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Power Science

The Car That Makes Its Own Fuel 534

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the easy-to-refuel dept.
Spy der Mann writes "A unique system that can produce Hydrogen inside a car using common metals such as Magnesium and Aluminum was recently developed by an Israeli company. The system solves all of the obstacles associated with the manufacturing, transporting and storing of hydrogen to be used in cars. And it's completely emission free."
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The Car That Makes Its Own Fuel

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  • FP BS! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schematix (533634) * on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:29PM (#13869244) Homepage
    first post to call bullshit! :: cough ::
    • Re:FP BS! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ElBorba (221626) <elborba&gmail,com> on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:49PM (#13869367)
      No, seriously, I don't think you can mod this troll. This "article" is pulled from some sort of promotional flier or something. Not only is there a complete lack of any type of criticism but there's no hint as to what sorts of infrastructure would really be required to implement this "thing". I'm all for supporting the sciences and research and hey, I'm even psyched for the eventual advent of hydrogen or other yet unnamed types of personal transportation, but this piece makes it sound like a done deal when there's nothing at all in the article to make any judgement about...
       
      ...other than the fact that the fuel coil will be 3 TIMES THE WEIGHT OF A CONVENTIONAL PETROL TANK.
      • Re:FP BS! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Furmy (854336) on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:54PM (#13869377)
        The Weizzmann Institute [weizmann.ac.il] (from TFA) doesn't list it on their Press Release page [80.70.129.162]

        They did figure out how to get hydrogen using solar energy [80.70.129.162], but that was announced back in April.
        • by haraldm (643017) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:46AM (#13870275)
          The article doesn't say a couple of things:

          a) The metal industry will need energy to make the wires. Al, for one, uses a hell of a lot of electrical energy to be produced (not sure about Mg). Where does the electrical energy come from? Some more nuclear power plants? Thank you. (1)

          b) What about the infrastructure needed to carry the wires along? More trucks on the road? Powered by what? In Europe: Thank you.

          c) How much water is needed to make enough Hydrogen to get the power of a conventional car? Has this amount of water been added to the additional weight and size of the car? Even if the weight of the coil does not affect the performance of the car, the coil and the water will add to the weight, and hence reduce the overall efficiency.

          d) What is the efficiency behind the in-car process?

          e) What overall ecologic efficiency can be reached, as compared to other technologies?

          I admit the metal industry and the large energy corporations may not be that interested in answering all these questions. The photo of the car on the web site suggests this technology is ready to go. IMHO it has a LONG way to go.

          OK, let's move on.

          (1) And an excellent idea for the developing countries as well, where the track record of safe nuclear power plants is that long.

          • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @07:21AM (#13870673) Homepage Journal
            Lets just address these in order.

            a) yes Al takes a lot of energy to make. we would call this a "high energy density" material. This is a good thing, not a bad thing. It means we can put more energy in a smaller (or lighter) package. Gasoline is not incredbily energy-dense. One way or another you have to put energy into the process of creating fuel. The only difference with petrolium is the energy has already been put in, and it just needs to be processed for us to use easily. Since you have to put energy into it, a source like nuclear power actually makes a great deal of sense. It's highly renewable, low pollution, and provides a very large amount of energy.

            b) um, the trucks can be wire-powered too, y'know. It'd be kinda silly for them NOT to be wire powered.

            c) Water will add to the weight, yes. I don't know all the physics, but in general I know you can get a LOT of hydrogen out of a little water. A system like this may require occasional refilling. On a guess I'd say you might need to tank up on water every 100 miles or so. The water is after all the source of your hydrogen, the wire is the source of the energy. This also greatly increases the safety of the vehicle, because there is no need for a very high pressure hydrogen tank, and the associated hazards of refilling and transportation of hydrogen.

            d) As for efficiency, there is always heat. Since the system uses heat to crack the water, it's not going to be too far off in efficiency from a regular car. It actually may be less efficient, since there are two heat losses - you have to burn the hydrogen after all, and that too releases heat. This may not matter as much since the fuel source is more easily renewable.

            e) it's an interesting system when you examine it. You are using a wire to generate heat, to turn water into oxygen and hydrogen, and then BURNING that hydrogen (presumably with the oxygen you make, to improve efficiency) and that actually gets you... water. I suppose technically it may not need water refils because of this. But then if you look at that, you've come full circle. The only addition has been the wire being turned into physical motion. It's too bad they need to go through the water-to hydrogen-to water conversion but it provides a buffer that allows for fast accelleration etc. Considering the zero emissions and loss of reliance on fossil fuels, it sounds like a very good move, environmentally.
            • "in general I know you can get a LOT of hydrogen out of a little water"

              Roughly 2 atoms per molecule would be my guess.

            • Great, it runs on water.

              Price of gas - $2.50 a gallon.
              Price of water - $1.50 for 20oz.
              • by Ced_Ex (789138) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @10:23AM (#13872052)
                Great, it runs on water.

                Price of gas - $2.50 a gallon.
                Price of water - $1.50 for 20oz.


                Unless you're driving a racing version with high compression, you don't have to run on premium water like Evian for top performance.

