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A step by step diagram of the production process from crop waste to fuel.  (Source: Bruce Logan and Shaoan Cheng, Penn State)

Penn State's Microbial Electrolysis Cell (MEC) in action. The cell is shown with a power source used to jump-start hydrogen production in the bacteria. Bacteria grow in the anode chamber, forming a biofilm on graphite granules, while hydrogen gas is released at the cathode and bubbles up and into the tube on top of the reactor.  (Source: Bruce Logan and Shaoan Cheng, Penn State)
Hydrogen fuel may soon be nearly as plentiful and cheap due to record setting efficiency

Hydrogen is the optimal fuel in terms of the cleanliness of its burn reaction.  It burns cleanly; producing only water, unlike carbon based fossil fuels which also produce CO2 and other hydrocarbon derivatives.  However, hydrogen has suffered from two key problems; one problem is storage; the other problem is production.

Traditional production of hydrogen via electrolysis (applying an electrical current to water) is not very efficient as you are expending energy to apply the electricity.  It also requires the use of fossil fuels or some other alternative energy structure to produce this power for the production infrastructure.

However, research Bruce Logan and his colleagues at Penn State aim to toss traditional production out the window and revolutionize the way hydrogen is produced.  Their approach -- let special bacteria break down plant matter and byproducts producing hydrogen -- with almost no human produced the necessary power. The process is highly efficient and could be easily scalable to mass production.

The researchers had previously had good success with their waste water cell that used these bacteria process organic waste.   Now the researchers, funded by a National Science Foundation grant, have made modifications to their cell design which improve the living conditions for the bacteria, and they add a small jolt of electricity at the start of the process to excite them (note this is a trivial energy expense when compared to electrolysis). 

The end result is that their microbes are churning out hydrogen at record efficiency.  They call their new cell the Microbial Electrolysis Cell (MEC).

"We achieved the highest hydrogen yields ever obtained with this approach from different sources of organic matter, such as yields of 91percent using vinegar (acetic acid) and 68 percent using cellulose," said Logan.

Wait... the cell is using crops right, didn't DailyTech just run a piece pointing out the downsides of ethanol and biofuel production?  Well the key thing to notice here and why this technology is so promising is that it has 68 percent efficiency in releasing hydrogen from cellulose.  This means that the process can run on waste materials, including, but not limited to -- crop husks and stalks, lawn waste, field grass, and tree clippings and waste.  Traditional ethanol production requires either hydrocarbons from fossil fuels or the fermentation of sugary plants.  This necessitates sugary crops such as corn or sugarcane to be grown solely for fuel, not for human use.  Bacteria-produced ethanol and enzymatic produced ethanol are both being researched, but they have been very costly, and have relatively low efficiencies.

Logan and his team found that with certain configurations nearly all the hydrogen in the source material could be converted into hydrogen gas.  He foresees this allowing for the process to be adopted on a large scale for easy hydrogen production. 

Even with the initial electrical jolt, energy lost to processing the hydrogen and other inputs, the overall efficiency of the system is 80 percent in the vinegar driven system.  This is far better than any existing process for ethanol generation.  It also handily beats electrolysis generation, being between three to ten times more efficient

"We can do that by using the bacteria to efficiently extract energy from the organic matter," said Logan.

Logan and lead author Shaoan Cheng have published their findings in the November 12, 2007 online version of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Science Foundation is ecstatic about Logan's work and the successes of Logan's team. 

"Bruce Logan is a clear leader in this area of research on sustainable energy," Bruce Hamilton, NSF director of the environmental sustainability program at NSF and the officer overseeing Logan's research grant said. "Advances in sustainable energy capabilities are of paramount importance to our nation's security and economic well-being. We have been supporting his cutting-edge research on microbial fuel cells for a number of years and it is wonderful to see the outstanding results that he continues to produce."

The promise of this technology is that it takes a time immemorial human waste -- crop waste -- and turns it into fuel that could one day power our vehicles.  Better yet it does it in a clean way, producing only water upon burn.

With advances in hydrogen storage technology, for example solid state storage, this will make producing and distributing fuel to power next generation hydrogen cars, such as Honda's FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle, an easy process.   Perhaps the solution to mankind's energy woes and our salvation from dwindling fossil fuel supplies will come in the form of the oldest living organisms on earth -- bacteria.

Logan is also working with the National Science Foundation to use his waste water cells to produce fuel from human sewage, treating the sewage water in the process.  Bruce Logan, Hong Liu and Stephen Grot have been featured as Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award recipients.

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By AlvinCool on 11/15/2007 10:31:24 AM , Rating: 3
So in theory I may one day be able to load my fuel cell with cut grass off my yard, put in my bacteria, jolt it with my battery then wait for X amount of time and I can just drive off the hydrogen produced. When the bacteria exhausts the grass clippings I redo the process. If this takes off I'm investing in lawn mower bagging systems! I assume this will also, in theory, work for a home.

RE: Lawns
By drebo on 11/15/2007 10:53:06 AM , Rating: 5
I think this is more for large-scale commercial production of hydrogen than a "Mr. Fusion-like" car-based system.

RE: Lawns
By AlvinCool on 11/15/2007 11:06:48 AM , Rating: 5
Looking at the picture I see a hydrogen producing cell about the size of a small can. While this may be, in theory, for large scale production of hydrogen but that doesn't mean that excellent potential for small scale production won't exist. The process is a simple one, nothing complex here. But lets say it's not enough to power a car, it may be enough to power the lights in my house even if it's not enough to air condition and heat the house. Over time thats a ton of savings off lawn clippings I'm throwing out. It would be great if I could just power my lawn mower with the hydrogen from my lawn clippings, since mowers are one of the least effecient motors. So I disagree, I think it's quite possible that people could one day use their own grass clippings to power part of our daily world.

RE: Lawns
By Master Kenobi on 11/15/2007 11:40:23 AM , Rating: 4
More than likely the government would start collecting yard waste, especially grass clippings and dumping them at the local "conversion plant" and do it there where economies of scale can help to offset equipment and maintenance costs. Rather than dumping the yard waste at the compost pile.

RE: Lawns
By therealnickdanger on 11/15/2007 11:56:43 AM , Rating: 1
... all the while charging you to collect your waste and then continuously raising the taxes on Hydrogen fuel. Gotta love the gov'!

RE: Lawns
By clovell on 11/15/2007 12:16:36 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know about you guys, but I'm in the suburbs of Chicago, and they already charge extra for yard waste disposal. You have to use special paper bags and buy tags and a separate truck picks them up.

RE: Lawns
By bupkus on 11/15/07, Rating: 0
RE: Lawns
By 3kliksphilip on 11/16/2007 11:53:52 AM , Rating: 2
In England unleaded petrol is over £1 per litre (2.0701 U.S. dollars), or $7.84 per gallon according to Google's convertion system. Other types are £1.05 or more per litre. The psychological barrier has been breached! THERE IS NO ESCAPE.

What are the prices in America? I hear everybody moan about how much it is in England compared to everybody else... I'd be interested to gather some figures from elsewhere.

RE: Lawns
By Mr Perfect on 11/16/2007 12:26:27 PM , Rating: 2
This morning it was $2.85 for a gallon of regular unleaded. I don't really pay attention to the higher test fuels, but I think each step up the fuel ladder is another ten cents a gallon.

RE: Lawns
By NullSubroutine on 11/16/2007 1:22:15 PM , Rating: 2
It is lower but the US is bigger and drivers typically drive more and longer distances (because everything is spread out geographically).

RE: Lawns
By elmoruy on 11/16/2007 1:52:56 PM , Rating: 2
Just for the record Gas in South America:

Chile: $1,28/liter ~$4.8 per Gallon

Venezuela: $0,037/liter ~$0.14 per Gallon

RE: Lawns
By Shark Tek on 11/28/2007 5:40:05 AM , Rating: 2
Damn you, Chavez !!!

Can I throw a hose to Venezuela and fill up my tank?

I live in a small island on the north (Puerto Rico), isn't that far. :P

RE: Lawns
By rcc on 11/16/2007 2:06:08 PM , Rating: 2
or $7.84 per gallon according to Google's convertion system

Did you convert just pounds to dollars, or did you remember to convert from Imperial gallons to US gallons as well? This was a problem when I lived there many moons ago, perhaps not if you go direct from liters to US gallons.

RE: Lawns
By 3kliksphilip on 11/16/2007 4:49:51 PM , Rating: 2
Argh... what's the point in having the same term with different amounts? Stupid world... How much would it be according to your calculations? I converted pounds into dollars then divided the amount by gallons from litres (About 0.28 or something). Ignore my methods, I tend to botch them together until I get the correct answer. Works in Physics.

RE: Lawns
By rcc on 11/16/2007 7:02:22 PM , Rating: 2
1 Imperial gallon = ~1.2 US gallons

I'm sure there is a good reason for this. Damned if I know what it is. : )

RE: Lawns
By bldckstark on 11/21/2007 2:59:27 PM , Rating: 2
1 US gallon = 3.7854 liters
3.7854 liters at 1GBP per liter = 3.7854 GBP/US gallon
1GBP = 2.0513USD = 7.765 USD per gallon

Gasoline costs 61.4% more in GB than the US.

