Fwd: More problems with hydrogen

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Mon Dec 1 07:46:17 PST 2003

On Mon, Dec 01, 2003 at 03:11:31PM +0000, Russell Turpin wrote:

> That's precisely the part that seems hard to me.
> Exactly how are you going to store it? As a gas?

Exactly. Just the same way you store natural gas (methane).
You can transport is via pipelines, and store it in pressurized
cylinders (with methane, large scale: subterraneous cavities).

> It consumes too much space. You would be quite

How is it too much? How much energy does your
home need during the night? How much of it is
heating/air conditioning, which can simply use
thermal reservoirs recharged from diurnal or
seasonal variations?

If you insist to run the washer and dryer at night,
then you can either get a bigger spike cache, or
buy power from your neighbours. If you use more, you
pay more, either for infrastructure, or other people
who have the infrastructure. Simple, eh?

Instead of hydrogen, think natural gas.
Natural gas comes to your home via a pipe.
If your pipe would stop working during the night,
then you'd use a compressor to pressurize a cylinder
during daytime. Because it would be the cheapest way
to do so by far.

Ditto electrolysis, except you already generate your
gas at high pressure. A smart design (high-efficiency
electrolysis is *not* a mature discipline) would use
no movable parts.

> disappointed with how much energy you get out of
> a pressurized tank of hydrogen,for any portable
> application from car to computer.

Guess what: 


It really sucks. I don't use a small nuclear reactor to
cook my food. I don't heat my home with a diamond braziere.
I don't fuel up with isotopically pure isooctane.

I could do all of the above, theoretically. I don't,
because they're completely insane solutions to nonproblems.

> As a liquid? It requires refridgeration, and not 

NO. Just use a hydrogen-rich easily reformable fuel, and
do it onboard. Or just use a direct-alcohol fuel cell. 

You're using your hydrocarbon as a hydrogen conserve.
You don't have to use actual hydrogen, just hydrogen equivalents.
Hydrogen/carbon in methane is 4:1, it's 1:1 in benzene.
CO2 emission is completely missing the point. 
Hydrogen economy (methanol included) saves energy by virtue
of higher efficiency and synergisms, increases the fraction
coming from CO2-neutral sources, and completely eliminates
particulates and gas emission.

Ever seen the photosmog inlands of LA? That's sure no
CO2 which makes your eyes mist, and the mountains vanish
in the morning.

> just everyday refridgeration, but really, really
> cold refridgeration. That vastly increases the
> complexity of the distribution network.


> Absorbed into a solid? That requires palladium
> today, which runs $192/oz, making a very
> expensive fuel tank.


> Now yeah, some future developments will make
> hydrogen storage more convinient and economical.

The future's here. It's yet unevenly distributed yet.

Photovoltaics power is already economical for off-grid
homes. Direct methanol fuel cells will shortly power
your mobile and your notebook, then your car. 
Direct methane fuel cells and hydrogen fuel cells using
methane reforming will provide power for your home
(but in fact a direct methanol fuel cell car in your
garage is quite a power plant already).

> But future developments also will bring other
> breakthroughs, likely some that make moving
> hydrogen around seem like a silly idea. People

Right, you can use wireless power beamed to rectenna
arrays from space.

> who think hydrogen solves a fuel problem are
> betting on some future state of technology that
> makes that seem more reasonable than many
> alternatives. That *might* happen. But I'm not
> going to bet on it.

Industrial resource base is a major political issue.
Energy is a key component, and you better make energy
a political issue. 

You can't make fossil fuel by leading wars.
It's a good way to ruin it for everybody, though.

In closing, I'm genuinely disappointed at the level
of discourse of energy matters in geek circles.
And this is the elite; this does not bode at all
well for the ignorant, apathetic and increasingly
impoverished (what's the average personal debt?) 
general public.

-- Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a>
ICBM: 48.07078, 11.61144            http://www.leitl.org
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http://moleculardevices.org         http://nanomachines.net
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