Sunday, October 5, 2008

New Research?

I have blogged about "the hydrogen economy" before this, but this recent entry at Future Blogger raises the issue anew ... errr, so to speak. Specifically, I am referring to this hydrogen fuel system.

If you follow the link above, the careful reader will discover that there are no pressure or explosion concerns with this system and that the storage physics seems suspiciously similar in nature to that cited by Mr. Golden in his post. Not his fault, of course, he simply notes the claims from Argonne Labs. Since this particular system has been a matter of public record for several years now (and the precise make-up of the proprietary formulation of materials that comprise the hydrogen storage matrix have been equally publicly talked around) one has to wonder about the groundbreaking nature of the Argonne Lab's claim. There is a substantial difference between a new discovery and a confirmation of another's work, it must be said, since it is upon just such distinctions that vast fortunes have been known to rest.

Again, I wish to emphasise that Mr. Golden is merely commenting on another's tale; his personal position in these matters remains unstated and has no part in the events that he has related. I have commented on Mr. Golden's Future Blogger post and will relate any reply/response from him (or others) as seems pertinent.


Garry Golden said...

(via & FutureBlogger site)

Your comment/question is appreciated! In fact, I’ve edited the post to address some of the issues. I'm grateful!

More than a few things...

MOFs are only one option of solid h2 storage. Others include doped carbon nanotubes, boron and other novel compounds. Liquid storage systems are equally compelling. I’ll be sure to cover all of these in the weeks ahead.

And yes – the Argonne effort was not really ‘new research’ as much as it was a critical step in enabling commercialization. Sorry to mislead. But characterization of MOFs is definitely an important step even if there weren’t new conclusions. So maybe I should change the article title!

I went to your site (well done- it’s in my reader; and I used to live in Texas!)

Yes, the product you’ve linked to- is a hydride. This is the most advanced solid state storage system on the market. MOFs (as you’ll see in new CENS article that I’ve added to the end of the post) is not yet a commercialized storage medium. But I’ve been following MOFs for a while and think we’re close to a transition point.

Solid state storage has two general distinctions—storing H2 chemically (absorption) versus physically (adsorption). It’s easy to research this online- but basically you are looking to have a system that is low cost, low weight, high energy density/weight and (this is the key) works at low pressure.

Metal hydrides (like those produced by ECD Ovonics) are a much more mature platform – but heavy and energy intensive. I think they will be displaced after an initial run as the leading commercial option.

Taking all these into account- ‘physical’ adsorption (not chemical absorption) seems like a better longer term option. And I just think MOFs are the way forward. But that’s just in my humble opinion!

Again, there are other ways to store H2 so I can’t pick winners! (liquid systems are also compelling; but I think don’t work for localized systems)

And to your final point—- I think we’re in agreement!!

Gasoline is an energy carrier too. Thanks to ancient sea faring microorganisms! It’s just holding chemical bonds assembled by something else. We blow it up- capture the energy. Yes, it’s a recoverable resource, but it’s still just a carrier.

I don’t get caught up in the ‘carrier’ case against H2. Otherwise, why would we have ever advanced electricity?! Think of that case against electricity being made a century ago. The argument for H2 just falls flat.

The real question is value. Is H2 a valuable form of electron energy? I believe yes.

The real challenge is cost, not efficiencies. Efficiency has never mattered- again look to production/transmission of electricity and combustion of gasoline- both are horribly wasteful, but cheap. Cheap wins.

I think H2 skeptics who use ‘efficiency’ are confusing physics for business. Cost is the key to commercialization.

But if they do need an answer – at the end of the day – nanoscale catalysts change the nature of H2 production efficiencies. So the numbers they use for how wasteful h2 is—are based on weak assumptions of future capabilities.

While I don’t think H2 saves the planet, I think we can make a lot of money around expanding the domain of electricity via chemical storage systems like H2. I think it (via chemical bonds) is a viable format for energy storage.

And yes, I think it’s basically a ‘fuel’ like gasoline. At least in application.

Thanks for your post Will. And I see that you read the piece on FutureBlogger. Note that I am Editor of The Energy – a new domain blog within the FB network.

Check our site out for other energy posts:

Thanks Will—

Will Brown said...

Now that's a comment, and thank you for taking the time, Sir.