How much tax is applied to petrol in GB?

RE: Lawns
By bldckstark on 11/21/2007 3:02:33 PM , Rating: 2
Federal tax on gas in the US = $0.184/gallon
Federal tax on gas in GB is $1.11 per gallon (converted)

RE: Lawns
By Dfere on 11/15/2007 12:19:03 PM , Rating: 2
More likely is the energy company coming to take the grass away using bags you have to buy from them, and you get fined if you don't use there bags and leave at the curb.

And yes- you are still going to pay for your electricity.

RE: Lawns
By Dfere on 11/15/2007 12:30:46 PM , Rating: 1
oops "their", not "there"

RE: Lawns
By vdig on 11/15/2007 1:30:41 PM , Rating: 2
Fine if they do it for free or, even better, a tax refund. However, the likely results is that we still get charged or, worse, if we don't have said waste, we get charged. Governments need tax dollars, after all. If we get charged for not having organic waste, I'll give it to them... my own personal blend of crap to their faces.

RE: Lawns
By nofranchise on 11/21/2007 7:08:16 AM , Rating: 2
Oh how many times I have dreamt of Mr. Fusion... Just open the lid, put anything organic in - or inorganic for that matter, I reckon from the beer can the professor puts in - and you are ready to go, go, go!

Let's put some funding into making Mr. Fusion real!

RE: Lawns
By mal1 on 11/15/2007 12:32:25 PM , Rating: 2
You'll just have to stop every few hours and mow someone's lawn.

RE: Lawns
By Oregonian2 on 11/15/2007 9:41:19 PM , Rating: 2
Well, probably more like every tenth of an inch (or less) will need another large lawn mowed.

RE: Lawns
By jaybuffet on 11/15/2007 2:17:06 PM , Rating: 2
oo.. put one of these things in your septic tank..

RE: Lawns
By OxBow on 11/15/2007 5:01:02 PM , Rating: 2
That's what I was thinking about while reading this. We already have large processing plants that handle vast amounts of Hydrogen rich material, Sewage Plants. It would be cool to convert these into hydrogen production centers.

Tag on to their side a mulching/hydrogen production plant for processing yard clippings and cuttings, one or two operators is all that would be needed. Heck, their operator liscenses are pretty close to what would be needed already.

One thing I wonder about would be whether hydrogen depleted mulch would still have a similar efficacy to regular mulch?

RE: Lawns
By Rovemelt on 11/16/2007 9:13:20 AM , Rating: 2
Good thinking!

I imagine the waste mulch would have a higher wax-like/fatty component and lignin content after the reaction. Those parts of plants take the longest to be biodegraded (I think.)

RE: Lawns
By Screwballl on 11/15/2007 8:25:14 PM , Rating: 2
Get an automated system for septic or your outgoing waste line so no need for the gov't to step in and provide anything but maybe a water bill break since most in city charge a sewage fee based on water used, even if you water your lawn a lot. A tax break should be in order until hydrogen powered vehicles equal 30% or more of new vehicles sold. Also except for larger cities, gas stations will slowly disappear... even if this takes hold, I suspect it will take us 100-200 years to fully get transfered to hydrogen.

RE: Lawns
By masher2 on 11/15/07, Rating: 0
RE: Lawns
By jhinoz on 11/16/2007 12:36:31 AM , Rating: 2
Quick question, isn't it less safe having massive tanks of compressed hydrogen dotted around the suburbs than big tanks of petrol?

RE: Lawns
By masher2 on 11/16/2007 12:50:35 AM , Rating: 2
I haven't seen any comprehensive safety analyses, but I would think the risks are roughly the same between the two. Hydrogen tanks contain not only an explosive risk, but the mechanical energy of compression. However, unlike gasoline, a slight hydrogen leak isn't dangerous unless in a confined area. Furthermore, gasoline is mildly toxic and a chemical hazard that can contaminate groundwater, whereas hydrogen is wholly nontoxic.

RE: Lawns
By Screwballl on 11/17/2007 3:29:35 PM , Rating: 2
Yes but the big oil has a large stake in the world economy and with the number of gasoline powered everything out there, it is easier to take it from non-energy based transportation to energy based (horse to car) than it is from one energy to another (gas - electric/hydrogen). Big oil wants their profits and they will be pushing auto manufacturers to bury alternative fuel sources whenever possible plus lobbying government officials worldwide. This is where the 100-200 year span comes from.
We have the technology to make a 500 cubic inch V8 truck engine that gets 200 mpg, 600 hp and 700 f/lb torque, but they choose not to explore that avenue. This is what big oil wants, to keep it in the news and on the drawing board but off of our streets.

Remember what switching to water did in Idiocracy? We can't have that happen /sarcasm/

RE: Lawns
By abzillah on 11/16/2007 5:39:42 AM , Rating: 1
RE: Lawns
By abzillah on 11/16/2007 5:41:35 AM , Rating: 1
RE: Lawns
By Its me on 11/21/2007 5:13:57 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, it's already been done by the University of Western England who have the same system running for years. They call it the EcoBot;

RE: Lawns
By Shadowmaster625 on 11/20/2007 2:49:30 PM , Rating: 2
more likely you'll be able to take a bag of leaves or grass clipping down to the local walmart and dump them into a machine next to the bottle and can recyclers. Then they'll give you a coupon for whatever amount of energy that bag of leaves would be worth. Probably 50 cents. They'll take those leaves and sell them to some large energy production facility.

By KingstonU on 11/15/2007 11:00:38 AM , Rating: 4
In the first diagram "Step 2: Bacteria consume acetic acid, releasing protons, electrons and CO2 "

I'm all for hydrogen technology and a new way which is much more efficient and cleaner... but how is this better than when fossil fuels release CO2?

By SurJector on 11/15/2007 11:09:58 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah, that's what I'm wondering as well.

The bright side is that since the CO2 is waste from the hydrogen production, we can expect better H2/CO2 ratio than burn fuel->electricity->H2. In addition the "fuel" here is organic matter, which means the CO2 released into the air has been absorbed from air not long before (contrary to regular fuel where the CO2 has been absorbed from air a loooong time ago).

By teldar on 11/15/2007 2:58:41 PM , Rating: 3
The difference is that we are recycling CO2 in the atmosphere and preexisting food and organic matter rather than digging/pumping up new nonrenewable resources to turn into pollution.
Did you know that all the corn stalks and straw left in fields just turns into CO2 in the air again? It's a win that we can get H2 out of them as they turn back into CO2 which can be used by plants for growth again while the H2 powers our vehicles.


By Oregonian2 on 11/15/2007 9:39:57 PM , Rating: 3
Hmmm... that stuff being dug/pumped up used to have it's carbon in the air too, just that it was there a good while ago.

By AlvinCool on 11/15/2007 11:16:30 AM , Rating: 2
It's better in that the emmisions of the cars and engines are very clean, compared to dino fuel. They are simply promoting a process where they speed up the natural cycle of a plant material decaying. If you took the material and put it outside until it decayed into compost it would still release the same amount of CO2. This way it just releases it faster and in a contained enviroment whereall the gases are captured and processed.

By mindless1 on 11/15/2007 5:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
I feel you are overlooking that to deploy this tech in sufficient volume for fueling many cars, we'd need produce more *waste* than we presently do, an increase in CO2.

We capture the CO2, then what? Process how? It's becoming less and less efficient with each addt'l step.

By Oregonian2 on 11/15/2007 9:48:46 PM , Rating: 3
I feel you are overlooking that to deploy this tech in sufficient volume for fueling many cars, we'd need produce more *waste* than we presently do, an increase in CO2

Probably *dramatically* more, although the good part is the stuff that's already made in mass quantity (like corn stalks, etc) could be used to allow less to be made by nuke-powered electrolysis. But! The organic farmers would not be happy about their mulch source being stolen away!

Remember that the Honda car had, what was it, a 45 gallon tank of 5000 psi Hydrogen and that would take it all of 270 miles. How much grass clippings would it take to make THAT much hydrogen? I bet a lot. A tremendous whole lot I suspect. Hope my gut feeling is wrong though!

By Hawkido on 11/19/2007 12:24:02 PM , Rating: 2
If you took the material and put it outside until it decayed into compost it would still release the same amount of CO2.

Lawn clippings, okay that may work, but the collection would be a problem... how about wood chips from the lumber intustry (you already have a competing market there though) waste food products would be ideal but can this bacteria live in such a greasy enviroment? Does it require light or does it work best in the dark?

How many of us here live in Farm country? Everyone is talking about taking the leftover stalks of corn and the like and converting it into fuel... But the farmers already use that stuff. They either burn it or till it back into the soil to enrich it for next season's growth. Unless you are talking about having them switch over to artificial nitrates for fertilizer then you have to calculate the carbon cost of that into your equation as well... Now, if you can extract the Ammonium Nitrate from the soup after you get the H2 out of it, then we are talking... you can sell the ammounium Nitrate back to the Farmer as refined Fertilizer, the H2 as Fuel, bottle the CO2 and sell it to Soda Distributors and Painball tank refillers (LOL), or welding suppliers. What's left after you take all that out of the soup? Graphite? Make pensils and lubricant! Wowsers! Maybe this is a big deal... Maybe not... I would like to see how all this works out.