                You can fill on regular tap water for a couple of cents per cubic metre. Or, if you're one of those environmentalist, you get an engine conversion done and you can get your water from sewage pipes and septic tanks for free!
            • by phlegmofdiscontent (459470) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @09:53AM (#13871801)
              "I know you can get a LOT of hydrogen out of a little water"

              Not really. 1 gram of water will yield .11 g of hydrogen. By comparison, though, 1 gram of methane (natural gas) yields .25 g of hydrogen, ethanol (sweet sweet alcohol) yields .13g of hydrogen, and gasoline will give on average .16 g of hydrogen. So really, water is not all that efficient if you want hydrogen. Overall, this implementation of a hydrogen vehicle doesn't seem that workable, especially compared to others I've seen.
              • You're very right when it comes to hydrogen carrying capacity. You also need to haul around 24g Mg to make 2g H2, or 27g Al/3g H2. That's a big difference, though volumetrically may be competitive compared to the very low density of liquid H2 (0.13 g/cm3), or NiMH/Pt/Pd type hydrogen storage that achieves the same volumetric density, though at much higher weight.
                Lithium you'd need 7g Li/1g H2, beryllium(toxic) 9g Be/2g H2, and Boron 11g B/3g H2(though spontaneous reactivy is worse, so there is a reason why
            • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @10:25AM (#13872067)
              a) yes Al takes a lot of energy to make. we would call this a "high energy density" material. This is a good thing, not a bad thing.

              It would be a good thing if it were true. The massive ammounts of energy used to reduce bauxite are mostly lost as waste heat. If they were actually stored in the material, this might be an efficient system to transport energy.

              Water will add to the weight, yes. I don't know all the physics, but in general I know you can get a LOT of hydrogen out of a little water.

              Well, I do know the physics involved. No, you can't get "a LOT" of hydrogen from water. Water is only 2/18 hydrogen by weight. So you only get 111 grams H2 per kg H2O. That's elementary chemistry. The heat of combustion of H2 is about 141 MJ/kg (IIRC), and the heat of combustion of gasoline is about 44 MJ/kg. But if you're only getting 11% H2 from water, then the effective heat of combustion from the products of electrolysis is about 16 MJ/kg of H2O. Therefore, even neglecting the weight of the metal, this is not a very energy dense system as you claim it to be.

              There so much wrong with the rest of your post, but I don't feel like addressing it. The FP had it right: this is bullshit.
              • by MythoBeast (54294) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @11:38AM (#13872669) Homepage Journal
                It would be a good thing if it were true. The massive ammounts of energy used to reduce bauxite are mostly lost as waste heat. If they were actually stored in the material, this might be an efficient system to transport energy.

                Actually, this is true. Thermite is a substance that burns at around 5000 degrees, and is capable of welding metal plates and destroying metal machinery. I've always wanted to see someone put a thermite grenade on top of one of those really big soda machines and watch it explode.

                Thermite is a mixture of aluminum shavings and rust. The heat is produced by the oxidation of the aluminum as oxygen is transfered from the rust. There's a car in the St. Louis Science Center that is entirely powered from that reaction. It's an experimental thing and I've never heard about why it wasn't practical, but I know it works.

                Haraldm is, in fact, correct in that they're just moving the energy production back to a central power plant, and the efficiency of the process is in question. Until they figure out how to turn bauxite into aluminum in solar furnaces, I'd say that this solution is not terribly effectual.

                In response to the "where do they get the water?" comment, distilleries figured out how to condense fluids from gasses centuries ago. Properly designed heat exchangers and condenser coils should notably limit the loss in that direction.

                All things said and done, either this isn't a complete idea, or they're hiding the rest of it because they think they're clever. It's certainly not a NEW idea, it's just feeding off the hype of "hydrogen fuel!", and propogating because people don't understand the thermodynamics of the process.
          • by Faw (33935) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @07:32AM (#13870712)
            The photo of the car on the web site suggests this technology is ready to go. IMHO it has a LONG way to go.

            That car is actually a Ford concept car it is the Shelby GR-1 [conceptcarz.com].
      • Re:FP BS! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Technician (215283) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @12:21AM (#13869472)
        .other than the fact that the fuel coil will be 3 TIMES THE WEIGHT OF A CONVENTIONAL PETROL TANK.

        Anybody want to venture the supply problems of supplying about 100 Lbs of magnesium wire per commuter per week. The article seems to claim it won't cost more than petrol. Petrol is delivered by pipeline or tanker. Pumps and hoses won't deliver the wire. In reality, is there enough of this metal to support a fuel infrastructure?
        • Aluminum plants are being demolished at an amazing rate. A plant in Troutdale Or. I had done work for in 2001 was leveled. Likewise most of the existing aluminum plants in the USA have been flattened due to energy costs. Sounds like a great way to save energy, reduce alumina to aluminum and then reduce aluminum to alumina.
          I doubt there is enough smelter capacity to supply beer can and airplane part requirements without recycling the metal that is in the system.
          BTW: Beer can metal is a top grade alloy. Last
          • by Technician (215283) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @12:58AM (#13869623)
            A plant in Troutdale Or. I had done work for in 2001 was leveled.

            I have more information on that.

