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Watch out carbon-based batteries, silicon still has some juice left after all.

While carbon and its extensive uses in various forms like nanotubes, graphene and buckyballs has been receiving scads of research and media time, another element, hydrogen, has made a consistent showing for its use as an alternative fuel. The promise of clean cars and long-lasting batteries has piqued the interest of our electric society. The two together have been shown to hold some incredible promise for powering all sorts of devices.

Carbon has also been threatening to dethrone silicon from some of its greatest conquests, such as the integrated circuit and the transistor. While many argue that carbon computers are years if not decades off, silicon may not be useless to electronics in the future either. Chinese researchers, led by Dapeng Cao, claim that the ultimate hydrogen storage mechanism for use in fuel cells may not be carbon nanotubes as previously thought, but rather silicon nanotubes.

In their simulations, silicon nanotubes absorbed hydrogen molecules more efficiently than carbon under normal fuel cell operating conditions.

Cao's team's calculations are important because carbon-based nanotubes are falling short of the U.S. Department of Energy's hydrogen storage goals for fuel cells. The DoE is looking for something better and silicon may be it. The new calculations will ultimately help determine if silicon nanotubes can meet their expectations.

Though a hydrogen economy is likely still far into the future due to infrastructure costs, recent advances in fuel technology as well as hydrogen production are helping to keep research and development moving forward.



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By daftrok on 4/24/2008 1:28:45 PM , Rating: 1
I have been debating this for a while. I think the best solution for the future cars would be to make the car out of carbon fiber as much as humanly possible and run it on electricity. I liked the engine Tesla developed and really think it has applications. For fueling that vehicle, I thought a solar panel on the roof of your house and a couple of miniature windmills that hang off the edge of the roof just in case its too cloudy. What do you guys think?




By AlvinCool on 4/24/2008 1:34:53 PM , Rating: 3
I thought I'd drill a shaft, in my backyard, to the earths core and do geothermal myself. All I need to to is have everyone come out and mark their cables and pipes then get my acme 5000 drill set working.


By MicahK on 4/28/2008 2:27:37 AM , Rating: 2
geothermal is way too expensive to implement effectively... its just not a good solution for a single household... I've looked into it and solar is the way to go


By Pandamonium on 4/24/2008 1:36:56 PM , Rating: 2
Carbon fiber is hideously expensive. Racing shells for rowers have carbon fiber hulls; they start at $30k or so for a tiny amount of material. Sure, a bunch of the cost has to do with the specialization of the shape, etc- but it's far cheaper to go with other hull materials.

You're also never going to change the fact that everyone wants to be in the heavier vehicle in an accident. Unless you make all cars lightweight AND reduce speed limits (good luck on part 2), accident mortality rates will go up.


By Master Kenobi (blog) on 4/24/2008 1:45:52 PM , Rating: 5
Yea, because people want the "peace of mind" of knowing they will kill the other driver and walk away themselves.


By MrBungle123 on 4/24/2008 1:56:52 PM , Rating: 3
now if only we could genetically engineer that self preservation instinct out of people...


By fm2001 on 4/24/2008 8:35:42 PM , Rating: 2
They have figured how to genetically remove a mouse's natural fear of cats. Shouldn't be too difficult.


By 306maxi on 4/24/2008 3:07:56 PM , Rating: 2
Carbon fiber is much better when it comes to absorbing crash damage. For it's weight it's far far stronger than steel. So a lighter carbon fiber made vehicle will inevitably do quite well. Ever seen F1 and the crashes the car has and the driver walks away with pretty much no injuries at all other than a bit of bruising?


By Alexstarfire on 4/24/2008 4:59:39 PM , Rating: 2
That's not all because of the shell you know. It is designed in a way to prevent the driver from taking damage, but it's not just because it's carbon fiber.


By djc208 on 4/24/2008 11:08:23 PM , Rating: 2
That has more to do with the high strength steel tube frame that the driver is wrapped in.


