficient than storing in batteries as far as dark-time usage was concerned. So I think the point of the discovery, completely missed by most talking heads, was for more efficient release of energy when the sun don't shine.
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Old 08-02-2008, 03:00 PM   #28
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Sure. But then you have to compress the hydrogen into a tank and pay for the electricity to run the compressor out of your efficiency (unless we all have a zeppelin in our back yards), and your equipment tally is now a solar array, an electrolysis machine, a hydrogen compressor, and something to burn the hydrogen and turn it into electricity or mechanical energy.

I could be way off, but that sounds like 40-50k worth of equipment after it hits volume production discount level. If you went to direct burn, add a new furnace, air conditioner, car, etc to the equation. A lot of those things carry 5-20 year average service lives...so a long adoption curve.

Maybe more reasonable to do this commercially where you'd have a few football fields worth of solar panels, a big separator, some humongous high pressure tanks and a generator that runs on hydrogen and feeds the power grid.

Still thinking there'd be some hard looks at the gas compression and storage costs and the generator costs vs batteries.
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Old 08-02-2008, 03:04 PM   #29
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I am a chemical engineer and I cannot figure out what this new advance does from the press release.

I agree with cfb on batteries.

Ed, I'm also a ChE and I've done a lot of work in the area of batteries, fuel cells, energy storage and conversion and electrochemistry.

A couple of mundane applications for a better oxygen catalyst that come to mind follow. I'm sure that there are others.

- Zinc/air batteries are used in hearing aids. A better catalyst for the air/oxygen electrode may enable lower cost and/or higher power and/or smaller zinc/air batteries. There are also several other types of metal/air batteries most of which have not advanced to commercialization, partially because of the oxygen electrode probems, that this could help improve.

- Adiponitrile, which is a precursor to nylon, is made by an electrosynthesis reduction reaction. I'm not sure about the oxidation reaction so I could be all wrong on this but the most obvious is oxygen evolution. If that is the case then a better oxygen catalyst should reduce energy costs for the nylon manufacturers.

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Old 08-02-2008, 03:11 PM   #30
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MB may be able to help me here.

Only skimming the article, not knowledgeable about catalysts, I thought they were talking about directly getting hydrogen from sunlight, not by electrolysis. Yes?

If so, hydrogen gas can be accumulated and stored with higher energy density than the best battery technology so far, i.e. Lithium Ion. Yes?

I'd think plain photovoltaic panels for the forseable future will remain the only feasible home scale solar source. Other technologies appear to be more amenable for massive industrial plants to be economically feasible. Yes?
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Old 08-02-2008, 03:25 PM   #31
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I could be way off, but that sounds like 40-50k worth of equipment after it hits volume production discount level. .
No, no, no. You're costs are probably a couple of orders of magnitude to low. We're talking real man size equipment here. Not that little itty-bitty stuff that you guys use to make those computer chips. After all what sort of real man wants to spend his career making things smaller

Of course you did ER so maybe it wasn't a bad choice

But seriously there was a study that suggested (I was always a little sceptical myself of the results) that for really large quantities of energy over very large distances that it was cheaper to move it as hydrogen rather than electrical power. But I think that the key was really large quantities and long distances. You needed to get to the scale of the Alaska pipeline before it made any sense.

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Old 08-02-2008, 03:26 PM   #32
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I'm not mb but I think I can help.

They're using the solar to power an electrolysis process to separate hydrogen from water. Solar as opposed to plugging something into the wall.

Sunlight has no hydrogen in it.

All they've done here is come up with something better and more efficient to do the water separation. Traditionally that was done with lots of platinum. This uses cheaper materials.
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Old 08-02-2008, 03:28 PM   #33
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No, no, no. You're costs are probably a couple of orders of magnitude to low. We're talking real man size equipment here. Not that little itty-bitty stuff that you guys use to make those computer chips. After all what sort of real man wants to spend his career making things smaller
Heyyy...dont make me come over there!