            The plant operated with reduced energy costs. They bought excess BPA power wholsale, not retail. This included shutting down operation when surplus power (spring runoff from hydro power, low residentual heating demand, not yet heavy AC season in LA) was in short supply. Even with cheap energy costs, the cost of operation finaly failed to make economic sense.

            Sounds like a great way to save energy, reduce alumina to aluminum and then reduce aluminum to alumina.


            If anyone thinks aluminum and other metal prices are not related to the rising price of energy, they have not been paying attention.

            When gas prices then electric prices go up, so does smeltering costs.. This is not a breakthrough in high fuel prices.
    • Re:FP BS! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slashdot@nOsPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @12:39AM (#13869551) Homepage Journal
      Actually the link I submitted was a physorg one. IIRC, physorg doesn't publish BS articles.

      Or am I wrong? :-/
    • Re:FP BS! (Score:5, Informative)

      by arivanov (12034) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:34AM (#13869732) Homepage
      Seconded.

      It has emissions and of a very ugly kind. True, Al will happily give hydrogen when whacked with a hyperheated steam. It is the well known firefighters rule of "never try to extinguish burning Aluminium with water".

      There is a problem though - under controlled condition the reaction results in colloidal Alx(OH)y/AlxOy suspension which is a right mess. Its mechanical properies are all over the place so you cannot filter it, separate it or deal with it by any reasonable means. So the idea is a BS for most applications.
      • Re:FP BS! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by senatorpjt (709879) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @06:27AM (#13870508)
        I deal with organoaluminum reactions all the time, which produce aluminum hydroxides on workup. The colloidal aluminum hydroxide sludge can be treated with sodium hydroxide to convert it to a filterable consistency.

        In fact, I think that lithium aluminum hydride (and various other light metal hydrides) has been mentioned as a possible hydrogen storage source. I don't know anything more about it than it's been mentioned (specifically, how they plan to regenerate it, LAH isn't exactly cheap)

    • Re:FP BS! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @02:26AM (#13869905)
      first post to call bullshit! :: cough ::

      And the First Post that didn't deserve to be moderated OT too.

      The car, contrary to the Slashdot editor letting this one through when they shouldn't have in its posted form does not make its own fuel. It runs on water and aluminum or magnesium.

      Now if it mined those elements and refined them in the process and still had a postive energy output then yes, the article summary would have been accurate.

      It doesn't. It's not!

    • Re:FP BS! (Score:5, Informative)

      by antic (29198) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @02:32AM (#13869919)

      Using metals as a fuel source is the cover article on the current New Scientist:

      Metal: The fuel of the future
      http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18825221.100 .html [newscientist.com]

    • Re:FP BS! (Score:5, Informative)

      by orzetto (545509) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @03:45AM (#13870113)

      The main bullshit of the article boils down to this sentence:

      Beside the obvious advantages of the system, such as the inexpensive and abundant fuel, [...]

      The fuel, i.e. aluminium or magnesium, is neither inexpensive nor abundant, in fact Al and Mg are completely nonexistant in nature in their unbound form. Since pure Al and Mg are so reactive, they don't last long in nature, and must be produced by electrolysis in liquid-metal, power-intensive plants. There's a reason why bike frames in aluminium are more expensive than ones in steel.

      Since the article says also that the car "... needs a metal coil three-times heavier than an equivalent petrol tank.", one wonders why in the world we should not then use simple pressurised hydrogen-gas tanks then.

    • by crovira (10242) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @05:21AM (#13870348) Homepage
      It works too. It was used by the Nazis to produce hydrazine for a rocket propelled plane.

      That counts as irony.
    • Re:FP BS! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by yog (19073) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @08:05AM (#13870915) Homepage Journal
      The problem with "solutions" like this H2-from-Mg idea is that it doesn't solve the real problem, which is cars. We badly need alternatives to private automobiles in the U.S. for both energy reasons and for safety. 37,000 people dying a year in automobile accidents in the U.S. alone is ridiculous. If the U.S. went to war over 3,000 deaths in 2001 then surely it can get more worked up over the ongoing slaughter on the roads (albeit largely alcohol-induced).

      Take some of that aluminum and magnesium and make bicycles out of it. Paint stripes on all the regular city thoroughfares reserving space for bike lanes. Give people health insurance discounts for riding bikes, and give them secure, covered spots to park at work. Let them carry bikes on public buses and trains.

      Speaking of buses and trains, put hundreds of billions of $ into public transportation and solar power panels on all public buildings rather than defending some oil fields in some miserable patch of desert in the middle east.

      I see these online discussions about how many years it would take to make a hybrid's cost pay for itself. I suggest taxing the heck out of gas guzzler cars and *make* the fuel efficient versions worthwhile. It's crazy that you have to pay a $3000 surcharge for a hybrid electric vehicle, for example, over a regular gas guzzler that is literally funding war and terrorism in the Middle East.
      • Re:FP BS! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        "....it doesn't solve the real problem, which is cars. We badly need alternatives to private automobiles in the U.S. for both energy reasons and for safety."

