Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Working with spreadsheet and doing what if scenarios

I hope this is readable. I worked on some spreadsheet comparisons in order to get some idea on what would be economical in terms of various scenarios. I started with what is commonly looked at, and then proceeded to something from my own experience as a driver. I got some pretty interesting numbers.

 I've got six scenarios.  1) today's gas prices with current comparable vehicles with some likely numbers filled in for trade in's and so forth  2)  today's gas prices, but add a fuel cell and increase the price of the vehicle accordingly, assume a 250000 life  meaning drivers who drive a lot ( like me)  3) the same scenario, but assume increasing energy prices average 50 percent over the time period  4) Now switch to a bigger vehicle and adjust gas mileage according, reset back to today's prices and assume you can add a fuel cell at the price indicated  5) same as 4, but increase fuel prices by 50 %, , and finally 6) double the fuel prices.

Conclusion:  If they can make a pickup truck that will last 250000 miles, get a decent range between fillups, and don't lose too much in fuel economy while doing it, they will have a winner.  They will have a BIG winner, if gasoline prices go up a lot, which is distinct possibility.  Car makers should concentrate on putting fuel cells on larger vehicles first.

NOTE: I regret the lack of readability. Sorry.

Update:  I reworked the spreadsheet and added a scenario.  Also, I made the fuel economy of the larger vehicle less and still got some favorable numbers.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What I was looking at last night

The Nissan Leaf , that is looking at it on the Wikipedia.  The Leaf comes with a 24kwh battery pack.

I'm looking at what kind of combination of fuel cell and battery that you would need to make it an all electric vehicle.  It looks like if you were to fit it with a 20 kwh fuel cell, that would fill the bill for most scenarios that you may encounter while driving.  Here's a chart to illustrate it


The most challenging scenario was on the highway with the a/c running and outside temperatures in the nineties.  As you can see, I added some notes to the far left.  The discharge rate for that scenario is 19 kwh per hour.  With a fuel cell of that capacity, it should be able to keep the battery charged while driving under these conditions.  All other conditions are easily met.

Nissan believes it can reduce production costs of the battery in half.  That would put the battery cost at $8000 per car.  Given that Nissan is already absorbing this cost, then halving the cost of the battery would still allow it to be sold for the same price, presumably with a profit.  What about the fuel cell?

Here's an estimate of the cost per kwh of a fuel cell from a page that is undated.  The claim is $225 per kwh according to the DOE.  For a 20 kwh fuel cell, that would cost $4500.

If you used the Ford configuration, with only a 25 mile range ( 8 kwh battery), the cost of the battery goes down to about 2500 dollars.  A 20 kwh fuel cell could keep this battery charged as well.

If you were to meet Ballard's estimate of the mass produced cost of a fuel cell,  which was 73 dollars back in 2005, the price of the fuel cell drops to $1460.  The latest numbers for this estimate (50 dollars) are here.

These costs are not at all prohibitive.

The cost of the electrolyzer may not be possible to estimate here.  Let's assume that the electrolyzer is left out and the electrolysis takes place at the refueling station.  At that point, you can buy the hydrogen for $2 per kg plus the cost of compressing it or cryolyzing it.  Let's say that doubles the price.  It would then be $4 per kg.

If you get 60 mile per kg, the operating cost would be $4.00/60 mile per kg, yielding a cost per mile of 6.7 cents per mile.  That compares to 16 cents per mile at $4 gal gas for 25 mpg conventional car.  Every mile would save 9 cents in operating costs.  That means $9 thousand for every 100,000 miles.

Assuming the sale price could be held at 32000 dollars, which may be possible under mass production, the vehicle could be economically feasible.  Whatever the reason for it not being built, it probably doesn't have to be economic.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Freedom of Speech

This is tough to write because I don't like any infringement by government upon liberty.  But there are times when the media is harmful in the way they report events.  There's a write up about the nuclear troubles in Japan at NRO  which make me wonder sometimes about whether this freedom is always a good thing.

You see the media is a business enterprise.  They have to make money.  But people need information and it needs to be accurate.  There doesn't seem to be a way to get around the fact that the media can influence public opinion anyway they want.  If that power is abused, we all suffer for it.  In this case, when the media hypes a problem all out of proportion to what actually exists, they are not performing a public service, but instead, are performing a public disservice.  It's times like this that makes me wonder if the media should be regulated in some way.

The impossibility of that, regulating speech, prohibits that idea.  Short of that, what can you do?  Here is the media hyping the nuclear problems and they are going to make it difficult, or maybe even impossible to meet future energy needs because of this type of reporting.  It may be regrettable that we may have to depend upon rather imperfect ways of getting our energy, but to block all access to energy because of some risks involved in the means of getting it, is counterproductive to say the least.  At some point, the counterproductive reporting may have its consequences.  The consequences is that we may lose that which we take for granted, including the right to speak freely.  All could be lost if the times become desperate enough.  Better to avoid that scenario than to help bring it on by irresponsible reporting.

I remember the Chernobyl accident and the reporting of that time.  What struck me about it was the hype.  The initial reports were that thousands were dead.   We now know that number was highly inflated.  It may well be that whatever comes from this will likely be reported to be much worse than what it really is.  And that what makes it reprehensible.  Energy is such an important part of our lives.  It is vital that the public have accurate information about it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cheap source of gas

I've been thinking about that problem and it occurred to me that people throw away tons of waste all the time.  This waste can be used as an energy source, provided that someone finds a way to do it.  The same is true on the farm.  Inasmuch as there is plenty of hydrogen in this waste, it seems that there should be a way to harvest it and use it to make ammonia as described in an earlier post.

A short bit of history

The last post got me to thinking about the Model T Ford.  The thought occurred to me that if the Model T wasn't invented, the modern automobile's popularity may not have reached the level that it did.  The secret of the Model T was economy of scale, which drove down costs, and made the automobile affordable for the masses.

Just for my amusement, I looked up the history of the internal combustion engine.  This is really not new.  Some form of internal combustion engines have been around for a long, long time.  It is true, though, that innovations improved the basic design, but by 1908, when the first Model T rolled off the assembly line, automobiles were still not that popular.

