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Cheaper, Cleaner Hydrogen Without Platinum 295

keithww writes "Looks like the hydrogen economy may have gotten a whole lot cheaper. Wisconsin team engineers gas from biomass using common metals of tin, nickel, and aluminum instead of platinum. This looks like a good way to get rid of biowaste also." Of course, there's still a long way to go before the automotive industry is using it, but it is good news nonetheless.
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Cheaper, Cleaner Hydrogen Without Platinum

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  • by compwizrd ( 166184 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @09:55AM (#6319103)
    And does anyone actually believe that the fossil fuels industry will lie down and let this happen without a fight?
    • No they won't do that. They are smart. They will buy up the company and throttle production to control the price like they've always done.
    • The same went with the original fuel cells, they may slow adoption down but they can't completely gloss over the fact that oil is getting more and more expensive....
      Some companies are better than others, for example BP (British Petroleum) have realised this, and decided to hedge their chips and are putting money into fuel cell research.
    • Well, when H tech will reach the point that it can be used for mass energy production don't worry, the oil industry will dive into it! Oil won't be sold for combustion but as raw material in chemical (plastic) industry... at premium prices (being a limited resource ;-)

    • Puh-leeeeease.

      The reason we use Petrochemicals instead of the green method of your choice is because we - the world - have a huge infrastructure in place to provide for this. If you want to start your own free/green energy distribution then fine, go ahead, the oil companies won't stand in your way but you face a simple uphill battle of fighting what is cheap and available right now.

      This is like those ads you see in the back of science magazines, saying they have plans for a 348mpg carburator and the only
    • Why? Because the fossil fuels industry is really just a chemistry industry. They don't really care that it's petroleum they're selling to you. As long as it's something that they can sell to you.

    • by Peter_Pork ( 627313 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:56AM (#6319312)
      Yes, it will happen, since they will be the hydrogen industry. They have the money, they have the expertise, they have the distribution networks, and they do not want to depend on the third-world or war-torn nations for their supply. The way I see this, the hydrogen industry is the best thing that could happen to the oil industry (at least in the US). Guess who is now pushing for this... G.W. Bush, a guy that is the oil industry.
    • Yes they will.

      H2 is another energy market to be R&D'ed, tapped and then optimized for profit.

      Exxon-Mobil is working GM and Toyota to use gasoline and methanol with fuel cells to avoid some of the complications with using just H2.

      And in the industry, there is already a sense that they need to adapt in order to survive. When a former Saudi oil minister and petroleum consultant says..."Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil - and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone
    • by mulp ( 638696 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:57AM (#6319579)
      Never underestimate the power of a lobbyist

      And does anyone actually believe that the fossil fuels industry will lie down and let this happen without a fight?

      Right! Bush, Rumsfeld, and Cheney are going to mandate every American buy 10 gallons of gas every week to keep the oil industry afloat as the price of oil goes to $30, $40, $50, $60, $70 a barrel and the US has to increase its share of world oil production from 25% to 40% to 50% to 75%.

      The reality is that world oil production will peak this decade if it hasn't already.

      That doesn't mean that oil will run out, only that there will be no increase in daily supply no matter what the demand. There have been no major oil fields discovered in the past decade, and the important oil fields were discovered more than 40 years ago.

      Technology won't magically cause oil to require less energy to extract. The people extracting oil aren't complete morons, they have always extracted the oil that is easiest and cheapest to extract before moving on to the harder and more expensive to extract oil. Millions of people have been extracting oil over the past century and if there was a way to extract hard to extract oil cheaper than today, they would have found it by now because cheaper would mean more profit.

      So the only way the oil industry can prevent higher prices motivating consumers to switch to some other, any other, form of energy is to get a mandate passed that requires Americans to buy 10 gallons of gas every week no matter what the price.

      Failing that, there is nothing that the oil industry can do to prevent the decline of oil as an energy source.

      What we as consumers have to hope for is a million small steps to cheaper hydrogen production. The likelihood of someone coming up with real cold fusion are real slim. Hydrogen as a fuel in 20 years is going to be more expensive than oil as a fuel is today, but the price of oil in 20 years will make hydrogen look cheap.