        While that sounds good...it is virtually impossible given the vast amounts of land we cover here and the different weather conditions and terrains. Take for instance where I'm at right now. My house in NOLA is still uninhabitable...I'm living with friends just outside New Orleans. I commute every day to my job, temporarily moved to Baton Rouge. They'r

      • Re:FP BS! (Score:3, Informative)

        by tmortn (630092)
        The problem with bikes is weather and B.O.. The problem with public transportation is weather and cost of the last mile to a low density population.

        People don't like being wet or cold and no other solution matches mobile shelter from door to door as well as the private automobile. Until that changes or the US becomes as densely populated as Europe the culture centered around the automobile here is not going to change. If Oil runs out another way will be found.

        Back to the topic at hand.... what energy is bei
  • Big deal. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:30PM (#13869254)
    I can produce methane inside my body using only common vegetables such as beans. OK, so it's not emission free.
    • Re:Big deal. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gadgetfreak (97865)
      Actually, it's not usually you that makes the methane, it's the bacteria that took up residence inside feasting on what your body didn't finish breaking down. Which is all fine and normal, but raises the question of why more research isn't done into using bacteria to produce useful fuel. Particularly if you used something like solar energy to provide the bacteria with warmth. IANA biologist, but I think it's something to look into, at least.

  • Yes, but... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Does it have cupholders?
  • From the article referenced by the Slashdot story: "The metal atoms will bond to the Oxygen from the water, creating metal oxide. As a result, the Hydrogen molecules are free, and will be sent into the engine alongside the steam."

    This is just an example of moving the pollution elsewhere. The metal must be refined, at great cost to the environment. Then it is oxidized in a "pollution free" car.
    • One thing I've learned over the years: Slashdot editors aren't much interested in science. The publish a lot of pseudo-science articles, or nonsense science articles like this one.

      The issue here is that the process works, but it is very expensive in energy, because the metal oxide must be refined.

      Anyhow, there is nothing new in the referenced article. The fact that it is possible to produce hydrogen using reactive metals has been known since perhaps 1860, maybe much earlier.

      If I remember correctly, there was an explosion in Antoine Laurent Lavoisier's [k12.ca.us] lab caused by hydrogen released by heating with metal. Mr. Lavoisier died in 1794, and not from the explosion.
      • One thing I've learned over the years: Slashdot editors aren't much interested in science. The publish a lot of pseudo-science articles, or nonsense science articles like this one.


        This is the very kind of article that belongs on Slashdot. The whole point of posting something like this is having it taken apart and scrutinized by the Slashdot community.

        How much fun would an article be was bullet proof? There would be nothing to say about it.
      • One thing I've learned over the years: Slashdot editors aren't much interested in science. The publish a lot of pseudo-science articles, or nonsense science articles like this one.


        Well, imagine a middle school student with 3/4 lb of magnesium and a lot of time on his hands.

        Aside from the obvious hobby of burning it, I also derived a number of methods of hydrogen generation from it. The simplest (and slowest) was to soak it in water. However, this takes a long time. I assume that the aluminum is used to c
      • Not to be too pessimistic, but has anyone else detected a spike in BS from Israeli companies? There was the vocal lie detector, the compression algorithm that could compress arbitrary data, unbreakable encryption, etc, etc. Are Israeli companies earning a bad reputation, or is it just a Slashdot filter?

    • by shmlco (594907) on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:47PM (#13869356) Homepage
      Not to mention that, according to TFA, each "coil" lasts about as long as a normal tank of gas. As such, I still have to build an entire refining, distribution, refueling, and recycling network from scratch. In which case the summary is wrong, "The system solves all of the obstacles associated with the manufacturing, transporting and storing of hydrogen to be used in cars."

      Sounds like there's still an obstacle or three in the way...

      • by plover (150551) * on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @12:39AM (#13869547) Homepage Journal
        The obstacles TFA is referring to are obstacles dealing with gaseous hydrogen.

        There is currently not a distribution system for delivery of gaseous fuels direct to consumers at the scale required to power our cars. There are some small-scale delivery systems (propane, for example) but those still require a trained handler and other special steps -- you typically can't pump your own propane, propane needs to be stored outdoors in a ventilated cabinet, etc. And the infrastructure for propane is small: a couple hundred gallons per homeowner per winter up here where it's cold, maybe a few tanks for cooking in the summer, that's it. There aren't nearly enough trucks and tanks required to provide fuel for all vehicles if they were suddenly converted to propane.

        Even if the safety issues were handled technologically, neither propane nor natural gas are ready for "the final mile". Most homeowners don't have an existing gas "tap" where they can hook a hose up to their car, so they'd require new plumbing. For that matter, home delivery of natural gas is pretty much restricted to metro areas in northern states: it's not currently available in the far south or in rural areas. To make it available everywhere else would require a huge investment in pipes.

        Then there's the problem with the storage of hydrogen or any gaseous fuel. For there to be enough energy to power a vehicle for any useful distance, a fairly large quantity of it needs to be highly compressed. Where do you put a large pressure vessel in a car so that if it's in an accident it has the lowest risk of rupturing? If you've ever seen even a small tank of high pressure gas rupture, you'll realize some of the danger. Now, make that gas highly flammable, and you'll be even more unhappy.

