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CO2 To Fuel, Closing the "Carbon Loop" 316

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the squeeze-as-much-as-you-can dept.
leprasmurf writes "Inhabitat has posted an article detailing a recent announcement of a process to turn CO2 into fuel. The process, which used to be considered too energy inefficient, uses a multi-step, low pressure, and low temperature biocatalyst to break the CO2 into 'basic hydrocarbon building blocks.'"
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CO2 To Fuel, Closing the "Carbon Loop"

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  • Vaporware alert (Score:5, Informative)

    by clang_jangle (975789) * on Monday October 13, 2008 @04:48PM (#25361823) Journal
    FTFA:

    The key to our CO2-to-Fuel approach lies in a proprietary multi-step biocatalytic process.

    Searching the company's website, there is no mention whatsoever of even a single gallon of usable fuel being susccessfully produced using their method. There is, of course, mention of "investment opportunities".

  • uh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by niteice (793961) <icefragment@gmail.com> on Monday October 13, 2008 @04:48PM (#25361825) Journal
    Photosynthesis?
    • by Gat0r30y (957941)
      The very uninformative block diagram indicates there are 3 "bioreactor" type things - i would wager at least one of the "intermediate carbon" things is sugar.
    • by WarJolt (990309)

      Yes, but without wasting energy on making all those pesky flowers, forests and fruit.

    • Re:uh (Score:5, Funny)

      by smbarbour (893880) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:37PM (#25362375)

      Animals convert oxygen into carbon dioxide (by breathing*). Plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen (by photosynthesis). Fungi "breathe" like animals do.

      My solution to global warming: Eat more steak and mushrooms and less vegetables.

      *Simplification due to the various processes that animals use (i.e. lungs or gills)

      • Re:uh (Score:5, Informative)

        by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday October 13, 2008 @09:33PM (#25364321) Homepage Journal

        My solution to global warming: Eat more steak and mushrooms and less vegetables.

        I know you're trying to be funny, but it's worth noting here that the production of the steak will use far more vegetable resources than eating the protein-equivalent directly in vegetables.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by plutoXL (1314421)

          My solution to global warming: Eat more steak and mushrooms and less vegetables.

          I know you're trying to be funny, but it's worth noting here that the production of the steak will use far more vegetable resources than eating the protein-equivalent directly in vegetables.

          Simple, feed the animals with steak. It's steaks all the way down.

    • by tool462 (677306)

      No No No No No NOOOO! Proprietary Process! Ignore the man behind the curtain!

  • Imagine that, we could power the universe!

  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Monday October 13, 2008 @04:52PM (#25361893)
    The process, which used to be considered too energy inefficient, uses a multi-step, low pressure, and low temperature biocatalyst to break the CO2 into 'basic hydrocarbon building blocks.

    1) Grow a plant.
    2) Stick in the ground for a few thousand years.
    3) Dig up resultant black goo.
    4) Distill goo into reactive liquid and distribute...

    How is this new? When did it become more efficient?
    • by houstonbofh (602064) on Monday October 13, 2008 @04:53PM (#25361903)
      Self owned. No spell check in the title bar....
    • With some plants, after you've

