back to article German boffins aim to burn natural gas - WITHOUT CO2 emissions

Top boffins based in Germany - including a Nobel Prize laureate - believe they may be able to largely eliminate carbon emissions while nonetheless permitting the human race to use cheap and convenient fossil fuels as much as it likes: and this doesn't involve any tricky and probably expensive capturing of CO2 which must then be …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

    But apart from that notion this is a very clever idea that totally side steps the classic problems of getting the H2 away from the C.

    How many people (who don't investigate liquid metals) would have thought of this one?

    Note that with modern high temperature insulation the column can be kept hot with relatively little heat input, obviously bigger diameter, more volume, less surface area to emit it over.

    Version 0.1 tech but what potential.

    1. Robert Sneddon
      Flame

      Re: Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

      Pumping room-temperature gas into a column of molten metal at several hundred degrees C is going to cool it down significantly, requiring more external energy to be injected to keep it operating. The more gas injected, the more energy needed to keep the column from cooling down and solidifying.

      Is the decomposition reaction endo- or exothermic? If it's exothermic then it's possible some of this cooling effect can be alleviated but I suspect TANSTAAFL applies.

      1. Benchops
        Coat

        Re: Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

        They haven't mentioned that there must be carbon deposits as a waste product also.

        The great thing is these can be compressed into conveniently sized lumps and burnt to provide the heat to keep the metal liquid.

        Why is no-one investigating a thermocouple between somewhere on the equator and a Clarke-orbit satellite?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

        It must be endothermic, because the combustion of hydrogen and carbon separately releases more energy than the combustion of the same mass of methane. If methane decomposition was exothermic at room temperature, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn wouldn't have methane atmospheres (the methane would decompose and the hydrogen would escape into space, leaving a soot covered planetoid.)

        I imagine they have a brilliant wheeze: burn all the carbon to generate the heat to fuel the process. Oh...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

      And you can use the heat from the outgoing gas to pre-heat the incoming gas in a counter-current flow system.

    3. Mips
      Childcatcher

      Re: Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

      Carbon removal is a toxic subject. How do you get it out of the column? And it is at 1000C. Considerations here of spontaneous combustion (- like a loud BANG if is still hot). Anyway what do you do with all that carbon: loads of nano-tubes is suppose?

      How do you get the metal hot in the first place? Some external combustion required here.

      What metal melts at less than 1000C and that won't react with hydrogen or carbon? Sodium, potassium, lead, tin, antimony, cadmium, arsenic or some alloys of these; what a toxic bunch especially at 1000C.

      Phew! I wish them well with the research.

  2. gary27

    pointless stupidity

    yet another example of the huge amount of effort and recources wasted by humans - resulting from our amazing ability to blindly follow so called experts who are in fact almost alll idiots.

    warm good for humans cold bad.

    co2 not poison is fertilizer

    anyway greenhouse effect of co2 now mostly done - think saturation law of diminishing returns

    water vapour by far biggest greenhouse gas - not co2 - maybe a scheme like this on a grand scale would cause more warming than co2

    weather diificult to predict - too many variables - therefore models are silly

    some cycles are predictable

    eg cold at night warm in day - fairly convincing that sun is most important variable

    sun cycles such as caused by jupiter and saturn orbits are predicatable or elipse and tilt of earth orbit

    these are more of a factor than co2 in our climate

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: pointless stupidity

      gary27, are you an expert in this field, i.e. an idiot by your own definition? Or do you just jabber about things you neither understand?

      Just wondering...

      1. Sirius Lee

        Re: pointless stupidity

        And Evil. What about you? Are you an expert or just another one regurgitating what you've heard? You 'understand' climate change do you? You understand the centuries long cycles of the climate do you? How a billion, trillion tons of atmosphere (let alone oceans) behave and will behave in 50 or 100 years time? You have a complete understanding of how variations in radiation from the sun affect the atmosphere long term, right? You have detailed understanding of the interplay of the many components of the atmosphere which may have a warming effect work, do you? You understand and can explain why the predicted rise in global temperatures has not materialized?

        There may be a case for putting for human produced CO2 in the spot light. But to belittle someone else based on their 'understanding' which implies you know better about a massive and inherently chaotic system which is probably beyond comprehension is arrogant hubris beyond belief.

    2. Geoff Campbell
      Boffin

      Re: pointless stupidity

      Ah, truly a little learning is a dangerous thing.

      GJC

    3. Gob Smacked
      Thumb Up

      Re: pointless stupidity

      gary27, you made my day.

      No one ever seems to point out the differences of IR absorption between all gases/vapours that enrich our atmosphere. The tiny, tiny greenhouse effect of CO2 in relation to others, (most of all plain water vapour being very, very abundant) seems to difficult to grasp...

      Even small amounts of radiation differences we receive of our Sun have vastly greater effects.

      It's not easy to jump of a popular bandwagon it seems. CO2 it is. It *must* be. Yeah... :(

      1. NomNomNom

        Re: pointless stupidity

        "The tiny, tiny greenhouse effect of CO2 in relation to others, (most of all plain water vapour being very, very abundant) seems to difficult to grasp..."

        Because it's contradicted by actual evidence. Eg:

        "We find that water vapor is the dominant substance — responsible for about 50% of the absorption, with clouds responsible for about 25% — and CO2 responsible for 20% of the effect. The remainder is made up with the other minor greenhouse gases, ozone and methane for instance, and a small amount from particles in the air (dust and other "aerosols")."

        http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/schmidt_05/

        20% isn't "tiny, tiny"

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. NomNomNom

            Re: pointless stupidity

            Yes we need other countries to act too or there's no point

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Jnemo
            Meh

            Re: pointless stupidity

            A couple of points:

            Absent any greenhouse effect, the Earth would on average be about 30 degrees C colder than it is now. It's not that hard to do the basic calculation, which is why the greenhouse effect was discovered in the 19th century. Calculating the proportion of anthropogenic impact on the greenhouse effect as a whole is misleading, because we only need to move it by a few percentage points to create a very large swing in average surface temperature.