Its definitely an order of magnitude too low...we already read about the guy that spent $500k on it. I was thinking more in line with when you could go buy the system from sears.

I wonder if you'd have to have a "pool guy" come over and mix all the chemicals into the water that the hydrogen is extracted from...
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Old 08-02-2008, 03:36 PM   #34
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I'm not mb but I think I can help.

They're using the solar to power an electrolysis process to separate hydrogen from water. Solar as opposed to plugging something into the wall.

Sunlight has no hydrogen in it.

All they've done here is come up with something better and more efficient to do the water separation. Traditionally that was done with lots of platinum. This uses cheaper materials.
Hey, I am not a chemist, but I am not stupid. I may use the wrong words or not phrasing my questions correctly.

By electrolysis, I meant two electrodes in a solution with a current passing through it, you know, like high school stuff.

What I meant is this new process is not the same as using PV panels to get electricity, then using this electric power in the aforementioned elementary electrolysis.

Who said sun ray carries hydrogen in it?

Come on CFB, I was only teasing you about bacon. Don't be too sensitive, man.
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Old 08-02-2008, 03:45 PM   #35
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I am not stupid.
Good to have that cleared up

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By electrolysis, I meant two electrodes in a solution with a current passing through it, you know, like high school stuff.
Thats exactly what this is. Two electrodes in a bucket of water.

From the article:

"In his experimental system, Nocera immerses an indium tin oxide electrode in water mixed with cobalt and potassium phosphate. He applies a voltage to the electrode, and cobalt, potassium, and phosphate accumulate on the electrode, forming the catalyst. The catalyst oxidizes the water to form oxygen gas and free hydrogen ions. At another electrode, this one coated with a platinum catalyst, hydrogen ions form hydrogen gas."


Quote:
Who said sun ray carries hydrogen in it?
This?

Quote:
"I thought they were talking about directly getting hydrogen from sunlight"
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Come on CFB, I was only teasing you about bacon. Don't be too sensitive, man.
Bacon? Sensitive? :confused:
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Old 08-02-2008, 03:53 PM   #36
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I stopped reading after this sentence.

"Nocera's advance represents a key discovery in an effort by many chemical research groups to create artificial photosynthesis--mimicking how plants use sunlight to split water to make usable energy."

No electrodes there.

Did not see his electrode thinggy mentioned afterwards. So, I guess I do not know what this is all about. Some mumbo jumbo like cold fusion?

About sunray carrying hydrogen, I guess I have to be more careful with my wording, but it was all my fault.
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Old 08-02-2008, 03:54 PM   #37
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Did not see his electrode thinggy
You should have offered him some lite beer.
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Old 08-02-2008, 04:40 PM   #38
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Old 08-02-2008, 09:45 PM   #39
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A hydrogen fuel cell has a theoretical voltage of 1.2V but usually operates at about 0.8V. That means a third of the energy is lost because of inefficiencies and a lot of that is because of the inefficiencies of the oxygen reaction.
Isn't the energy output proportional to the square of the voltage? So a loss of 1/3 of the output voltage would lead to a loss of 56% of the energy. Even a small increase in output voltage, say 0.1V, would reduce the energy loss to 44%. So an increase in output voltage of 12% would lead to an energy increase of 27% (56/44).
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Old 08-02-2008, 10:45 PM   #40
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Isn't the energy output proportional to the square of the voltage? So a loss of 1/3 of the output voltage would lead to a loss of 56% of the energy. Even a small increase in output voltage, say 0.1V, would reduce the energy loss to 44%. So an increase in output voltage of 12% would lead to an energy increase of 27% (56/44).
No, the V squared relationship is only for a capacitor, where: E = CV^2 / 2.

For a battery or fuel cell you have to go a step backwards to E = integral VI dt, and then integrate over the voltage-current curve which is different for each different chemistry.

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