By 306maxi on 4/25/2008 10:39:29 AM , Rating: 3
F1 cars don't have a steel spaceframe. They are purely a carbon fiber monocoque.


By Micronite on 4/24/2008 1:37:55 PM , Rating: 3
I want "Mr. Fusion"!!! (the product, not the guy)


By bupkus on 4/24/2008 3:00:12 PM , Rating: 4
Thanks for the reminder. Time to boot up Mr. Coffee.


By martinrichards23 on 4/24/2008 1:57:15 PM , Rating: 2
I think most would agree with you, the big hurdle (hence the interest in this article's content) is the storage of your energy.

As it has been all but proved biofuels are a waste of time (and probably just a way of sticking two fingers up at OPEC), hydrogen is always going to be the best bet, short of some other scientific breakthrough.


By Alexstarfire on 4/24/2008 5:04:04 PM , Rating: 2
That's only really true for the current methods of getting our biofuels. The ways in which we want to get them are simply not a reality yet. There is no easy way to convert cellulose into ethanol, and we simply aren't using algae to produce biodiesel. Those two methods are highly efficient.


By NEOCortex on 4/24/2008 2:02:06 PM , Rating: 2
Nothing beats a liquid fuel in terms of recharge rates. Sure you can recharge an electric car over night at home, but sometimes that just isn't an option. Chemical fuel based cars are still going to be a popular option because of this.

I'd say electric cars for commuting/short trips and car sharing programs, and diesel/bio-diesel or other liquid hydrocarbon for high compression ICEs for everything else. Eventually fuel cell technology might replace ICEs after significant improvement, but there are many problems to overcome.


By Smartless on 4/24/2008 2:22:49 PM , Rating: 3
Human powered vehicles! That way we take care of the nation's obesity and energy at the same time. Although our cars will probably be made of wood with stone tires and with dinosaurs holding traffic lights.


By FITCamaro on 4/24/2008 2:32:55 PM , Rating: 2
Some environmentalists would like a return to these ways.....


By GaryJohnson on 4/24/2008 6:27:21 PM , Rating: 2
Environmentalists or Arcologists?


By Alexstarfire on 4/24/2008 5:01:18 PM , Rating: 2
Flinstones, here we come.


By Omega215D on 4/25/2008 11:44:54 AM , Rating: 2
You forgot "Yabba dabba doo!"


By silhrt on 4/24/2008 5:18:53 PM , Rating: 2
You also have to look at all of the things involved with the creation and distribution of the new whatever....

With electric... there goes all the gas stations, fuel refinerys, etc.

With a hydrogen fuel base, most of what is out there stays. People will still have their jobs and the world keeps turning.... and of course the Oil business just switch their money from oil to hydrogen... its already happening.

At least with the Hydrogen fuel solution, the overall delivery system stays the same and thousands of people will not be out of jobs.


By daftrok on 4/24/2008 5:49:37 PM , Rating: 2
True in an economic stand point the oil companies will crumble. However its not like I'm saying this should be an immediate change. Over time the gas stations should diminish and over time those convenience stores will be over run by big business. At this point most of convenience stores' sales are cigarettes and alcohol so I'm not exactly sympathetic about those businesses. Also a safety factor is a major concern when it comes to convenience stores. They are constantly under the brutality of crime and the main solution seems to be convenience stores.

As for oil companies, they can just develop solar/wind/geothermal power and yes even hydrogen. I just feel that since electric is an established technology NOW it would make more sense to develop that rather than hydrogen. Electric is cheaper, safer, and in high supply (no need for hydrogen production plants) and with more research can have efficiency comparable to hydrogen.


By daftrok on 4/24/2008 5:51:30 PM , Rating: 2
Correction:

"the main solution seems to be larger super centers such as Walmart and Target that have more security and police surveillance than convenience stores do."


