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OfflineCatalysis
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Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way
    #4032765 - 04/09/05 12:39 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

The most interesting part is that hydrogen fueled cars have been calculated to operate at 29% fuel efficiency (after processing H2 from fuels) while hybrid cars are already at 32%...looks like true H2 power is not all its hyped up to be. However, they have some interesting ideas..

http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2005/04/barnett.html


New Fuel Cell Drives Around Hydrogen Roadblocks

By Megan Fellman

As gasoline prices climb ever higher and the U.S. Senate backs oil drilling in Alaska?s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the possibility of a hydrogen economy -- where drivers tank up on clean-burning hydrogen fuel -- gleams more brightly. But two Northwestern University engineers stress the need to get more out of the fuel we are already using.

?A hydrogen economy is not a perfectly clean system,? said Scott A. Barnett, professor of materials science and engineering. ?You have to process fossil fuels at a plant to produce hydrogen fuel as well as develop an infrastructure to get that fuel into vehicles. We have bypassed these technological hurdles by basically bringing the hydrogen plant inside and pairing it with a high-temperature fuel cell in one compact unit that has a fuel efficiency of up to 50 percent.?

In a paper to be published online today (March 31) by the journal Science, Barnett and graduate student Zhongliang Zhan report the development of a new solid oxide fuel cell, or SOFC, that converts a liquid transportation fuel -- iso-octane, a high-purity compound similar to gasoline -- into hydrogen which is then used by the fuel cell to produce energy. The cells could lead to cost-effective, clean and efficient electrical-power sources for applications ranging from aircraft and homes to cars and trucks.

Although only demonstrated on a small scale, Barnett and Zhan?s fuel cells are projected to have a 50 percent fuel efficiency when used in a full-sized fuel cell generator, which would improve on other technologies. Higher fuel efficiencies mean less precious fuel is consumed and less carbon dioxide, a greenhouse-effect gas related to global warming, is produced. Internal combustion engines have a ?well-to-wheels? efficiency of a mere 10 to 15 percent. Current hydrogen fuel cells that require hydrogen plants and new infrastructure have been calculated to have a 29 percent fuel efficiency while commercial gas/electric hybrid vehicles already have achieved 32 percent.

?The advent of hybrid vehicles has shaken up the fuel cell community and made researchers rethink hydrogen as a fuel,? said Barnett, who drives a Toyota Prius and foresees his new fuel cells being developed for use in battery/SOFC hybrid technology for vehicle propulsion or in auxiliary power units. ?We need to look at the solid oxide fuel cell -- the one kind of fuel cell that can work with other fuels beside hydrogen -- as an option.?

A fuel cell is like a battery that can be replenished with fresh fuel. It consists of two electrodes sandwiched around an electrolyte material that conducts ions between them. Oxygen enters at the cathode, where it combines with electrons and is split into ions that travel through the electrolyte to react with fuel at the anode. Fuel cells are environmentally friendly: water and carbon dioxide are the only by-products. In the process, the oxygen ions traversing the electrolyte produce a useful current. Heat is also generated.

Because conventional solid oxide fuel cells operate at such high temperatures (between 600 and 800 degrees Centigrade) Barnett recognized that the heat could be used internally for the chemical process of reforming hydrogen, eliminating the need for hydrogen plants with their relatively low fuel efficiency. Barnett and Zhan found the optimal temperature for their system to be 600 to 800 degrees.

The real key to the new fuel cell is a special thin-film catalyst layer through which the hydrocarbon fuel flows toward the anode. That porous layer, which contains stabilized zirconia and small amounts of the metals ruthenium and cerium, chemically and cleanly converts the fuel to hydrogen.

?A major drawback of using solid oxide fuel cells is that carbon from the fuel is deposited all over the anode because of the high temperatures,? Barnett said. ?But our thin film catalyst, plus the addition of a small amount of oxygen, eliminates those deposits, making it a viable technology to pursue with further research. We have shown that the fuel cell is much more stable with the catalyst and air than without.?

?The main drawback of fuel cells has been their complexity and high cost,? said Barnett. ?The simple design of our system, which brings the hydrogen reformer in house, is a great advantage for a range of applications. For example, imagine a unit cheap enough to be used for auxiliary power in cars or diesel trucks. It would supply electricity continuously, cleanly, quietly and efficiently even when the engine is not running. This work has the potential to lead us in that direction.?

The research was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.


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OfflineShagshow
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Catalysis]
    #4032769 - 04/09/05 12:41 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

I don't care if Hydrogen is 10% as productive, it burns clean.