    • There's a reason for this. They don't just sell fossil fuels. They are quite well aware that oil resources are limited, expensive, dirty and a pain in the ass to extract.

      The largest source of hydrogen today is the very same companies that sell you gas. You will still be filling your hydrogen car at a Shell station.

    • No, they'll be looking for ways to leverage this new catalytic technology to extract hydrogen from gasoline or diesel, allowing fuel cell vehicles to run from their products.
    • Why not? There is more hydrogen in a gallon of gasoline than in a gallon of liquid hydrogen. When we have such convenient room-temperature liquids available, who will want to carry around heavy, expensive, leak-prone high-pressure gas tanks?

      If they can efficiently reform the gasoline into hydrogen IN THE CAR, we may not need to immediately rebuild our entire energy infrastructure. Then over time as we get better at producing ethanol, for example, from urban or agricultural waste, we can migrate to a more
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 28, 2003 @09:56AM (#6319105)
    Two words: The Sun
    • shipping costs are a bitch though.
    • by cybercuzco ( 100904 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:57AM (#6319317) Homepage Journal

      Many groups and individuals are proposing that our government spend tax money on research and development of systems to utilize solar energy. They urge construction of vast solar energy collectors to convert sunlight to electricity to supply our energy needs. They would even put solar collectors on roofs of homes, factories, schools, and other buildings. Proponents of this technology claim that energy obtained from the sun will be safer and cleaner than coal, oil, or nuclear energy sources.

      We view these proposals with alarm. Unscrupulous scientists and greedy promoters are hoodwinking a gullible public. We consider it rash and dangerous to commit our country to the use of solar energy. This solar technology has never been utilized on such a large scale, and we have no assurance of its long-range safety. Not one single study has been done to assess the safety of electricity from solar energy as compared to electricity from other sources.

      The promoters of solar energy cleverly lead you to believe that it is perfectly safe. Yet they conveniently neglect to mention that solar energy is generated by nuclear fusion within the sun. This process operates on the very same basic laws of nuclear physics used in nuclear power plants and atomic bombs!

      And what is the source of this energy? It is hydrogen, a highly explosive gas (remember the Hindenberg?) Hydrogen is also the active material in H-bombs, that are not only tremendously destructive, but produce dangerous fallout. The glib advocates of solar energy don't even mention these disturbing facts about the true sources of solar energy. What else are they trying to hide from us?

      In addition to the known dangers cited above, what about the unknown dangers, that very well might be worse? When pressed, scientists will admit that they do not fully understand the workings of the sun, or even of the atom. They will even grudgingly admit that our knowledge of the basic laws of physics is not yet perfect or complete. Yet these same reckless scientists would have us use this solar technology even before we fully understand how it works.

      Admittedly we are already subject to a natural `background' radiation from the sun. We can do little about that, except to stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible. The evidence is already clear that too much exposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer. But solar collectors would concentrate that sunlight (that otherwise would have fallen harmlessly on waste land), convert it to electricity and pipe it into our homes to irradiate us from every light bulb! We would then not even be safe from this cancer-producing energy even in our own homes!

      We all know that looking at the sun for even a few seconds can cause blindness. What long term health hazards might result from reading by light derived from solar energy? We now spend large amounts of time looking at the light from television monitors or computer screens, and one can only imagine the possible long-term consequences of this exposure when the screens are powered with electricity from solar collectors. Will we develop cataracts, or slowly go blind? Not one medical study has yet addressed itself to this question, and none are planned.

      In their blind zeal to plug us in to solar energy, scientists seem to totally ignore possible fire hazards of solar energy. Sunlight reaching us directly from the sun at naturally safe levels poses little fire threat. But all one has to do is concentrate sunlight, with a simple burning- glass, and it readily ignites combustible materials. Who would feel safe with solar energy concentrators on their roof? Could we afford the fire insurance rates?

