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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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  • How much more energy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 28, 2009 @07:01PM (#28507787)

    How much more energy does it take to turn a chicken feather into a "hydrogen storage unit" than can be stored in the feather anyway?

  • Hydrogen will burn just fine in a conventional internal combustion engine. The modifications to a modern gasoline-powered engine to make it run on hydrogen are essentially the same as those to make it run off compressed natural gas. I’m sure many of you have noticed fleet vehicles with a CNG sticker on them; though not widespread, the conversion isn’t exactly uncommon, either.

    There are three main problems with converting to hydrogen. First, though hydrogen has much more energy density per unit of mass than gasoline, it has much less energy density per unit of volume in any of the ways it’s currently practically available. Second, for similar reasons, getting a sufficient density of fuel / air mixture to the pistons is a bit of a challenge and generally requires turbocharging, pressurized fuel lines, etc. (Or, you can live with an underpowered vehicle.) The last problem, of course, is producing hydrogen.

    If the claims of TFA are accurate, then we may actually be on the verge of solving all three problems.

    If we’ll soon see affordable high-capacity tanks, that solves the first problem. The second can be dealt with by making use of many of the high-performance tricks we’re already familiar with.

    The last...well, hydrogen can trivially be made by running a current through water. If you’ve got a photovoltaic array on your roof, you can analyze water and get essentially free hydrogen. 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.

    Put all these pieces together, and in a few years or so real solar-powered cars may be as common as home-converted home-brewed biodiesel cars are today.

    Cheers,

    b&

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 28, 2009 @07:34PM (#28508017)

    OMG Yes! The "Leghorn" needs to be the next big unit of measurement.

  • by lgbr (700550) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @07:53PM (#28508113)

    I wouldn't say 'about a zillion to go.' I would say one big problem to go. That problem is platinum. We simply have not been able to eliminate the need for platinum in fuel cells to extract the electricity from the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. Platinum is a huge factor in the cost of the fuel cell and the larger problem is that we simply don't have the amount of it necessary to convert all of the vehicles of the world. I spent a few weeks at Los Alamos with a research group that had been given a hefty grant for finding a solution and all they were doing was shrugging their shoulders at it. It seems nearly hopeless.

    The day we find a solution to this problem is, I believe, the day that fuel cells become viable for everyday transportation. I'll be the first in line to swap my motorcycle for a fuel cell powered version because the only problem with fuel cells is their cost per kilowatt. Currently it costs roughly $73 per kilowatt for a fuel cell (source) [wikipedia.org]. This is down from $1,000 in 2002. This means that we've come incredibly far, and we only have one problem to overcome.

  • by tautog (46259) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @10:01PM (#28508907)

    Ah, yes. ./ moderation system finds a boo-boo post and it hits +4 Insightful.

    And I thought you *could* train monkeys.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 28, 2009 @11:20PM (#28509347)

    "The modifications to a modern gasoline-powered engine to make it run on hydrogen are essentially the same as those to make it run off compressed natural gas."

    Um, no, not at all.

    Hydrogen can be used in a single a cylinder engine, but because it has an extremely fast a flame front, considerably more so than natural gas (CNG), then any engine with a common intake runner (like all modern multiple cylinder engines) will cause preignition in all the cylinders, rendering the engine useless for doing any sort of useful work.

    I order to burn gaseous hydrogen in multiple cylinder engines, one needs to use completely separate intake runners to each cylinder, and other expensive (and illegal) modifications.

    You're not as educated on this issue as you seem to believe.

  • by RealGrouchy (943109) on Sunday June 28, 2009 @11:42PM (#28509499)

    But you're still looking only at the relationship between the car and the driver. Your model of sustainability does not take into account the vast infrastructure required to support it. Whether it runs on gasoline or pixie dust, a car is still a car. It still occupies the same amount of space on the roads, in driveways, and in parking lots. It still weighs as much, and therefore requires as much energy (wherever it may come from) to propel.