            I don't know where you get your 3% number for anthropogenic contribution to atmospheric CO2. Or are you quoting some other number? The pre-industrial level of atmospheric CO2 was about 300ppm. It's now about 400ppm, all of which is us. The natural sources of CO2 emission are in equilibrium with natural sources of absorbtion. The bottom line is that we've moved the level by 30%, and are moving it at an increasing rate.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

              1. NomNomNom

                Re: pointless stupidity

                Of course more relevant would be the % contribution of human CO2 emissions to atmospheric CO2 level, which is closer to 30% than 3%.

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

                2. This post has been deleted by its author

                3. This post has been deleted by its author

                  1. NomNomNom

                    Re: pointless stupidity

                    "Relevant? No! Convenient? Yes!"

                    CO2 level has increased by 30% in the atmosphere.

                    Yet your calculation assumes CO2's greenhouse effect has only increased 3%.

                    That's because you are wrongly using the proportion of CO2 emissions that are manmade vs natural. Nature actually absorbs more CO2 from the atmosphere than it emits, so it's emissions aren't counting towards the CO2 rise.

                    1. This post has been deleted by its author

                      1. NomNomNom

                        Re: pointless stupidity

                        CO2 has increased from about 300ppm to over 395ppm today.

                        You've assumed humans are only responsible for 3% of that.

                        1. This post has been deleted by its author

                          1. NomNomNom

                            Re: pointless stupidity

                            The fundamental mistake you've made in your calculation is ignoring CO2 absorption by nature.

                            You've calculated the proportion of CO2 emissions that are anthropogenic, but you've neglected natural absorption of CO2.

                            Natural CO2 absorption exceeds emission, so nature has on net drawn CO2 from the atmosphere and not contributed to the increase in CO2. So it isn't the case that only 3% of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere came from man, as if 3% of CO2 in the atmosphere is a result of man's emissions.

                            Man has actually emitted twice as much CO2 as is necessary to explain the 30% rise.

            2. Rattus Rattus

              @Jnemo

              "Absent any greenhouse effect, the Earth would on average be about 30 degrees C colder than it is now."

              Good, let's put a stop to ALL greenhouse gas emissions right sodding now. Australian summers might be a much more comfortable temperature then, rather than the open furnaces they are now. :I

        2. Gob Smacked
          Holmes

          Re: pointless stupidity

          > "Because it's contradicted by actual evidence. Eg:"

          A model does not equal "actual evidence"... At all..

          > ""We find that water vapor is the dominant substance — responsible for

          > about 50% of the absorption, with clouds responsible for about 25% —

          > and CO2 responsible for 20% of the effect. The remainder is made up

          > with the other minor greenhouse gases, ozone and methane for

          > instance, and a small amount from particles in the air (dust and other

          > "aerosols")."

          >

          > http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/schmidt_05/

          >

          > 20% isn't "tiny, tiny"

          Okay, a well written article and fine piece of scientific research. But you only pick an issue that helps your view and discard everything else it seems.

          1) Modeling finds a 20% attribution of CO2, so would it not be well worth to look into the other 80% ?

          2) Modeling finds that the CO2 attribution behaves non linear: "the impact of removing the CO2 is approximately seven times as large as doubling it" or as gary27 stated: "greenhouse effect of co2 now mostly done - think saturation law of diminishing returns";

          3) Every model makes assumptions of values of other variables. In this case, the model greatly simplifies the earth and weather. It can therefore by no means be seen as being "actual evidence". It is, at most, a very good piece of work to understand what the effects of CO2 could have been, given a certain basic environment. It helps getting an understanding of the issues at hand, no more.

          4) The article describes a negative net greenhouse effect of clouds, which of course creates a negative feedback to heating. Cloud cover also increases as more cosmic radiation falls upon earth, so which percentage of our current heating can be attributed to less cosmic radiation than usual ?

          I mean, it's not so simple. Any model can find suspects for both cooling and heating. The real world is way more complex than that. I think CO2 is much overhyped. Farting animals and vulcanism ? Good suspects too. But we really don't want to get rid of our cows and pigs or welcome big vulcanic eruptions. We *can* get a grip on CO2, so come on, create world peace and join together to fight it.

          1. NomNomNom

            Re: pointless stupidity

            "Okay, a well written article and fine piece of scientific research. But you only pick an issue that helps your view and discard everything else it seems."

            Someone posts false information regarding "tiny, tiny" effect of CO2. Consider the repercussions of their claim. If CO2 was really a "tiny, tiny" part of the greenhouse effect it would mean the whole issue of human CO2 emissions was irrelevant! So I think the falseness of that original claim warrants a little more criticism, than my correction of it.

            Especially with regard to complaining that I didn't address N other issues. Why should I? I was correcting the "tiny, tiny" misconception.

      2. John Hughes
        Flame

        Re: pointless stupidity

        'The tiny, tiny greenhouse effect of CO2 in relation to others, (most of all plain water vapour being very, very abundant) seems to difficult to grasp..."

        No, it's very easy to grasp. However he fact that the atmosphere is saturated with water vapour, but not with CO2 seeems very hard for some people to grasp.

        :"Even small amounts of radiation differences we receive of our Sun have vastly greater effects."

        And the fact that there is NO TREND in solar flux changes is hard for some people to grasp.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: pointless stupidity

          Alternatively if we burnt all the C to produce lots of CO2 and destroyed the nasty toxic oxygen we could return the planet to it's natural pristine state.