      • 1. grown the plant and
      • 2. harvested the commercially valuable buds, you can
      • 3. take the remaining leaves and use reactive liquid solvents to extract black goo. You then execute
      • 4. .... (as opposed to the alternative 4. Explode!) and
      • 5. .... (as opposed to 5. Get caught!) and then
      • 6. Profit!!
  • by Zymergy (803632) * on Monday October 13, 2008 @04:54PM (#25361907)
    Just Basic Organic Chemistry... This process of "upgrading" has been done for decades to create "Synthetic" oils and other hydrocarbons. They just are using something magical called "Biocatalytic Reactors" (Probably contain high temperature enzymes and catalysts but operate at lower temps than current industrial processes). This is just reversing the hydrocarbon oxidation (burning) process using some for of "upgrader" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_petroleum_industry_in_Canada_(oil_sands_and_heavy_oil)#Upgraders [wikipedia.org] . These reactions to reduce CO2 into "fuel" will be VERY endothermic (absorb heat energy) and must take place at higher temps without Oxygen present.. All that energy must come from somewhere! It is just sooooo much cheaper to use hydrocarbons from the ground.
    CO2 is just an acidic oxide of Carbon.
    To create 'fuel' from it you must change it to something completely different by adding significant energy and removing the Oxygen... The energy is stored in the formed carbon bonds and hydrogen bonds (Why we call these type of fuels Hydro-carbons).
    CO2 is a significantly lower energy state carbon oxide compound.
    This process is not different than the incorrect view that H2O (water) is a as fuel. (Sure after you add massive amounts of electricity and electrolytically separate (reduce) the hydrogen from the oxygen from the hydrogen into hydrogen gas and Oxygen.
    This is really the same thing using some "Biocatayltic Reactor" to add energy to CO2 to separate the carbon from the oxygen (reduction of the carbon to a non-oxidized form such as CO2 or CO)

    You cannot hide from the chemistry.
    The energy to do this MUST come from *SOMEWHERE*. Considering that 99% of the massive amounts of energy stored in the molecular bonds of all fossil fuels do not have to be added to these fuels in their extraction, refinement, delivery to end-users, what this "new" technology is doing is just adding the "Creation" part of the hydrocarbon fuel and that takes about 99% more energy to do because you still have the remaining three steps.

    I will bet that this process is more expensive than letting mother nature create starches/sugars that we then modify into hydrocarbon "fuels".
    It is VERY hard to beat the efficiency of mother nature on this one:
    6CO2 + 6H2O + Light = C6H12O6 (Glucose) + 6O2

    I wonder what a gallon of this "fuel" costs. (Add enough energy to most substances and you can create "fuel" to them.) CO2 is a waste product because it (and CO and H2O) is the lowest energy product of hydrocarbon combustion (oxidation). This is Basic Chemistry.
    • by el_chupanegre (1052384) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:09PM (#25362089)

      Funnily enough there was a program on TV here in the UK last night about producing electricity from CO2 and water.

      Two guys in the New Mexico desert had a huge mirror array the focussed the sun into a really intense beam (they could melt steel with it) and directed it into a giant furnace, which I think got to 2400 degrees C, but could have been 4200. This heated the air inside to separate the CO2 which they could then use to create hydrocarbons.

      This all worked on a huge scale of course, but they also had a smaller version that could produce 2-3 gallons of fuel a day that was about the size of a pretty young small tree.

      So I agree that the energy has to come from somewhere in order to separate the CO2, but who says that energy can't come from solar power eventually? Of course this is more expensive now, but it'll be getting cheaper all the time as oil gets more expensive.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 13, 2008 @06:03PM (#25362641)

      You cannot hide from the chemistry.
      The energy to do this MUST come from *SOMEWHERE*.

      Well, duh. That's not the point. The attractiveness of such a process is that we have a world built around hydrocarbons, we're running out of fuel, the climate is taking offense at all the CO2 in the atmosphere and there is a giant fission reactor 1AU from here which constantly delivers a huge amount of energy to us (but we haven't yet found a way to store that energy). If you could use the energy from the sun to turn CO2 back into usable fuel, that would solve quite a lot of problems in one go.

    • Great post, and I'm skeptical too, but two points:

      • The point isn't about energy, it's about carbon. I know that CO2 is a terribly low-energy byproduct of hydrocarbon combustion, but that's the point - we want to get rid of the byproduct. We're going to continue to use hydrocarbon fuels because they're relatively cheap, so we're going to continue to put huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere which used to be tied up in heavy hydrocarbons deep in the earth. I'd want to see some hard efficiency numbers of
      • by repapetilto (1219852) on Tuesday October 14, 2008 @02:53AM (#25365961)

        They mentioned biocatalysts, which could be a buzzword, but also could be real. I remember from basic chemistry that catalysts lowered the activation point of a reaction. Maybe whatever biocatalysts they're using can accumulate enough energy from a low-exergy, ambient source like exhaust heat from, say, a coal-fired power plant, and slowly stitch up carbons and hydrogens together to form a hydrocarbon. It probably depends on the chemical mechanism of the hydrocarbon formation. Speaking of that, do we understand the mechanism by which hydrocarbons in the earth were formed (beyond "lots of heat and pressure"...I mean chemically how the bonds form, in what order, were there catalyst/activation sites on other materials, etc.). Maybe such a slow catalyzed process isn't possible...but maybe it is?

