Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Everything you need to know about standards


Hydrogen again - Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber!

I saw an article on truckers deciding to adopt hydrogen. As reported on Slashdot,

hipernoico writes to tell us Wired News is reporting that hundreds of semi trucks now on the roads are being partially powered by hydrogen. From the article: "These 18-wheelers make hydrogen as they go, eliminating the need for high-pressure, cryogenic storage tanks or hydrogen filling stations, which, by the way, don't yet exist. These truckers aren't just do-gooders. They like Canadian Hydrogen Energy's Hydrogen Fuel Injection, or HFI, system because it lets them save fuel, get more horsepower and, as a bonus, cause less pollution."


Let’s be straight about this. Using Hydrogen as a terrestrial fuel carrier is very stupid. The mathematics do not add up nor do the IQ points of those who continue to propose this for mainstream use. Any student who has passed Physics 101 knows this is true yet the dreamers seem to persist in disillusioning the masses about the benefits of using hydrogen.

The first rule of physics is that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Energy may be converted from one form to another. A good fuel source for terrestrial use is one that occurs in abundance naturally, is easy to harvest, store and distribute and also converts cleanly with minimal impact on our environment. Coal, wood, oil all match some of this criteria. For example, wood is very abundant on our planet. It grows by converting the sun’s energy into biomass that may be easily harvested and transported then subsequently burned to release thermal energy. Thermal energy can be converted into kinetic energy very easily.

As with everything on this blog, do not take this for granted. Question it and do your own research.

So why is hydrogen as a fuel source for terrestrial application a bad idea? Let examine some facts and what hydrogen’s role is.

In most hydrogen powered vehicle scenarios, Hydrogen essentially acts as a battery or transporter of energy. It exists to store energy to allow it to be mobile. Similar to how recharge-able batteries work, it takes energy to produce hydrogen pure enough to be useful as a power source. At the target, the hydrogen’s stored energy is essentially converted to electrical energy, although it may also be converted to thermal energy which may be more efficient to convert to kinetic energy.

Hydrogen is highly unstable as a gas and does not readily occur in nature. Unlike hydrocarbons, which are relatively stable compounds, hydrogen will do everything it can dissipate or change state if released into the atmosphere of our little green planet. As such, pure hydrogen is extremely rare on this planet. Even if you found a reserve of hydrogen, you would still need to harvest and transport it to distribution centre’s which in itself may take more energy than the hydrogen you harvested had in it.

Let’s look at the pattern.

1. A natural process leaves energy stored in a manner that is easily harvested by human actors. Examples – the energy of the sun creates wind patterns on the surface of the planet which may be harvested by windmills or solar energy is converted via photoelectric arrays into electrical energy.

2. The energy is distributed in some form. Example - a power grid distributes electricity via wires or it may be used to charge a battery which may be transported physically to the site.

3. The energy is consumed. In reality – it is simply converted into some other form since energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

To make this work, the energy used to retrieve and initially convert the energy from its natural state (rE) plus the energy to refine, store, transport and distribute the energy to the point of consumption (tKw) must be less than the energy retrieved in step 3 when the energy is consumed (nKw). If rE + tKw > nKw, the process is a net waste of energy and this is before you consider the energy used to create the specialized mechanisms to consume an energy transport medium like hydrogen. Remember, fuel cells take more energy to design, manufacture, test and integrate into industry.

In general, we should not even consider anything less than a situation where

Hydrogen is not dense enough in a gaseous state to even contain enough energy to overcome the energy required to create, purify, store and transport it. Hydrogen as a terrestrial carrier of energy is a very dumb idea.