        The idea of a magnesium coil as a fuel source is a good one. It could distributed in user-replaceable reusable metal boxes, each containing a humanly-portable 20kg of fuel, and having room for an equal amount of oxidized waste. Assuming a well-designed non-sparking container it would require no special handling, and would be remarkably inert. It would also be quite safe in most accidents, even those involving the fuel containers themselves.

        These boxes can be carried by ordinary trucks. They would not require specialized tankers like propane or even gasoline. Any existing trucking firm could safely handle boxes of this product as is. And you could buy and sell them anywhere, not just fuel stations: a grocery store, discounter, convenience store, wherever. They would have no foul or toxic smells or hazardous liquids, and would run the same risk of accidental ignition as any other flammable metal, which is to say: not a lot. If you've ever tried to ignite magnesium or aluminum, you're probably aware of the amount of heat required to get it to sustain flame.

        The part of the story that requires the most handwaving is the "mining" of the fuel. Both aluminium and magnesium are naturally found in the oxidized state (much like the spent fuel from the vehicle itself.) The amount of energy required to refine the metal is immense. Keep in mind that you cannot get something for nothing; that means the energy required to refine it must be higher than the amount of energy retrieved from the metal when it is burned. And that means huge amounts of electrical energy will be needed to produce a fuel stream. With an emphasis on reducing costly oil consumption, with today's technology that would basically mean lots of new nuclear reactors will be required.

        Think of the magnesium more like a "rechargeable battery", storing electrical energy in the form of unoxidized metal. It's still going to require energy that comes from somewhere else.

        • Evidently you have had very little experience working with Magnesium in these areas.

          1) You wouldn't get a coil of MgO, you would get a lot of small MgO crystals floating in your water.

          2) It takes a heck of a lot more than a spark of static electicity to ignite a small magnesium turning. A coil should not be a cause for concern.

          3) However, selling them at the convenience store: Your problem isn't accidental ignition. The problem is what happens if there is a structural fire for other reasons? That mig
          • Reread my post. Each container would have two sections: one part containing the metal coil, and a collection part for reclaiming the oxides. The two sections would not mix, and I know the oxide would be collected in a powdered state (I had forgotten it would be wet, which would certainly be detrimental to the coiled magnesium if they did mix.)

            Your point about structural fires is valid (and no, I don't know how to extinguish a magnesium fire, either. Perhaps a liquid nitrogen spray?) It's possible tha

        • by shmlco (594907) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:37AM (#13869747) Homepage
          You're being very reasonable here, but I think you need to go back to the article as there's a small detail lurking there that you seem to have missed. We're talking about boxes three times the weight (220 pounds) of an equivalent tank of gas. As such, I don't see a gas station attendent or driver casually unloading a standard delivery truck full of "gas".

          From TFA, "Refuelling the car based on this technology will also be remarkably simple. The vehicle will contain a mechanism for rolling the metal wire into a coil during the process of fuelling and the spent metal oxide, which was produced in the previous phase, will be collected from the car by vacuum suction."

          So, functionally, we need to load a "pump" with several tons of metal wire, and then suck the waste back out again for disposal.

          That being the case, I suspect the infrastructure requirements in terms of loading, transportation, unloading, fueling, and recovery might be a bit more involved than you, or the author or the article, make them out to be.

          "Remarkably simple," indeed.

          • TFA refers to a single coil of magnesium weighing 220 pounds (100kg) and states that it provides a range equivalent to one third its weight in gasoline (73 pounds or 33kg.) It's quite apparent the authors haven't given any thought whatsoever as to how to deliver these giant coils of metal, assuming everyone would happily just wind in a 100kg spool once a week and suck ash out with a grimy vacuum hose. But as you correctly point out, dealing with these giant unwieldy coils and the resultant mess would make
    • A little searching tells me that the popular type of cell used in automotive applications is the PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) type. These seem to peak out at just over 50% efficient. Not bad, but a well build IC engine can get into the upper 40's, so "much more efficient" becomes a point of contention.

      Then consider that the PEMFC's output is electricity, which must be put through a motor to drive the vehicle. If we're generous and assume the motor is 90% efficient, you are now on par with a well built
    • Take a similar technology - but this one real, reported in reputable publications:
      You take nanometre sized particles of iron, aluminium or boron. They are injected into a standard internal combustion engine, a spark plug ignites the particles, the heat causes the air/fuel mixture to expand, operating the engine, the exhaust stroke pushes the spent fuel out where it is captured by an electromagnet (the particles are so small that they act like fine dust, floating in the airflow - the researchers tried years
  • This seems way too good to be true. Anybody with some credible knowledge care to debunk it?
    • Read about magnesium [wikipedia.org] on wikipedia. It's a very reactive metal. Put it this way - you don't want to have a pile of magnesium shavings sitting around your house. If it catches fire, there's no way of putting it out. It can 'burn' without oxygen, in a pure nitrogen atmosphere.
    • by einhverfr (238914)
      Well, I still like to play with Magnesium so I guess I can comment. Also my grandfather is a retired chemistry professor, my grandmother was an astrophysicist (G.R. Caughlin), my great uncle was an important physicist (Howard Percy Robertson), and my great grandfather (Morris William Travers) was a very important chemist. However, I am not a scientist.