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OfflineCatalysis
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Shagshow]
    #4032776 - 04/09/05 12:46 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

Shagshow said:
I don't care if Hydrogen is 10% as productive, it burns clean.




Well thats great and everything but if its not economical, it won't be used and it will produce pollution in its manufacture.


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Offlinecb9fl
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Shagshow]
    #4032791 - 04/09/05 12:51 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

I don't care if Hydrogen is 10% as productive, it burns clean.




Where do you think they get the hydrogen?


--------------------
It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not. -Andre Gide

"Generosity is nothing else than a craze to possess. All which I abandon, all which I give, I enjoy in a higher manner through the fact that I give it away. To give is to enjoy possessively the object which one gives."


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OfflineShagshow
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: cb9fl]
    #4032798 - 04/09/05 12:55 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

Water


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OfflineShagshow
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Shagshow]
    #4032802 - 04/09/05 12:57 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

Look up the reactions. You turn water into liquid hydrogen by isolating it from the Oxygen. When the reaction takes place to produce energy, the by-product is water; therefore creating a perfect cycle, with relatively no pollution.


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Offlinecb9fl
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Shagshow]
    #4032900 - 04/09/05 01:33 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

Right and what do you think they use to produce the electricity required to seperate water into hydrogen and oxygen? Have you found a way to bypass our current understanding of thermodynamics?


--------------------
It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not. -Andre Gide

"Generosity is nothing else than a craze to possess. All which I abandon, all which I give, I enjoy in a higher manner through the fact that I give it away. To give is to enjoy possessively the object which one gives."


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OfflineShagshow
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: cb9fl]
    #4032908 - 04/09/05 01:35 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

No, but it doesn't require that much electricity from what I understand. Do you really feel that it is that bad of an idea, especially when compared to gasoline. What is your take on Bio-fuel?


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OfflinekronnyQ
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Shagshow]
    #4032909 - 04/09/05 01:37 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

Hell yes, lets see Dick Cheney get his claws on this one!


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OfflineCatalysis
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: cb9fl]
    #4032913 - 04/09/05 01:38 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

cb9fl is right and there is really no need to comment further.

Anyways, for you science types, if you want to read the actual article you can check it out here

Quote:

Abstract
In most solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) designs the Ni-based anode acts as an effective catalyst for internal reforming. However, there are
some SOFCs, e.g. segmented-in-series cells or ceramic anode cells, in which the anode may be less effective for internal reforming. In order
to test this case, we have studied SOFCs supported on a thick ceramic layer. While these cells worked well with hydrogen fuel, the
performance with propane-air mixtures was poor. The addition of a Ru-CeO2 catalyst layer to the support surface yielded much better
performance in propane-air. The catalyst promoted propane partial oxidation at temperatures z500 8C without carbon formation. Gas
diffusion limitations for the reformed fuel limited the performance at high temperature, e.g.,c0.5 W/cm2 at 750 8C. The results are discussed
based on calculated gas diffusion rates for different possible reaction pathways.




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OfflineShagshow
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Catalysis]
    #4032915 - 04/09/05 01:40 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

chill out Catalysis, were just discussing things, that was cold ;P. What is he right about exactly?


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OfflineShagshow
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Shagshow]
    #4032918 - 04/09/05 01:42 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

From what I understand, transporting/storing hydrogen fuel presents a problem (I guess it would be an extremely expensive shift from oil tanks).


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OfflineCatalysis
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Shagshow]
    #4032924 - 04/09/05 01:46 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

nah, i didn't mean it like that.

Its basically a law of physics that you cannot just create energy from thin air.  Meaning that energy has to come from somewhere to liberate the H2 from water (actually its more efficient to get it from hydrocarbon fuel, ie. gas).  Then it can be processed cleanly back into energy.  I didnt mean to sound like an ass, sorry.  :stoned:

This is why i pointed out that it is very interesting that H2 cells are less efficient than hybrid vehicles because i thought the same as you, that the main problem was just storage...but it turns out that is not the case.

Basically it appears that the new goal is to create a hybrid gas/H2 engine that may be able to attain 50% fuel efficency compared to the current 10-15% for gas cars and 32% for hybrid.  This would of course have the effect of cutting down on pollution by harnessing the energy that is lost from gas in current vehicles better than electric hybrids.  Also, there would be no need to completely change the fuel infrastructure.