          I for one welcome out blue-green algae overlords

        2. Gob Smacked
          Mushroom

          Re: pointless stupidity

          "No, it's very easy to grasp. However he fact that the atmosphere is saturated with water vapour, but not with CO2 seeems very hard for some people to grasp."

          Given its nonlinear behaviour as greenhouse gas, puffing more CO2 into the atmosphere won't do much anymore. We'll suffocate of its abundance before dying of heat IMHO...

          "And the fact that there is NO TREND in solar flux changes is hard for some people to grasp."

          There's more to solar flux than an IR component. Other EM radiation types as well as particle outputs can all attribute to our climate in different ways. It's not the solar flux itself, but primarily its composition (as well as other cosmic radiation).

          Concerning the CO2 greenhouse issue, there are multiple reasons to have great suspicions towards it. But most other (80%) climate changing factors have not nearly been researched as good as the (modeled...) 20% CO2 factor. It's just not a clear cut issue. Dwelling on CO2 is easy to sell to the public, but we may miss other more important factors while riding the CO2 bandwagon all the time. Funding should be spread more to give all possible attributing factors a good chance to be researched. That's my 2 cents at least.

          1. NomNomNom

            Re: pointless stupidity

            "Given its nonlinear behaviour as greenhouse gas, puffing more CO2 into the atmosphere won't do much anymore"

            It might be logarithmic but CO2 level is low (400 parts per million), so there's plenty of warming left from increases above that level. Humans have already increased atmospheric levels by about 30%.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

              1. NomNomNom

                Re: pointless stupidity

                "citation needed"

                see here for example:

                http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/a-saturated-gassy-argument/

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. John Hughes

            Re: pointless stupidity

            "There's more to solar flux than an IR component. "

            So what. Where's the trend. Without a trend how can you explain the temperature trend. Cycles don't cut it.

      3. Periquet dels Palots
        Thumb Down

        Re: pointless stupidity

        Says who?

        Wow, a nameless poster in a second rate blog claims to know all about climate change, while 99.9% of climate *scientists* know nothing and only push their agenda. Quite an achievement for someone that cannot understand the difference between "too" and "to" or "off" and "of".

        Yeah, I know, Einstein and dyslexia and all that. Or is it that the ignorant feel comforted in siding with any far fetched opinion that will paint the really intelligent and knowledgeable as jerks?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Re: pointless stupidity

      Even worse, water vapour is at least twice as efficient as carbon dioxide is when it comes to capturing heat. IPCC ignores water vapour as though it is little or no consequence, but they shouldn't be. We produce tons upon tons of additional water vapour along with carbon dioxide whenever we burn fossil fuels. Waste heat production along with the release of addtional water vapour are more likely to be responsible for climate change than carbon dioxide--that is assuming that humanity is the culprit. I am not convinced that we are. What the Germans are attempting to accomplish with this Rube Goldberg grade contraption is contrary to the laws of thermodynamics. Not only will it prove to be insupportably expensive, it will dump even more waste heat no top of the already vast quantities of waste heat we dump into the atmosphere at present. Not only that, it will be perceived as a solution to the "carbon dioxide" problem and will result in much larger releases of water vapour into the atmosphere, and as I have pointed out, water vapour is a much more efficient green house gas.

      1. NomNomNom

        Re: pointless stupidity

        "IPCC ignores water vapour as though it is little or no consequence,"

        So how come the IPCC report discussing water vapor at length and refers to it as "a key climate variable"?

        http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch3s3-4-2.html

        "Waste heat production along with the release of addtional water vapour are more likely to be responsible for climate change than carbon dioxide--that is assuming that humanity is the culprit."

        Waste heat production is an order of magnitude smaller than the cumulative heat gain from rising GHGs.

        http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=6

        Additionally, as the IPCC reports, water vapor is expected to increase with CO2 warming, because warmer air holds more water vapor. So water vapor is such a strong greenhouse gas as you've mentioned, means the warming effect of rising CO2 in effect is amplified.

        Climate skeptics tend not to like that idea, so many of them downplay the warming effect of water vapor. In extreme cases they'll even try to claim more water vapor will actually cause cooling because of more clouds. Just find it amusing that you, a different climate skeptic, are trying to dismiss man-made global warming by *up-playing* the warming effect of water vapor.

      2. John Hughes
        FAIL

        Re: pointless stupidity

        No.

        1. Waste heat production is tiny compared to what's coming from the sun.

        2. The amount of water vapour we release is minsicule compared to other sources. You may have noticed that much of the planet is covered in water. The water vapour in the atmosphere is in equilibrium (Well, there is *one* way we could increase the water vapour - by warming the atmosphere. Whoops).

      3. Periquet dels Palots

        Re: pointless stupidity

        I agree about the stupidity of the device, and the ruthlessness of the laws of thermodynamics. The rest of your comment does not make much sense. Water already evaporates off the seas at rates gigantically larger than the participation from burning fossile fuels. And it precipitates out of it when it rains, which I have not seen CO2 do yet in this planet.

  3. Richard 12 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Where does the carbon go?

    What keeps it at 1000deg C as you pump all that gas in?

    What cools the resulting hydrogen to storage temperatures?

    Heat exchanger from output to input will help, but not all that much as the gases are rather different.

    This technique has the same problem as steam reforming - it takes a very large energy input to turn a very energy-dense fuel into much less energy-dense one - except worse because you can't turn it off.

    The fate of the carbon is even more important!

    Reading the press release, it would appear that they have no idea how to get the carbon out or if that's even possible - sounds like instead of being stuck to the walls of the reactor it's thoroughly mixed throughout the liquid metal.

    That would normally be called an alloy, and the only way to get that out is to react it - usually with oxygen. Oops, CO2.