        FYI: 1) Biocatalyst is just another word for enzyme, at least in any sense I've ever heard it used. And yea the fact that its plastered all over that website should tell you its being used as a buzzword (or at least someones trying to make it into one)

        2) Catalysts can only speed up the rate at which a reaction will occur, not change whether or not it will occur. I.E. At most temperatures, CO2 + H2O in whatever proportions can react to form a hydrocarbon and O2, but these are less stable molecules than the original CO2 and H2O so the reverse reaction will be occurring faster, which will have a lower activation energy whether the enzyme is present or not just due to the structures of the reactants and products. In fact hydrocarbon formation is probably more likely to occur at lower Temperatures than high since here the energy released in bond formation will be able to overcome that lost to entropy. But whatever, I'm rambling on about that..anyway

        3)Basically all of life is based on passing around electrons, and mostly between oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen (we'll ignore Nitrogen, etc). Now every electron is most stable when its near the largest positive charge around, and each nucleus is most stable when it has both 8 electrons in its outer shell (due to some physics reasons) and the same number of electrons as protons. The result is that things happen like Oxygen binding to two Hydrogens which allows each nucleus to have the right number of outer electrons and be pretty close to having a neutral charge, but not exactly. Since the charges of the nuclei get larger (its actually the charge to volume ratio.. but bear with me) in the order of H,C,O the result is that oxygen pretty much tries to bind with anything around but itself so that it can hold each electron closer to its center of positive charge. Thus we end up with alot of H20 and CO2 on ancient earth. Then life came along and somehow started using energy sources like sunlight to break these Oxygen bonds to Carbon and Hydrogen and allow formation of more C-H bonds and O-O bonds along with long chains including all sorts of combinations of bonds (H-O-CH2-CH3-etc)that served certain functions for the cell/lifeform. By the time the creatures were around that supplied the raw materials we use as oil this was assuredly all done enzymatically in nearly as many ways as there are types of molecules (to answer your question, yes we do know how to synthesize hydrocarbons from scratch, its just that its cheaper to just dig it up when its needed on large scales). Then these creatures die, and some get buried in the earth or whatever preventing these molecules from being broken apart.

        Now they sit around for millions of years, and slowly the bonds break and the molecules decompose. But the twist is that C-C and C-H bonds are much harder to break apart than those involving oxygen since those two nuclie are closer in size and thus attract electrons similarly, its about as close to equal sharing as they can get. Meanwhile the Oxygen is being exposed to other elements (e.g. silicon, metals) that hold their electrons even weaker then H and C and so is more likely to react to any of those it comes across, and more and more sediment is p

  • by w3woody (44457) on Monday October 13, 2008 @04:55PM (#25361927) Homepage

    Plants can also turn CO2 into fuel--but it all takes energy. For plants, the energy comes from the sun.

    Where does the energy come from for the Carbon Sciences process? All I see are diagrams of a "biocatalyst" and an explanation that somehow it takes less energy for their process--but the amount of energy in to turn CO2 into a biofuel must necessarily be more than the amount of energy you'll get back out of that biofuel.

  • by Oscaro (153645) on Monday October 13, 2008 @04:56PM (#25361939) Homepage

    In this house we observe the laws of thermodynamics.

  • SCAM (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 13, 2008 @04:57PM (#25361951)

    There's WAY too much in the way of unanswered questions here. Mainly: WHERE is the ENERGY coming from?

    Bio-this-and-that doesn't change the thermodynamics of it.