I am a die hard captolist, I am in no way scared by the eco-terrorists or their drivel, but this could be a promising new market, and as such I am very interested in how it turns out.

Plus the H2 can be ran in a fuel cell as well as a compustion engine (propane equiv.) So this would be a very portable fuel. Fuel cells just need to become more compact and more productive at small sizes so they can power cell phones and portable devices such as laptops.

See, Capitolists are not enviromentally unfriendly, they are just poket friendly first. With the rising cost of crude, combined with the geo-political instability of the sources of crude oil (Vensasuela, Russia, Middle East in General) an economical alternative is in order, just not a governmentally regulated one.

Who says that Big Oil is opposed to change? They already have the distribution channels in place and alot of their refineries could be retrofitted to be bacteria distillers. In fact they would do most anything to get the government off their backs.

By Flunk on 11/15/2007 11:46:36 AM , Rating: 2
Hopefully they can trap it and store it. Even if they can't it is still more efficient than ICE combustion.

By Nanobaud on 11/15/2007 12:42:06 PM , Rating: 2
To re-emphasize what was said above, releasing CO2 from material that was recently living is more-or-less carbon neutral (The plants absorb CO2 to produce their organic matter). Getting CO2 from fossil fuels is releasing carbon that was captured and stored underground millions of years ago (so it's still carbon neutral on a billion-year time scale)

On the other hand, it would be even cooler to genetically modify the bacteria to excrete carbon nanotubes.


By masher2 on 11/15/2007 2:23:25 PM , Rating: 1
> "but how is this better than when fossil fuels release CO2? "

Your yard clippings and other organic waste will release that CO2 anyway when they well as methane and other greenhouse gases. This merely winds up trapping some of the energy in the process.

By mindless1 on 11/15/2007 5:13:27 PM , Rating: 2
Except, I doubt we'd be able to run our cars for a week on a week's (average over a year) lawn growth. It seems more likely new crops will have to be grown for the raw material/fuel.

By OxBow on 11/15/2007 5:10:16 PM , Rating: 2
In addition to the other comments about how this is already CO2 in the system there is another benefit here. By processing the material within a contained system, the CO2 can be captured and sequestered, rather than released into the atmosphere. The waste will otherwise pump that CO2 into the air, here it can be scrubbed out and dumped into deep ocean storage.

By Scrogneugneu on 11/15/2007 9:18:45 PM , Rating: 3
So we devise a cheap and efficient way to produce energy, and your master mind comes with a plan involving hiding CO2 under the bottom of the ocean?

No offense, but some ideas are better if never materialized :)

By AsicsNow on 11/16/2007 1:10:17 AM , Rating: 2
CO2 production in itself isn't a bad thing. Its excessive inefficient CO2 production that is a bad thing. Ethanol and fossil fuels are pretty poorly energy inefficient per Carbon, and thus more CO2 is released into the atmosphere per Joule of energy gained with them than with Hydrogen, or Methanol. This is a great step forward, and I've known it was comming for quite a while. However, the practicality of using Hydrogen itself as a fuel is not very good. It is simply too dangerous for many practical applications. It can be converted into methanol (which is I believe 25-50% more energy efficient per carbon than ethanol) which is much safer and still fairly clean.

Why Ethanol has gotten so much attention however is due entirely to politics, especially with the attempts to produce ethanol from corn. At best, with HIGHLY effcient plants, we can get abnout 4% energy efficiency from ethanol production in Sugarcane, and I believe it is a certain type of Beets. Corn however is god awful atrocious, and it is CLEARLY evident that no one has actually looked into the practicality of using it as a source of ethanol (which has its many downfalls in itself) other than for purposes of getting money from lobbyists. Corn has about 10x less efficiency than Sugarcane and the other highly efficient plants (many of which can only be grown in certain regions of the world).

Not to mention, that even if we used ALL of the world's food producing land for the sole purpose of growing plants to produce ethanol, we would still harvest almost an order of magnitude less energy than we use in a single year worldwide. (And this amount of energy is expected to more than double with the most conservative estimations in less than 50 years) Plus, we wouldn't have any land to grow food on :) If we honestly wanted to solve the problem of energy production, we would beg the government to supply more money for research into Solar power. In a single day, the planet recieves more energy in sun light than it uses in over a year (I believe its something like 100 Terawatts/day, and we use 12 Terawatts/year atm)

If we could get Solar Cells more efficient and production to be cheaper, our problems would be solved. Even with current technology, if we covered the landmass of Iowa with Solar Cells (rather than corn) we could produce 4 Terawatts/year which I believe is about how much our country uses yearly at the moment. If we used all of that landmass for Ethanol production, we couldn't even squeak out a fraction of that amount of energy.

So basically, solar power is the answer, but Hydrogen isn't a bad stopgap solution, though it's energy should be converted into a more stable and still highly efficient form such as methanol. What we need now is for people to send letters to thier congressmen and tell them that they should stop pushing through all this funding for ethanol which is simply not ever going to come to fruition, and to try and get more funding for the other more promising technologies. If the government would further subsidize companies and scholars who are willing to take risks on researching new ways to make solar power and other truly useful alternatives (not wind, and hydro, they have very low theoretical limits as well) economical, then perhaps we could make some real progress.

By Master Kenobi on 11/16/2007 8:08:02 AM , Rating: 1
CO2 isn't bad, it helps plant growth, which we can turn into Hydrogen and CO2, the cycle continues.

So basically, solar power is the answer, but Hydrogen isn't a bad stopgap solution, though it's energy should be converted into a more stable and still highly efficient form such as methanol.

Not likely. Solar is a piss poor solution. Nuclear or Fusion is the future and is how most of the electricity will eventually be produced. Hydrogen will fuel cars and all will be good. Will probably take the next 30-40 years though.

By AsicsNow on 11/16/2007 6:20:41 PM , Rating: 2
Nuclear is not the solution. To generate the amount of energy estimated to be used yearly in the next 50 with nuclear power 8000 new nuclear power plants would need to be built. That comes out to something around one new plant every 2-3 days for decades. You know how many new nuclear plants have been made in the US in the past 20 years? Zero. Even if they started plans right now for making a new nuclear plant, it'd take at the very least 5 years to even get approval.

By masher2 on 11/16/2007 8:07:20 PM , Rating: 1
> "To generate the amount of energy estimated to be used yearly in the next 50 with nuclear power 8000 new nuclear power plants would need to be built"

Let's take your figure at face value and assume it's true. Your average nuclear plant is 2500 or more megawatts. To get the equivalent amount of power from, say, your average windmill farm would require some 650 windmills per reactor. That's a grand total of 5,200,000 windmills...or the equivalent of building 284 per day, each and every day for the next fifty years. Oh, and we'd need to build a few million massive battery-farms also. I won't even mention the amount of land that would require. Perhaps we could knock down some old-growth forest to make room for it?

> "You know how many new nuclear plants have been made in the US in the past 20 years? Zero"

Ah, but the rest isn't as backwards as the US and has built quite a few. China alone has 300 reactors on order right now.

By masher2 on 11/16/2007 9:42:42 AM , Rating: 1
> "If we could get Solar Cells more efficient and production to be cheaper, our problems would be solved."

Even if we assumed 100% efficient solar cells that cost nothing to produce, require zero cleaning and maintenance, and never need still wouldn't solve all our energy needs. Solar is worthless at night, during extremely cloudy weather, and at very high latitudes. At present, we lack both the means to store large amounts of electricity and to transport it efficiently over large distances (most electricity in the US is generated within 200 miles of its point of consumption, and still over 7% is wasted in transmission line losses).

In reality, solar cells are not expected to ever go much over 50% in efficiency and, even if we solve the production cost issue, will still only be useful for a portion of our energy needs.

By Ratwar on 11/16/2007 12:18:54 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is that you're focusing on solar power within the current system. If we ever made a huge switch to solar power, it would be a vastly different. The entire system would be much more diffused, with private homeowners owning (or at least having some on their property) their own solar panels and storing their own electricity. This eliminates the current problems with transporting energy and the problem of storing lots of energy by storing a little energy in a lot of places.

Of course, as you say, it will only be useful for a portion of total energy and the high initial cost of solar panels needs to be reduced, but those are both easily solvable. Technology will reduce the cost, and the current power system can still make up the difference with the current mix of power production (I won't hope for the elimination of all fossil fuel power simply for the reasoning of growth in both population and the power needs of a single person).

By masher2 on 11/16/2007 12:37:13 PM , Rating: 1
> "This eliminates the current problems with ... storing lots of energy..."

No, it actually makes that problem worse. You solve the transport problem, but now instead of being able to store energy in one large facility which gets economies of scale, you have to distribute that out to hundreds of millions of small locations. That raises costs dramatically and increases the problems...its the same reason its (usually) cheaper to buy your electricity from a central plant, rather than run your own small generator.