The Oil industry had been around for decades.  Spindletop may have made a difference, because it was so productive.  Cheap, abundant oil couldn't hurt the enterprise.  The process had to become self sustaining.  Evidently one success builds upon another.  Other wells begin to come in and the oil industry boomed.  The oil industry combined with a cheap automobile, propelled the automotive industry into economic dominance.

Another element necessary for the mass market was the construction of roads.  Without good roads, the new autos had nowhere to go.  With mass production techniques mastered, a cheap and abundant source of energy, and with it, the rising popularity of automobiles, it became politically possible to get support for the construction of roads as a public enterprise.  Everything needed for the success of automobiles was in place.  And so it was.

So, in short review, it was an affordable machine and an abundant source of energy that made automobiles affordable for the masses.  Then political support became possible.  Without affordability, it couldn't have caught on the way it did.  If nobody used mass production techniques the way it was used in the Model T, the modern automobile may never have become what it did.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Things like this

Are what I'm talking about.  This is a four year old article which describes how to make hydrogen for a fuel cell. With respect to sewage treatment, that is.  How much is this method being used now?

If this method would be employed in a generalized way, it would increase demand for fuel cells and that would create a market for them.  The larger the market, the more that economies of scale can reduce their costs of manufacture.

Hydrogen from sewage

Here's a source of hydrogen.  Let's say that hydrogen is converted into ammonia, which can be transported anywhere conveniently.  It can then be put into autos which can electrolyze it back into hydrogen for fuel cells.

Or, the ammonia could be used to power buses.  The idea is to avoid using a lot of energy to put it into a convenient form.  The in situ electrolyzer will convert it back into hydrogen for the fuel.

By using sewage, a cheaper form of hydrogen can be obtained which will "kill two birds with one stone".  First, clean up the sewage, and two, produce a clean fuel for transportation.  But there's an additional reason.  That is to provide a market for fuel cells which enable mass production, and thus lower costs.  The more this technology is adopted, the greater the possibility of mass acceptance in the market.  Hopefully, it can remove the obstacle of high costs for fuel cells and electrolyzers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

More about the Dismal Science

Here is a Wikidpedia entry on the "Dismal Science", aka Economics.    I mention it in connection to the post about Michael C. Ruppert.  Everything the guy says about collapse is true in a finite world.  But what if that assumption is swept away by a new assumption: that the world is part of the universe which is infinite.  There are no limits except those that are self imposed.  If people want to put those self imposing limits on themselves, then they will be relegated to the dismal reality of that.  The world as a finite place is a dismal world after all.

What happened to the Ford HySeries?

This looks like a viable option based upon what I wrote recently about the 2 dollar per kg hydrogen from ammonia electrolysis concept.  This vehicle was first built back in 2007, but nothing seems to be happening on it.  What gives?

I went to Ford's Facebook site, but there's nothing there about it.  Did they give up on it?  Do they know that it is possible to produce hydrogen from ammonia at reasonable prices?  Or is there simply a lack of interest in the cars?  If so, why?  Is it on the basis of price?


Here's an article with a little more information.  The idea that these cars should cost millions of dollars is absurd.  Any prototype will cost more.  If mass produced, they may be comparable to a Chevy Volt, or Nissan Leaf.

Here's a Popular Mechanics video on it.

Airships to Orbit, An Impossible Dream?

I first wrote about this back in January, after reading about it on Al Fin's blog.  It may seem a bit impractical, and may never work.  I started following this though, because it was one way to space that would not depend on the government.  Given my low opinion of politicians and the skepticism about the government's ability or desire to do anything useful, except to enrich themselves at our expense, this approach appealed to me.

But it is taking a long time.  From what I've heard, JP has turned down investors.  It's understandable.  I could see how he could lose his dream if someone powerful took it away from him.  But on the other hand, he may never realize his dream at the rate he is going.  He needs to find a way to finance this thing on a larger scale, in my opinion.  That would entail certain risks, as mentioned.

With the events in the world scene going the way they are, there may be an opportunity for him.  If, for example, the Middle East becomes too unstable to continue supplying oil to an energy hungry world, there would have to be an alternative to air travel.  It would become too expensive to pay for jet fuel since its availability may not be what it has been in the past.  What could be a better alternative than airships?  They can get airborne and they can move long distances.  This was demonstrated decades ago.

The thing that's missing here is an ability to go the distances without using a lot of fuel.  And to get there fast.  Could his airships do this?  Maybe no one knows for sure right now, but it may be useful if we can find out.  It would stand to reason though, if he wants to get to space, he will have to be able to go plenty fast.  If he has a way of doing that, why not employ those means to commercial air travel?  If he had a commercial air travel business set up, he could fund his research to take his airship to orbit concept into space.

If I am right about this, and I  usually am right about things, it may well become a necessity.  An impossible dream may have to become reality if we are to continue enjoying the same standard of living that we have today.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In situ hydrogen production from ammonia

Further reflection on this idea seems to rule it out unless a plentiful source of platinum becomes available.  An alternative to this would be to produce the hydrogen at the refueling station.  This increases the costs per kilogram because the need to put it into a form that it can be stored, such as high pressure or cryogenics.

The estimate for in situ hydrogen from ammonia was about 2 dollars per kg.  Now if you were to compress it or cryogenically store it, that would at least double the price, I guesstimate.  Even then, it would still be relatively cheap because of the high efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells. 

The final hurdle would be to get the price of fuel cells down.  This would be accomplished by the economies of scale that would come from mass acceptance of this mode of energy production.  That hurdle could be overcome by having organizations with large fleets agree to purchase fuel cell vehicles of this type.  That could be a problem.  As in many cases, if enough people in leadership stepped up to the plate and committed to this, it just might be doable.

Electrolyzing Ammonia for Hydrogen Fuels Continued

As I mentioned earlier, I purchased a pdf file which studies the concept in detail.  Here is the money quote from the study:

According to scale-up calculations, using an in situ ammonia
electrolyzer on board will allow a HFCV to travel 483 km between
refueling by storing 203 L of aqueous ammonia. At 0.36 US$ kg−1
of ammonia, the cost of producing hydrogen on board is 2.02 US$

The price is right for the hydrogen, but there's a problem.