      1) Magnesium is pretty reactive. If you soak Mg in water, Mg binds with the O, releasing H2. This means Mg + H2O = MgO + H2. MgO is pretty harmless. Th
  • Sounds like BS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pinkocommie (696223) on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:33PM (#13869277)
    Reading the article it says the way it works is by superheating water and using a metal catalyst to seperate H2 and O using the super heated steam and hydrogen to fuel the car. The problem not mentioned at all in the article is where does the super heated water come from?
    • by theguywhosaid (751709) on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:39PM (#13869314) Homepage
      Forced hot air from press releases?
    • Re:Sounds like BS (Score:5, Informative)

      by anOminousCow (905486) on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:40PM (#13869319)
      The superheated water and H2 come from the magnesium metal reacting with water. The metal oxidizes, gives off heat, and releases the hydrogen part of the water. However, there's still the problem of obtaining the metal in the first place.
    • Also, as I remember my high school AP Chem class, water breaks normally into OH- and H+, doesn't it? I mean, I know there is a way to get H2 and O with electricity, but isn't that counterproductive?
    • There are several practical difficulties with this process but obtaining super heated water is not one of them. The hydrolysis of H2O by Zn is an exothermic and self-sustaining reaction. The water is simply heated by the waste heat from the formation of ZnO.

      A more pressing engineering problem is separating H2 from steam, either with a cooling/condensing loop or through filtration, and also capturing the Zno product for recycling. There is a minimum 5-8 years needed to make this kind of technology prac

  • Nice but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by lothar97 (768215) * <owen AT smigelski DOT org> on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:34PM (#13869282) Homepage Journal
    The second article [slashdot.org] in as many months. I now know of a second target for big oil.

    In all seriousness, I wish them success. It remains to be seen whether they can create an efficient system for collecting the corroded/expended metal. How often do you see puddles of leaked material under a car? No mention of how much "metal oxide" this venicle produces, but I cannot imagine it's something we want leaked onto the ground.

    I'd put my money on the H2N-Gen, but then again that guy's being sued for patent infringment [engadget.com].

  • No no no no (Score:5, Funny)

    by ericdano (113424) on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:35PM (#13869290) Homepage
    No no. This simply can not be. The Oil companies, with their record profits, are developing this type of thing. If they haven't come up with it, then it simply does not exist.
  • by Ancil (622971) on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:37PM (#13869303)
    The Hydrogen car Engineuity is working on will use metals such as Magnesium or Aluminum which will come in the form of a long coil.
    Is there any posibility we could send the entire slashdot editorial board to a class called "Thermodynamics 101"?

    Actually, a lot of Hydrogen Economy True Believers need to enroll in that same class. Nothing against hydrogen per se, but half the nation seems to think of it as an energy source, which of course it isn't..

    • by Quirk (36086) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @12:20AM (#13869466) Homepage Journal
      Is there any posibility we could send the entire slashdot editorial board to a class called "Thermodynamics 101"?

      I nominate the entire DOE Handbooks [doe.gov], not only for the /. editors but for the most part of /.ers overall, myself included. DOE-HDBK-1012/1-92 will cover Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer, and Fluid Flow. The math and science DOE Handbooks are a great free, downloadable resource. The basics of Physics, Chemistry, Electricity, Materials science, Reactor science and attendant math are all covered.

      The DOE Handbooks are a rich resource that cover every aspect of implementing and running an organization. The books cover disputes, roundtables, the list is very nearly all encompassing.

      Nothing speaks to independence like your own in house nuclear reactor and the DOE Handbooks guide you through nearly every step of the way.

    • Nothing against hydrogen per se, but half the nation seems to think of it as an energy source, which of course it isn't..

      And, just to straighten it all out (and make a point ;-), neither is oil. It's just that the time difference between energy input into the carrier/medium, and energy output, is measured in millions of years, not hours/days/weeks/months. And somebody else - Mother Nature - put in all the hard work of converting hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and sunlight into a recoverable energy storage medi

  • Oh no! This will give the zinc and magnesium cartels a strangehold on the world economy!

    ===

    It definately sounds too good to be true, but I guess we'll see in a couple of years when the thing goes commercial, eh?
  • File a patent to this invention - fast! Otherwise someone may do it making you lose money big time.
    • I filed for the patent for all patent-related jokes on Slashdot, you owe me $5, or a bacon cheeseburger (still warm). So we're going on the Honor System here, everyone who used one in the last week or so needs to email me to get directions as to where to send the money...
  • Bollocks. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:41PM (#13869326)
    Yes, you can get hydrogen out of acids by combining them with metals like aluminium or magnesium -- or hell, even sodium with water. But the cost of refining these metals in the first place is very high.

    For instance, aluminium is produced by electrolysis: the ore is dissolved in cryolite, and the pure metal produced by passing an electric current through it. (Details [wikipedia.org])

    There's a number of aluminium smelters in Australia (my home country); at least one of these has its own dedicated power plant, burning brown coal to produce its electricity.

    So no, it's not "making its own fuel". The fuel is the refined metal and the acids (or water) that are combined with them to make the hydrogen gas. The fact that burning the hydrogen is what generates the useful energy is irrelevant to this point. The pollution is shifted to wherever the power to make the metals is produced.