And you've made the common mistake of assuming that "private homeowners" constitute the bulk of energy usage in the nation. The real problem is the industrial/commercial segment and the inner cities. For instance, to power NYC with solar power would require covering an area significantly larger than the city itself. Even assuming a few major breakthroughs in energy storage, thats a significant problem.

> "Of course, as you say, it will only be useful for a portion of total energ"

That's the real future of solar power. Its close to being feasible for a solution to offload some peak power production in many areas. My point was simply to illustrate that solar, by itself, is never going to solve all our energy needs.

By AsicsNow on 11/16/2007 6:33:33 PM , Rating: 2
You have a point in that storing the power from solar energy is an issue. However, that is why you would convert solar energy into something more permant and transportable. Such as Hydrogen, or Methanol. There are plent of chemical pathways that can be taken to create forms of more permanent energy, but they are endothermic processes. Which is where solar energy comes into play. It is a supply of energy for those processes that is renewable and is present regardless of if we capture and effectively use it or not. However, solutions such as growing plants for ethanol require a large energy input from outside sources that are not renewable to work, and are of extremely low efficiencies.

You have to stop thinking of solar power as meaning just simple photovoltaic cells that directly convert light into power for a single person's home. It can be used on a massive scale to store energy into other forms, so that it can be distributed, and used even when light is not present.

It wouldn't neccesarily be efficient for everyone to try and manufacture thier own sources of fuel from solar energy. However, large companies could run solar plants that are tied into a sort of bioreactor, and harness the energy of the light to catalyze production of high energy molecules. Personally I think methanol is a very solid option for this, because it's cleaner and more efficient than ethanol, and much safer than hydrogen.

Even hydrogen producing processes as talked about in this article could be used to produce it. However, more money and research should be put into how to do this more efficiently and at large scales.

By masher2 on 11/16/2007 8:13:30 PM , Rating: 1
> "However, that is why you would convert solar energy into something more permant and transportable"

That's energy storage. As I said. Unfortunately, it not only adds cost, but it reduces efficiency as well. Which means you need an even larger solar array than first estimated. If you have a 30% loss on converting to, say, hydrogen, then a 60% loss to combust that hydrogen, then you need a solar array well over *twice* the size as your raw calculation first suggested.

Now you're back to needing a solar array 4-5 times as large as NYC, just to power the city.

By Rampage on 11/18/2007 6:33:08 PM , Rating: 2
Regardless of all the details that you guys have been going over, if a country can acheive closer to energy dependency through wind, solar, and biofuels the stability and safety of the world will increase.

I'm typically for gov't non-intervention in business, but I think the stakes for renewable energies is high enough that pushing a certain percentage of the USA's energy onto renewable sources would be wise.
I think Spain's leadership in this area is admirable and the US should follow their example.

This issue along with our broken border system in the US are the two issues I'm screening the presidential candidates for this next election.

By rudy on 11/28/2007 6:17:19 PM , Rating: 2
It is better because that CO2 was initially fixed by plants and therefore removed from the air. Where as fossil feuls introduce CO2 to the air from a previously isolated source that was not part of the carbon cycle which disrupts the balance. Ideally the idea is if we could get all energy from plants then it would be a constant balanced cycle where we remove CO2 from the air using the energy of the sun then reintroduce through power generation. The system then works similar to how nature works.

By Machinegear on 11/15/07, Rating: 0
RE: Ethanol
By clovell on 11/15/2007 2:02:51 PM , Rating: 4
Big oil is the establishment, but corn subsidies aren't? Have you seen what the Ethanol craze has done to the price of basic necesities? How does supporting Ethanol have anything to do with microbial hydrogen production?

RE: Ethanol
By JasonMick on 11/15/2007 2:04:09 PM , Rating: 2
But a solid infrastructure for ethanol production just isn't in place either.

In order to power all the cars in the U.S. on EITHER hydrogen or ethanol massive changes in production and massive development of infrastructure would be need.

If microbial hydrogen production is the better way to go, why not get it right of the bat? We're talking about investing billions of dollars into this. You better try to make it the best system possible.

Either approach is "idealistic" in a sense, but the true foolishness is to follow ethanol because it works in a few sugar producing nations (read Brazil) or because it is a hot term in current political circles.

If you accept a substandard solution consumers will see it as such and oil will remain dominant until it is completely depleted.

I'm all for doing away with the oil infrastructure, but if you think there is the marvelous existing infrastructure in America for its production on the scale of replacing oil you are sadly mistaken.

RE: Ethanol
By Ringold on 11/15/2007 3:08:36 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. Current ethanol has to be transported via the rail system as the oil and gasoline pipeline system currently in place would corrode with ethanol.

Likewise, though, hydrogen may cause embrittlement problems if it used the national natural gas pipeline system.

Neither, therefore, has any significant momentum.

Like you suggest then Jason, what matters is which is the better way to go. Looks to me like it may well end up being hydrogen. Either way, we know its definitely not biofuel in its current implementation, consuming food when about a billion people suffer chronic hunger.

RE: Ethanol
By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 11/15/2007 3:52:46 PM , Rating: 2
But the people suffering from hunger are doing so because of political/social issues, not a lack of food producing capacity in the world.

RE: Ethanol
By Ringold on 11/16/2007 2:56:05 PM , Rating: 2
Thats a bit too much of a simplification; food costs have hit the transitional but otherwise decent Latin American and Eastern European populations especially hard.

As for the really undeveloped areas of the world, there's set to be a huge decrease in food donations simply because the food is becoming more expensive.

There's plenty of times where we can blame the victim, you're right, their current condition is essentially a failure by either trying to go socialist/communist or simply going down the totalitarian path, but this is clearly a case where the rich, elite white population of North America is causing additional suffering throughout the world.

RE: Ethanol
By SandmanWN on 11/15/2007 5:03:52 PM , Rating: 1
Either approach is "idealistic" in a sense, but the true foolishness is to follow ethanol because it works in a few sugar producing nations (read Brazil) or because it is a hot term in current political circles.

You are missing a huge reason why ethanol is viable and that is most vehicles can use it RIGHT NOW. As far as the gas to hydrogen fix goes...
How many millions of gasoline cars do we have on the road today???
How many billions of gasoline cars worldwide???
How long will those vehicles remain?
How long will we need to support these vehicles into the future even after hydrogen is here?

How long before Hydrogen is a true viable replacement as in...
How long before you can get it everywhere you get gas?
How long will it take manufacturers to redesign their entire automobile fleets?
How long before these cars are affordable to the lower echelon of the general public who can't even afford the cheapest hybrids now to replace their very cheap and inexpensive gas vehicles?

I'm not saying Hydrogen isn't the future. I'm just saying we can get there in a more reasonable way. Whats the answer? I don't know.

(not to anyone in particular)
Food prices might go up in small areas of agriculture a few cents but...
-Gas prices will fall as ethanol is nearly 15-50 cents cheaper in my area and will be in other areas as the supply chain is worked out.
-Subsidies used to build the infrastructure go away once the supply is adequate and that will lower the tax burden a few more cents or be diverted to hydrogen/other replacements.
-Subsidies for farmers in general could be eliminated as the current money going towards the Middle East will largely be redirected to farmers pockets saving us the tax dollars to subsidize basic farming costs or once again be diverted to hydrogen production/other replacements.
-With much much less oil coming in from the Middle East it cuts our trade deficit drastically.

RE: Ethanol
By masher2 on 11/15/2007 7:44:44 PM , Rating: 2
> "You are missing a huge reason why ethanol is viable and that is most vehicles can use it RIGHT NOW."

Honestly, its not an issue. Most people replace their car in ten years or less, so a viable hydrogen solution could phase in over a decade. Realistically, it'd take longer than that to build infrastructure for hydrogen delivery (or any other alternative, actually) so waiting for hydrogen cars isn't going to hold up the show.

> "Gas prices will fall as ethanol is nearly 15-50 cents cheaper in my area "

Ethanol is only cheaper as its highly subsidized. Furthermore, when you work in the lower energy content (and thus lower MPG), its true cost is not going to be cheaper until gas becomes substantially more expensive.

RE: Ethanol
By Pneumothorax on 11/16/2007 10:26:17 AM , Rating: 2
I'm quite sure the savings are quickly reduced with ethanol when you factor in the dismal mileage you get. Also like masher said Ethanol is HIGHLY SUBSIDIZED. Look at your paycheck this week, that huge chunk of change that the man took out of it is responsible for ethanol being 15-50 cents cheaper. Ethanol is just a another "farmer's"(actually corporate as your single family farmer is pretty rare these days) subsidy/welfare.

RE: Ethanol
By Machinegear on 11/15/2007 5:13:59 PM , Rating: 2
But a solid infrastructure for ethanol production just isn't in place either.

I fully disagree. You can argue the economies of scale, but the infrastructure is in place and booming.

In order to power all the cars in the U.S. on EITHER hydrogen or ethanol massive changes in production and massive development of infrastructure would be need.

