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Hydrogen Superfuelling- Green

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The catalytic conversion of water into hydrogen has been proposed as the Holy Grail of eco-friendly technology. I think the reality of our technological ability is that we have many ways to create and store reversible energy.

The advantages of hydrogen to many other renewable energy sources lie in a different direction to its eco-friendly nature.

  • It is a very energy dense fuel. This is because it has a low atomic/molecular weight. The heavy fuel with which it must combine is oxygen – which is essentially free - within the atmosphere.

  • It is able to be produced by low supervision technology. We can produce many other organic fuels but these generally require industrial processes operating within the bounds of a factory with significant human input/supervision. Hydrogen can be can produced by a comparatively more simple process, requiring effectively almost no human input apart from the set up stage. Automated processes are capable of dealing with "recurrent" ( monitoring) decisions.

  • It can be stored in large quantities, again through automated processes. For example a solar voltaic process feeding a hydrogen production electrolytic cell could generate hydrogen which could be stored in a very large tank over a large period of time by “trickle” feed. This stored hydrogen can then be used in quantity, at speed on demand.
    There is a trend within Australia to use gas fuelled generators for peak emergency demand electricity production. Hydrogen production and storage could well take over in meeting these peak energy demands. Valuable non-renewable resources such as natural gas could therefore be conserved or used as feedstock for other more essential industrial processes.

Hydrogen is actually a dangerous fuel. In many applications, reversible batteries may well be safer and more appropriately implementable. A reversible reaction that does not produce carbon dioxide is by definition “green”. However such a definition is probably far too strict. For example, consider if plants are grown, and their lignocellulose is converted to glucose and then to ethanol which is then used as fuel. The net carbon footprint of this process is essentially zero. All the carbon dioxide entering the reaction is converted to a chemical and then recycled back as carbon dioxide again.

Energy production is not of necessity a “green” process directly, but can be powerfully so indirectly.

If your goal is a sequestration of carbon from the environment, there are many other ways of achieving this which could be specifically tailored to the process of achieving the sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere. There is no need to require an energy production process to also sequestrate carbon from the atmosphere. It is far better to consider these things as two separate processes and to optimise both of these processes, as our civilisation sees fit. I.e. optimise energy production as optimal. I.e. optimise carbon sequestration as optimal.

The wholesale introduction of technology such as catalytic conversion of water to Hydrogen into vehicles would also cause some catastrophic changes in our world. Everyone would seek to use solar energy as the energy source. Therefore everyone would want to park their car outside. Is there enough outside Sunny space for all of us? We would want all our cars outside and underfoot simply because sunlight is free and we are all fighting for it? Will the presence of a plethora of cars on all our streets begin to choke our transport corridors? Many issues arise.

The other issue here is whether solar energy is best used in such a fashion. Perhaps it would be more efficient to harvest our solar energy for our vertical farms or to provide lighting within our cities, saving on the use of other non-renewable energy sources being used for this purpose. Maybe shopping centres should have "solar trees" shading their car parks.

It becomes obvious to me that sometimes technology such as the catalytic conversion of water to Hydrogen using solar energy may create more social problems that is in fact solved.

 Hydrogen Warning Hydrogen Warning

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What does this technology remind me of in Brisbane? :

  • The old Powerhouse at New Farm has restaurants and live theatre. The views are excellent. You can stroll along the riverside walkways. New Farm Park is always worth a visit.

  • The lookouts in the city will show you where the sunlight goes.
    • Mt. Cootha Look out in the mid North part of Brisbane is definitely worth a visit. The views are excellent and the restaurants and cafes are excellent as well. The Botanical Gardens at the bottom of the Mount Cootha Hill are enticing. There is a cafeteria at the entry to the Botanical Gardens.
    • Mt Cootha Lookout Mt Cootha Lookout

      You can take advantage of some of walks arising from the many roadside rest areas around the Mt. Cootha circuit.
      The public areas and walks and gardens are all free, best of all.
    • Mount Gravatt Lookout gives excellent vantage points for the city. It is not one of the better-known lookouts but still has  value.

    • Mt Cootha Planetarium

      Mt Cootha Planetarium

  • The Mount Glorious Road/ Mt. Nebo Rd. offers many great Lookout spots and places for the average tourists to see. These roads form one of the most absolutely awesome  attractions of  Brisbane. Visit on a weekend because many of the more quirky and unusual cafes and restaurants do not open on some of the weekdays. Start the trip at the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre. Follow the road up to the quirky restaurants and cafes at Mount Glorious. These are worthwhile just walking into and looking at, even if you don’t want to eat or buy food. Ambience! Ah! The forest canopy shelters you in a good way – so you see where the sunshine isn’t.

Kangaroo Point Lookout Kangaroo Point Lookout

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Clever new applications:

  • Implantable bio-batteries or fuel cells. A step on the road to the convergence of man and machine. Energy can be supplied from the outside to power catalytic energy storing processes with rapid ramp up.

  • Energy self-sufficiency for humanity ‘s cities and habitations, using a variety of technologies to give solutions to energy needs in specific circumstances.

  • I think the key value to be had from hydrogen generation is the ability to store large amounts of energy. For example, if the generator or pump needs to run only on occasion, its' photovoltaic supply can feed energy into the hydrogen production process. The hydrogen can then be stored in a storage bottle refilling slowly over time, and then can be rapidly used when needed at a high demand level. Batteries are good but there are some things they cannot do well unless very large.

Examples of Science Fiction books
referring to this technology:

This topic is not one of the great and sexy topics of Science Fiction. As a technology, it appears more often in disaster scenarios or in a post-apocalyptic world.

Mona Lee: “Overshoot”.
An environment gone into greenhouse overshoot stifles human economic activity and causes abandonment of many of the coastal areas that contain the bulk of the human population. The task of rebuilding is very difficult due to the size of human biomass. Renewable technologies are a key. Unfortunately, hydrogen is barely worth a mention.

Max Brook: “World War Z”.
Zombies may not be undertaking the catalytic conversion of water into hydrogen, but they are converting something into energy. The ultimate battery if you can work out what the fuel source is.
Zombie SigmaPsiZombie

The Matrix – TV movie series.
In a post-apocalyptic world, humanity is used as a bio battery and source of computation ability for the artificial and imaginary world of The Matrix. Humans are source of catalytic conversion generating energy and computation.
Oracle Matrix Mother   SigmaPsiOracle

Species – TV movie series.
Aliens seeking to recreate themselves on distant worlds offer a gift to entice others to engineer what has been transmitted by radio code. The gift is the catalytic conversion of water into hydrogen. The associated danger is the creation of a new aggressive species capable of subsuming and wiping out human civilisation.

LauraBaker SigmaPsiDr Laura Baker