    When it comes to energy, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
    • Re:Bollocks. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jazman (9111) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @06:25AM (#13870503)
      > The pollution is shifted to wherever the power to make the metals is produced.

      True. But how does it compare with zillions of cars worldwide being started in the morning on full choke? If Al/Mg/Zn/whatever can be produced at a power plant that runs continuously at peak efficiency, then ok it's still polluting but it's better than what we currently have.

      One enormous benefit of this approach is that the raw materials are completely recycled. Burn oil, you have no oil left. Convert Mg to MgO and back again and you still have your original Mg.

      A completely pollution free solution this is not. But it's an improvement, no?
    • or hell, even sodium with water. But the cost of refining these metals in the first place is very high.

      There are many places in the world where intense sunlight is available pretty much every day, all year round, and which also possess a coastline. Many countries already run water or salt extraction plants in such locations. (I've seen one myself.)

      In principle, such sites can provide an inexhaustable supply of sodium from salt-water, and a "free" source of energy from the sun to power the extraction. (An
  • by dcapel (913969)
    Using our factory prooven VapoMax technology, we use common metals to generate hydrogen to power your car on! Our PATENTED fission-fusion transduction method uses a ion-converter coil to bring you: THE CAR THAT MAKES ITS OWN FUEL!

    A unique system that can produce Hydrogen inside a car using common metals such as Magnesium and Aluminum was developed by an Israeli company based in. The system solves all of the obstacles associated with the manufacturing, transporting and storing of hydrogen to be used in cars,
  • Is the infrastructure to transport Magnesium and Aluminum easier to implement than the infrastructure to transport Hydrogen? I guess an Aluminum tanker never left a huge smoking crater in the ground, but it seems like transport costs would be at least similar.
  • by furiousgeorge (30912) on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:47PM (#13869354)
    LISA! In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!!
  • And I think that storing and using hydrogen in cars is not a problem, I read of a guy who converted his 1950's car (diesel?) to run hydrogen in the 1960's (teenager at the time with a handmedown). He had to make some modifications to certain components because hydrogen is a gas, not a liquid, and is also corrosive to certain metals/alloys but nothing major.

    Correct me if I wrong, but isn't hydrogen's biggest problem simply that it's stored in water (for us on earth) and that the electrolysis to seperate it
  • by Wolfier (94144) on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:53PM (#13869373)
    Water price dips to $50 a barrel...
  • First, mining, smelting, transporting these metals is going to cause pollution.

    But any hydrogen based car system is going to dump a lot of water into the environment if everyone goes to hydrogen. I wonder with 200 million cars if the water/water vapor is going to act as a pollutant, encourage mold growth, etc.
  • by william_w_bush (817571) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @12:10AM (#13869430)
    This is a horrible tfa for a simple concept: Instead of producing the H2 through electro-hydrolysis at a production facility, then trying to distribute it to cars, they simply use the electro-positivity of light metals to produce H2 within the car itself via chemo-hydrolysis, which can then be burned in the engine.

    The reason people don't do this now, is that pure light metals are hard to come by, and are often difficult to handle. Sodium and lithium are excellent light metals which are too expensive to refine as pure metals to make effective fuel supplies. Their process likely uses incomplete oxidation with the weaker, but cheaper metals magnesium and aluminum, with some form of reaction catalyzer to increase the rate of H2 production.

    A. Are Mg and Al cheaper /kCal than petroleum based fuels?

    B. Toxicity vs. Petroleum, is the "goo" produced /kCal more toxic than that of Petroleum. Cheaper to handle? Since you have to carry it around instead of throw it into atmo you can't use much fuel to go places.

    C. What is the magic catalyst?

    This whole thing seems like a japanese or european concept car, with maybe 30-50hp and more a replacement for an electric car than any competitor to current models, at least not in America.
  • by Darth Cow (533706) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @12:11AM (#13869432)
    100kg of aluminum costs around $200 at ~$2/kg [metalprices.com]. Looking at the graph on this page [ic.gc.ca] for Aluminum manufacturing costs, about 75% of the cost is raw materials and supplies (mostly the aluminum). So that's at least $50 net to fill up your "tank" assuming perfect effeciency in converting that aluminum.

    Neglecting the costs of taking the recycled aluminum oxide out of your car and turning it back into Al rods, the maintaince costs for the fuel station, infrastructure costs to build all this, and so forth. Shipping costs will of course astronomically climb since metal can only be transfered in by train, truck or ship unlike cheap pipelines and is also no longer an easily moveable liquid. Nevermind the cost of your aluminum powered car itself, or the engineering difficulties inherent in moving a 100kg metal coil into your engine, this "upgrade" is already going to break the bank.

    I think I'll leave the hydrogen production outside of the vehicle, thank you. Nice try, but no dice.
  • So, this steam is just going to "appear". For this to work you're going to need a pretty hefty input of energy to boil water to create that steam.

    So either you need a solar energy source (which won't work on a rainy day), or you'll need a bunch of batteries, which are bad, or you have to burn gasoline/other fossil fuel to boil the water to create steam to make this elecrolysis efficient enough.