I agree. But the sales pitch for ethanol is: ethanol reduces our dependence on foreign oil, not replace. In reality, the future will have several competing fuel alternatives of which the market will ultimately decide the winner.

If microbial hydrogen production is the better way to go, why not get it right of the bat? We're talking about investing billions of dollars into this. You better try to make it the best system possible.

Humans don't work that way. I wish we were so efficient to pick the best idea then put all of our efforts behind it. Emotions, personal agendas, greed will always play a major role in the human enterprise.

Either approach is "idealistic" in a sense, but the true foolishness is to follow ethanol because it works in a few sugar producing nations (read Brazil) or because it is a hot term in current political circles.

If ethanol was pure political spin, I would fully agree. But I can assure you it is not. As I write, I sit in a state that produces most of the world's corn; much of it is used to produce ethanol and many local families and communities benefit. Taxes are generated and America actually prospers for once.

Before the subsidies argument is raised again (I see it coming), let me clarify the term when used in ethanol production. Subsidies for ethanol producers means they get to keep their own money. They are taxed less. They are not receiving your tax dollars filtered through the federal government. The distinction is important.

If you accept a substandard solution consumers will see it as such and oil will remain dominant until it is completely depleted.

I wish people were so logical, but again, they are not. We have our current situation because consumers have accepted a substandard solution for a long time which is Middle East oil. I wish I could share your optimistic view of consumer decisions though. We might not be in this so called energy crisis. We might even be driving those fancy flying cars seen in Popular Mechanics back in the 60's today. :)

I'm all for doing away with the oil infrastructure, but if you think there is the marvelous existing infrastructure in America for its production on the scale of replacing oil you are sadly mistaken.

We are on the same side of the coin. Most of us, all of us probably, want change. The current system is dragging our economy down with the environment with it.

Lastly, I knew my post would raise some eyebrows. So I will leave with another possibly provocative note.

Don't sell America short. We can do anything. If that makes me an idealist, maybe being an idealist is not so bad after all.

RE: Ethanol
By johnsonx on 11/15/2007 11:11:22 PM , Rating: 1

Corn is food, not fuel.

RE: Ethanol
By SandmanWN on 11/16/2007 5:00:36 PM , Rating: 2
A small newsflash for the feeble minded.

The molecules that make up corn are the same molecules that exist in the grass beside it, and the dirt its buried in, and rocks, and water, and oil, the atmosphere, the sun, and the whole bloody universe. They are simply arranged differently.

Eventually the human race will have enough technology to resequence any item with mass and arrange it into a completely different object. But its just a matter of time before we have a more efficient way of binding molecules together other than extraction, extreme heating and cooling, etc.

So to correct your statement. Corn is food, corn is fuel, and corn can be whatever the hell we choose for it to be.

RE: Ethanol
By johnsonx on 11/17/07, Rating: 0
RE: Ethanol
By johnsonx on 11/17/2007 2:30:52 PM , Rating: 2
Small newsflash for the feeble minded:

Corn is one of the world's primary food sources. We can't possibly grow enough extra to make a meaningful contribution to our energy supply. Even the comparatively small amount we use now for fuel is causing shortages (and therefore large increases in price) of not only corn itself, but also of many other products that depend on corn. Indeed, even some products that have no basis in corn at all are feeling price pressure because other products that do depend on corn are switching to other materials, putting price pressure there as well.

Secondly, turning corn into fuel requires alot of extra energy, and transporting it requires even more. Growing it in the first place also requires significant energy. Once converted to fuel, it generates less energy per gallon than does oil. It's debatable whether Ethanol actually produces ANY energy at all once all the energy costs are taken into account.

So, corn is food, not fuel. Anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot.

Oils ain't oils
By cheetah2k on 11/16/2007 3:07:30 AM , Rating: 2
I know this tech is simply amazing, but have we all forgotten about the usual lubricants required to keep a car's general parts moving free and easy?

I understand synthetic oils are commonly used these days for motor oil, but these synthetics are not suitable during the first 3000 miles of a brand new car's break-in period, and in the later half of a car motor's life where extensive wearing has occurred.

In any case, Governments must also consider the above with similar importance to fossil fuel replacements, before we run out of crude oil..

My 2 cents

RE: Oils ain't oils
By masher2 on 11/16/2007 9:53:38 AM , Rating: 2
> "but these synthetics are not suitable during the first 3000 miles of a brand new car's break-in period, and in the later half of a car motor's life where extensive wearing has occurred."

Your own link says nothing about them being unsuitable during the "later half" of a car's life, and even the initial breakin period is denoted a "possible" issue that appears to be fading, as several cars now require synthetic oil during their entire life.

In any case, the amount of natural oil used for lubrication purposes is very small. Assuming we find a replacement for petroleum-based fuels, we easily have enough for many thousands of years.

RE: Oils ain't oils
By cheetah2k on 11/16/2007 12:03:08 PM , Rating: 2
Your own link says nothing about them being unsuitable during the "later half" of a car's life, and even the initial breakin period is denoted a "possible" issue that appears to be fading, as several cars now require synthetic oil during their entire life.

Agreed in part, however common sense applies here. Synthethic oils are oils that have low viscosity characteristics. Therefore, in the case of a worn engine it is better to increase the viscosity of the oil because the bearing clearances have become larger. Therefore, synthetics are not advisable.

The following website describes the above in more detail:

With reference to your comments, I am truely intrigued to know which cars out there require synthetic oils for their entire life. That just doesn't sound realistic. I would also love to know what they consider the "lifespan" of the engine? Are we talking 200,000+ miles and above?

Unless you know something I dont, bearing and cylinder wear is unavoidable, unless your 'undisclosed' manufacturers have developed a somehow non-wear engine mechanism, in which case you should be putting pen to paper and writing an article on that too... lol

RE: Oils ain't oils
By masher2 on 11/16/2007 12:22:48 PM , Rating: 2
> "Synthethic oils are oils that have low viscosity characteristics"

Wholly incorrect. Synthetic oils are available with viscosities far above (and below) petroleum-based lubricating oil. Synthetic oils have an improved viscosity index, which is simply a measure of how viscosity changes over a temperature range.

> "I am truely intrigued to know which cars out there require synthetic oils for their entire life. That just doesn't sound realistic"

The Dodge Viper, for one. You void the warranty if you ever put anything but synthetic oil in it. There are some others I don't recall off the top of my head.

RE: Oils ain't oils
By Lord 666 on 11/18/2007 10:36:12 PM , Rating: 2
VW TDI's require VW 505.01 which is a full synthetic for the entire life of the car to maintain the warranty.

RE: Oils ain't oils
By cheetah2k on 11/16/2007 12:13:40 PM , Rating: 2
In any case, the amount of natural oil used for lubrication purposes is very small. Assuming we find a replacement for petroleum-based fuels, we easily have enough for many thousands of years.

The average car takes 4-5 litres of oil, and is generally replaced every 6 months. Times that by every car on the road and 2 x oil changes every year, that seems to me to be a lot larger than your unquantified remarks.

And it seems that hydrogen-powered engines emit higher levels of metal-rich particles than diesel-fueled engines, where lubrication oil was the primary source of these increased emissions..

Anyone for nuclear powered vehicles?

RE: Oils ain't oils
By masher2 on 11/16/2007 12:30:03 PM , Rating: 3
> "that seems to me to be a lot larger than your unquantified remarks"

You should have done the math before posting. Using your figures of 5l per change x 2 changes/yr x 100M cars on the road = an annual use of 5.9M bbl of oil.

The US consumes DAILY some 21M bbl, however, so the amount used for motor oil is only some 0.07% of the total.

RE: Oils ain't oils
By Chudilo on 11/19/2007 12:55:42 PM , Rating: 2
One of greatest benefits of a Hydrogen powered Fuel Cell electric vehicle is the major reduction in the number of moving parts. Electric motors only have the bearings to allow the rotor to spin. There is no transmission or a gear box as torque is constant at any RPM.

144 Percent Efficiency
By jskirwin on 11/15/2007 12:18:59 PM , Rating: 2
According to the original Penn State press release:
"This process produces 288 percent more energy in hydrogen than the electrical energy that is added to the process...

Water hydrolysis, a standard method for producing hydrogen, is only 50 to 70 percent efficient. Even if the microbial electrolysis cell process is set up to bleed off some of the hydrogen to produce the added energy boost needed to sustain hydrogen production, the process still creates 144 percent more available energy than the electrical energy used to produce it."

Okay. It's efficient. Acetic acid can be distilled... Any energy required for that e.g. heating or anything?

Based on the NSF and Penn State releases, I don't see any show-stoppers. However I haven't read the paper itself.

Any engineers around here care to take a crack at this?

RE: 144 Percent Efficiency
By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 11/15/2007 12:39:41 PM , Rating: 2
My questions are this:
Can the lab results be reproduced on a commercial scale? I would imaging that these researchers used highly controlled list of ingredients under sterile conditions (no competing bacteria).