      These scientists, and the big corporations that employ them, stand to profit greatly from construction of solar-power stations. No wonder they try to hide the dangers of the technology and suppress any open discussion of them.

      Proponents of solar energy present facts, figures and graphs to su
  • by Krapangor ( 533950 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @09:58AM (#6319111) Homepage
    It's much easier to get methane from biowaste. And methane can be used nearly in the same way like hydrogen for electric cells. In fact, I think the whole stuff is even cheaper and simpler with methane.
    The only argument against methane is its mind alterating effects (halluzinations etc), so drug addicts might use it as a substitution for heroine and crack.
    • The holy grail of fuel cells has always been using hydrogen since it's only end product is water. If we use methane (or methanol for that case) then we end up dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere just as with fossil fuels (albeit at a higher energy efficiency than internal combustion engines). Now if we could create cheaper fuel cell catalysts and find a safe way to tote around lots of hydrogen safely.
    • And therefore more difficult to handle than a liquid.

      So that's another argument against methane.

    • Well, methane doesn't burn as completely as pure hydrogen, meaning it doesn't have as much energy per litre.

      Also, you don't know that about the price. You can't possibly know the price of this process versus the price of methane extraction from biowaste.

      I've personally heard something of the methane experiments and every one that I've heard about hasn't been able to produce enough methane from the waste to justify extracting the methane - it was always a very energy-costly operation that produced too little to be useful.

      Do you have a link that says why methane is a better idea than hydrogen? Or any links for reversable methane reactions (this is one of the big deals for hydrogen? Burning hydrogen is an almost completely reversable reaction, so you can use it as a rechargable fuel source).

      I'm willing to be convinced to the contrary, but from what I've heard about it, burning hydrocarbons doesn't seem to be as long-term or effective of a solution as burning hydrogen does.
      • Methane has a higher energy density than hydrogen. This usually doesn't matter.

        You can read more about this if you study rocket design. Hydrogen is lighter, but hydrocarbons allow you to use smaller fuel tanks for the same amount of energy. Methane is CH4, the lightest hydrocarbon.

        Whether methane burns completely is a function of what's burning it. In a decently adjusted flame it burns to CO2 and water, with traces of carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide doesn't have much effect on energy efficiency -- re
      • Biogas (which is mainly methane) is used in Finland. The Finnish Biogas Association [] has some reports and links.
    • I can just see it now: pulling up to the fuel station, asking the station attendant to fill 'er up, and watching as he pulls down his pants, defecates in my tank, then fills it up with banana peels, rusty cans and empty Chinese cans, Back-to-the-Future-style.
    • We were all biowaste at one time.

      I like pond scum [].

    • "The only argument against methane is its mind alterating effects (halluzinations etc),"

      Methane is a hydrocarbon, just like the octane you put into your car. So, like with all hydrocarbons, burning it produces all those nasty carbon-based greeenhouse gases everybody complains about
    • Isn't the benefit of hydrogen, rather than methane, reduced pollutive byproducts?
  • Ozone? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @09:59AM (#6319117)
    Didn't a recent article say hydrogen was as bad for the ozone as sheep farts?
    • Yes. In fact, the estimates are for ozone depletion vastly greater than that caused by CFC's [Science Mag last week], just from leakage hydrogen.

      Stop the leaks? Hah! Hydrogen leaks better than any other substance known (except maybe supercooled helium?). It goes right through steel (in the process, embrittling the steel).
  • by millisa ( 151093 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:00AM (#6319120)
    Wisconsin team engineers gas from biomass

    Apparently I wasn't the only one to eat Taco Bell last night...
  • Biomass (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Saint Mitchell ( 144618 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:00AM (#6319123)
    Ok, so you can make Hydrogen from biomass. I really wish they would give an example instead of just saying that it can be scaled from small output for batteries and such. Does the entire earths surface have to be covered with biomass before we have enough for our energy needs, or can we just use somehwere the size of Iowa?
    • news flash, there isn't enough on planet energy from any source. biomass is now generally a waste product. To turn it into the input to create a new fuel source is all to the good. We have to get over the hump until we can do orbital solar stations.
  • by the_2nd_coming ( 444906 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:03AM (#6319128) Homepage
    this is the future []
    • Today it's turkey but tomorrow it's people... PEOPLE!
    • Actually, it would be a very good idea for us to use biodiesel. You need a bit of methanol to begin the process but once you have done so you get some methanol out, supposedly, if you build a closed system and collect the methanol vapors. Biodiesel burns cleaner than diesel, and will actually remove carbon fouling deposits which diesel has put into your engine.