The sticking point in my opinion, is the cost of the electrolyzer itself.  It is estimated from the paper that an appropriate sized electrolyzer will cost over 32000 dollars at then platinum prices that were half of today's price.  It is quite clear to me that the price of platinum and platinum group metals will have to come down somehow, or some other way must be found.  One way to lower the price of platinum is to mine a lot more of it.  Thus a source of abundant platinum must be found.  That source can come from outer space.

There may be a way to reduce these numbers, but it is clear that the numbers don't work without more platinum.  That is my opinion.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why fuel cells?

Why not just burn hydrocarbons as has been the case since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution?  One may ask that question if the need to obtain hydrogen cheaply seems to lead you back to hydrocarbons in fossil fuels.

It seems that hydrogen fuel cells are more efficient in terms of energy use.  A fuel cell powered auto can get 60 miles to a kilogram of hydrogen.  If the cost of a kilogram of hydrogen is twice that of a gallon of gas, it can still be economically competitive.  Most cars get less than 30 miles a gallon for gas, thus the comparison. 

It turns out that a kilogram of hydrogen produced from ammonia is less than a dollar per kilogram.  Now, if ammonia can be synthesized from hydrocarbon feedstocks, the end cost of a kilogram of hydrogen could be competitive with traditional fuels such as gasoline.  Let's say that refineries can shift production from gasoline to ammonia.  The crude oil would go further economically if the price of a kilogram of hydrogen can be held under twice that of a gallon of gasoline.  The cheaper the production, the greater the benefit.

Not being an expert in the matter, it appears that this isn't out of the realm of feasibility.


It also came to mind that natural gas is cheaper than oil these days.  One could use the hydrogen in natural gas to synthesize ammonia.  The chances that one could come up with a liquid fuel that is cheaper than gasoline and will go twice as far should not be too difficult to imagine.

As for the price of fuel cells, which are not cheap, these can also come down if the economies of scale can be applied.  This will occur if popular acceptance reaches a sufficient number to begin large scale manufacturing.  In addition, if an extraterrestrial source of platinum group metals is found, the price of could be further reduced.


I bought the pdf and read it.  The cost of hydrogen from this method is about 2 dollars per kg.  That was a few years ago, but it was in a time of high fuel prices, so the comparison may still be good.  If so, that would mean about 1 dollar per gallon equivalent assuming the 60 mp kg  holds up for this configuration.   The analysis shows a considerable expense in setting up an electrolyzer.  One would presume that if these were mass produced along with the fuel cells, the costs could be brought down to economic viability.  This is my guesstimate at the moment.  If there are other factors that aren't being considered here, I am unaware of them.

So, why not do this?   It was done in the case of the Tesla Roadster, where a battery powered car was produced.  Perhaps it would take a similar effort by someone who could pull off the same feat with hydrogen fuel cells.  If you used the same approach, with a high end vehicle, such as a luxury car, you could get a foot in the door, so to speak.

Comment upon ammonia electrolysis proposition

There are a few interesting things on the subject if you google it.  There was this one website with a pdf file, but they wanted you to pay for viewing it.  It is understandable, that if one has an interesting idea, to keep it somewhat under wraps.  But in doing so, information gets harder to access.  This appears to be a promising idea, but there's not a whole lot that can be done about it if it is kept a secret.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Space Show Today

I am preparing to live blog the show today.  In preparation for it, I've been googling some info about his guest, Dr. David DeVorkin.   He is the senior curator of history of astronomy and the space sciences at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  

As I write, it should be starting a little over 30 minutes from now.  I will post this, and continue blogging on this post during the broadcast.  Looks like I've got things set up nicely, so I will wait until then. 

While I was waiting, I watched the latest of tbonepearson's latest videos.  "Mass Stupidity".  It looks a little like a James Bond / Austin Powers type spy comedy thing.

.Update:  When I post this, the show will be just starting.

Announcements etc.  usual intro stuff.  Newsletter goes out Sunday evenings Pacific time.  Subscribe to email version.  Reminder that it is a nonprofit, depends on contributions.  Mentions blog and so forth.  Introduces guest, Dr David DeVorkin.    Goes over his resume and gives a very good introduction on his guest.

Mentions other guests had mentioned him.  Day in history, the discovery of Pluto on this day in 1930.  Used this day, founder and director Percival Lowell.   Named for a god.  Asked about history of astronomy in USA.  Answers that it began with founders: Jefferson and Adams and founding fathers as emerging nation believed US should be up to date in the sciences.  Smithsonian was formed by Joseph Henry.  Astronomy important in US history.  US built largest telescope many times.  In 20th Century, distinguished by building largest telescopes in world.  

Asked about study of astromony in colleges.  Answer that practical elements of astronomy and for polite education in school.  Some promoted astronomy some did not.  Astronomy not always high priority as with core sciences though.

Question from email:  astronomy theme in old westerns.  Speed of light "Bonanza" tv show and the Dr recalls this.  Mentions name of who did this???   Won Nobel Prize for this, measurments of quantity.  First American to win Nobel Prize.  

Ask can pinpoint when astronomy became mainstream.  Never been touted as mainstream.  Something of a cultural enrichment.  It has become a full physical science in 20th century.  Mathematics used to calculate motions of heavenly bodies.  Astronomer became physicists.  See extremes in phenomena not observable on Earth.  The attractions are the extremes.  Can test physics and see how it works and the reality of the universe.  

Physics of how stars form.  What are conditions that form stars?  Are planets the natural result of the formation of stars?  Important question with regard to our existernce.

Linda in Oregon asks where the first observatory.  Williams College in Massachussetts.  Many had scopes, but this may have been first permanent facility.  As a teaching observatory, still functional.  

Email question by Ben in Denver:  In Mexico and Central American, many observatories existed.  Were any structures built by Native Americans?  Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, no real roads.  Use 4 wheeler to get in.  The way structures were built that were aligned to important astronomical dates.  Every culture seems to do this.  Stonehenge in England and other places in Europe.    The high latitude civilizations have polar structures, those who were equatorial would align differently.  Astronomical element exists in all cultures.

Those who didn't have permanent structures as the Plains Indians, would still have connection to astronomy.

