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Power Technology

Chicken Feathers May Hold Key To Hydrogen Storage 318

Posted by timothy
from the horsefeathers-not-yet-ruled-out dept.
pitterpatter writes "A researcher trying to find a use for them claims that after being heated enough to carbonize, chicken feathers hold as much hydrogen as carbon nanotubes do. So chicken feather charcoal might solve the storage problem for the new hydrogen economy. One problem down, half a zillion to go."
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Chicken Feathers May Hold Key To Hydrogen Storage

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  • NPR Interview (Score:5, Informative)

    by cybereal (621599) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @07:19PM (#28507899) Homepage

    According to an interview with a researcher or the lead researcher or something like that, it's not as much as carbon nanotubes or other existing solutions, but it's "enough" and it's vastly cheaper. All existing solutions are impossibly expensive, that's the big deal here. Something like 6 billion pounds of chicken feathers are produced as by products of the chicken industry every year with zero practical reuses.

    The same interviewee goes on to explain that there are a number of other possible uses of chicken feathers as a high grade material component, in everything from car body pieces to wind mill blades for wind power. I think it's an excellent effort and I hope it bears fruit.

  • The version of the story that I heard was that some British company was building a high speed train and wanted to test it against bird strikes. They borrowed a chicken cannon from an American aerospace company (the cannon being a standard item for testing aircraft canopies) and were horrified to see how much damage the train was taking. The Brits sent the footage to the Americans for review and the Americans simply responded: "Gentlemen, thaw your chickens."

    They tested this pretty thoroughly on Mythbusters. The final result being that frozen chickens get much better penetration then thawed ones.

  • Re:First Post? (Score:3, Informative)

    by masshuu (1260516) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @07:56PM (#28508129)
    +----------+
    |  PLEASE  |
    |  DO NOT  |
    | FEED THE |
    |  TROLLS  |
    +----------+
        |  |
        |  |
      .\|.||/..
    Is that a Troll, Offtopic, Informative, or Funny?

    if 30% of the people who read it think the FP is a troll, then its a troll
    so don't feed it plz.
  • by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @08:13PM (#28508223) Journal

    Indeed. The most efficient way to get hydrogen isn't available to home owners.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_production#High-temperature_electrolysis [wikipedia.org]

    Storing in a battery is probably more environmentally friendly and is definitely more efficient - but if you want to be truly environmentally friendly, you could just go with an air powered car.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_powered_car [wikipedia.org]

    Air powered cars have a few big benefits.
    1) They can be made 100% recyclable.
    2) Air can be compressed anywhere.

    You can use the grid, at home, at work. You can run a compressor off solar or wind power. You can put a big compressor at gas stations without any huge retrofitting costs.

    Air powered would be the easiest way to go, except that like all vehicles running on alternative energy, you can't get them anywhere.

  • by rts008 (812749) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @08:16PM (#28508261) Journal

    Adam and Jamie tackled this one on Mythbusters.

    Using the same protocols as the 'official' testing, they found that thawed chickens busted windscreens as effectively as thawed chickens.(episode 9, IIRC...it's on youtube.com)

    The same principles apply when using a steel cutting tool that cuts the steel with a stream of water. Yes, they use water, not ice to cut the steel.

    Physics: learn it, use it, benefit from it. (hint: application of kinetic energy would be a starting point to understanding this)

    [citation needed]
    Water Jet Cutter [wikipedia.org]:

    A water jet cutter is a tool capable of slicing into metal or other materials using a jet of water at high velocity and pressure,[...]Water jet cuts are not typically limited by the thickness of the material, and are capable of cutting materials over eighteen inches (45 cm) thick.

    NASA Chicken Gun [wikipedia.org]:

    There is a longstanding urban legend about the gun being loaned to some other agency, who fired frozen chickens instead of thawed chickens.[1]

    Urban Legend [snopes.com]:

    In an issue of Meat & Poultry magazine, editors quoted from "Feathers," the publication of the California Poultry Industry Federation, telling the following story:

    The US Federal Aviation Administration has a unique device for testing the strength of windshields on airplanes. The device is a gun that launches a dead chicken at a plane's windshield at approximately the speed the plane flies.

    The theory is that if the windshield doesn't crack from the carcass impact, it'll survive a real collision with a bird during flight.

    It seems the British were very interested in this and wanted to test a windshield on a brand new, speedy locomotive they're developing.

    They borrowed FAA's chicken launcher, loaded the chicken and fired.