    The homepage of this company is VERY suspicious. Any company like this that focuses as much on 'investor relations' as on the tech itself (and has a penny stock to boot!) is likely bullshit.

    The tech pages say NOTHING of where the energy is coming from. NOTHING about what kind of 'biocatalytic' processes are involved. And patent bullshit like

    "Of greatest significance, our process occurs at low temperature and low pressure, thereby requiring far less energy than other approaches."

    Um, no.. The VAST BULK of the energy you spend on making hydrocarbons out of CO2 will ALWAYS be on the energy required for the reaction itself. (Unless the process was created by a total incompetent.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cgenman (325138)

      They're intentionally masking their whois domain information. According to Popular Mechanics, they can make toothpaste. [popularmechanics.com]

      Very confusing. Why not just tell us what the base energy source is? Otherwise, it's just a perpetual motion machine.

  • If you had the clean energy available to power this process at a coal fired power plant, why wouldn't you just sell that energy in the first place and dispense with the coal?

    I suppose you could burn coal and use the energy and some of the CO2 to make a lesser amount of gasoline, diesel, or some other more portable fuel.

  • New section (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LSD-OBS (183415) on Monday October 13, 2008 @04:58PM (#25361973)

    Can we please have a new Crackpot (or maybe Quackpot, or Snakepot, shit, I dunno) section on slashdot, specifically for these half-baked bullshit stories? Would make a nice replacement for Idle, methinks.

    I mean, unless this was just meant to remind us of high school [wikipedia.org] science & biology. Heck, that'd also make a nice Idle section substitute.

    • by Dun Malg (230075)

      Can we please have a new Crackpot (or maybe Quackpot, or Snakepot, shit, I dunno) section on slashdot, specifically for these half-baked bullshit stories?

      I think that'd be great, except it would require that the chimps/editors at slashdot actually be intelligent and/or diligent enough to spot bullshit science--- which history has demonstrated they are not.

  • Snake Oil (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tanman (90298) * on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:03PM (#25362027)

    No, really, I'm serious! They use snake oil. The oil excreted by snakes as they burrow from their underground lairs is what actually creates oil. However, it takes combinations of snake oil from both venomous and non-venomous snakes to make oil that is combustable -- That's why there are MULTIPLE PHASES of the transformation from CO2 to the necessary compounds.

    The real secret here is finding snakes capable of slithering over blocks of dry ice without freezing to death. The way they do that is they pour piping hot McDonald's coffee on the snakes before having them slither over the dry ice to create the oil sludges required. Hence, they use snake oil.

    That, or this is a crock of shit and shouldn't get the time of day.

  • "somebody has CO2, and made it into fuel! no details!"

    there's a million ways to do that

    all of which require energy. there is no way to convert CO2 into any kind of usable fuel that does also include putting energy in at some point

    whereever that energy comes from is the real story. since that isn't even hinted at, there's no story here. or, alternatively, some idiot thinks you can turn CO2 into fuel without an energy input. which beggars the low end of the iq curve in terms of understanding the subject matter here

    if i took random spam from my inbox about growing my penis size and posted it here, that would be more informative and useful than this crap nonstory

  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:17PM (#25362167) Journal

    Last February, Los Alamos announced they had a process that converts CO2 to gasoline. [lanl.gov] The associated white paper proposed using a nuclear reactor to provide the requisite energy to drive the process. They went as far as to estimate the costs of their process and pegged the cost of gasoline at $4.30 gallon at the pump. A significant fraction of their cost estimate was credit costs to finance the plant. They figured 50 cents for every dollar sales given the billions they'd need to start the process. Without factoring the credit costs (which they could do if they could convince enough investors to take an equity position instead of borrowing the capital) they estimated their process produced gasoline at $1.40 per gallon.

    • by Cadallin (863437) on Monday October 13, 2008 @08:50PM (#25364023)
      Sadly, that plan has two major drawbacks that will utterly prevent implementation.