      The other thing that comes out of the biodiesel cracking process is glycerine, which can be used to make soap, or fertilizer.

      Of course, the bi

  • Carbon nanorods (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flend ( 9133 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:07AM (#6319143) Homepage
    Work is being done on using carbon nanorods to store hydrogen (amongst others by the Renewable Energies Research Lab in Golden, CO). These would be cheap and safely disposable and probably represent the future of hydrogen fuel tech.
    • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:33AM (#6319234)
      Like methanol.

      Pure hydrogen fuel cells sound like a great idea, no pollution but water.

      Except then you come to the problem of storage and transportation and have to spend a truly massive fortune on research and development like this, and, once that's done you also have the job of upgrading the entire energy distribution infrastructure which oddly enough will also be rather expensive.

      But hey, go ahead, it's a free market, someone else will come along with much cheaper solution.

  • by r0b0t b0y ( 565885 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:12AM (#6319165)
    Of course, there's still a long way to go before the automotive industry is using it, but it is good news nonetheless.

    anyone else get the image of doc brown tossing in some banana peels and beer into "mr. fusion"??

    .. maybe call this "mr. hydrogen" instead?
    • In that movie, yes, I remember how he deposited garbage into what appeared to be a miniature fusion reactor. However, remember that it is very hard to fuse heavy elements like aluminum, possibly carbon as well. I think that they must have had anti-matter in mind. In a fusion reaction, there are many restrictions on the fuel, however, in an anti-matter reactor, there are none. It just has to be matter, and we have plenty of that.

      Whatever happened on research on anti-matter reactors? The entire concept is f

      • by Trelane ( 16124 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:01AM (#6319334) Journal
        Matter-antimatter reactions give you 100% of the mass converted into energy.

        Gamma ray energy, that is.

        Note also that antimatter annihiliates any matter it touches.

        Core problem 1 is how to produce antimatter cheaply, and in enough quantity. Right now, it's only produced in particle accelerators.

        Core problem 2 is how to transport it. If it's charged, you can use a magnetic bottle, but if it's not....

        Core problem 3 is how to change the gamma rays into something useful. Gamma rays, you may recall, only interact with heavy metals (e.g. Pb) enough to really consider it. (Sure, they interact with, say, DNA, but not very often, compared to the number that get through unaffected). And even in things like Pb, it's only attenuated not stopped. The gamma rays might excite an electron, but that'll fall back to ground state, giving another gamma ray. It might interact with the nucleus, warming the substance a very little bit, but that's it. We don't have a good way of converting gamma rays into, say, heat to provide steam for traditional turbines.
    • "anyone else get the image of doc brown tossing in some banana peels and beer into "mr. fusion"?? .. maybe call this "mr. hydrogen" instead?"

      Why not both? If you're going for science fiction, why not extract the hydrogen from the biomass, sift out the deuterium and/or tritium, and fuse it?
  • cycle (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rf0 ( 159958 ) <> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:15AM (#6319169) Homepage
    We should just cycle everywere. Cheap, environemntally friendly and relaxing

    • Re:cycle (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Good luck if the grocery store and work is more than 5 miles away and it's raining or snowing.
    • Re:cycle (Score:2, Funny)

      by sal ( 3052 )
      I'll keep that in mind next time I have to travel from New York to Boston in the middle of winter. More people like bikes than live in Southern California.
  • by RasputinAXP ( 12807 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:36AM (#6319249) Homepage Journal
    could it produce 1.21 gigawatts? Great Scott!
  • by srussell ( 39342 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:48AM (#6319282) Homepage Journal
    Ugh. I wish I had the time to learn more about this stuff.