    The ballistic chicken shattered the windshield, broke the engineer's chair and embedded itself in the back wall of the engine's cab. The British were stunned and asked the FAA to recheck the test to see if everything was done correctly.

    The FAA reviewed the test thoroughly and had one recommendation:

    "Use a thawed chicken."

    Note:(from the NASA Chicken Gun wiki link above)

    The 1970s test of the British High Speed Train windscreens used the Farnborough chicken gun and expertise, not NASA based expertise, busting the Mythbusters myth relating to NASA telling the British "defrost the chickens first".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 28, 2009 @08:28PM (#28508329)

    paper, fodder .... the list doesn't end

  • by MJMullinII (1232636) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @08:39PM (#28508411)

    the best Hydrogen storage is the Hydrocarbon.

    What most people don't seem to understand is that the environmental problem with burning hydrocarbons (gasoline, diesel, etc.) *is not* with the act itself. My point being that the principle of the Internal Combustion Engine isn't the problem.

    The problem is where the hydrocarbons come from. Right now, the feedstock for hydrocarbon based fuel production is petroleum. That petroleum is happy underground and would stay that way virtually indefinitely *if* we didn't pump it to the surface.

    That brings us to the problem: When we burn hydrocarbon fuels based on petroleum, we are adding carbon to the atmosphere that was locked underground. However, *if* we burn hydrocarbon based fuels that are synthetically created using (among other things) recaptured Carbon from the air, then we are *not* adding to the CO2 load of the planet and therefore can focus on more immediate environmental problems.

    It's going to happen sooner or later. However much petroleum there is in the ground (20 years or 200), it is for sure and certain that *one* day it will run out. We're eventually going to have no choice but to switch to a hydrogen economy and I've seen *nothing* on the drawing board (even far flung into the future) that matches the energy potential of hydrocarbons.

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @08:45PM (#28508461)

    already a thriving industry mining bat shit (guano) for fertilizer and explosives

  • by electrostatic (1185487) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @08:47PM (#28508471)

    Carbonization is often exothermic, which means that it could in principle be made self-sustaining... http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Carbonization [absoluteastronomy.com]

    Feathers are carbohydrates, meaning they are carbon structures with hydrogen and a small portion of oxygen. The Carbonization process cooks off the hydrogen and oxygen, leaving the carbon structure. The hydrogen combines with oxygen to form H20, which is certainly exothermic. My guess is that it produces more heat energy that was consumed to bring it up to carbonization temperature in the first place.

    So little or no energy is wasted -- unlike as with solar cells that take 5-10 years to generate as much energy as was used to make them.

  • by StCredZero (169093) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @08:53PM (#28508521)

    The last...well, hydrogen can trivially be made by running a current through water.

    Basic electrolysis is pretty lossy up-front. It makes batteries look *good*. (41% efficient for systems running at 100 celsius. 64% for 850 celsuis. Not sure that's suitable for consumer equipment!)

    If you've got a photovoltaic array on your roof, you can analyze water and get essentially free hydrogen.

    It's electrolyze, not analyze. Also, widely manufactured photovoltaics are still expensive.

    While we'll never see cars powered in "real time" by the sun, it's quite easy make in a couple days as much hydrogen as you'll need to power your car for a week of normal driving.

    I think the photovoltaics you'd need to recharge a car in a couple of days are going to be expensive. Let's say your family drives one half hour a day. This is pretty reasonable. A 15 minute commute during the weekdays and some chores on the weekend. To get yourself a reasonable stack of Thundersky Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries, you'd need to buy something like 30 of them, which is the size of the stack for Kearon's electric Ford Capri. This gets the stack up to 96 volts and can supposedly push the Capri 90 km or about 55 miles. It's also 8640 watt-hours. But remember, your elecrolysis is only 41% efficient, which means you have to produce 21073 watt-hours. There's going to be about 5 hours of peak sunlight per day, so let's just say the two days recharging is equivalent to 15 peak hours. This works out to about 1400 watts of solar panels. That's about $10,000 of new solar panels for one 55 mile charge completed in two days. We need about 210 miles range for the 30 minutes of driving a day. For that, you'd need something like $35,000 of solar panels.