    This is not a solution. I much prefer honda's solution mentioned earlier (an electrolizer/storage solution for yo
  • by Kymermosst (33885) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @12:26AM (#13869492) Journal
    And it's completely emission free.

    Ah, so the processes for gaining the aluminum and magnesium are completely green! The mining does no damage, getting the the metals out of the ore releases no pollutants and the process takes no nasty chemicals or fuel.

    What a revolution!

  • by klic (739114) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @02:31AM (#13869918) Homepage
    There are already systems that convert metals into oxides, producing power. They are called batteries. They are heavy, because metal atoms are a lot more massive for a lot less energy per reaction than hydrocarbon fuels.

    That said, this is a bass-ackwards way to do something that was done better at Livermore perhaps 30 years ago ( you can find a reference in the old "Access to Energy" newsletter by Petr Beckmann, if any of those are online ). Some Lawrence Livermore scientists developed a metal-air battery, which produced electricity directly from the reaction of the metal (aluminum or zinc plates, IIRC) with air via some catalytic electrode system. Like the Israeli system, you ended up with powdered metal oxide. Unlike the Israeli indirect-combustion system, the metal-air battery efficiencies were high and direct drive electrical power was produced, so you could control power to the wheels, do regenerative braking, etc. Since the metal-air battery produces electricity directly, the energy efficiency is probably 4X to 5X better than a hydrogen generator feeding a heat engine. With the metal-air battery you also can get the additional efficiency of a hybrid-type vehicle, so my guess is that you have 10X to 20X more energy efficiency than the Israeli Metal / Hydrogen / Internal Combustion / Mechanical Linkage system.

    The Livermore engineers did not use magnesium, or sodium, or lithium, or other light metals. These metals pack higher energy density than aluminum. They also easy to ignite and burn very easily, with flames that are impossible to put out in air (sodium even burns in water). Yes, hydrogen burns faster (Hindenburg! Hindenburg! Oooooh scary!). But hydrogen burns UP, while burning metal just stays around and does a thermite/napalm number on you and your car. A magnesium slab in a car is NOT safer than a hydrogen tank in a car.

    Even with the much better efficiency, Air-Metal batteries are not practical. It takes far too much energy to refine the metal, and handling metal and debris, cleaning the system, etc. are all far too much work. Now divide the value by 20, and wonder what those Israelis are smoking ...

    P.S. Some researchers claim that the Hindenburg caught fire because of the ignition of the highly volatile doped fabric, which in turn set fire to the metal in the dirigible frame. The hot hydrogen vented upwards, remember, heating up the air far above the Hindenburg, but not affecting the passengers underneath. They got roasted by the burning dirigible body.

  • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:48AM (#13870278)
    There was a con a few years back involving a car that ran on water to produce hydrogen - using a method so simple that any technical type could apparantly have stolen the idea themselves and made millions if they got a close look at the machine. One enterprising head of a school of Chemical Engineering walked up to the rope barrier, dropped to the dirt, and spotted the easily available commercial hydrogen gas bottle strapped underneath that was presumably powering the thing instead of water.

    We are in an age of confidence tricksters and in many places led by those who rely on inner circles and are thus easily tricked by such types - so unless some details are available and it can be reproduced elsewhere by disinterested parties it is safest to assume it is just another confidence trick.

  • by Samurai Mac (629071) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @06:00AM (#13870453) Homepage
    from somewhere... oh yeah! That's clearly a lifted picture of the Shelby GR-1 concept car at the top of their "press release."

    Here's a desktop version from Serious Wheels.com [seriouswheels.com] for you car nuts.

    Laugh!
  • by Phil Karn (14620) <karn&ka9q,net> on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @04:23PM (#13875570) Homepage
    The really sad thing about articles like this is that they're written by and for people who don't know that we already had a commercially available, hydrogen powered car that really worked. It produced its own hydrogen on-board from an external electrical power supply and stored it in a compact solid form. As the car was driven, the oxidized hydrogen (i.e., water) was kept on board so it could later be recycled back into hydrogen with more external electrical energy.

    Not only did this avoid the need for a massive hydrogen production and delivery infrastructure in favor of an electrical supply grid that already exists, but the overall end-to-end energy efficiency of the process was vastly greater than the proposed "hydrogen economy" can ever be.

    The car in question was the GM Gen 2 EV1 with nickel metal/hydride batteries. I drove one every day from 2000-2003, when GM pulled them all off the road and sent them to the crusher even though everyone who had one would have gladly continued to pay real money to drive them.

    The hydrogen-powered car is pure hype. In every respect (cost, range, energy efficiency) it is inferior to the battery EVs that could be had now. So why have the automakers pushed the hydrogen fuel cell so much? Simple. California had a mandate on the books that 2% of cars in the 2002 model year would be zero emission (that mandate had already been delayed from 1997). Automakers like GM, as well as the oil companies, loathed that mandate, but they couldn't say so right out loud. So to a gullible public they dangled the promise of "something even better" -- hydrogen -- at some indeterminate time in the future in exchange for killing the mandate that was here and now. And sadly, they succeeded.

    Just one of the many benefits brought to you by a horrific degree of scientific illiteracy among both average Americans and their leaders.

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