    All in all - interesting, but nothing like the "saviour" the press release makes it out to be.

    They always get published in newspapers as "Woo! XXX fixed!" when of course, it doesnt even work yet - and so nobody is even starting the process of scaling it up to a useful size.

    I hate and despise these kinds of press release. Right now, some students have just finished their degree project. Brilliant, they'll get a good honours or PhD. But nothing that will yet affect anybody else.

    No university publishes press releases for "Student writes really good dissertation", this is no different.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Where does the carbon go?

      Depending on the liquid metal to use, the fact that the Carbon thoroughly mixes into the metal could be fantastic. Think of the production of high carbon steels, you run your regular steel in molten form through the converter and bang you will have coming out the top end your high carbon steel and a nice amount of H2 for burning. Win Win...

      And whilst you might not like the fact they are issuing press releases to say they are investigating new technologies, personally I love hearing about this stuff. If this press release inspires other research agencies to work on it and develop improvements to make it a viable system then fantastic, or at the very least if it inspires some kid to get into a science or engineering career in the future then its jobs well done. If all you want from Science news is articles of when they have actually solved a problem and saved the world then you better get used to only hearing about politics and crime on the news because science doesnt work that way.

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: Where does the carbon go?

        High carbon steel is at most about 2% carbon, beyond that and you are actually producing something like cast iron.

        So to produce a ton or so (a tonne - forget the US, they don't know what a real ton looks like) of hydrogen gas you will have 4 tons of carbon giving 400 tons of steel.

        I don't disagree its not a start, but there needs to be a way of removing the carbon as it is formed without diluting the liquid metal "reactor". Perhaps another adjunct - that doesn't react with hydrogen - is required to help the carbon precipitate out....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Where does the carbon go?

        Think of the production of high carbon steels, you run your regular steel in molten form through the converter and bang you will have coming out the top end your high carbon steel and a nice amount of H2 for burning.

        How much carbon do you think there is in high carbon steel? Hint: cast iron has a few percent. The carbon has to be taken out of the iron to make steel, not put in. And that takes lots of energy. Where does it come from? Oh, fossil fuels.

        Paris, because I suspect she may not always think before putting fingers to keyboard.

        1. G R Goslin

          Re: Where does the carbon go?

          The reduction of iron, from it's ore produces cast iron, with a very high proportion of carbon. Circa 5%. You have to get rid of the excess to produce steel. Max carbon 1%.This used to be the Bessemer Converter, which burned off the carbon with an air blast from underneath the molten iron. Knowing when to stop gave you the class of steel that yopu wanted. So blowing methane through iron is a no-no.You'd need a metal which carbon does not dissolve in.

      3. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Where does the carbon go?

        No, I want the press release to make it very clear what they actually did, and what they did not do.

        This (and many other) press releases say "CO2 SOLVED!!!!" or "CANCER CURED!!!!" as many times as possible and try their damnedest to hide the "but it doesn't actually work", or even which step towards the goal has actually been achieved - the latter is particularly common for cancer-related press releases.

        There's only one sentence in the release mentioning that the reactor doesn't actually work - it's as much of a one-shot deal as the existing one they say doesn't work and for basically the same reason as well - the rest is "WE SOLVED EVERYTHING!!! GO US!!!".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where does the carbon go?

      If you hate and despise these kinds of press releases, stop reading science news and other science feature articles, which provide a weird and idiosyncratic view of science. But, in its favour, it has at least been made (mostly) intelligible to the general reader.

    3. JP19

      Re: Where does the carbon go?

      They could collect all the carbon from these Flüssigmetallblasensäulenreaktors and burn it in some of the new power stations Germany is building.

      Solves the disposal problem, and reduces the amount of coal they have to dig out of the ground, the electricity generated can be used to power the Flüssigmetallblasensäulenreaktors there might even be some left over.

      A solution every technically illiterate eco green twat will applaud.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Where does the carbon go?

        It will all be turned into laser printer toner to keep up with the demand if you keep writing Flüssigmetallblasensäulenreaktors everywhere

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Where does the carbon go?

        @ JP19 et al.

        Are you reading and comprehending what you are writing? Carbon - "Burn it" - what does that produce? CO2 !

        You're just adding more processing and associated overhead (incl. energy) into the whole hydrocarbon to work equation. The net effect is conform with the the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

  4. ChrisM

    Science Advances

    This is a good thing, this sort of research means that there are technical solutions to the carbon problem (we knew this already though) that don't involve condemning those in less developed countries to grinding poverty.

    By what right do we say from our comfortable houses that you are not allowed the same advantages?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Science Advances

      "that don't involve condemning those in less developed countries to grinding poverty."

      You need to read more. Kyoto (for example) didn't have any meaningful restrictions on the emssions of less developed economies, so it didn't condemn any LDC's to grinding poverty. That's why Europe's daft ideas on renewables won't save the planet, because by making manufacturing in Europe ever less attractive, it migrates to Asian economies that don't give a hoot about their rising emissions (neither do I incidentally), because the energy costs are as important as the cheap labour.

      As usual the greens miss the big picture. Because the emissions intensity of emerging economies is far worse than Europe, moving the production offshore increases emissions (not even a status quo), and total emissions go up (and that's just on the emissions of the economies concerned, before transport).

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: Science Advances

        I entirely agree, Ledswinger, but I think the point the OP (no relation, BTW) was making is that if we wanted to make a real difference to CO2 emissions (to the point of reducing atmospheric concentration) then we would have to keep LDCs in poverty. The fact that Kyoto imposed few obligations on LDCs is merely an illustration of what a useless piece of window-dressing it was (unless you were a first world manufacturer able to cash in your carbon credits - kerching!)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Science Advances

          A fair response, but who is to do this "condeming to grinding poverty", then? The OP was sufficiently specific that it was us in our comfortable houses, but my response was that nobody has meaningfully tried to forcible stop development.