Question from Dallas  most popular exhibits?  Answer: hard to collect sample from so many visitors (millions).
3000 4000 per day walking through there.  Did they come for that unless they ask.  Don't have wherewithal to do that.  People seem interested.  23 galleries in Museum plus large exhibition hall.  Goes through some of these here.  Hubble space telescope.   Viking Mars lander.  Apollo gallery see moon rocks.  Aviation half, space other half.  Everybody want to see Apollo capsules and shuttle.  Spirit of St. Louis.

Science fiction museums: what do kids say?  Don't know difference between science fiction and reality.  Blurring of reality.  Anything to judge awareness of reality?  Answer:  Don't do that.  Had a section where one side fact and one side fiction in terms of spaceflight.  Don't know if study ever made.  Is there a way to do this with visitors.  Not limited to kids, he observes.  

NASA tv seems too boring to what comes out of media these days.  Good stuff does exists and even makes it into movies ( I noticed this in a Star Trek movie First Contact)


Caller on hold:  John in Atlanta.  Asks if he knew about astronomy.  John asks about dark matter.  Answer: said the fraction is changing daily.  The type of matter we are made of proton, neutron, electron and so forth.  Haven't discovered all black holes.  Massive component not made of matter we used to but of other stuff.  The Hadron Collider in Switzerland to question to what produces mass- question not explained yet.  Certain type of particle that hasn't been observed.  Higgs boson postulated.  Start thinking about dark matter in early nineties.  We know we don't know much.  Properties we aren't familar with.  Percentage of 70 percent range included dark matter difficult to imagine that black holes can make up deficit.

Scientists think there is dark matter.  Ans.  certain parameters relationship.  Predicts things.  Physics out of whack.  

John says something about galaxies- ans general view is that black hole in center of galaxies.  How galaxies are formed.  Various scenarios being looked.  Is more matter in there?  At center or at edges?  Neutrinos have different rest massess.

Dark energy brought up.  Cosmo constant.  (Einstein)  Ans in finding univ is accelerate give rise something there causing repulsive action called dark energy.  Does fit cosmo constant.   constant had to put in to make things work.  Fudge factor to give leeway.  

Einstein blunder fail to predict expanding universe?  Fascination with way science worked in the way to raise issues and define problems and solving them.

From Tina in New Mexico  starting college; says terrible at math but wants to study astromony.  Familar with that what would she be missing?   Ans:  doesn't know, purely descriptive course very interesting, could be doing math in spite of oneself.  Learned trig upon comics, interest in it makes interest in math- the interest can spawn interest in math.  Worry about math later.

David says if taught well, it will open doors.  Don't be scared because of math.  Discussion of comics and such.

Caller Richard from Montana:  explore relationship between NASA and Dept of Defense.  Article had signed off on new architecture.  Another had DOD had veto power over use of tech.  Is this true and if true could have done it faster?   Ans: will speculate, some knowledge.  NASA partly built by military.  No question without military, wouldn't have space program.  In case of veto power, if some evidence for that it is maiinly in area of remote sensing.  Could not use optical systems beyond classified area.  Some of these went into Hubble telescope so that it could point precisely.  Says it not limiting, but synergistic.  The economy that drove us in space was political, now that cold war over what reason to go to space.  But do they command political will and clout to sustain it?  No idea if new tech has been hindered.  He thinks that it doesn't.  Optics are one example.


Continue discussion of what is in Smithsonian besides gallery, have public observatory and planetarium.  Brought a telescope.  Thousands of people have wandered in a asked what is this?  World class in astronomy.  Have observatories all over world.  Exhibits, museums.  Has telescope at Vassar on display. 

One entry price is free.  Don't need ticket, but special events.  Planetariarm free, museum free.  Mostly free.  Location name?  private donor;  big stuff out there.  shuttle, sr71, concorde, windchimes first generation satellites, hundreds of large objects.  Restoration facitlion.  Imax theater.  Near Dulles Airport.  All interpretvie gallery at mall.  Displays at ?? not interpretive.  Put in light labelling.  Electronic hopefully will browse to access more information.  Check out all the airplanes and such.

Moving out there:  very difficult to move infrastructure.  Archives are packed up waiting on funding.  Plans are to move everything out there.  Museum in three places.

Asked about Shuttle Discovery.  Waiting for official announcement.

Question of day:  Paul in LA when will Smithsonian devote space to New Space/ Commercial because this is the future.  He says Spacex is there.  He said it flew right into the museum.  Went in pretty fast.  How do exhibits:  very expensive.  Very labor intensive.  Starts with proposal.  Example is Apollo, still working on it.

Have to be very careful cuz is representative of country.  Want to avoid politics.  

Enola Gay controversy.

Wanda in OK City, how does Smithsonian treat Pluto?  Some treat it differently.  Got rid of Pluto as a planet.  He was disappointed.  He wanted to keep it there, but explain change in status.  Exciting to know what Pluto really is.   He abstained on Pluto decision.  He agreed to decision, but worried about reaction.  Can't let people make just any decision because it would get out of hand.  Now have an official way to define a planet.

Put a condolence card signed by all the other planets.  "Gonna to miss you"  Treat now in a left handed by eliminating it.  No money to do more extensively.  Privately funded.  

How long to do cutting edge stuff?  Not long on stuff.  A full exhibit could take five or ten years.  Takes a lot of money.  a five thousand sq. foot is  two and half million or more.  Everything since 1990 is privately funding.  Not federal money, grants and contracts with other fed agencies.  Another form of private money he says.

Don in Tuscon.  Where do USA stand to other countries?  We rank pretty high and are leaders in most areas.  In space, we are.  The Europeans have done good work with consortia, with ESA and other facilities.  Fully competitive and cooperative together in a synergistic ways.  Other countries do amazing work.  In original dominance, USA weakened somewhat, but still top ranked.

Strong educational foundation.  The place to come for cutting edge education.

Gonna quit here, but show is still ongoing.  Only a few minutes left.

Have to comment that this makes you want to visit the Smithsonian, or it does make me want to.   I noticed this about the Space Show before.  It really does fire up your enthusiasm.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hydrolysis (electrolysis) of Ammonia

It's another way of storing hydrogen and producing it on demand, which eliminates the need to store and /or transport hydrogen on its own.  You have to have the stuff first, so can you synthesize it in quantities?   The link in the previous sentence was from a company that has done hydrogen fuel cell research.  What struck me is that it uses so much less energy than the electrolysis of water.  One obvious downside is the toxicity of ammonia.