    Relative to other catalysts, the Raney-NiSn can perform for long time periods (at least 48 hours) and at lower temperatures (roughly 225 degrees Celsius).

    Raney-NiSn can perform for at least 48 hours... before what? Before it has to be replaced? Before it has to rested? What happens after 48 hours?

    • by dackroyd ( 468778 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:51AM (#6319549) Homepage
      I did Chemistry at university but it's been a while....

      Probably before the catalyst element corrodes too much that it needs to be replaced, as it's efficiency drops too much.

      (most)Catalysts work by letting chemicals bind to them temporarily, before the chemicals go on to complete their reaction. In this case the biomass breaks into smaller chunks when it bind onto the catalyst and then the chunks are reduced further to produce the Hydrogen.

      In a perfect catalyst, the catalyst would remain unchanged after the process. However some of the reaction products could get left on the surface of the catalyst (which physically blocks that bit of the surface ), also the surface could be deformed at a microscopic level (ie the atoms of the catalyst get moved about) which stops the catalyst from working as the chemicals are unable to bind to the surface.

      Or it could just be catalyst in the EU hitting the working hour limit....

    • by davebo ( 11873 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @12:15PM (#6319666) Journal
      After reading the article [](may need a subscription to view), I'm happy to answer your question.

      The catalytic activity degrades over time - but stabilizes at 72% of initial activity after about 48 hours of use. They published data out to 60 hours of use. (since I eat lunch with John & George on a semi-regular basis, I can find out Monday how far they actually tested, but for now that's the best I can tell you.)

      So if you're wondering why the activity degrades over time, that's an easier and harder question to answer. It's easy, since it's one of a couple of likely culprits - impurities in the feed stream can poison (ie, react with) the catalyst; the catalyst might physically break down over time, the metals in the catalyst might rearrange themselves over time (like tin on the catalyst surface might migrate to the sub-surface), etc. The hard part is figuring out which one (or how many) of these things are actually happening.

      And as an aside, I can't believe it's a story in /. where I actually know the people involved. Way cool.
  • by HidingMyName ( 669183 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:50AM (#6319286)
    The materials required are just one expense, the catalyst typically is expected to be reusable (consumed at a very low rate due to inefficiencies). However, the amount of raw material required to extract the energy, the size of the apparatus and the amount of energy required to get a unit of energy are probably the real issues. If it takes more than a Joule to extract the hydrogen required to generate a Joule of energy, the system is only viable for special applications, not as an energy source.
    • The article says the catalyst lasts "at least 48 hours". If it's like most catalysts, it's easily "poisoned" if contaminants get into the waste stream. So it's fair to add the cost of catalyst replacement to the cost of heating the input stream to 225 degrees C and the cost of the plant.
  • Stop recycling! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:54AM (#6319308) Homepage
    You're killing the planet! Recycling is bad! Landfills are good!

    No, I'm not kidding.

    Global warming may be due to humanity's CO2 emissions, or solar radiation, or something we haven't even discovered yet, but it's something detrimental to our society and it'd be nice to do something about it. Well, the best way is to stop burning stuff, obviously. On the other hand, our society runs on our burning stuff. That's not good.

    Well, the least we can do is stop burning stuff that gives us the least benefit. That, my friends, is garbage. Waste incinerators, even if they provide cogeneration, would run at a loss if they weren't paid extra by people who don't want the stuff they burn. So it's not such a big deal to NOT burn the garbage and burn something more efficient instead.

    Further, while there are some materials it may make sense to recycle, when it comes to plastics, you're better off burying it. Every bit of plastic you DON'T recycle is another quantity of oil that will never be burned, but will instead go back to sequestering carbon under the ground.
    • Re:Stop recycling! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:24AM (#6319437)
      While your assessment is accurate for oil-based products, it doesn't apply to biomass.

      Burning things that have been produced by recently living organisms is not too bad, it's just another part of the normal carbon cycle.