So what happens when you start processing trucks full of organic matter, with plenty of its own bacteria in it? Will the Hydrogen producing bacteria work if the 'soup' has different amounts of materials in it? What if the truckload of organic waste has some non-organic contamination (dirt, minerals, Mr jones's doggy doody plastic bag)? Will the bacteria still be able to produce hydrogen at a reasonable efficiency?

The other question is, can storage tank for hydrogen be made that is safe and light enough to make it practical on a commercial car?

Are hydrogen fuel cells 100% efficient? if not, what happens to the unreacted hydrogen? do we have to worry about unintended byproducts?
(i really don't know, I'm asking)

RE: 144 Percent Efficiency
By geddarkstorm on 11/15/2007 2:04:00 PM , Rating: 3
1) More than likely. Bacteria are used in many commercial processes from cheese making to distilleries and making pickles. Those are large batch processes where there are tons of other bacteria and contaminants; but by the very process the main bacteria work, they out compete and kill the others. Beyond that, there are many methods of getting around this, such as including antibiotic resistance only on your bacteria of interest and thus adding antibiotics to kill all but them.

2) I'm sure there'd be a filter system. Water treatment plants have to deal with all sorts of crap flushed down drains or in water sources besides just the actual crap itself. Think about recycling too; I'm sure plenty of non recyclables get accidentally thrown into recycling bins and thus have to be screened for at the plant. Screening out contaminants like plastics/dirt (any old filter would do) even other bacteria (any filter with a pour size around 22 micrometers or less will filter out bacteria) isn't all that hard from what I understand, and most things wouldn't hurt the bacteria either (like dirt, though heavy metals might, but you can just use a chelating filter to get rid of those) and they'd just go chugging along eating up their nutrients and pumping out hydrogen. Guess we'll see as the process is scaled up.

3) This is actually the only real problem left from what I've seen, but it is quickly being surmounted. The article mentioned some solid state storage methods, so there are solutions out there and they are advancing. It won't be long before it's far less of an issue.

4) Hydrogen and oxygen combine to make water and release electricity when done with the right electrode/catalyst system. It's a very energetically favorable event and there are no other possible byproducts to this process alone (if you threw in other chemicals you could make other reactions, but that would be purposeful) other than hydrogen peroxide (which is less stable and will recombine into water readily) and super oxide (a single oxygen atom, but that is extraordinarily unstable and will not persist but rapidly react with another H2 to make water or another O to make O2 or O2 to make O3 which is ozone). I'm pretty sure a proper fuel cell design can minimize or negate the production of all these byproducts, all of which are less stable than forming water. Unreacted hydrogen and oxygen would just go out into the atmosphere. Moreover, this is all coming from biological means, so it's an equilibrium cycle and no additional materials are coming or going.

RE: 144 Percent Efficiency
By Bloodlust on 11/15/2007 3:24:26 PM , Rating: 2
(chemical/environmental engineer)

Not sure what you are really asking, but the whole point of this research is producing hydrogen gas from organic wastes, such as household trash, yard waste, etc. Fermentation is an exothermic reaction (produces heat), thus no energy required to produce the acetic acid.

Would we be able to supply enough waste to keep up with hydrogen demand? Good question. This would be great news for municipal waste landfills and wastewater treatment plants. In a lot of places, wastes from these facilities are already reused, e.g., methane produced from landfills used as fuel and biosolids from wastewater treatment plants used as fertilizer.

RE: 144 Percent Efficiency
By Bao on 11/16/2007 4:35:14 AM , Rating: 2
The 288% recovery in terms of electricity applied is quite notable. But, at 144% with a fermentation process is kind of lame. A recycle stream in the form of hydrogen fuel cells to produce the needed electrical energy could be a part of the process design depending on the cost analysis vs public/other electrical supply.

All this %yield talk is cute.

But, ultimately, this is just another overhyped idea as the production rate of 1.1m^3 gas/m^3 of reactor volume means assuming perfect process scaling, 100,000 L reactor would produce something like 8kg of hydrogen gas/day -- laughable at best compared to ethanol production. And that doesn't even take into account the separation process.

This could compete against conventional electrolyis for H2 gas production...if we lived in a world where there were no other ways to produce electricity.

There's your process engineer's take.

Bacteria rights?
By lennylim on 11/15/2007 10:44:34 AM , Rating: 4
Sounds like they're using an electrical current to whip the bacteria into working harder. Just wait for PETA to get on their case.

OK, just kidding, but you started it with a headline with "ethanol dinosaur".

RE: Bacteria rights?
By Ringold on 11/15/2007 11:16:33 AM , Rating: 2
My concern is that they gave them better living conditions.

If they start expecting better treatment, they might unionize!

RE: Bacteria rights?
By Plazmid19 on 11/15/2007 5:14:24 PM , Rating: 2
Now that would be really funny! Union Bactum! Fighting for all uni-celled complex organism's rights!

The standards of living for Listeria, Campylobacter, E.Coli (Edward?), and Salmonella have really deteriorated since the implementation of clean food standards. The Food Bourne Pathogen (FBP #127) will be meeting to address this serious problem in the hopes of reaching a compromise with hygiene and pharmaceutical companies.

RE: Bacteria rights?
By Dfere on 11/15/2007 12:21:19 PM , Rating: 2
Hey- you beat me to this.

More headlines like this and we will see some new organization encompassing ALL workers rights... and shortly thereafter will come the unions.

Gllobal Drowning!
By HeavyB on 11/15/2007 1:18:11 PM , Rating: 2
What happens when hydrogen fuel cell automobiles take hold and all of the waste H2O accumulates and we start to drown our planet?

RE: Gllobal Drowning!
By rtrski on 11/15/2007 1:25:59 PM , Rating: 5
Kevin Costner with neck-vaginas will save us.

RE: Gllobal Drowning!
By goz314 on 11/15/2007 1:43:34 PM , Rating: 2
It's called the water cycle... Did you miss that day in 3rd grade?

But what about the corn farmers?
By wookie1 on 11/15/2007 10:56:16 AM , Rating: 5
Do we then need to pay them again to not grow corn? /sarcasm off

At least beer prices could come back down if they grow barley again. I was a little concerned as food prices went up as everyone shifted to corn, but then beer prices went up, and now I'm mad!

RE: But what about the corn farmers?
By bupkus on 11/15/2007 1:25:55 PM , Rating: 2
Does the production of beer produce any CO2? ;)

I can just see it now.....
By qdemn7 on 11/15/2007 10:44:58 AM , Rating: 2
Human waste, eh?

Take a dump in your "tank" and keep on truckin'.


RE: I can just see it now.....
By Black69ta on 11/15/2007 11:41:53 AM , Rating: 3
Even better take a Dump in your computer chair to power the next Team Fortress 2 level lol. Thus eliminating one of the most annoying reasons to get up from the PC.

What the heck?
By GTaudiophile on 11/15/2007 10:06:42 AM , Rating: 2
You mention hydrogen and cars in the same article but reference Honda instead of BMW??? Heck, I see BMW 760hi cars driving around Washington, DC. I can't say the same for Honda. I am pretty sure BMW are the pioneers on the subject, just to be fair.

RE: What the heck?
By Amiga500 on 11/15/2007 10:38:16 AM , Rating: 2
check the other top story today ;-)

Microbial Hydrogen Production
By valleyboy5 on 11/15/2007 12:20:12 PM , Rating: 2
Excuse me if I'm a bit cynical, but I seem to remember the HUGE news in about 1960 that fuel-cells would,within the decade, replace almost all electrical generation and power eveything from my house and car to airplanes and there would be no need for gas stations or power plants. I really hope this comes to pass but I'm not holding my breath

RE: Microbial Hydrogen Production
By Dfere on 11/15/2007 12:35:16 PM , Rating: 2
This was the decade of Apollo, and it also was the decade of the Pet Rock.

Oil Companies
By BSMonitor on 11/16/2007 9:43:28 AM , Rating: 2
Soon after this article comes this one:

"Explosion at Penn State Lab kills students and researchers...."


Problem with getting these things into the market is this: Oil companies will not let go of their wealth quietly. Essentially cheap energy will bankrupt them and their Persian Gulf butt buddies.

How can they possibly build islands off the coast of Dubai without us spending our paychecks on their oil.

RE: Oil Companies
By Screwballl on 11/16/2007 10:15:36 AM , Rating: 2
this is the very problem. so many people have their hands in the oil market whether it is the CEOs, the market place, the auto manufacturers, auto parts stores, car mechanics, and others. There are so many from the top to the bottom that this will be a very tough sell once they find something that is quick and cheap to manufacture and people want it. Right now there is a high demand for the hybrids but of course, lets be sure that the majority of the power comes from the gas engine so they are still dependent on that.

By HueyD on 11/15/2007 12:34:43 PM , Rating: 3
Just think, get paid to cut the grass and get paid for the bi-product. Its a win-win. :)

Back to the Future, again...
By rtrski on 11/15/2007 10:06:37 AM , Rating: 2
"Let me get some organic material for my Mr. Microbial Electronic Battery"

...doesn't have the same ring as Mr. Fusion, does it?

Still, sounds interesting. Glad to see things like this that aren't part of the ethanol bandwagon being funded and making progress.