More discussion here.  And here.


One more link for discussion and I'm finished here.

Another problem is getting the hydrogen for the synthesis of ammonia.  If you get it from fossil fuels, there goes your greenie support.   Not that I care that much, but from a political standpoint, it would be useful to get their support for it.   Lots of hydrogen is made in refineries, but it goes into the production of hydrocarbons.  If you make ammonia with the hydrogen, you don't solve the fossil fuel problem.

You could however, synthesize ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen plus electrolyzed water using "renewable" energy, such as solar or wind.  This would be a way to do it without using carbon at all.  Again, it is the efficiency of the process that you are looking at.  Energy from renewables isn't cheap.  Add the cost of producing hydrogen, which is energy intensive also, and you have an expensive fuel.  But when all is said and done, you could fill up with ammonia and run your car on the electrolyzed ammonia, which yields hydrogen, and then run the hydrogen through the fuel cell to produce electricity to run the motor for the car.

The resources used would require no mining, nor drilling.  It would use freely available materials, such as nitrogen in the air and hydrogen in the water.   The result of the fuel cell operation would be water, which can returned to the environment.  Also, the electrolysis of ammonia would yield nitrogen, which can be released into the environment.

The most costly step would be the production of hydrogen for the ammonia.  Electrolysis of ammonia is cheap.  It would seem to me a good way to use stranded energy sources that are far from populated areas.  The ammonia would be produced and then shipped to where it is needed.

This needs a closer look, right now

In this post, Eric Lerner discussed how NASA stopped funding fusion research for advanced propulsion.  In view of the urgent need for new energy sources, this should be restarted immediately.  This is one area where NASA spending could definitely yield big benefits in terms of spinoff technologies.  If DPF could be researched as a means of rocket propulsion, the knowledge gained could also lead to a net energy fusion device.  A strong effort here could pay huge dividends.   Does anyone care?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Response to an email

I had a misconception about this company, but it didn't last too long.  I can't recall if I understood what they did before I sent off the email.  Anyway, it is a steam reforming methanol process, which is not what is being looked for, as mentioned.  Here's the response:

Thanks for the notice for the DOE reforming project. We will not be able to submit on the DOE application at this time as E1 makes a reformer that steam cracks the methanol. The Army is looking for a cold method of cracking methanol.


Robert Schluter


Space Show liveblogging Monday, Mar 7, 2011 (Eric Lerner)

Today's guest, Dr. Eric Lerner, LPPX president, worked on Focus Fusion for 25 years.  DPF work.

Do you have fusion yet.  Says we don't have net energy.  Says we're close.  Lot of progress.  Net energy this year?  Can't say.

What happened in the last year?  He says made progress in last year.  Moving in right direction.  Highlights:

In fall 2009, one of first goals try and confirm result at Texas Aand M thought had achieved high temperature and density.  Had low efficiency where energy produced ( in Tx experiment) .  Background: core of device is inches across, condensed energy in ball where it reaches high tempature and density.  By April, fist indication, had achieved high energy, but didn't have instruments online.  Half a dozen instruments.  Now is growing by leaps and bounds looking at each shot.  Big accomplishment have best resolution picture- close to what they want.  ICCD camera based on same principles as usual camera, but expensive 65000 bucks.  Pictures is being formed way they thought.  Twists like telephone cord, kinks seen clearly.   Radius of core was bigger than expected, but in ballpark.

Putting it in layman's terms:

Whole idea is concentrating energy to an extreme degree.  Energy stored in a big room and at end of process, most of that energy is temporarily concentrated in a volume less than millimeter long and microns across 1/25 inch by few thousandth inch.  Second thing is the twisting.  Theory of how plasmoid forms.  Like a kink on a telephone line.  All that energy mentions kinks up into a little ball.

Exciting to have pictures that show this, he says.

First question from Todd in San Diego:  Why are you able to come up with these results or clue to achieve fusion when Tokomak don't report such findings?  Says, have to be going in the right direction.  Says he's critical of the direction that Dept. of Energy is going.  Mistake was to narrow range to tokomak at time it was premature to do so.  If they looked at different approaches, it would not be at the low level it is at now.  Their approach attempts to make the process to stay still and he says that is impossible.  Plasma is unstable by nature.

Plasma focus device takes opposite way, use the instabilities of the plasma.  Each instability will concentrate the energy further, just as nature does.  By taking this approach, get away from having to control it.  Plasma is so dense, it only has to exist for short time.  Finally, PDF is a cheap device as opposed to tokomaks which are very expensive.  Can do experiments a thousand times cheaper.  They can't get as far we can because they are heading in the wrong direction.

Calls it institutional inertia.  Hard to change it once it gets going.  Calls it Eater instead of ITER because it eats up money.  Momentum on their side.

Why weren't they won't funding.  One thing they said, we decide to fund things on we think has best chance of success.  How to decide that?  How successful the thing is in getting funding.  Begs the question.  Circular argument.

DPF is private funding.  Takes a long time to raise the money.

Question was asked about Dr. Bussard device, was it the same?  The answer is no.  Actually, the are others besides these two fusion methods too.

Describing some of the process again.  Produces no neutrons and no radiactivity.  Makes it much cheaper.

Kelly Starks: size of device.  How rapid the pulse.  50 kilojoules would power lightbulb for a few minutes.  Want to do it fast pulse.  Can't do too rapidly though, because of heat.  Optimal size is 5 megawatts, or 3 ton device a couple yards across.  Very compact for that size.  Could fit it into anything except a car.  Could power things like a ship.  Would about an airplane?, asks David  A plane would be challenging.  Most radioactivity is not there, but there is some.  But in a plane, may not be safe as we would like.

He suggested maglev trains in an evaculated tunnels.

Charles asks other reactions possible?  One of things not demonstrated amount of compression goes up as atomic charge goes up.  Heavy elements have advantages.  Lithium doesn't burn all that much easier.  More complicated, he says.  Wants to go hydrogen boron.  A third of energy will be released by xrays.  "Braking" radiation occurs when electron encounters protons and causes them to slow down.  Intends to capture that energy efficiently.