      1. It would actually work.

      2. It is "Nucular." And therefore the NIMBY crowd will kill it with fire.

    • I saw the Green Freedom developer, Dr. Jeffrey Martin, give a talk at Georgetown. His process is already really efficient. As I recall the GF process to convert CO2 into fuel was within a factor of 7 of the theoretical minimum energy required which compares well even to biological processes. I'm skeptical that the magic proprietary "Biocatalytic Reactors" Inhabitat has developed could be significantly more efficient, especially since no numbers whatsoever are provided. Yellow Flag: Inhabit doesn't even
  • by thedonger (1317951) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:18PM (#25362177)
    Poop to food, closing the world hunger loop.
  • by telchine (719345) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:20PM (#25362199)

    Where the f**k do people find these brain-impaired investors? Why can't I find them? I can make snake oil, po sweat. I can tell people everything they want to hear. I can make up ridiculous unbelievable stories with no problem at all! Hell, I can do even better. You want infinite energy??? I can give you infinite energy * 2! That's twice as good even our best conmen competitors! Surely if the whole of Slashdot were to team together we could make a fortune with these wacky ideas!

    What is it that makes it possible for these kind of people to have investors fawn at their feet whilst the rest of us have problems getting investors to believe in the basic laws of physics?

    • What is it that makes it possible for these kind of people to have investors fawn at their feet whilst the rest of us have problems getting investors to believe in the basic laws of physics?

      See: Critical Thinking (lack of)

  • by justleavealonemmmkay (1207142) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:22PM (#25362217)
    What we need is a fill-in form in the series of the
    Your post advocates a

    ( ) physical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) chemical
    approach to global warming. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws .)
    form. This is slashdot. We don't need no stinking optimism here.
    I'll compile it, contributions are welcome. Here are mine.
    ( ) it violates the First Law of Thermodynamics
    ( ) it violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics

    Specifically, your plan fails to account for

    ( ) the energy needed to accomplish your simple tranformation
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jonbryce (703250)

      ( ) it requires more non-renewable energy inputs than the renewable energy produced by it (see for example american biofuels, but fuels from other parts of the world are more efficient).

    • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:54PM (#25362567)

      I'll compile it, contributions are welcome. Here are mine.

      Here are a few more:
      [ ] sounds too good to be true.
      [ ] actually is too good to be true.
      [ ] no supporting studies or other peer-reviewed research
      [ ] marketing materials use the word "proprietary" and/or "patent pending" way too often.
      [ ] company founders^H^H^H^H^H^Hperpetrators previously convicted of fraud and/or embezzlement
      [ ] investors must have the ability to suspend disbelief at will

    • Re:what we need (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Repton (60818) on Monday October 13, 2008 @07:57PM (#25363605) Homepage

      [ ] It requires immediate cooperation from the entire world all at once.
      [ ] People will cheat.
      [ ] It requires the population to act contrary to self-interest.

      It fails to account for:

      [ ] Extensive existing infrastructure.
      [ ] Problems storing power.
      [ ] Inefficient power transport systems.
      [ ] Variable weather.
      [ ] Rich and powerful industries and lobby groups who stand to lose money.
      [ ] Politicians who know nothing about science.

      In summary:

      [ ] Nice try, but it won't actually work.
      [ ] You're a scammer trying to blind investers with psuedoscience.
      [ ] You're completely nuts.

      • by squizzar (1031726) on Tuesday October 14, 2008 @05:02AM (#25366497)

        There has to be an option along the lines of:
        [ ] It uses Nuclear power, and that scares a large number of people who don't get the science behind it.

        I can possibly see a place for something like:
        [ ] It uses science, and that scares a large number of people who don't get the science behind it.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:22PM (#25362221) Homepage

    In the process called burning, hydrocarbons combine with oxygen and release energy.

    To reverse the process (which is what they're saying) you have to put an equal amount of energy back in ... if it's 100% efficient, which it won't be.

    The only way to get a net gain is to add some free energy from somewhere. The only plausible source is sunlight, but there's no mention of that on their web site.

    Fact is, there's no science at all on their web site, just plenty of links for "investors", "investor FAQs", NASDAQ stock quotes, etc.