      The problem with fossil fuels is that they are re-introducing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that has been removed from the natural carbon cycle...

      An interesting question is how efficient can we make energy production based on plant farming, which is an indirect way of utilizing solar energy - plants transform carbon dioxide (+ water + sunlight) into hydrocarbons, hydrocarbons are processed into non-fossil fuel and utilized - can this be more efficient than solar panels? I believe photosynthesis is a pretty efficient process, especially for fast growing plants, but this is something that hasn't (AFAIK) been tried on a large scale.
      • It does so apply to biomass. If the goal is to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, then sequestering carbon removed from the atmosphere from plants will work just as well as failing to release it by burning petroleum products.

        The big question is, will doing so really provide a benefit to the planet's ecosystems?
      • If you bury the stuff produced by recently living organisms (and do so in a way that the carbon stays buried for a long time), it offsets the carbon produced by burning other stuff.

        So if you are worried about global warming, you should still bury the garbage.

        There is no shortage of room to bury stuff. That is a myth promulgated by the recycling industry and various environuts.
    • I had an economics professor who researched the costs (both economic and environmental) of recycling glassware.

      Turns out its far better to simply bury it. When you recycle it, first it has to be cleaned with highly caustic and dangerous chemicals which must be barrelled after their use (toxic waste).

      When you melt it down, it requires alot of heat. The energy to create that heat has to come from somewhere - most often natural gas burners. So recycling glass actually consumes large amounts of fossil fuel

      • Granted I don't know much about the silicon dioxide processing business, but wouldn't the new sand used to create the new glass come with the exact same set of problems? That argument only really makes sense if we're going to stop glass production after disposing of our current waste glass.

        Regarding heat and chemicals, after digging for new sand, you still have to melt it down, costing a similar amount heat, as well as cleaning the glass with caustic chemicals. I would guess that refining the sand to pu

  • But why would I use Hydrogen to fill my new fuel-cell powered Escalade then? I need tha bling-bling in tha gas tank, yo!
  • Cars... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nepheles ( 642829 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:13AM (#6319380) Homepage

    Isn't it, perhaps, the whole idea of an automobile, which is inherently inefficient, which needs re-thinking? It seems that support for rail over long distances, and metro-like systems for shorter distances might be more beneficial to all. Trains do not require huge streets, they do not require huge areas for parking, they do not lead to massive congestion, they do not cause deaths on a huge scale. (More Americans are killed every year from road fatalities than were killed in the war in Vietnam).

    It may be that the car is too ingrained in the American psyche to dispense with it... but that's no reason to keep it either

    • Re:Cars... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SonicBurst ( 546373 )
      You obviously don't live in a rural area.

      Believe it or not, there are still places in the US where you can drive for many, many miles without seeing another person, house / car / farm animal, etc... It wouldn't be economically feasible to run rails or buses out to these areas for the 1 passenger that you might get on a busy night. Besides that, even if you did have mass transit service to these areas, you couldn't run the things often enough to accomodate the schedules of the people that would utilize
      • You obviously don't live in a rural area.

        While your comment is well-taken, it's less relevant than you think. The vast majority of our population is in dense urban areas.

        • Right, they do. But these people already have mass transit. (In fact, I think that owning a car while living in a large city is rather ridiculous) I was just stating that taking away the automobile (as suggested in the grandparent post) wouldn't work for rural areas.

          I think you also need to take into account large suburban areas, otherwise known as the land of yank-tanks and land-yachts. Most of these areas, while close to major urban centers, also do not have acceptable mass transit systems. Thus, t
          • Re:Cars... (Score:3, Informative)

            by Courageous ( 228506 )
            Right. And mass transit is not particularly feasible in these areas, precisely because of the larger territories covered. Actually, a good counterpoint to what I said previously about dense urban areas would be the city in which I live: San Diego. A subway really wouldn't be very feasible here. San Diego is an example of a town that is very large geographically. While the county has 10 million+, the localized densities when compared against work location-clusters just aren't right for mass transit. 'Course,
          • > Right, they do. But these people already have mass transit.