          I'd agree that Kyoto was a useless piece of window dressing, but it certainly has had an impact on the cost of energy in Europe, resulting in cast boondoggle scams to promote crap solutions like wind and solar, and the complete abandonment of rational energy policies. Rather than the implied policy of keeping the foreigners picturesque and poor, Kyoto is pushing the developed countries living standards down (through wasteful misinvestment) whilst actually making global emissions worse.

          From a development perspective it is fair to say that Kyoto is actually helping some people out of poverty by shifting jobs and pollution offshore, and to an extent that's a further form of hidden overseas aid, under the guise of free trade and globalisation.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Silly thing to do IMO.

    What's the heat obtained from a mole/tonne/cubic foot of methane that's had this done to it compared with the same that's just burnt? Pretty low I bet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Silly thing to do IMO.

      You'll certainly get less energy from this reaction as compared to burning to CO2 directly. But then if you store the carbon up, you can always burn it later to CO2 by itself :-). Although such a two-stage process wouldn't be as thermodynamically efficient at producing useful work.

      It's a trade-off -- you can maximize energy/work generation, or minimize CO2..

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flüssigmetallblasensäulenreaktor

    Wasn't that the name of the machine in Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Flüssigmetallblasensäulenreaktor

      That's pretty much how I was trying to phonetically put that word together... then realised what I was doing... Flüs.... Flüssig.... Flüssigmetal.... FLDSMDFR!

    2. Crisp
      Go

      Re: Flüssigmetallblasensäulenreaktor

      I for one welcome the arrival of multi-lingual articles.

  7. MJI Silver badge

    Why not run the exhaust through a large greenhouse?

    That will deal with the CO2

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: Why not run the exhaust through a large greenhouse?

      Yes, but it is just one way, and not the most efficient way, of using solar energy to remove the carbon dioxide. Which, as the article points out, is ridiculously expensive anyway.

      Perhaps you were jesting. If so, I laugh and forgive you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why not run the exhaust through a large greenhouse?

        It was a joking idea used in a Top Gear episode, to which this is likely a reference. Green house on a trailer connected to the Land Rovers exhaust, with smashing consequences.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Why not run the exhaust through a large greenhouse?

        TG was an influence, but actually I am trying to make the point that CO2 is a plant food and rather than try to hide carbon using it properly is best.

    2. Zolko
      Go

      Re: Why not run the exhaust through a large greenhouse?

      actually, that's what biomass is: make carbo-hydrates through photosynthesis by turning CO2 + H2O into O2 and CHx, and then burn that CHx with O2 into CO2 + H2O. It's a closed circle, no need to invent fancy words (although, admittedly, Flüssigmetallblasensäulenreaktor is pretty cool).

    3. graeme leggett

      Re: Why not run the exhaust through a large greenhouse?

      In theory, that's what British Sugar do in one of their Norfolk factories.

      Leaving aside the burning of fossil fuels to produce the heat and power needed to evaporate tonnes of water, one part of the process involves the deliberate production of CO2 from limestone which is then bubbled through the extracted sugary water to clean and clarify it. A lot of that CO2 is recombined with the calcium from the limestone to form new carbonate but there is a CO2 enriched exhaust which is directed into a big tomato growing greenhouse. Not 100% effective but economic, and the sugar industry has been relentlessly chasing any efficiency it can incorporate for decades.

  8. Chrissy

    @ AC "the machine in Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs"

    No, but its similar to the FluggenKligginKein from the film EuroTrip.... only less painful.

  9. Rustident Spaceniak
    Headmaster

    That's FLÜMBLAR, please!

    You English don't seem to have a high regard for German umlauts, which is a pity. If you won't write them when quoting German, how will you ever cope with Finnish or Hungarian? Just wondering.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: That's FLÜMBLAR, please!

      We don't want no steekin' umlauts. All those squiggly lines and dots in foreign just confuse us. My French teacher told us that you don't need to put the accents on the capital letters, so I did my next essay entirely in caps, but strangely wasn't allowed to get away with that...

      Anyway, we don't want to learn Finnish. It's far too difficult. The only reason we created the empire was so that we could get everyone else to learn English, and save all the money on language teachers. Plus we needed to some people to play us at cricket. Although that didn't work out so well...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's FLÜMBLAR, please!

        Büt whêre döes all öf thät léave thö béauty öf thö länguage, hein?

      2. Rustident Spaceniak

        Re: That's FLÜMBLAR, please!

        Yeah... easily cönfused, those Inglish. Reminds me of the old joke with the English patriot and the Irishman in the audience.

    2. Matthew 3

      Re: That's FLÜMBLAR, please!

      We don't like umlauts because they roll off and cause unnecessary punctuation.

      1. Rustident Spaceniak
        Headmaster

        Re: That's FLÜMBLAR, please!

        Vell, only if your sentences are unbalanced!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's FLÜMBLAR, please!

      It doesn't matter, there aren't any umlauts in Chinese, which is what we're all going to end up using. Or Russian, if you live in Chelsea.

      1. Irony Deficient

        tilting at windmills

        ribosome, you forget the Russian ё in e.g. Хрущёв Khrushchev, Горбачёв Gorbachev.

        Matthew 3, that demonstrates the advantage of ü over ä and ö: the dots fall into the bowl of the u, while they roll away from a and o. With the n̈ of Spin̈al Tap, they could roll left and lean against the stem of the n, or roll right and cause drummers to explode.

        Despite popular usage, my inner pedant will tilt at the linguistic windmill by noting that umlaut ≠ trema; English has both, but they’re not intertwined as they are in German.