Edited by Catalysis (04/09/05 01:56 AM)


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Offlinekadakuda
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Catalysis]
    #4033164 - 04/09/05 04:01 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

interesting.

any numbers if they use hydro power and the pollution caused? here in bc hydro is a VERY large chunk of our electricity, cehap and relativly clean (our supplier named "BC Hydro").

correc tme if im wrong but the idea with current hybrid cars (electicity/gas) is that gas starts teh car and electicity keeps it going once it gets a bit of momentum...more or less.

so could a hydro/electic hybrid not be made to be that much more efficient than a hybrid hydro/gas? seems to me that hydrogen would be more than powerfull enough to give us imaptient folks enough power to race off at teh green light. tehn teh electricity could do waht it already does in teh existing gas hybrids.

hope that made sense.


--------------------
The seeds you won't sow are the plants you dont grow.


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InvisibleMarioNett
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Catalysis]
    #4033225 - 04/09/05 04:33 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

I don't understand how this system can burn cleanly. If iso-octane is the fuel, and they isolate hydrogen from it, what do they do with the carbon? It has to get out somehow.

This part especially bothers me:
Quote:

?A major drawback of using solid oxide fuel cells is that carbon from the fuel is deposited all over the anode because of the high temperatures,? Barnett said. ?But our thin film catalyst, plus the addition of a small amount of oxygen, eliminates those deposits


Aren't they saying that the reaction does produce CO2?


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Offlinecb9fl
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Shagshow]
    #4033689 - 04/09/05 10:39 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

What I was saying is that currently oil is used to produce electricity required to create hydrogen. Hydrogen can practically be thought of as a battery. It stores energy in a relatively clean form for later use.

Now if the energy needed to create the hydrogen came from a clean source I would have a different opinion. If hydroelectric, photovoltaics, wind turbines .. were used then we could have a relatively clean process from beginning to end. Moreover since that is true we need to spend a lot more time and resources developing primary energy sources.

Let's imagine 5lbs of hydrogen burn cleanly but it takes 1 barrel of oil to produce it. The net result turns out to not be so clean.

What I would like to know is the efficiency of the entire process compared to gasoline. How much oil is required to produce enough hydrogen to power a car for 100 miles. Now how much oil is required to produce enough gasoline to power my car for 100 miles. We also need to factor in the energy (and thus oil) needed to manufacture the hydrogen burning car, hydrogen fill tanks, hydrogen production stations, etc. Of course these figures would be based on our current methods of production, in the future the figures could change due to alternative energy sources. However as far as I know we're living in the present.


--------------------
It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not. -Andre Gide

"Generosity is nothing else than a craze to possess. All which I abandon, all which I give, I enjoy in a higher manner through the fact that I give it away. To give is to enjoy possessively the object which one gives."


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OfflineShagshow
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: cb9fl]
    #4033702 - 04/09/05 10:46 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

I understand what your saying, but to use gaoline to power the reaction required to get Hydrogen would just be counter-productive; I see what your saying. We do need to take advantage of clean energy sources; hydropower, solar, wind, etc, in order to help the entire process become a clean cycle. What about Bio-Fuel, what are peoples thoughts on that?


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Offlinecb9fl
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: Shagshow]
    #4033719 - 04/09/05 10:55 AM (12 years, 2 months ago)

You mean like corn ethanol? I see a lot of people hailing it as so wonderful but it's hard for me to find figures backing the claims.

From what I understand corn leeches a huge amount of nutrients away from the soil so growing corn requires a lot of fertilizer and work. I have heard that hemp is more viable in that it grows very fast while leeching less nutrients from the ground. Also is has the benefit of being used for many other purposes. But once again it's hard to find concrete data. It could just be hippy propaganda.

I would imagine many methods could be very efficient once developed. Right now there isn't a huge demand for alternative energy so there's not a "push" for it. Once oil hits $3 or more at the pump I think the public will really start pushing for alternative energy if only to lower the cost at the pump.


--------------------
It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not. -Andre Gide

"Generosity is nothing else than a craze to possess. All which I abandon, all which I give, I enjoy in a higher manner through the fact that I give it away. To give is to enjoy possessively the object which one gives."


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InvisibleMarioNett
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Re: Northwestern Researchers Look at Hydrogen Fuel in a New Way [Re: cb9fl]
    #4035260 - 04/09/05 09:02 PM (12 years, 2 months ago)

"gasohol" such as corn ethanol actually takes more energy to produce than it will ultimately yield, so it's pretty much worthless.

I've heard about biodiesel from hemp and other crops though. I'm not sure what the figures are on input/output energy on that. It's already being used at a significant number of filling stations, so it must work pretty well.


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