    When you upgrade to a new, more fuel-efficient car, what happens to your old one? Unless you destroy/retire it, it probably gets driven by somebody else, and the result is that where there was a single less-efficient car, there is now a less-efficient car AND a more-efficient car on the road, consuming more resources and creating more pollution than the less-efficient car on its own. On top of this the same amount of roads must accommodate two vehicles where it previously only needed to carry one. Roads must be not only maintained, but expanded, using more fuel and resources. This isn't practical in built up areas (e.g. downtowns) with no room for streets to expand, and causes gridlock. Recent articles on Slashdot about states having to turn their asphalt roads to rubble suggest that we can't afford it.

    A model of environmentalism that accepts the idea of more cars is simply NOT sustainable.

    - RG>

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:30AM (#28509821) Homepage

    A model of environmentalism that accepts the idea of more cars is simply NOT sustainable

    You had better damn well get used to it! If you think America is an acceptable whipping-boy, just you *wait* till China and India's middle class soars through the stratosphere. To make matters worse, they don't give a damn about environmentalism to the degree it has been accepted in the west.

    No. Wrath0fb0b is correct. You're going to have to dance with the Elephant (gracefully I might add) on this issue or else risk being in the path of an impending stampede.

  • by raynet (51803) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:37AM (#28509849) Homepage

    I recall that they revisited the myth couple times and on the last time they did find a difference of penetrating power between thawed and frozen chickens.

  • by Eclipse-now (987359) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:49AM (#28509941) Homepage
    In Australia the debate in some quarters is moving beyond energy efficient cars to energy efficient cities. Some proponents do not even mention peak oil or global warming in their talk, and are NOT proposing "ecocities" even though cars are banned within some of these village-town developments. They are selling it as MORE, not less, because there is MORE community, more local services and shops within walking distance, MORE connection with a MORE secure local economy that is MORE reliable, intimate and connected to servicing other local economy relationships of interdependence. Each dollar coming into a Village-Town circulates through the economy numerous times, and the economy of such simple mechanisms of GOOD TOWN PLANNING also generates 80% of its own economy, creating a more durable local economy during tough times. Existing suburbs can be slowly retrofitted to be car free, as is already happening in Germany. We CAN reclaim the streets, see what is happening in New York. We don't have to be stuck with the current town plan outside your door forever, there are ways to slowly retrofit the world to a post-car model. I'm not saying we totally ELIMINATE the car from all of life, but we can and must massively "discipline" the use of the car. Write to town planners, buy a bike, and... check out what your town's local plans are for peak oil when it hits in a few years.

    Presented to the University of New South Wales by Claude Lewenz, I highly recommend the Village Towns movie (15 minutes) where the concept is explained further.

    http://villageforum.com/ [villageforum.com]

    Sometimes less is more.

    I don't want to have to spend $20 grand every 5 years or so to stay with a current vehicle if my town can be designed to provide most of my needs and I can just walk everywhere, and go HIRE a car on those rare occasions I do need a vehicle. What kind of moronic society continues to build an oil dependent mode of city plan when we are this close to peak oil anyway? The goal should be MORE European than Europe (with Europeans using half the oil of the average American) and further... 20 villages of 500 people each, walled villages with no cars allowed inside, and a local town centre that has the movies, town hall, other facilities. Beautiful, intimate, economically secure, cheaper, safer, cleaner, more fun, less boring, less predictable and more arty: and now GOING MAINSTREAM: not just for eco-village types! (blarrrgh, no thanks!) Yes, this solves global warming and peak oil but you won't hear that from the developer! This is just a better way to live that is MORE fulfilling. Have fun in your SUV as peak oil hits, or worse, the "uber-expensive" hydrogen economy. I hope it's real fun for you sitting in your high performance vehicle as you speed up to the next traffic jams. Just think: that 10 hours you wasted commuting could have been spent reading a good book, talking to friends as you walk to the local tram stop, or better: arguing with me! ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @03:41AM (#28511043)

    Your argument assumes that the pricing mechanism will solve the environment's problems. However, you're conveniently forgetting one thing which is pretty important if you're going to talk about price: economics.