        Rustident Spaceniak, most people with English keyboards who need to cope with Finnish or Hungarian will do so in one of two ways: ignore their diacritics, or copy and paste their correct spellings. And rather than FLÜMBLAR, I think that FLÜMBLASÄUR would better preserve the distinctive syllables (as well as suggest a heavy metal thunder lizard).

        I ain’t Spartacus, of course English wants its own fragrant umlauts; otherwise, we’d use mans rather than men, and tooths rather than teeth. It’s not so keen on its native tremata, though, such as in coöperation.

  10. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Steaming greenhouse

    Burning hydrogen produces water vapour - which is yet another greenhouse gas. But the greenies ignore this, because they are instinctively aware that most water vapour in the atmosphere is due to the sun shining on the oceans, and all their nanny-state busybodying cannot change that.

    The geologists keep telling us there have been major changes of climate on this planet long before men starting industrial burning of coal and oil. And that we are still recovering from the most recent ice age. If climate is getting warmer it is because it is returning to long term normality, not because climate is out of control.

    In conclusion, the technology described in the article is pointless.

    1. red death

      Re: Steaming greenhouse

      The idea is that human caused climate change is about whether we are tipping an equilibrium out of balance. Man-made CO2 emissions are small compared to naturally occurring emissions, the issue is whether the additional load is enough to start a run away process.

      Water vapour isn't as much of an issue as it is very variable (30%+ to 85%+ depending on all sorts of climate variables eg cloud cover) and very short lived (days rather than years).

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. red death

          Re: Steaming greenhouse

          OK, poor choice of words perhaps "whether the additional load is enough to increase the temp above and beyond that of normal variations" would have been better. The general point still stands though.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Herbert Fruchtl
              Thumb Down

              Re: Steaming greenhouse

              "Could you then tell me what the correct temperature of the planet should be and what range of variations is considered normal? I can't find that information anywhere..."

              The correct temperature is one that doesn't disrupt existing ecosystems too fast. If global warming is a fact and can't be stopped, there will be winners and losers, but the losers are sitting where it's good to live now. I can't see the entire population of Bangladesh migrating to Siberia in an orderly fashion, where they will be received with open arms, just because Bangladesh is under water, but the receding permafrost makes Siberia inhabitable.

              And it's not just Bangladesh. It's the Netherlands, London, Louisiana, Florida, you name it.

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Scott Broukell

      "returning to long term normality" (Primus Secundus Tertius)

      I think you will find that it is generally well understood the "normality" you speak of is, in fact, lots of ice capping both north and south poles. Quite the opposite of what we currently experience. The other "opposite" being glacial periods when those ice sheets extend further north and/or south.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        Re: "returning to long term normality" (Primus Secundus Tertius)

        Not at all.

        The normality is a well forested, ice-free antarctica, When the dinosaurs lived in Britain they did not have to worry about cold winters, which are not good for reptiles.

        The botanists tell us that the photosynthesis in many current tropical plants evolved when there was much more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

        Ice ages are exceptional, although known in proterozoic and palaeozoic times.

        1. Scott Broukell

          Re: "returning to long term normality" (Primus Secundus Tertius)

          I beg to differ, "normality", or rather the mean state of our planet is well forested and relatively wet equatorial regions with relatively extensive polar ice caps. But we must consider that ice is more than just 2 dimensional; it's depth and salinity being as important as area coverage. Right now it appears that polar coverage may not have diminished quite so dramatically as some would have us believe, but it would also appear that both thickness and salinity are far from satisfactory when compared with the record. Yes, ice ages are exceptional, it is estimated that more than 1km of ice covered Birmingham during the last glacial period and that was a relative tiddler as far as glacial periods go. I am also looking further back in time than the epochs you mention.

          The degree of anthropological contribution to the current state of this is an on-going debate that does little to assist human kind to solve the bigger question of adaptability. We need to concern ourselves more with applying technological solutions to climate adaptation, rather than squabbling over who said what and with what kind of data.

          I am optimistic that if our ancestors survived by successfully adapting to both glacial periods and the arrival of some pretty barren savannah on their doorsteps, then we can as well. Such research as is discussed in this article can only help.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "returning to long term normality" (Primus Secundus Tertius)

          "When the dinosaurs lived in Britain they did not have to worry about cold winters,"

          Indeed not. But through the Permian, Triassic and Jurassic periods, the lump of rock now known as Britain was drifting across the planet's equatorial zone, and even at the end of that time was about as far north as Portugal is today, so you'd be better off using paleo-climatology to support your claim.

          And although during those times the Earth was warmer, that's not really true across the span of geolgical history.

    3. Robert Helpmann??
      Childcatcher

      Re: Steaming greenhouse

      But the greenies ignore this, because they are instinctively aware that most water vapour in the atmosphere is due to the sun shining on the oceans, and all their nanny-state busybodying cannot change that.

      Yes they can! With parasols... lots of parasols... on rafts... all over the oceans of the world...

  11. kryptonaut
    Thumb Up

    If it works with methane...

    If it works with methane, would it also work with longer-chain hydrocarbons? Imagine such a device being used in a car or HGV engine, you could fill up with normal liquid fuel - easy to store and handle - burn the hydrogen, and the waste products would be water and solid carbon. Fill up with fuel, empty out the tank of soot (any diamonds in it? :-) ) at the same time.

    I imagine a vehicle engine containing 1000C molten metal might be a bit intimidating though.

  12. Chris Long
    Thumb Up

    BBC4 last night

    There was an interesting science docco on BBC4 last night all about the interesting things you can do with bubbles, though they didn't mention this flugle-bugle thingy. Worth a look on iPlayer if you get the chance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BBC4 last night

      " flugle-bugle thingy"

      It's a fluggle buggle. Can't you read?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Coat

        Re: BBC4 last night

        Surely a floggle-toggle...