(next) Caller was Charles:  asked about other reactions, see above.  With light elements, lose compression.  Also, doesn't like steam.  Gets away from cheap, clean energy.

Have achieved efficiency, getting close to having efficiency needed.


Emphasized that demonstrated that significant amount of energy in plasmoid.  These beams produced are very energetic and delivers in tens of nano seconds.  Produces tremendous power in that short of time.  Much greater energy than in Texas A and M experiment.  If all the energy goes into plasmoid, then what?  Net energy?  Lerner says this is necessary.

He says low efficiency in other ways of generating fusion.  Getting the energy transfer into the device in the tens of percent.  ( a little confusing to follow)

has a forum for this discussion; focus fusion society at focus ( I may have a link to that here)

(next) Caller  Dave in Cleveland:  NASA advanced concepts submission of proposals for that.  Looked at it briefly, not sure fusion being allowed.  Not enough money.  Asked Dave if he could "rig the game".  Dave says "Can't do it". Asked Dave if he read the proposal, he said no.  Don't open space without fusion drive.

(Lerner) Says its easier to get government money once scientific demo of fusion is done.  ( yep)

Problems cited in using this in space with heat.

Trent asks how fusion can be used in space.  (reply) He says that once we develop it energy production on Earth, can use it for space travel.  With fusion can achieve much higher speeds.  Rate of exploration go up an order of magnitude.

Can use energy of the ion beams in space for propulsion.( comment from me: this confirms what I thought)   Fusion generator as source of electricity that get off the Earth.( my comment this last sentence unclear)   {Emphasis added as an update}


Karen in Madison Wis, adm pushing forward to advance sophisticated propulsion like Vasimr.  Is any way that be included in future.  He says he would like to fund fusion ( instead of Tokomak).  Why did NASA move away from fusion, (host) David asks.  (reply) Didn't want competition from oil and gas.  NASA fusion program was important because it funded alternatives.  He had something to say about cutbacks in spending.  He sympathized with protestors.  (sorry to hear him say that, but (for me) this isn't about money, it is about rule of law and democratic process)

Harold asks status of serious fusion research in other countries.  Several groups on same idea as DPF.  All groups are interested in net energy.  The most powerful device in Poland.  Another in Iran.  Quite active DPF research.  A large machine in Las Vegas, he said.  Smaller devices in other countries, too.

Criticism of funding programs.

Caller on bad phone line or cell phone:  Fusion rockets have to have better alpha he said.  He says his generator weighs 3 tons.  If putting large fusion rocket, would probably set up a circuit from a single bunch of capacitors.  A whole cycle is 8 microsends.  For a single electrode, it would melt.  In theory, could put a bunch of electrodes to fire off a single capacitor for a better higher energy to mass ratio.  Need a switching system.  Fire the electrodes in some type of sequence.  Get orders of magnitude more energy. (my comment inserted here: this is what I was thinking about, good to hear that it may be feasible)

Jane asks about He3 on Moon.  Comments.  He says Boron lot easier to get.  If DPF works, the amount of Boron needed would be only 10 percent of what we already using.  Going to the Moon too costly in comparison.

Caller Trent:  Read recent paper, wonder what next thing publish in reference to Journal of Fusion Energy.   He says will submit latest work that proves what he's claiming.  ( Have an interruption, have to stop here)

Update: Did some editing for clarification. Kept it as close to original as possible.

Sunday's Space Show

The Guests were Chris Carberry- executive director and co-founder  of Explore Mars, Inc. and Artemis Westenberg- President and Director for Explore Mars.

First question: what's new.  Giving prizes to winning science teachers.  Lessons of how to do science using Mars as an example.  How to plan for driving a Mars rover, using research materials.  For grades 9-12 for US teachers only for now.  Not a space convention, but a teacher's conference in San Francisco.  Over 10,000 attended.  NSTA conference in San Francisco this week, can google it if interested.  Invitation only though.  But contact by interested parties are welcome.

Listener question: Who does the questions? NSTA arranged for a group of judges. Each entry is judged by at least five judges.  Vetted for scientific accuracy.  One question was what is the nature of the Martian surface? The aim was to make these lessons available for teachers across the country.

A conference is coming up on April 6-7.  Can ISS be utilized for Mars mission?  ISS not always popular in Mars community.  Trying to change this point of view because not politically helpful.  Good discussion seems to have had progress in that regard.  This is in Washington D.C.  Is open to public, can register.  Speakers include Lori Garver at NASA.  Director of human spaceflight in European Space Agency and somebody from the Russian space program will also be there.  Bill Gerstenmeir will be interviewed in a TV talk show format. A two day conference.  Deadline for hotel reservation by March 10 and for conference itself first come first served basis.

Email question: How much longer to human mission to and from Mars?  By 2020-2030 timetable.
Another question: How do you justify costs in this economy?  Ans: can't predict economy.  Feeling is a lack of confidence needs to be countered by something like this.

What about spending the money?  There was a certain amount of angst over the budget.  He thinks most people on the Hill want to do it.

Can we broaden the appeal of Mars exploration?  Public hears negative attitudes, but realize are much closer than is what is assumed.  Public is misinformed, according to Westenberg.  Need to do more to help public understood.

Livingston calls media "puppets of crap".  (I agree)  Westenberg: media doesn't know what's going on. Don't keep abreast of everything.  Space is something to the effect of leaving up to NASA, but NASA buys European space products.  Europe doesn't have to wait for NASA, she says.

Livingston calls politicians "idiotic".  Same true in Europe.  Westenberg agrees.

Human factors taken very seriously in European Space Agency.  Stays on ship for 500 days.  For four weeks, pretend that they on Mars.  Low G and radiation are two of the factors.  If can't handle these, you won't know these things, timetable will slip.  Won't know how to solve these problems until we commit to a program.


Talking about the ISS and Mars conference- will send reports to Washington; and then there will be at least one more lower level conference in Huntsville in May.  Will discuss DC conference and MIT panel.  Not mentioned in detail earlier in this program.  MIT one is on website.  ISSMAR-1 on YouTube?  Five technologies that can be advanced by ISS.  Strong interest in doing Mars agriculture.  Mars airplane concept.

Registration 185 dollar plus the dinner.  (Everything cost money!)

