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Hydrogen Fuel Cells: DOE Finds Faster, Cheaper Catalyst

Recharges fuel cells in 90 seconds
2/3/2017 10:35 AM EST
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R_Colin_Johnson
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MiddleEast Exit Strategy
R_Colin_Johnson   2/3/2017 11:54:48 AM
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Who said fuel cells were dead? DoE says it has the technology to make them work without fossil fuel freeing us from the MiddleEast.

perl_geek
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Perpetual-Motion Machines
perl_geek   2/3/2017 2:21:28 PM
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The problem with hydrogen as a fuel, either in a combustion engine or a fuel cell, is its intractability if not chained to a more docile atom. A plausible way to generate it quickly and cheaply, by detaching it from its tranquiliser would certainly be a great help in making it a practical fuel. However, that does not make it a primary source of energy.

What is implied by the article's claims about freedom from reliance on the Middle East is dangerously close to headlines about "How to run your car on water". I'm surprised to see a scientist quoted in an engineering publication saying things like that: could it be an attempt to justify the existence of the DoE?

R_Colin_Johnson
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Re: Perpetual-Motion Machines
R_Colin_Johnson   2/3/2017 3:45:16 PM
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Yes, your car could be run on water--if you wanted to wait around long enough for electrolysis to produce enough hydrogen. This catalyst is supposed to make the process quick, but unfortunately requires too much electricity. Also oil doesn't just come from the Middle East, there are plenty of U.S. suppliers who will oppose the DoE making fuel cells recharging cheaper than buying gas. Probably end-up a military-only technology.

jnissen
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Expensive catalysts still required
jnissen   2/3/2017 4:30:23 PM
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Interesting work. Still relies upon a precious metal catalyst within the fuel cell itself. The "P" in a PEM fuel cell is platinum. Not a metal that is cheap! If you don't mind having a fortune in precious metal rolling down the street they work great. I read from time to time that nickle catalysts are being explored within the cell itself but long term contamination is still a problem for most. Thanks for the informative article.

Kevin Neilson
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Re: Perpetual-Motion Machines
Kevin Neilson   2/3/2017 5:29:45 PM
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I don't get it.  Where is the energy coming from?  Do you still have to do electrolysis, but it just works faster with this catalyst? 

DMcCunney
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Re: MiddleEast Exit Strategy
DMcCunney   2/3/2017 6:21:27 PM
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@R_Colin_Johnson: DoE says it has the technology to make them work without fossil fuel freeing us from the MiddleEast.

The question is how much fossil fuel we actually get from the Middle East now.

I wouldn't call the US energy independent, but we are far less dependant than we used to be.  Resumption of domestic oil production, and increasing use of abundant natural gas in place of oil have dramatically reduced dependence on Middle East sources.  OPEC is largely in tatters because their power rested on control of a scarce resource with the ability to charge high prices in consequence, and as other sources of oil emerged, that control lessened.  OPEC states totally dependent on oil revenues, like Venezuela, are in trouble in consequence.  (Venezuela's government made no attempt to invest high revenues generated by oil in other things that would grow and strengthen their economy and leave them better positioned for the time when oil revenues dropped, and is paying the price now.)

I haven't Looked Stuff Up, and don't know how far the US might be from being able to drop mideast oil imports entirely, but I suspect it is closer than generally assumed.

>Dennis

Doug_S
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Re: MiddleEast Exit Strategy
Doug_S   2/4/2017 4:37:52 AM
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Even though the US is producing more oil than it uses, we're still dependent on the Middle East because oil is a world market. If Saudi Arabia had a revolution and shut down all their production, oil prices would shoot to $200/bbl which would affect US users just as much as those halfway around the world.

Natural gas on the other hand isn't a world market, because it is a lot more difficult to ship overseas, and the US isn't really set up for a whole lot of export. We've been independent on natural gas production for years, and with fracking produce more than we really know what to do with (it is simply burned off on some wells because they don't have the ability to pipe to somewhere that can use it) The idea that using natural gas reformation to hydrogen is bad because it "depends on fossil fuels" is silly. A better process is welcome, but only if it is cheaper.

If hydrogen was used as a vehicle fuel it could be reformed on site using solar input at the well, and used to fuel the trucks and other equipment on site instead of burning it off where there's no pipeline available, so it would be much better for the environment too.

realjjj
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Re: Perpetual-Motion Machines
realjjj   2/4/2017 6:20:03 AM
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Wonder about desalinization (or waste water) and space applications. Cars will be fine with batteries while oil is done for anyway - has only short term relevance, 5 more years and it's at 10$ or less.

Guess i better explain since someone is bound to be outraged by such a claim.  After cost crossover, renewables do keep getting cheaper while on the consumption side, car as a service with autonomous vehicles greatly accelerates the transition to electric, in terms of miles. Car as a service with ICE is not feasible from a cost perspective and can't ever be since ICE is less energy efficient and gas is a highly processed fuel.

DMcCunney
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Re: MiddleEast Exit Strategy
DMcCunney   2/4/2017 7:51:53 AM
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@Doug_S: Even though the US is producing more oil than it uses, we're still dependent on the Middle East because oil is a world market. If Saudi Arabia had a revolution and shut down all their production, oil prices would shoot to $200/bbl which would affect US users just as much as those halfway around the world.

A revolution in Saudi Arabia that would cut off their production isn't something I see as likely.  Remember that the House of Saud came to power in what was essentially a fundamentalist revolution against the previous rulers.  They remember how they got into power, and you can assume they are taking measures to see the same thing doesn't happen to them.  The challenge for the Saudi rulers is modernizig while not upsetting the fundmentalists who form the base of their support.

Oil is a world market, but I'm not sure I see the $200/bbl price if there was a serious crimp in mideast production.  What might cause that?  Political instability in the area is a problem, but with the Saudis as major producer with an interest in keeping things on an even keel, it's a fair bet they'd increase production if another mideast producer had issues.

Natural gas on the other hand isn't a world market, because it is a lot more difficult to ship overseas, and the US isn't really set up for a whole lot of export.

No, we aren't, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changed.  I've heard stories about Germany, for example, exploring buying natural gas from the US.  Europe in general is far more dependent on mideast oil than we are, as European nations mostly lack domestic supplies and must import it.  (And gas prices at the pump in Europe are often deliberately inflated by taxes to reduce consumption in consequence.)  I have no doubt there are folks thinking about how it might be done, and the question is what price point for exported natural gas would make it worth doing.

If hydrogen was used as a vehicle fuel it could be reformed on site using solar input at the well, and used to fuel the trucks and other equipment on site instead of burning it off where there's no pipeline available, so it would be much better for the environment too.

The challenge is actually using hydrogen as a vehicle fuel, but I concur on the advantages.

>Dennis

R_Colin_Johnson
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Re: MiddleEast Exit Strategy
R_Colin_Johnson   2/4/2017 12:58:31 PM
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Yes, I think we all are thankful to the Saudi's to continue to pump even though prices have plummeted as a result. I think they realize that their vast reserves are better sold at $50-to-$75 a barrel rather than encourage the world to switch over to EVs. If the DoE project comes off as advertised, it won't replace oil, at least not right away, but it will make the EVs more affordable, thus encourage the switchover (probably driving oil prices even lower).

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