        Left hand down a bit!

  13. Jim Carter

    So...

    Potentially speaking, they could run water through that thing to much the same effect? Although I can imagine o2 buildup in such a high temp environment would be a rather large problem, though not insurmountable. Also, with the right kind of catalyst, one could potentially overcome the problem of the stronger molecular bonds with water compared to methane. That said, an interesting piece of tech, with a potential to become self-sustaining if you were to bubble bio-gas through it sourced from landfills, if you had enough of it. Also, a good potential use for the apparent oodles of methane clathrate we apparently have, not to mention frakked gas.

  14. Efros
    Pint

    Hmmm

    Heating the column and maintaining it at 1000C requires energy, where is this coming from and how does it compare with the potential energy to be recouped from the H2.

    1. Zolko
      Holmes

      Re: Hmmm

      probably negative yield. Like shale-gas, solar-cells, electric-cars, and many other newly invented energy "sources".

      Invest in bicycles, that's the future.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmm

        I have been searching for a bicycle-mine for this very purpose.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Re: Hmmm

          "I have been searching for a bicycle-mine for this very purpose."

          Prisons, mate. 80,000 crims with nothing to do. Get 'em on bikes attached to a big generator, cycling for eight hours a day at the demand of National Grid. At 200 watts per crim, thats 16 MW of renewable power, that can be scheduled, and perhaps even sold to tree huggers at a premium price Or disconnect the prisons from the grid (except for security systems) and make the prison heating and lighting dependant upon convict power. Then if they won't pedal they get to shiver in the dark.

          1. Wupspups
            Thumb Down

            Re: Hmmm

            16MW of power a day that is a mere drop in the 1TW that we use daily.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hmmm

              16MW of power a day that is a mere drop in the 1TW that we use daily.

              We can always increase the prison population. Perhaps that's why there are so many people locked up in the US.

            2. JeffyPooh
              Pint

              Re: Hmmm

              "16MW of power a day that is a mere drop in the 1TW that we use daily."

              Power (watts) does not need "a day" nor "daily". It's already energy per unit time.

              Corrected: "16MW of power is a mere drop in the bucket of the 1TW that we use."

              Pet peeve - sorry.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hmmm

              "16MW of power a day that is a mere drop "

              Leaving them to w**k all day in their cells is the alternative. My offer of 16MW may be a small lunch, but it's a free lunch.

              On reflection the mixing of metaphors across those two sentences may be disturbing for some readers.

    2. Rustident Spaceniak
      Boffin

      Re: Hmmm

      As far as I understand after a quick Google search, the US Dept. of Energy has calculated thermal decomposition requires only 5.3% of the heating energy in methane. That could be supplied by burning a part of the hydrogen you've just created, heating up the Flüssigmetallblasensäulenreaktor in the process.

      Just think of it: By running a few gazillion fantastitons of natural gas through it, you might produce enough carbon black to re-fill all those empty coal mines, and put the miners back into work! The late Margaret Thatcher would have been amazed. Oh wait - what purpose did coal serve again?

  15. JeffyPooh
    Pint

    I've forgotten how to do the calculations...

    ...but I recall that we performed them in Chem 201.

    CH4 ... -> who cares what process -> ... = C + H2 + exactly how much energy net

    It's either feasible or it isn't. Any 2nd Year chem student should be able to work it out conclusively.

    1. Chemist

      Re: I've forgotten how to do the calculations...

      @JeffyPooh

      AFAIK ( I'm traveling and don't have access to my usual references)

      C +2H2 > CH4 is exothermic by ~~75kJ/mol so at NTP it need energy to split. At 1000C it looks as though the equilibrium allows at least some hydrogen and carbon to exist and be separable. There will be some entropic gain going to hydrogen and carbon so that may compensate somewhat.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        Re: I've forgotten how to do the calculations...

        There is an equilibrium:

        C + 2H2 <--> CH4

        Because the reaction is exothermic, at room temperature the equilibrium favours CH4. As Chemist notes, because of entropy, at 1000C there will be a proportion of H2. But feeding in CH4 and taking out H2 will certainly cool down the liquid metal.

    2. G R Goslin

      Re: I've forgotten how to do the calculations...

      A quick lookup The combustion of 2 Mols of H2 releases 572Kj. The combustion of 1 Mol of carbon releases 394Kj. Total 966Kj. The combustion of 1Mol methane releases 890Kj. So, to split the methane molecule you have to ADD 76Kj, which since you're not burning the Carbon will have to be provided by the hydrogen, so the net release of heat is 496Kj. Just a little over half the amount of energy you started with. And that's not including your losses. of which thee'll be plenty.

    3. cortland

      Re: I've forgotten how to do the calculations...

      One expects the energy lost to exactly equal the energy from reacting carbon and hydrogen, no?

  16. cnapan

    Bubble Science: Watch the BBC4 programme!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01rtdy6/POP!_The_Science_of_Bubbles/

    Covers the amazing properties of bubbles in suspension and a myriad of other applications... Well worth watching!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By "carbon"...

    I'm assuming they mean as a solid/dust? As suppose to a gas. As it's not the element that is a potential problem, but the gas variety of it? Just as a graphite pencil poses little threat of suffocation, but carbon monoxide from a burner sadly does.

    So it sounds like a clever idea if it does what they suggest. I'm sure having solid waste is much easier to manage than gaseous. So better in the short term, even if most of us are unsure what happens in the long term.

    1. Rustident Spaceniak
      Facepalm

      Re: By "carbon"...

      If you can get gaseous carbon out of any metal at 1000° C, you might not be far from a nobel price in chemistry. For information, there's a difference between a substance and its oxides. If you don't believe that, watch what happens to a candle when you oxidise (burn) it; but do so under adult supervision.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: By "carbon"...

