April 20, 2012 – Vol.17 No.5
ZERO CARBON FUELS.
If planet-saving is one the things you want to do in life, you’re going to have to invent something. We can’t wait for government and policy to fix things. It has to be some kind of product that will do the job: Something you can buy.
I have a suggestion of what to invent: A new kind of fuel to do everything from get us from A to Z as well as keep the lights on and our buildings warm or cool. But there are some stipulations. This new fuel has to be stored in low cost containers at ambient temperature and pressure. It has to be reasonably safe with normal or even clumsy handling. It can’t be another hydrocarbon like another biofuel. And, oh yeah, it has to be really, really cheap. In other words, it has to be something that’s a lot like gasoline or diesel fuel, or coal for that matter, but without the carbon.
It’s the carbon in hydrocarbons that’s the problem.
You see, we’ve made a mess of things over hydrocarbon fuels. We’ve gone to war – more than once now – over something to energize our cars, trucks, buses, ships, planes and lawn mowers. People have died so that others can drive a quarter of mile to buy a gallon of milk or a six-pack of beer. Wars for oil have been more than a little crazy.
But that’s not all. By setting hydrocarbon fuels afire, either confined in an engine cylinder or in a boiler of a power plant, we’ve added new compounds and chemicals into the air that nature wouldn’t do on its own. Those materials are both bad for our individual health and the health of the planet. We live in an onionskin thin atmosphere. We’ve got to stop using it as a dumping ground for our waste, our exhaust. The atmosphere does not clean itself as quickly as we pump our fumes into it.
Immediately, you might think that hydrogen could replace gasoline, diesel, natural gas or coal. Hydrogen could provide electric energy through fuel cells or be burned in a combustion engine for electricity or motive power for transportation. Hydrogen would do this with little or no exhaust.
True, hydrogen is not freely available and as a carrier of energy it has to be made by other energy sources or some kind of chemical reaction. Most hydrogen nowadays comes from natural gas, a hydrocarbon fuel. However, if the cost of solar or wind energy continues to drop, hydrogen could be a never-ending renewable product.
Though, even if hydrogen were forever green, as a gas it’s still not easy or cheap to store. Gasoline can be kept in containers sold in stores for a few dollars. You can keep coal in a pile in your back yard with a tarp over it. Hydrogen needs very expensive chilled or pressurized bottles to store it in.
The best possibility for hydrogen is to make it on demand: Generate hydrogen as it’s used or consumed. But how? In a car you could use electricity from batteries split water into hydrogen and oxygen to fuel a fuel cell. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, might as well just use the batteries for power. In a home you could use grid power to split water to make hydrogen to then generate power? No sense here either.
But what you could do is generate hydrogen by chemical reaction: Use another fuel to make hydrogen fuel.
This is what SiGNa Chemistry has done: Developed a hydrogen-generating solution, based on its own proprietary chemical, that when combined with water creates clean hydrogen gas on-demand at a low cost.
The company’s website says this about its Alkali Metal-Silicide:
SiGNa has developed a new low-temperature method for stabilizing alkali metal-silicide powders that can be used to instantly generate H2 from its reaction with any water. The byproducts of this reaction are environmentally benign, producing alkali metal silicates. The material is a free-flowing powder that is easily handled in dry air. It does not react with oxygen and absorbs moisture from air slowly without ignition. These advantageous properties combine to make these materials convenient sources of H2 for portable fuel cell applications
The company doesn’t suggest that its Alkali Metal-Silicide, or Sodium Silicide as it’s also called, could replace petroleum, only that it could be used for some applications in conjunction with a small fuel cell to power cell phones, tablet computers, electric bikes, and be back-up and reserve power for electric cars or be used for emergency power.
Further, unlike combustion gases, which go into the atmosphere with more harm than good, the waste product, alkali metal silicates, can be used in food preservation, wood treatment, fire protection, water treatment and glass making and others.
The company has also develop fuel cells that operate on canisters of Alkali Metal-Silicide/Sodium Silicide.
In a similar fashion to generate hydrogen on demand, AlumiFuel Power Corporation uses aluminum powder mixed with a proprietary reactant. The hydrogen generated when its AlumiFuel is mixed with water can be used in fuel cells, combustion engines or to inflate weather balloons.
Like SiGNa’s Alkali Metal-Silicide, AlumiFuel Power’s AlumiFuel powder handles easily and safely. Hydrogen is only generated when water is added.
Aside from the aluminum powder, AlumiFuel has also developed low cost storage canisters that look suspiciously like soft drink or beer cans, as well as hydrogen generation units that accept AlumiFuel canisters.
These fuel inventions do seem to be in the right direction. A new fuel. No hydrocarbons. Low cost. Safe to handle and store. (Imagine being able to buy a six-pack of one of these metal fuels at Walmart and generating enough hydrogen on demand at home for clean power for a month.)
Likely, there are other chemical compounds out there that do the same. New zero carbon fuels, perhaps manufactured and recycled with zero carbon energies, would move the world’s economies beyond the current hydrocarbon age to a new age with no worries about future energy supplies. Zero carbon fuels, too, would be the first step in the process of healing the planet’s atmosphere.
"Immediately, you might think that hydrogen could replace gasoline, diesel, natural gas or coal. Hydrogen could provide electric energy through fuel cells or be burned in a combustion engine for electricity or motive power for transportation. Hydrogen would do this with little or no exhaust. "
"The best possibility for hydrogen is to make it on demand: Generate hydrogen as it’s used or consumed."
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