Does this cause of sending human to Mars get more complex or illusive, or is there a way to work around the fact.  Ans:  Everything is still in the air.  Admin shifting to Congress viewpoint.  Not any closer this year than last, though.  { Comment:  It would seem that you need to commercialize space first.  With tight budgets and such, increased spending is not in the cards.  Space will have to start pulling its own weight}

A Zubrin type question arose about Mars Direct.  A lot concepts can have an influence, but not a Mars Direct.  Tethers, in situ resource utilization will have positive impact, though.

Do we need to go to the Moon first?  Don't need to go to Moon first, Carberry says.  Will have value, but isn't necessary.  {Don't agree with this.} {Must  be a commercial mission because the government won't do it.}

Leadership crisis comment came up.  Hurray for that.  Couldn't agree more.  No Kennedy type leadership.

Need a different kind of leadership than we had in Apollo era.

Nuclear propulsion question came up, a caller named John in Atlanta.  {me: Good question}  Carberry says will help, but isn't necessary.   Ad Astra in Washington now, (VASIMR) {me: energy hog, no}.  Advanced propulsion more doable in short term, John says. John brings up NERVA in Apollo Era. {good observation} {Good call}


If we had a National Policy for going to Mars- will be opposed, Dr Livingston observes.  But such a mission would in his opinion would transform the nation.   He can't think of any project that would do more for this country than this.  {I agree, the politicians don't serve us, they serve themselves.}

Westenberg responds  "how can political leaders talk about lack of interest in science on one and and then cut programs on the other."  It is an investment.  It isn't just spending.  It make things better on Earth.  {exactly}

Dr. Livingston mentioned the magazine.  Online magazine, Mars Exploration Magazine.  How to get to it.  Can't google it?  Linked it above, maybe that will work. Quarterly publication.

Barney Frank story:  Not a fan of Mars.  A few digs at Barney.  He isn't easy to convince.  How to spend money, what is his objection? Has different priorities.  He supported commercial space, though.

Would life on Mars change Frank's mind, asked Ron in an email.  Didn't come up, he said.  Didn't discuss that.  Wouldn't it make it easier.  Westenberg said it would be easier and more difficult.  Can get into trouble do we have the right to trample existing life?  A new ballgame.  {me: Environmentalists would stop this too.  Screw them.}

Caller Tim in Huntsville:  Has to be perfect world first before we go, on the other hand he has got to invent problems in order to get elected {yep}  He says invalid argument (Frank's)

Abdication of leadership- Barney get slammed here pretty good.  Yeah, he lived off the housing crisis that he helped create, it was said.

Observation by email:  Bacteria on Mars: we kill bacteria on Earth all the time.  Not intelligent life we are talking about.  {This question bores me.}

Odds on finding life on Mars?  Speculation came up.

Followup:  Pearls of wisdom: Start of a new era.  Anyone interested can help shape it.  Mess in Washington, but opportunities exist.

Glorified Golf Cart?

Maybe.  But I wouldn't mind conducting an experiment with such a vehicle if I had the chance.  More on that later.

A response to my query about hydrogen fuel cells

I am going to reprint the letter and the response here.  (actually the order is reversed, with the answer first)
Here goes:

Hello Meadows,

the COM4EV is a concept we have shown during eCarTec fair last year. It is not a product yet, but we are working on such a solution. The idea is to provide electricity and heat for electric cars. Both is available from a DMFC fuel cell. Due to the combined heat and power approach, a very high efficiency from fuel to energy is possible.

When we have products or concept vehicles available, you will find an update on our webpage.

best regards,

Kai Steckmann
Business Development Manager

SFC Energy AG

Eugen-Saenger-Ring 7

85649 Brunnthal


Tel.: +49 89 673 592 – 176
Mobil: +49 160 889 11 63
Fax: +49 89 673 592 – 169

Besuchen Sie uns / Visit us:

Batmässan Göteborg, February 4 – 13, Göteborg/S, Thermoprodukter Booth F04:17

Weitere Messen unter / More fairs at

Vorstand: Dr. Peter Podesser
Vorsitzender des Aufsichtsrates: Dr. Rolf Bartke
Amtsgericht München: HRB 144296

Diese Nachricht ist ausschließlich für die Personen bestimmt, an die sie adressiert ist. Sie kann vertrauliche und/oder nur für den/die Empfänger bestimmte Informationen enthalten. Sollten Sie nicht der bestimmungsgemäße Empfänger sein, kontaktieren Sie bitte den Absender und löschen Sie die Mitteilung. Jegliche unbefugte Verwendung der Informationen in dieser Nachricht ist untersagt.

Confidentiality Note:
This message is intended only for the use of the named recipient(s) and may contain confidential and/or privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender and delete the message. Any unauthorized use of the information contained in this message is prohibited.

Von: Greg Meadows []
Gesendet: Donnerstag, 3. März 2011 14:09
An: Sales
Betreff: information request

I am curious about your product as described on this web page

Could you describe this product in detail? How much power does it produce? Where can someone see it in operation? And so forth. I am not seriously interested in buying it at this time. I am writing about this topic on my blog. However, if it is feasible to try this in an experiment, I may be able to talk a sponsor into trying it in a real world application. So, what information you have would be appreciated. Thanks

Greg Meadows

I am ignoring the warnings about confidentiality. This is a bit overplayed. The source of information is public, the topic is of public interest, and there wasn't anything of substance disclosed here.

Note: This is one of several emails that I've sent out lately.  Still waiting to hear from Phoenix and a couple of others.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dr. Robert Hirsch on Space Show

This was broadcast last month and it sounds pretty bad.  Particularly in the area of liquid fuels for transportation.  Guess what I've been writing about all this time? While I am listening as I'm typing, still not hearing anything about methanol to hydrogen conversion for hydrogen fuel cells.  Still wondering if something is getting overlooked.  The assumption is if it isn't being done, it must not be good.  But this assumption may be wrong.

No imagination, as I wrote previously.

He had a question about of electric vehicles.  He mentioned that he has a Prius.  He says the problem is takes decades of rapid deployment of these vehicles to make a difference.  It's a time problem, as he repeats over and over again.  By the time it gets developed, things may have gotten a lot worse.  Resources to pay for what is needed to implemented may not be available.