        Oh, I realize this. Just found it funny how "to get rid of carbon we are making carbon" seemed to come out of the article, until the prefixes "gas" and "solid" are related to the current result and the preferred goal.

        Though as said, the part of me that sticks to the laws of thermodynamics considers that this setup would be impossible for things such as coal. Carbon in and carbon out would equal no net gain. :P

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: By "carbon"...

      you can put the waste anywhere you like so long as you don't burn it.

      You could bury it deep in the ground in case anyone came up with a a way of using it later.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: By "carbon"...

        The dinosaurs obviously did, which explains a lot.

  18. Jim O'Reilly
    Holmes

    Go nuclear It pollutes less!

    Nuclear has a bad name, due to a few well publicized but trivial incidents,with the exception of Fukushima and Chernobyl. Still, we can't find the political fortitude to deal with the nuclear waste issue.

    Waste has reached the stage that we need a new tech to remove it, and coincidentally the new thorium molten-salt reactors do just that, while creating only a couple of percent of the waste of a uranium reactor, and with that waste very short-lived.

    Thorium has one disadvantage. It produces no bomb materials:)

    There is enough thorium for 3500 years available readily. And since all the thorium ends up being "burned" it's very cost effective...maybe 30 percent of coal/gas generation, and less than 5 percent of the cost of offshore wind!

  19. SteveK

    It all ends up wetter

    OK, I'm not going to touch the whole climate change thing. However, climatechangologists frequently point to the chain of events as climate change -> ice melts -> sea levels rise -> flooding.

    So why is it that when people come up with wondrous new methods of producing power, everyone cheers that the only byproduct will be lovely clean water?

    If everyone is driving around in hydrogen powered cars, dribbling water out of their exhaust pipes, and power stations pumping water into the rivers, has noone considered that this might also lead to a rise in water levels and flooding? Obviously it'll be a *cleaner* flood but still...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It all ends up wetter

      Closed cycle. You can recycle or leave to evaporation the water produced. Ice caps melting is less a closed cycle. Or should that be "a larger closed cycle"?

      I guess most water is left as vapor or dumped into rivers for efficiency and space. But there is little reason it could not be cycled through a radiator (and at least some of the energy from that reclaimed).

      One example is a tomato farm next to a powerplant. They take the carbon dioxide and warm water for the plants. :)

  20. Dan Paul
    Devil

    Does anyone recognize that you can CONDENSE water vapor????

    I have a condensing high efficiency 93% gas furnace and there is no place to pipe the water except the laundry sink, where it is pumped to the sewer, thus I can see and track how much water it produces.

    In the span of 4-5 days this winter, that furnace produces about 30 gallons of rather pure water.

    BTW, this hydrogen reformer concept is not new, only the liquid metal version. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe that the Germans used hydrogen reformer technology in the process to make artificial fuel oil from coal at Ploesti.

    As others have pointed out, heat recovery through heat exchangers is another tool to reduce energy input in the manufacturing process. The heat released during condensation can be used to heat homes or other facilities.

    The technology is not entirely useless as it points out other ways to convert methane into heat energy that lessen the impact of the resulting CO2.

    It will NOT be efficient to use Hydrogen or this technology for any transportation fuel but could be used in electric generation where some economy of scale would be possible.

    There are also catalytic methods of combustion that can break methane into it's components. More importantly. flare gas from refineries or landfills is often just burned without use of it's heat value and both reformer and catalytic technologies could safely and efficiently reduce emissions while providing useful work energy from waste gas or fluids.

    1. Reginald Gerard

      Re: Does anyone recognize that you can CONDENSE water vapor????

      Whoa there.... Have you ever tested the PH value of that 'pure' water?

      Natural gas condensation has a PH value of 2.8 to 4.9 and oil 1.8 to 3.7 - plus sulfur residue, depending on the quality of the distillate. Don't use it for drinking, washing or your plants.

      In Germany smaller single family units are allowed to drain into the sewage system but larger ones (can't recall the KW limits) require neutralization before discharging into the sewage lines.

      ref: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brennwertkessel#Einleitung_von_Kondensat_aus_Brennwertkesseln

  21. Jim Birch
    Meh

    I've invented a new form of CO2 that can be added to the atmosphere in large quantities without causing the water vapour content to increase. It's going to make me billions but it's the Nobel Prize that will really do it for me. I've also created a new form of light that travels 3.6 times faster than the old type and a machine that makes salt from nothing.

  22. Richard Boyce
    Thumb Down

    Let's think about this...

    First, we need some numbers. All numbers in approximate kJ per mole.

    Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_enthalpy_of_formation .

    The enthalpy of formation of methane (CH4) is -75. Negative means energy released.

    The enthalpy of formation of water (H2O) is -286.

    The enthalpy of formation of carbon dioxide (CO2) is -394.

    Thus completely burning methane yields 891.

    By forgoing the combustion of the carbon, we instead get 497.

    This makes the energy from natural gas cost 891/497=1.8 times as much.

    That assumes zero processing costs and zero handling costs for the mountains of carbon produced.

    The latter would be a HUGE fire risk, so would have to be buried deep underground well away from the air, lest an uncontrollable fire break out, as sometimes happens with natural buried deposits of carbon.

    Speaking of buried carbon, would it make sense to spend a lot of money burying carbon at the same time as we're spending lots of money mining carbon, in the form of coal, to fuel power stations? Germany does quite a lot of that. Far better, in every way, to replace coal burning with gas burning.

    So while this technology undoubtedly has uses, it's neither a green nor an economic proposition for mainstream energy production. But it's great for PR.

  23. cortland

    if nothing else,

    Ich habe schon die Buchstabeln vergessen!

    Ahem.

    That's not bad idea for on-site combustors though.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021