    For credibility they have a link to a Popular Mechanics article but it's for a completely different C02 treatment process.

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4274541.html [popularmechanics.com]

    • The only way to get a net gain is to add some free energy from somewhere. The only plausible source is sunlight, but there's no mention of that on their web site.

      I will admit to reading neither the white paper, or any other part of their website, but I did read the grandparent's post:

      The associated white paper proposed using a nuclear reactor to provide the requisite energy to drive the process.

      However, the normal questions still apply:

      1. No conversion process is 100% efficient, so why would you use an
      • It might be desirable to use energy to get rid of a pollutant (ie. CO2).

        I fail to see how this is better than carbon sequestering though. Their process will take much more energy than just liquefying the CO2 and they're intending to make it into liquid fuels which will be:

        a) Converted back to CO2 further down the line.
        b) Require CO2 to transport.

        In effect the CO2 has become a sort of inefficient battery for energy storage/transport.

        >"using this method wouldn't require any changes to our current cars"

        I'm

  • everyone here seems to be missing the point. while i have not RTFA, this doesn't seem to be a breakthrough on the 'creating energy' front, it is a breakthrough on the 'getting rid of CO2' front.

    yes, a lot of heat is required to convert CO2 into usable energy.... so use nuclear power, or run this in a geothermal crevice, or set up mirrors to catch solar energy, or any number of creative ways. the end result is we can eliminate CO2, and get usable fuel out of it as a bonus.

    any means of energy conversion or tr

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Isn't it better to freeze the air and bury the stuff, or put carbon capture technology on the chimney of a power station?

      • by Ionized (170001)

        that is certainly debatable.... if we had a decent method to turn nuclear waste into usable fuel, would you still prefer we bury it? if we had a way to turn garbage into usable fuel, would you still prefer landfills?

        at some point, we have to start being responsible about our waste products instead of just trying to hide them underground.

        • by Dun Malg (230075)

          that is certainly debatable.... if we had a decent method to turn nuclear waste into usable fuel, would you still prefer we bury it?

          Nuclear waste is usable fuel--- 95% unconsumed--- we just can't use it because of Carter's executive order banning breeder reactors and then Clinton's complete abandonment of the Integral Fast Reactor reprocessing research in 1994. 14 years later, we still have no plans for fuel reprocessing because idiot anti-proliferation folks don't know enough about the subject to realize that it takes a very specific type of breeder reactor design to create plutonium pure enough for nuclear weapons, and they unilateral

  • Would this "multi-stage" process simply be highly active green algae producing sugars that are then fermented, and then distilled?

    It takes CO2 and produces fuel.

  • Ammonia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mgv (198488) <Nospam.01.slash2 ... g ['tma' in gap]> on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:28PM (#25362291) Homepage Journal

    There are two issues here.

    The first - energy. It cant be avoided. To make fuel from CO2 you need energy. Nuclear, wind, solar. It doesn't matter what really, but you will need some input and this technology cannot address that.

    The second - why do this. Actually, it makes sense to have a liquid fuel base. Transportation runs on liquid fuel as a store of energy. If we make liquid fuels from solar, for example, we can store solar energy in a useful form for when it is dark.

    So without commenting on this particular technology - which everyone has quite rightly stated won't work without considering energy inputs - the general concept of creating a liquid fuel energy store has some merit.

    Having said this, I've spent quite a bit of time looking at a rather different liquid fuel store which I think has more promise than hydrocarbons.

    That fuel is ammonia.

    Whilst its only half as energy dense as diesel [wikipedia.org], its not that hard to make from electricity. In fact, it can be made by electrolysis fairly easily, and this has been done for nearly 100 years. [wikipedia.org] so its not exactly new technology.

    Nor is the ability to use it in a standard internal combustion engine. In fact, it was being used as a fuel for buses over 60 years ago [ammoniafuelnetwork.org] and it works in a standard engine with little modification.

    Because its less energy dense than diesel, its a lot easier to make synthetically, but has enough energy per litre to be worthwhile. Whilst having half the range per litre of fuel is an inconvenience, I am sure that we could live pretty much as we do today with vehicle technology that is available today.