    So our back of the envelope calcs, with an optimistically small car and very modest driving distances with an unreasonable assumption of EV like efficiency, still gives us a pretty hurtful dollar figure. And this is just the solar panels. The electrolyzer is going to cost money as well. However, if you take the solar cells out of the equation, this starts to look good for us. Why? Because much of the cost of an electric vehicle is in the batteries. If we can electrolyze and burn our own hydrogen from a tank that actually fits in a car, we can still come out ahead, assuming the storage systems don't wear out.

    http://www.evcapri.com/ [evcapri.com]

  • by hazem (472289) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @09:06PM (#28508611) Journal

    Physics: learn it, use it, benefit from it. (hint: application of kinetic energy would be a starting point to understanding this)

    I don't think it's as simple as that.

    I'm no physicist but I would suspect that there is a great deal of difference between firing a frozen chicken and a thawed chicken at something. With enough velocity, of course, the differences in outcome will not be very much. But if you give the chickens progressively less velocity at impact, I think you'd find the frozen chickens still penetrate the glass at some levels of kinetic energy where the thawed chickens would not.

    My reasoning for this has to do with differences in how the kinetic energy of the chicken is imparted to the windscreen, both through time as well as the area of impact.

    The body of frozen chicken will "give" much less than the body of a thawed chicken, so the windscreen has a much shorter period of time to absorb kinetic energy of the chicken. Also, due to that lack of give, the kinetic energy of the chicken's body will be spread over a larger area of the windscreen.

    If I drop a 5 kg bag of laundry on my car's windshield from my roof, it will bounce off the windshield and leave it intact. If I drop a 5 kg pipe wrench from the same height, it will most likely shatter the windshield. It's the same idea. With the bag of laundry, the windshield gets more time and more area to absorb the kinetic energy, with the wrench, not as much. Though maybe if I dropped both from a 10 story building, the windshield might not survive it either way.

    This isn't simply a matter of an application of equal amounts of kinetic energy. There are a lot of things going on at the point and time of impact that can alter the outcomes... within a certain range of energies.

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @09:19PM (#28508683)

    Adam and Jamie tackled this one on Mythbusters.

    Using the same protocols as the 'official' testing, they found that thawed chickens busted windscreens as effectively as thawed chickens.

    Wrong [youtube.com].

    They revisited the myth and proved, beyond a doubt, that frozen chickens cause more damage.

    To be fair, though, they went over that myth like three times before they finally came up with a test that proved it once and for all.

  • by lawnboy5-O (772026) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @09:21PM (#28508703)
    You need to check out these guys...

    The chief scientist has been at it for over 30 years - so yes it is difficult. I remember his expo at teh U. of Tenn Worlds Fair in 1982

    http://www.hypowerfuel.com/home.html [hypowerfuel.com]

    anyhow - major breakthroughs are abound, and Canada's Alberta Province has initiatives for the use of HyPower's hydrogen and bio fuel production processes.
  • by cpotoso (606303) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @09:24PM (#28508715) Journal
    Their surface areas per unit mass (smaller than 1,000 m^2/g) are not too impressive (since storage is done by physisorption on the surface). This will not produce sufficient adsorption. Activated carbon from corn-cobs appear to offer more promise (migger than 3,000 m^2/g) and are also quite cheap. See, for example from my home state: http://www.physorg.com/news162195986.html [physorg.com]
  • by Sorny (521429) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @11:18PM (#28509323) Homepage
    Not all sports cars get shitty mileage. My 2002 Corvette Z06 gets a combined 24MPG, and routinely hits 28-30MPG on long freeway trips. My previous Vette, a 2000 Z19 hardtop, averaged 25MPG, and got 33MPG on a trip from Phoenix to Minneapolis. Both of the cars have 5.7L V8 motors and 6-speed manual transmissions. The Z gets worse mileage not because of the extra 50HP/TQ, but because it is geared shorter (roughly 250-350RPM higher at any speed in any gear). I'm not claiming either car is excellent for fuel economy, but you can't say sports cars should be lumped in with trucks when it comes to fuel economy. Just because none of the import sports car makers have figured out how to make a lot of power and get decent mileage, is no reason to badmouth all sports cars. Qualify your statements.
  • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabred.dyndns. o r g> on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:31AM (#28509831) Homepage
    It's called "impulse". Impulse is how quickly the force is transferred between the objects, which is faster with a solid (ice) chicken than with a thawed one. And then you have the force per area, which is larger with a thawed chicken because it deforms on contact whereas a frozen chicken concentrates almost all the force on a small area.
  • by raynet (51803) on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:15AM (#28511193) Homepage

    Noh, they repeated the experiment until they didn't make any mistakes, eg. in the first episode they used windscreen that wasn't rated to be bird strike resistant.

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