By ZeroGuardian on 4/25/2008 12:25:55 AM , Rating: 2
I have to disagree with your thoughts on going Electric.

Going with completely electric cars is just not a viable option for the future for a number of reasons.

Cheaper - I think your missing a lot of the costs associated with an all electric infrastructure. First cost is straight to your electric bill, while the overall cost of the electricity is cheaper for you there is a side-effect to everyone going electric. The electrical plants will be forced to increase their output capacity requiring more elaborate power plants (Nuclear power will likely be necessary in many cases) and that cost of infrastructure increase will be passed onto you. Second is the batteries. The batteries that are used to store the energy also cost a lot to replace $5000 or more in most cases and they will need to be replaced about every 3-5 years. Which in many cases will be more expensive then the car itself. Now it is true that battery prices would go down as supplies increased but for the capacity required for most cars it would not decrease much. The third cost is to our economy. If all cars changed over to electric then there would need to be a drastic infrastructure change. First we would need places that people could go to have their cars charged up again, and since most electric cars only have a range of 150-200 miles then these charging stations would be even more necessary than gas stations where cars are usually capable of 350+ miles on a single tank. Then think about the transport companies. They survive on making deliveries on a timely basis if their trucks/vans/etc are having to stop every 200-300 miles for a 2 hour charge session that is only going to cost them money, which means that more transport would be handled by trains/airplanes/ships which have FAR worse energy costs than transport vehicles.

Safer - Not quite sure where electrical cars come across as being that much safer than hydrogen/gasoline powered vehicles. If you mean its safer for the environment then you need to do a little more research. The power plants put out a lot more pollution than the cars do and you also have to think about the loss of energy during the conversion process from AC to DC which means that most cars are costing 10-20% more energy than is actually being put into the batteries themselves. Not to mention the production facilities of the batteries which have quite a bit of waste.

Supply - well I can't really argue with you a whole lot here but there would still have to be a drastic change to the infrastructure as charging stations would need to be setup in a similar fashion to todays gas stations which means that your cost for changes would be similar to setting up a hydrogen infrastructure.

Efficiency - Here is one place where I'd like to see some stats. There is absolutely no way that a electrical car could have comparable power to a hydrogen vehicle. The loses during the conversion processes and so forth would just be too great for it to properly compete with hydrogen. Hydrogen has a far greater energy capacity per volume than batteries could hope to achieve. Not to mention that all the hydrogen car would put out is water as a byproduct.

The biggest problem with electrical cars is their very inconvenient for our economy and society. We live in a world where its necessary for emergency vehicles / transport vehicles / personal vehicles all need the ability to be used on demand. Do you really want the police / ambulance / firetrucks to have to wait for an electrical charge before they can respond to an emergency? Hydrogen cars are the only suitable replacement for today's gasoline powered cars.


By acronos on 4/25/2008 8:38:39 AM , Rating: 2
"I just feel that since electric is an established technology NOW it would make more sense to develop that rather than hydrogen. Electric is cheaper, safer, and in high supply (no need for hydrogen production plants) and with more research can have efficiency comparable to hydrogen. "

NO, hydrogen is electric. Both hydrogen and "batteries" are electric technologies. The distinction is the energy storage technology needed to get power to the electric motors.

Batteries are already more efficient than hydrogen. That is the primary "real" argument of most people who oppose hydrogen. Batteries just do not have enough energy storage capacity to maintain current expectations of how a car should perform.

Fuel Cells currently are able to store far more energy than batteries; therefore they can power bigger cars and go much further.