A Step in the Right Direction
By clovell on 11/15/2007 11:34:26 AM , Rating: 2
Firts of all, I really enjoyed the article, Jason. While the idealist in me knows that ultimately, ICE is not the final answer to our efficiency problems, the realist concedes that this technology is big - big enough to win the Nobel Peace Prize someday if it ever takes off.

I mean - think about it. It stands a good chance to completely displace fossil-fuel driven ICEs. The resulting geopolitical and economic gains would be phenomenal. I really hope this works out.

By logaldinho on 11/15/2007 4:47:55 PM , Rating: 2
maybe proofread next time. thanks.

Great Idea But
By Floorbit on 11/15/2007 5:56:19 PM , Rating: 2
Im not so sure that creating a market in expanding bacteria is such an environmentally friendly influence. This story did not exactly say 'what type of bacteria " was being used. I do not know that creating a competition of the most hydrogen producing bacteria is also such a good intention.
Since here it would not be only greenhouse gas to have a conscous to be aware of and control.

Yet if your going to produce hydrogen,and go places,I want some. Know what I mean.

My Sweaty Feet
By HVAC on 11/15/2007 6:08:09 PM , Rating: 2
Hey! My stinky, sweaty feet produce acetic acid!

need an english speaking editor
By Screwballl on 11/15/2007 8:09:08 PM , Rating: 2
Someone needs to proof read this, there are errors all over the place, atypical to DT's usually high standards in composition.

By PlasmaBomb on 11/15/2007 8:16:24 PM , Rating: 2
Their approach -- let special bacteria break down plant matter and byproducts producing hydrogen -- with almost no human produced the necessary power

With almost no humans produced the necessary power? It's late, but surely it's not just me?

By SilthDraeth on 11/15/2007 8:58:16 PM , Rating: 2
IF only it where cellulite! Fat people everywhere could lose weight while driving to their desk jobs.

By jhinoz on 11/15/2007 9:06:30 PM , Rating: 2
So smaller scale units would not be available to the general public right?

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 11/16/2007 7:42:23 AM , Rating: 2
I like the "articles" on DT, but hard to read with all missing definite and indefinite articles, and awkward phrase turnings of hack writers of blogs.

Microbail Hydrogen production
By lewricra on 11/16/2007 8:38:29 AM , Rating: 2
I do believe that any town or city with sewage plants and garbage disposal systems can, with this tech., produce electricity for it's residents and they can plug in their electric or hybrid vehicles, creating quite a savings all around, plus losing dependence on imported oil, eventualy the middle east will have only sand to sell and there will be a glut of that on the market.

About Time
By rupaniii on 11/16/2007 10:52:23 AM , Rating: 2
Havent' there been people making diesel engines run on waste oils and cooking grease for decades?

Somebody cue up the DeLorean.

Obligatory Fanboy post.
By djc208 on 11/16/2007 12:58:43 PM , Rating: 2
I'm just excited to see my alma matar in the tech news for a change!

Usually the news revolves around Joe Pa or a riot.

grammatical errors or omissions
By darkos on 11/17/2007 12:39:53 PM , Rating: 2
this article, while interesting in it's content, suffers from a number of gramatical errors or omissions, the correction of which would improve the readability of the article.

please re-read your article. the needs should jump out at you.

other things to consider:
By HammerFan on 11/15/2007 4:16:19 PM , Rating: 1
While Hydrogen is all well and good, what happens to all of the gasoline powered vehicles in the united states and around the world? Ethanol will be here to stay for a while, like it or not. Also, until vehicle recycling gets more effecient, what happens to all of the glut of "outdated" vehicles that wil undoubtedly be formed if hydrogen takes off?


By ne on 11/16/2007 1:13:11 AM , Rating: 1
This technology is silly. It stills develop CO2. So what the use.

By MrJim on 11/16/2007 3:10:47 AM , Rating: 1
Why do i think that hydrogen fuel driven cars are so popular with politicians and big (oil-producing) companies?

1. Because it will firstly make us buy a new car = making money for the large car producers

2. Gas stations will still be around but instead of petrol they will sell hydrogen = making more money for the big companies and not forcing them to lose money over locally produced energy instead and they can sell stuff that will break in your car or need to be replaced often + that the most assuredly will buy the hydrogen producing plants = making more money

3. The technology behind these cars are way in the future making the consumer using the good ´ol petrol driven car for many years to come = making the transition easier for the big companies as they want it to happen to maximize profit over time


4. Limit the mentality/idea that most persons could be getting good transportation with the energy source from their own houses (electricity driven vehicles) as of today

Politicians will always think about the big companies and only their elected term not the future. When will it change? Will it ever = hey petrol cars work, they have worked for so many years, what is this word "efficiency"!! Why change something that WORKS!!! Technological socialism, WHAT!? make me change my habits...NOOOO

I pray for companies like Tesla Motors to succeed. Their business plan sure makes me think a bit positive about the future of mankind.

The Ethenol Lobby?
By GTaudiophile on 11/15/07, Rating: -1
RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By Master Kenobi on 11/15/2007 10:14:22 AM , Rating: 5
This solves a problem with what to do with large quantities of organic waste. Recycle it into fuel for vehicles. Absolutely bad ass.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By wordsworm on 11/15/2007 10:41:47 AM , Rating: 2
Wasn't that in that Return to the Future movie or whatever it was called? You put garbage into the car for fuel I dimly recall.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By detinith on 11/15/2007 11:03:34 AM , Rating: 3
That's Back to the Future, and Mr. Fusion was a nuclear-generator that ran on any and all waste. I just see it as a plot device to make them not have to steal plutonium every time they wanted to time travel.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By christojojo on 11/15/2007 11:59:55 AM , Rating: 2
Damn those plot devices.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By sj420 on 11/15/2007 12:35:29 PM , Rating: 1
Its not a plot device. It is actually very possibly to run fusion off of waste alone. Where else does the mass material come from to burn?

Simple earthlings.

This technology is great. They just need to be a bit more creative and they need to expand it so that it can power any ordinary vehicle or anything. The first thing I recommend is trying to use an eels electrical discharge, instead of an external power source, as a way to have an organic electrical charge and not need or use/waste any external energy at all.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By bupkus on 11/15/2007 1:19:57 PM , Rating: 2
The first thing I recommend is trying to use an eels electrical discharge

Straight out of the Flintstones.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By masher2 on 11/15/2007 2:30:55 PM , Rating: 2
> "Its not a plot device. It is actually very possibly to run fusion off of waste alone"

FYI, if you look at the binding-energy curve, its theoretically impossible to get energy by fusing any element above Manganese.

In practice, fusing anything but the first 4-5 elements on the Periodic Table is so far above us as to make teleportation and interstellar colonization seem easy.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By christojojo on 11/16/2007 9:47:27 AM , Rating: 2
Cool when can we move to another planetary system? I 'm packed already. ;)

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By Polynikes on 11/15/2007 12:38:54 PM , Rating: 2
Although it was nothing more than a plot device, the same idea could theoretically be applied here. Just drop in the banana peel from your lunch and your car will run for the rest of the day.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By ksherman on 11/15/2007 10:58:57 AM , Rating: 3
I doubt this, but mostly only because this seems to be very well publicized, makes it more difficult to silence them.

Regardless, this is pretty freakin exciting news. Ethanol is a joke, I look forward to seeing any alternative taking the spotlight.

This might even make them happy, as they still need to use crops/crop waste to get this hydrogen, thus making everyone happy.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By Clenathan on 11/15/2007 11:16:31 AM , Rating: 1
I agree that it is more difficult to silence them but with the oil companies' profits, it's not difficult to silence anyone.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By PrezWeezy on 11/15/2007 1:41:27 PM , Rating: 3
Or they will start investing in this technology and be the first to market with it.

I have a hard time thinking there is a huge conspiracy out there to keep us on fosil fuel. I mean if you look at the scientific numbers, it's the most efficient fuel out there. That's why they are staying with it.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By Master Kenobi on 11/15/2007 3:15:52 PM , Rating: 2
I mean if you look at the scientific numbers, it's the most efficient fuel out there. That's why they are staying with it.

That makes too much sense. People want to be afraid and histerical so masters of manipulation can effect change on a sheepish population. Whether that change was right or wrong is for history to decide.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By Ringold on 11/15/2007 11:24:21 AM , Rating: 1
It won't make any of the communities happy where even the local school bus driver invested their life savings in a local ethanol plant..

I suspect political nuclear war in Washington before this is all settled. But we're just getting what we deserve; we intervened with government manipulation of the free market, the free market solution, being unstoppable as it is, starts to prepare to provide efficient processes such as this one, and now it threatens the tax-payer subsidized artificial profits of state-sponsored industries (ethanol). Now we've got to face the music, and some farmers and opportunistic parasites/investors are going to get screwed. Badly.

Well, on second thought, no they wont. The government will probably bail them out.