    We either accept half the range, or build the fuel tanks twice as big, or maybe even make the cars twice as efficient. All of these are easy options really.

    I think that we have all gotten so fixated on fossil fuels that we have ignored a really low technology solution here.

    Michael

    • Re:Ammonia (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mr. Roadkill (731328) on Monday October 13, 2008 @07:50PM (#25363559)

      That fuel is ammonia.

      You know, from a safety standpoint, twenty years down the road I'd rather have a couple of hundred thousand clunkers on the road running LNG or ethanol or biodiesel or whatever than ammonia. Ammonia probably makes a lot of sense for well-maintained fleets - and its safety record in refrigeration and agricultural applications is pretty good - but I'm not sure I'd like it used as a regular transportation fuel by Joe Public in his poorly-maintained car. I suspect there would be concerns from those who service vehicles, too - a whiff of leaking hydrocarbon fuels isn't something that's likely to put you in hospital.

  • by hanssprudel (323035) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:29PM (#25362297)

    Carbon Sciences has developed plans for a CO2-Fuel transformation plant that takes CO2 from a large emitter, such as a power plant, and produces usable fuels as the output.

    In case you missed it, that would be when you know this is nonsense.

    (By the laws of nature, getting the carbon out of the CO2 will take at least as much energy as you got by burning the carbon in the first place. So attaching the "transformation plant" to a carbon fueled power plant means you have a process turning hydrocarbons into hydrocarbons, and spending energy doing it.)

    • So attaching the "transformation plant" to a carbon fueled power plant means you have a process turning hydrocarbons into hydrocarbons, and spending energy doing it.)

      Okay, so here's the business plan:

      1. Sell "transformation plant" to existing fossil-fueled power production facility.

      2. Profit!

      3. Retire to country with no extradition treaty before the Grand Jury can be convened.

    • by jeff4747 (256583)

      (By the laws of nature, getting the carbon out of the CO2 will take at least as much energy as you got by burning the carbon in the first place. So attaching the "transformation plant" to a carbon fueled power plant means you have a process turning hydrocarbons into hydrocarbons, and spending energy doing it.)

      The point of their system is to be a CO2 scrubber, not generate energy.

      So, you have an existing coal plant producing electricity. You attach their widget, add more energy (solar, nuclear, whatever), a

  • Even if the process is efficient it might still require a high amount of energy input and not scale well due to constraints on renewable power sources and non-polluting power sources such as sunlight, wind, geothermal, and ocean waves. I am skeptical that enough energy could be diverted from these renewable sources, in light of alternative demands for that energy, to completely close the carbon cycle at our present levels of hydrocarbon fuel consumption. In other words, there will still be demand for natura
  • No matter how they couch it, this can never help the environment. As other have mentioned, the laws of physics say you can never get more hydrocarbon fuel out of this process than you put in to run the power plant running the process. In fact, you can never make a 100% efficient process so you will always end up with extra CO2.

    What this would allow is, in the event of Oil becoming truly uneconomical to excavate, the continued use of hydrocarbons for vital situation where nothing else has been shown to be

    • "As other have mentioned, the laws of physics say you can never get more hydrocarbon fuel out of this process than you put in to run the power plant running the process."

      Solar cells and wind farms burn hydrocarbon fuel? I never knew that...

      False assumption number 1: Your power plant is hydrocarbon based.

  • From TFA: "The key to our CO2-to-Fuel approach lies in a proprietary multi-step biocatalytic process. Instead of using expensive inorganic catalysts . . . the Carbon Sciences process uses inexpensive, renewable biomolecules to catalyze certain chemical reactions required to transform CO2 into basic hydrocarbon building blocks."

    I assume their "multi-step biocatalytic process" is more commonly known as a "tree," or more generally, a "plant."

    Wake up, folks. If you get 10 energy units out of burning someth

    • by shmlco (594907)

      As mentioned above, you're assuming that your power source is hydrocarbon based. Wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, hydro: all can supply the aforementioned 20 units of power needed to make 10 units of PORTABLE power. And in all of those cases the extra power is coming in from from a non-hydrocarbon-based source outside the system.