Politics not in touch with reality it seems.  "Green" politics is a problem, not a solution. (my take)  Thinking needs to change.  Their attitudes will change when they have to, or they will die. (this is said seriously, so it is not being hyped)

Boy does this fit into my video I made.  Wishing for something to be true doesn't make it true.

Total lack of imagination

What's missing here?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Defeatism can never win

That's almost a Yogi Berra'ism.  I've been spending a lot of time on this subject and I think that a solution is possible.  Why can't Ford do it with all the resources that they have?  They can't do it if they give up, which looks like what this is saying.

Napoleon Hill, in this book , tells how Henry Ford developed the new Ford V8 motor, which was state of the art at the time.  He told his people to stay on the problem until they got a solution.  He wanted it, and by golly, he got it.  Ford wouldn't have become the great automobile manufacturer that it became if he gave up as easily as they seem to be doing nowadays.

Leadership at all levels must do better.  This won't cut it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Phoenix Motors, Part 3

It seems pretty intriguing that this company takes a shell vehicle and converts it in an electric vehicle.  What does that shell vehicle cost?  I'm a little curious.  What if you were to replace the batteries with fuel cells along the lines I mentioned before?  Perhaps you could still find a use for batteries, but they wouldn't have to be as large.  Consequently, the costs could be reduced.

How to Evaluate Ideas

By Paul Sloane

He seems to be a pretty good source, worth following on Twitter.  That's where this link came from.  With respect to this blog, it may be good advice for evaluating any new ideas I come up with here.

In reference to brainstorms, the idea did occur to me to sell timeshares to a range extending device on battery powered automobiles, like the Nissan Leaf.  You see, with timeshares, it wouldn't be necessary to buy the entire package.  Just plan the time in which you will need it, say for a vacation, then buy a timeshare to coincide with that time.  When you're done, turn it in, and you're back to all battery operation.  This makes the car more affordable than buying the whole package and more versatile for the times you will really need it.  Maybe you don't need all that range all the time.  Why let that big investment go to waste?  Share it with someone, or a lot of people.

What would be an attractive price point?  A thousand dollars for a week?  For two weeks?  Or a month?  What would work in this instance?   Let's say you add a few thousand dollars to the sticker price as an option to use one of these devices on a timeshare basis for x number of weeks per year.  Would this work?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

HowStuffWorks calls it Fuel Processors

Anything having to do with electrolysis invariably seems to come back to water.  If one looks for the hydrolysis of methanol, good luck.  As mentioned in the title, it may be more fruitful to look it up as a fuel processor.  The interesting thing about this is that the thing being hydrolyzed or processed is none other than gasoline.  Funny how that seemed to get into the discussion.  Especially since the technology has existed since 2002 for hydrolyzing methanol.  Could it be that someone doesn't want the hydrolysis of methanol to work?  Somebody would have a lot to lose if a new way to power a vehicle becomes a viable option.  That may sound like conspiracy mongering, but one can't help but sense a pattern to certain developments like this.  If the powers that be are threatened, they are not about to let something disturb their dominance over the scene.


Here's a video of the HySeries Drive from Ford.  It is a fuel cell/ battery hybrid.  This is fine, but it would be even better if you get rid of the hydrogen storage.


More on fuel cell problems.  One of these is the cost of platinum.  If you mine the asteroids and the Moon for Platinum Group Metals, you just might get the price down toward a competitive level.  Also, the hydrogen storage problem goes away if you don't have to store it at all.  Which is what I am trying to figure out.


Here once again from the JPL pdf file; which is the pertinent information on how it can be used in an automotive application.

NASA Tech Brief Vol 26, No. 6 Chun, Valdex et. al, JPL Report number NPO19948

Either the authors are incorrect as to this potential, or this technology is being consistently overlooked.

Apologies to the Beatles

Lyrics to the song "Drive My Car" were taken to make this video. Well, my excuse was I was thinking about cars, and what have you, and this idea for this video popped into my head. You can't play it to music, you have to imagine it.

People may forgive dummies for acting like dummies. So these dummies can't sing nor dance. They can just repeat the words to the song. Anyway, I hope somebody finds this amusing. Here goes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Master Plan

I guess I've said it before on this blog.  It bears repeating, but this time it gets its own post with an easier to remember title.

What I want to do is to put a hydrolysis electrolysis unit on a hydrogen fuel cell powered car.  I want to procure supplies of platinum group metals mined from space ( Moon or asteroids).  The reason for this is these are rare on Earth and if everyone is to drive one of these, we are going to need a lot of these metals.  If the fuel cell powered car is successful, that is.

I want to do this because I think it is important for the USA to stop importing so much oil.  It will secure our energy future, and for that matter, the energy future for the entire world.  Methanol is relatively easy to make, the ancient Egyptians were familiar with it.  At present, USA uses ( according to memory) about 20 million barrels of oil daily.  Using methanol in this fashion could eliminate a lot of these imports.  As a result, it would help with the trade deficit and help the dollar.    In connection with the space program, it will provide jobs and put people back to work.  It will make prosperity possible.  It is not possible under the current conditions.

I think it should be a high national priority.  Given the political instability in the oil producing regions of the world, it could mean the difference between war and peace.

Update:  With respect to the methanol hydrolyzer electrolyzer, I can't find any information available about this except the pdf file I've been referencing.  My best guess is that this device is not being built at present.  If it is, it is a big secret.  No, it is probably not being built anywhere.  Evidently there is something missing here.  In order to discover this, I may have to run the experiment myself.  Or find the patent(s) on file, and attempt to take it from there.

This pdf file had a phone number to contact someone about it, but that number has been disconnected.  There is a mailing address, so I suppose I could write to inquire about it.  That seems a bit shaky.

Update: March 3 approx 6:30 am cst

I overlooked something, but it doesn't appear significant at this time.  It is DMFC's , which are being built already.  The site I visited claims these can be used in vehicles, but that doesn't look like the case to me.  Not powerful enough.  Too big for the power generated, too.  These may have some limited usefulness for range extension for batteries, as far as I can tell.

Stand alone fuel cells do have enough power for a vehicle, but how to handle the hydrogen issue?  That's what I'm trying to find out.