/me sigh

We'll never learn.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By mal1 on 11/15/2007 12:29:55 PM , Rating: 3
It's definitely time to cut our losses on current ethanol production.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By ksherman on 11/15/2007 2:53:16 PM , Rating: 2
Amen to that.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By GeorgeOrwell on 11/15/07, Rating: -1
By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 11/15/2007 3:55:17 PM , Rating: 2
I'm going to make a Hindenberg reproduction when hydrogen becomes cheap and available.

Just to show 'em.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By clovell on 11/15/2007 4:03:05 PM , Rating: 2
What do you suggest, Cassandra?

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By JeffGrant on 11/16/2007 1:44:09 PM , Rating: 2
Ethanol may be rather inefficient, but it got me to work today, and at least it's available now. I figure every dollar I don't send to the middle east (or Venezuela for that matter
is good enough for me until this new tech takes off. I've been filling both my non-E85 cars with 50/50 (87 unleaded/E85) at the Kroger for a couple of years now and they run fine on it. One's a 97 Saturn with 166,000 miles on it and the other's an '03 Ion with 51,000 miles on it. So I might have to replace a fuel pump a couple years early, oh well.

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By Ringold on 11/16/2007 3:19:51 PM , Rating: 2
To talk about the fiction (i.e. 'free markets') is an absurdity of the ignorant.

While I agree with you on America having been hijacked by various special interests and the interests of the political class, the rest of your post...

Clearly, you've got such intelligence, but you've really squirreled that intelligence in to a strange direction, bud. You've sadly got your economic principles all warped, and the Rothschilds thing is a page right out of the Illuminati playbook.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret. My father is a 32nd degree "Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret" in the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, and he does not have a direct phone line to Ben Bernanke, he doesn't have access to any CEO's, he's not extravagantly wealthy, and has no idea who the hell shot Kenneddy. He does know, however, some nice guys to have a beer with.

Unless, of course, only the 33rd Degree Inspector General's are only trusted with such divine knowledge and influence..

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By Xietsu on 11/23/2007 2:41:55 PM , Rating: 2
Ringold, why do you think your father would share Free Masonic secrets with you?

George Orwell, what is your conviction for believing that oil from Iraq generates profit for private interests, as opposed to heading to OPEC? Or is there a medium within that transit that still allots aggregation of further prosperous proliferation?

RE: The Ethenol Lobby?
By Captain Orgazmo on 11/26/2007 11:48:55 PM , Rating: 2
Xietsu, I have been reading some of your other posts, and damn near shitting my pants laughing... and I was wondering, what are you on, and where can I get some?

oil lobby flac
By Lightning III on 11/15/07, Rating: -1
RE: oil lobby flac
By clovell on 11/15/2007 12:17:45 PM , Rating: 2
Some may think it's a cool idea ;)

RE: oil lobby flac
By The Sword 88 on 11/15/2007 12:29:21 PM , Rating: 1
I am one of the usual anti-"Let's freak out about Global Warming, because its the Apocalpyse" types and I really support this. There are a broad array of benefits from using hydrogena dn this looks like it will really help with that. It will help get us off of oil, which had a number of downsides, and will stop this ethanol craze, which is downright stupid.

As for global warming give it up already.


was kind of a big blow to you Global Warming types and I ahve not seen anyone refute it yet.

Also why has no one completed this:

if global warming is true?

I can go on but I wont, at least not now...

RE: oil lobby flac
By The Sword 88 on 11/15/2007 12:34:33 PM , Rating: 2
I am not saying that global warming doesnt exust just that it is not the end of the world and its causes are not soley or even mostly human based

RE: oil lobby flac
By sinful on 11/15/2007 10:25:18 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, that article is a huge blow to the Global Warming Types!

If only if was refuted somewhere... LIKE ON PAGE TWO OF THE ARTICLE!:
His views are completely at odds with the mainstream scientific opinion," said Colin Wilson, a planetary physicist at England's Oxford University.

"the idea just isn't supported by the theory or by the observations."

It even has a link to another article!
(Related: "Don't Blame Sun for Global Warming, Study Says" [September 13, 2006].)

Is that you, George Bush??

RE: oil lobby flac
By masher2 on 11/15/2007 11:32:57 PM , Rating: 2
> "Don't Blame Sun for Global Warming, Study Says"

The problem with that study is it looked only at changes to the sun's energy output and ignored feedback effects. So of course, that by itself wasn't enough to account for climate change. But it turns out that sunspot activity is also heavily linked to magnetosphere changes, which affects cloud formation

Researcher Henrik Svensmark and the team at the Danish National Space Center have not only calculated that the observed changes in cloud cover are enough to account for climate change, but they've experimentally confirmed the link between magnetosphere changes, cosmic ray flux, and cloud formation.

RE: oil lobby flac
By Rovemelt on 11/16/2007 9:29:50 AM , Rating: 2
but they've experimentally confirmed the link between magnetosphere changes, cosmic ray flux, and cloud formation.

Uh, no. This is far from settled science.

Svensmark has a lot of unanswered questions in the theory connecting cosmic ray flux and cloud formation. Considering how we are still learning how to model cloud formation and its effect on climate change, we certainly should give Svensmark the benefit of the doubt and time to research this idea, but it's not looking like such a strong link at this point.

RE: oil lobby flac
By masher2 on 11/16/2007 9:47:37 AM , Rating: 3
What *is* settled science is that CO2 cannot be the primary driver of climate change. History reveals countless episodes of rapid warming and cooling, many of those events as rapid or more than what we are experiencing today. What caused them? We know now it wasn't CO2, as the warming pulse preceeded the CO2 spike by centuries.

So this much is indisputable. We know that some natural force has the ability to rapidly change the Earth's climate. Either its Svensmark's theory, or its some other yet-unknown factor. In both cases, its wholly unaccounted by global climate models, and our current understanding of climate change.

RE: oil lobby flac
By Dfere on 11/15/2007 12:28:28 PM , Rating: 2
I think Masher, and myself and quite a few others do accept "climate change". The earth's temp, C02 levels etc are always changing. Why this is a big idea to anyone is beyond me.

You don't accept the change, you fight it, and you implicate humanity as its sole (or at least its largest) cause. I dread knee jerk reactions, especially when some of the solutions I have read mess with the air I breathe. If we want to cool the planet, do it efficiently, not emotionally. And don't think by buying something faddish helps anything. Thats just facist consumerism.

RE: oil lobby flac
By geddarkstorm on 11/15/2007 1:42:28 PM , Rating: 2
Pfft, who cares just about global warming craziness? This new technology is awesome. Not only does it put waste to good use and gets that out of our hair, but oil and gas make a lot of pollutants other than and far worst than CO2. Something that's clean and just makes water, and which is far more efficient energy wise than ICE's, is just pure win. Stop smog problems, lower costs to us people who have to drive vehicles, make our little habitat we live in oh so nicer, better smelling, and healthier. It's a win win for absolutely everyone except those greedy for money and using oil to that end.

Moreover, it's scalable and fuel cells can be used in darn near anything from spaceships to powering your home. It has the potential to leap our civilization forward and this time lower our impact on the environment as only high enough levels of technology can do.

RE: oil lobby flac
By Eris23007 on 11/15/2007 7:54:27 PM , Rating: 5
What you seem not to have figured out is that most of those of us who hesitate to believe the anthropogenic climate change hoopla at the moment are doing so out of rational thinking, not emotion.

Believe it or not, there's a whole lot of information out there, and some of it lends credence to the notion of anthropogenic climate change and some of it does not!

Some of us don't think it's such a great idea to forego trillions of dollars' worth of economic activity that would otherwise improve the lot of society with the goal of trying to fix a problem that we're not sure we can really do anything about.

Just because those who tend to agree with the statements I just made disagree with you on energy policy as pertains to climate change doesn't mean we automatically refuse to consider beneficial technologies, including those that may ease the world's reliance on fossil fuels.

Speaking now for myself individually, regardless of my skepticism about the anthropogenic aspects of the climate change situation, I consider it an extremely wise choice to massively diversify our energy portfolio, for a wide range of reasons including:

1) Use of oil, gas, and coal as fuels tend to be extremely pollutive, or require substantial inefficiencies in order to mitigate the pollution. By pollution I refer to stuff like NOx, H2SO4, etc. - the REALLY nasty chemicals that can do enormous amounts of bad, regardless of how you feel about CO2

2) Oil in particular has a number of extremely valuable uses other than fuel (e.g. medical plastics - there are still plenty of extremely important polymers we can't make from anything else, fertilizer to replenish nitrogen and other plant nutrients consumed when farming land)

3) Geopolitical concerns - funding the middle east and the current Russian regime (note: nothing against the citizen) certainly isn't helping stabilize the world

Long story short, please try to stop seeing people who disagree with you as religious zealots, and consider the possibility that we may simply be paying attention to different facts than you are, because we believe them to be more important facts.

Emotional arguments won't get very far with me. Cold, hard facts, logic, and insightful analysis will get very far with me.

For this reason, I very carefully consider the facts cited and opinions stated by both Mr. Asher (and those who tend to agree with him) and Mr. Mick (and those who tend to agree with him) - when they stick to facts, logic, and analysis.

As soon as it gets into the name-calling, ad hominem attacks and innuendos, you've lost me.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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