      Essentially the same argument regarding producing and using hydrogen in a vehicle (fuel cell or otherwise). It's easier and faster to pour fuel into a tank (using today's technologie

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jeff4747 (256583)

      Question: If it costs 20 units to regenerate the original 10 units, why not just use the 20 units and forget about regenerating the original 10?

      Storage and transport.

      Let's say your 20 units of energy come from a nuclear power plant. I can't strap one of those onto my car. Battery technology doesn't currently provide enough energy density, and there's a significant amount of energy lost as heat over the power grid.

      OTOH, we make a liquid hydrocarbon out of the energy, we get very little "line loss" during t

  • Carbon Sciences states that this is more of a stop gap mesaure than anything. They believe that technologies such as this don't create an excuse for gas guzzling vehicles. From the article, "We're not crazy about the concept of encouraging people to gas up in the future . . ." Their advocacy of cleaner, alternative energy sources is good.
  • I'll add my voice to those complaining of rampant idiocy here.

    This can be done, has been done, for decades (for much, much longer by plants). It's a very good idea, and more people should be trying it. It would be nice if those people had enough scientific know-how to understand why inorganic catalysts are a good idea (biocatalysts break down very easily, cost energy to remake, are not as efficient).

    The basic test is: Is your complicated bio system more or less efficient than sticking a wire from a cheap

  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Monday October 13, 2008 @06:59PM (#25363133)

    Converting CO2 into vehicle fuels will require MASSIVE amounts of energy. The source of this energy is mysteriously missing from the vendor's website. That would be the FIRST item that they would list on their todo list and their technology announcement if it were legitimate. This "announcement" ranks right up there with those devices to add to your car to burn water so that you can get 200 mpg. Maybe Slashdot can do a story on one of those next week...

  • I wonder how the 'hydro' in 'hydrocarbon' emerges as you break CO2.
  • Sure... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Monday October 13, 2008 @07:13PM (#25363233) Homepage

    The process, which used to be considered too energy inefficient, uses a multi-step, low pressure, and low temperature biocatalyst to break the CO2 into 'basic hydrocarbon building blocks.

    Yeah. I got those processes, too. They're called photosynthesis followed by another called fermentation and then (an optional) one called distillation. It turns out tasty by-products, too.

  • "...a multi-step, low pressure, and low temperature biocatalyst to break the CO2 into 'basic hydrocarbon building blocks..." We've already got hundreds of units on our 13 acre lot. We're using the beta-name of "tree"s. A big improvment over the previous installments of "straw" and "brush". What's more, we can feed the by-product into a ferrous holding center where they are oxidized, producing infrared radiation with which one can heat a living unit. -Frank
  • People (especially policy-makers) need to learn to think more clearly about energy sources versus forms of energy storage. Existing petroleum reserves, solar energy (and its relatives like wind power), and nuclear power are, with respect to our technology and timescales, true energy sources; we can harvest energy from them directly, using much less energy to obtain them than we harvest from them.

    On the other hand, things like this CO2->hydrocarbon scheme, or hydrogen-powered cars, involve new energy sto

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday October 13, 2008 @08:43PM (#25363977)
    I stopped reading when I got to the part that said that catalysts "transform CO2 into basic hydrocarbon building blocks".

    CO2 + catalysts + other stuff, maybe, but not CO2 alone.

    I knew what they meant, but before I take them seriously they need to learn how to put it in proper English.
  • by j1m+5n0w (749199) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:24PM (#25364597) Homepage Journal

    I don't know if this is related, but there was a similar Google tech talk recently:

    Carbon Neutral Synthetic Hydrocarbon Fuels [youtube.com]

    They discuss creating liquid fuels from carbon dioxide and (here's what the article linked from slashdot is missing) hydrogen (from electrolysis or natural gas).

Every nonzero finite dimensional inner product space has an orthonormal basis. It makes sense, when you don't think about it.

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