By acronos on 4/25/2008 9:35:14 AM , Rating: 2
"Electric is cheaper, safer, and in high supply (no need for hydrogen production plants) and with more research can have efficiency comparable to hydrogen. "

Sorry, I didn't read closely enough. I missed your point here. In response to it: massive new production will be required either way. We will have to triple our electric production capacity to replace gasoline. Hydrogen production technologies are pretty mature, and similarly green, as current electricity production. Compare coal power plants with the massive natural gas steam reformation plants used to produce hydrogen in the oil refinery industry. The worse the quality of the oil, the more hydrogen needed to make it useable. We already produce astonishing quantities of hydrogen to compensate for this. Surely you don't think natural gas hydrogen production is worse than coal. BTW, new safer fourth generation designs of nuclear power plants can produce hydrogen at costs significantly below current equivalent gasoline costs - much cheaper than steam reformation of natural gas.


By andrinoaa on 4/24/2008 7:17:24 PM , Rating: 2
When the stage coach last road out of the Ponderosa, I don't remember Hoss having a whinge about losing his job! BIG LOL
As for Hydrogen, it just gives those blood sucking oil people another product to leach on. Hydrogen is good when you have NO ALTERNATIVE. We, my friends are far, far, from it. If you use hydrogen in an ICE engine , the amount required makes electric cars extreemely attractive.
If you convert hydrogen to electricity to run an electric motor, the whole cycle is inefficient and you have an extreemly costly infrustructure to organise.
Just by deduction, electric cars is the sensible way to go.
It does not mean it will be without cost, make no mistake, you have had it easy but the " low hanging fruit" has almost dried up. We are in for interesting times!


By acronos on 4/25/2008 9:20:07 AM , Rating: 2
I keep seeing posts all over the net talking about, "we are going to lose jobs" if such and such happens. This is a tremendous ignorance of economics and history.

Economics - Jobs lost to the oil companies will be created in the needed new electricity companies and will be used elsewhere in the economy. Anytime jobs are lost, an economy becomes more efficient. This is because new jobs will be created to absorb the loss. Whatever these new jobs produce will provide more stuff to split among the same number of people, making everyone involved richer. Compare the standard of living in the first world with the standard of living in the third world for a real world example of this. Almost everyone in a third world nation is farming. That is why they are poor. Note: it takes three times the output of the current power grid to transfer all of our gasoline useage to electric power using batteries - even more using fuel cells. That's a whole lot of power plants that have to be built FAST.

History - In the last hundred years in the US, farming has gone from a very large fraction of all the jobs in the economy to being a relatively tiny and decreasing fraction of the jobs in our economy. It is hard to imagine a larger loss of jobs. Did you notice this massive loss? 5% unemployment would seem to argue otherwise. France, which has swollowed the lost jobs philosophy hook line and sinker, has created for itself huge and worsening unemployement problems. Ironic yes. For a more classical example of this - look up the origins of the term luddite.


By michael2k on 4/24/2008 7:47:04 PM , Rating: 2
biodiesel probably is the "best" fuel.

Solar powered (since you can grow jojoba in arid desert environs, you can use the sun to both grow and process it), and we already have well established liquid fuel distribution mechanisms. It is mostly carbon neutral because everything burned from the plant was extracted from the air, first.


By Dribble on 4/25/2008 4:41:27 AM , Rating: 2
Actually bio-diesel being good for the environment is myth, in actual fact it's pretty bad. Firstly the you've got to find somewhere to grow it, and surprise surprise they are cutting down rain forests to do that.
Then there's actual growing of the stuff and then turning it into diesel. This also has a fairly large environmental hit.


By djc208 on 4/24/2008 11:18:28 PM , Rating: 2
The best option will change over time as the industry and technology changes. That's why Chevy's Volt concept is probably the most important car (in my opinion) the company has ever developed.

With a good solid electric drivetrain (the small block Chevy of the electric motor world) the power source is completely flexable. Right now a high efficiency gas or diesel engine and some batteries make and store the electricity. But that could be replaced with a fuel cell, more batteries, gas turbine, hampster wheel, etc. Whatever source or sources make the most sense at the time.


By RIPPolaris on 4/25/2008 10:41:05 AM , Rating: 2
Human-powered, Flintstones style!


By cane on 4/25/2008 7:56:53 AM , Rating: 2
"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain














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