    Let's say your tax comes in and triples the price of meat products. Demand for meat falls dramatically. Almost everyone begins buying non-meat substitutes.

    The demand for non-meat substitutes therefore skyrockets, which means the price of these substitutes rises significantly. Conversely, the meat industry must lower their prices to compete with the substitutes and recapture some demand.

    The tax creates a shortage in meat demand and an excess in meat-substitute demand. Prices will always move towards equilibrium, which means meat prices will fall and meat-substitute prices will rise. Since the meat-substitutes are, by definition, a substitute good, economic theory dictates that the two prices will gravitate towards each other to some degree (depending on the cross-corellation of demand) - assuming the meat industry survives (more on that in a bit).

    There will probably be short-term shortages as practically everyone converts over to these substitutes almost overnight. Your policy will likely result in widespread civil unrest. People unable to purchase meat-substitutes are forced to pay your exhorbitant meat tax. People may not care much about privacy, censorship and whatnot, but if you threaten their ability to put food on the table, they will riot en masse.

    So your plan to tax meat and force everyone onto substitutes has failed spectacularly, because now everyone is paying more for everything. Setting aside the ridiculous assertion that you could calculate the "true cost" of meat in the airy fairy manner you describe, the end result is that you've pushed up the prices of EVERYTHING (not just food - a little more economic thinking makes this obvious). Food is not a luxury item that is optional to purchase (though some foods may be classified as luxury foods, a standard steak certainly is not).

    Your chances of another term in office are zero. Incidentally, you have a pretty good chance of being shot.

    Which brings me to my final point about the survival of the meat industry - it is not going anywhere, not now, and not ever. It will always survive, because people will always want to eat meat. There is no chance of the supply of meat vanishing because there'll be enough people to either vote bright sparks like you out of office or riot in the streets until your own party pushes you out.

    And honestly, your entire post screams: "since these taxes won't affect me, I am in favour of them, as that will force other people to subsidise my own, different life style choices". You don't want *people* to pay the "full cost" of anything. You want *other people* to pay more for purchases which *you* aren't going to make, under the twisted and erroneous logic that your costs will go down. A very selfish view, given that your main implication is that other people are being too selfish with their consumption.

    I hope that clarifies things for you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @04:34AM (#28511295)
    I don't know how your economics work out at all. The fact is that with the prices of meat tripling (in the example the GP postulated) and their demand drastically falling, there will be pressure to drive both prices and supply down. Seeing that the costs to produce meats are fairly fixed, there aren't much in the way that the meat producers can actually lower the prices (and you're falsely assuming that prices can fall close to 0, which they can't for obvious reasons -- energy, feed, land, water, etc are all fixed cost).

    And working up the food chain, that means less agriculture and energy (~50%, if not more, for current rates of meat production) devoted to meat creation. Which means a surplus to the supply of crops, thus lowering the prices of foods with these as their main ingredient, counteracting the consumption shift from meats to non-meats (that and note it's 10X more efficient to feed people on grains than on meat, so your 1:1 substitution argument is total bunk). With a simple calculation, even with the switch-off from meat eating to non-meat eating, that would mean you get 5% more crop demand (from the 10X difference on 50%), but with 50% crop supply. Obviously, this example illustrates a total conversion, which won't happen in reality...but this is just an example for illustration purposes, and you can find some number in between.

    Of course, given your complete lack of understanding of economics (and I suck at it myself as well), you'll no doubt point out that the supply of crops will drop due to the lower demand. Yes, that is true. But the fundamental cost of making that crop is still much lower than making equivalent energy of food from meats. The costs of electricity, fuel, water purification, and even environmental impact will remain the same per unit weight of respective food that is produced. Even more, by moving off of meats, the costs of the aforementioned fixed costs may actually drop drop, simply due to a much lower demand on them.

    I certainly hope that clarified things for you.

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