            Wrong, many of us do not. I live in Seattle, home of the perpetual traffic-jam. I used to live in Kansas City. If you live in a suburb in Kansas City, not only do you not have any mass transit, you don't even get remotely convenient access to bus service (or any at all!). I'm sure the two cities I've lived in are not the only exceptions.

            When I take the bus to work here in Seattle, I only have to make one change to another line, and STILL i
    • Europe has great train systems across the continent because it has 10x the population density of the US. If we were to open our doors to 2.5 billion immigrants and distribute them evenly across the US, trains would work just as well in the US as they do in the EU.

      Other than being extremely unrealistic and impractical, nothing wrong with your suggestion. In fact, the areas of the country (like the Boston-Washington corridor) that are highly settled do tend to have much more in the way of rail service.
    • If an automobile is inherently inefficient, then why do people use them? Despite what your obviously oversized brain tells you, it's not because people are stupid. Automobiles are more convenient. You don't have to plan your schedule with hundreds of other people. You leave when you want. You return when you want.

      Automobiles may cause deaths on a huge scale, but they also save lives on a huge scale. When you need to go to a hospital you don't sit around waiting for a bus, do you? Sure, you could tak

  • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:18AM (#6319405)
    Like this one:

    Even less polluting than a hydrogen powered vehicle, the only exhaust is clean air. Ironically, the air is cleaner going out than going in because it has to be filtered before reaching the engine.

  • by neBelcnU ( 663059 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:34AM (#6319479) Journal
    I'm as green as the next frog, but hydrogen's a LONG way from fueling transportation on this planet. Didn't MIT post a study showing diesel-powered hybrids as the shortest, fastest way to environmental remediation for our roads?

    That's not to stop the U of W's process from fueling a large number of fixed polluters. For example, the giant cooling plant (part of a co-gen facility) for the building I work in could benefit from some H2. Bring it on, just don't waste time trying to get it into cars & trucks.

    I'll go back under my rock now...
  • Whats the normal process for 'creating' hydrogen? I guess I assumed they just mixed a couple of chemicals together and trapped it in balloons like we did in chem class in highschool.
    • Re:hows it work? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Oaktree_b ( 670914 )
      From what I remember, you pass an electric current through water. Stick your two electrodes in water, on positive, the other negative. Voila, Oxygen (o2) on one end, Hydrogen (h2)on the other end. Water's the easiest source from which to get hydrogen, it's abundant and there's not all this other stuff mixed in with it (just plain old H2 and O2). I suppose you can get it from methane (CH4), or any other organic compound. I remember reading an article a while ago saying how they would use gasoline to power
    • You're probably thinking of mixing an acid and reactive metal. (magnersium for example) Fairly common high school experiment.

      2HCl + Mg -> MgCl2 + H2

  • Mr. Fusion! (Score:4, Funny)

    by deander2 ( 26173 ) * <public@kered.oCOWrg minus herbivore> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @12:21PM (#6319700) Homepage

    converts bio-mass to fuel for futuristic cars? i KNOW i've see that somewhere before!!! :-P
  • by sciuro ( 97151 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @12:24PM (#6319715) Homepage

    there are still a lot of problems to be solved with hydrogen:

    • safety of using it in things likely to crash
    • water vapour contributes to greenhouse effect
    • very small molecules leak out of everything (pipelines, tanks, ...)
    • safety of large scale transport and storage

    in the meantime, let's improve battery technology, fuel cells, and develop pebble bed nuclear reactor technology...

  • Behold... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gerald ( 9696 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @12:54PM (#6319854) Homepage
    Wisconsin team engineers gas from biomass ...

    Behold the power of cheese!

  • by deblau ( 68023 ) <> on Monday June 30, 2003 @10:53AM (#6330775) Journal
    A friend of mine, Eli Greenbaum, has been getting Hydrogen from algae for three years now, with no metals involved. He just starves them of O2 and they activate a dormant gene that produces a protein that synthesizes H2. See here [] for the details.

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. -- Christopher Morley