Fuel Cell Cars: A History In Motion

 

fuel cell car

Fuel Cell Cars, the 21st century mount! bmwblog.com

From November 20 thru December 1st, the Tokyo Motor Show went off without any backfire and showcased a display of all types of vehicles. Everything from the cube-like DECA DECA super space vehicle to the quirky convertible X-Lander was displayed with vigor and intrigue. One notable display at the 2013 show was the Toyota FCV Concept Car. This car is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

The Elusive Hydrogen Fuel Cell

The idea behind the hydrogen fuel cell is simple. When hydrogen and oxygen combine they create H2O, heat, light, and a loose electron. This loose electron is captured and used as a power source.

How Did Groves Battery Work?

Sir William Robert Grove is considered to be the father of the fuel cell. In 1839 he created a “gas voltaic battery.”

He based his experiment on the fact that sending an  electric current through water splits the water into its component parts  of hydrogen and oxygen. So, Grove tried reversing the reaction – combining hydrogen  and oxygen to produce electricity and water.  This is the basis of a simple fuel cell.

The idea of reverse engineering got other scientists thinking. How did he figure that out? Though it is a simple concept, the use of hydrogen fuel cells has long been naught but an alchemist’s dream. Scientists have spent the last 150 years negotiating the delicate balance of cost efficiency. With the yield being far less than the cost of production, the experiments performed by Charles R. Alder Wright and C. Thompson led them to this conclusion:

our results were sufficiently good to convince us that if the expense of construction were no object, so that large coated plates could be employed, enabling currents of moderate magnitude to be obtained with but small current density, there would be no particular difficulty in constructing [cells] of this kind, competent to yield currents comparable with those derived from ordinary small laboratory batteries; although we concluded that the economical production of powerful currents for commercial purposes by the direct oxidation of combustible gasses did not seem to be a problem likely to be readily solved, chiefly on account of the large appliances that would be requisite

Or… “we don’t have enough money and resources.

Related Article: Technological Advancements: A Detriment to Our Hearing
 

NASA’s Use of Fuel Cells In Space

NASA has been using fuel cell technology since the Gemini missions, which was a stepping stone to the Apollo missions. The Gemini missions gave NASA the opportunity to test, develop, and refine their space faring abilities.

Since then NASA has continued to pursue three different types of fuel cell technology: Proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), regenerative fuel cells (RFCs), and solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs).

PEMFCs: In theory these cells should last the longest out of the three. The only emissive byproduct of this cell is water. This water is said to be so pure that NASA plans to use it as drinking water for astronauts. Fuel Cell processWhile the future of these cells is bright they are definitely in need of further refinement.

RFCs: What a wonder that such a thing exists. These fuel cells create electricity, water, and heat. After the process the water is then introduced to a solar-powered electrolyzer. This takes the water and turns it back into its basic components: hydrogen and oxygen.

SOFCs: These cells are the most efficient of the three. They take energy from directly oxidizing fuels. The type of fuel is flexible and the cell is a long term champion. The only downside is that these cells need to operate at temperatures between 600-1000°C (1112-1832°F). Which… is something to sweat about.

From the Stars to the Garage

NASA has been quite generous in helping to provide the technological state we live in, from awarding the grant to the inventor of the mouse (the one you’re likely using right now) to aiding in the aerodynamic creation of the Nerf Glider. With the fuel cell it isn’t any different. Heck, they’re currently working with the Cleveland RTA using a hydrogen fuel cell powered bus to transport commuters to and fro.

The technology has even left the research labs of NASA and made its way into other industries. As I mentioned earlier, cars too are now being conceptualized with Zero emissions. Well, there’s water of course.

2013 has shown us Toyota’s first attempt at the hydrogen fuel cell car. This new year already has its promises! In California, Hyundai plans to introduce a “free fuel” program that will start with 1000 cars and only a few dealerships. American car companies are also planning to release their own fuel cell powered vehicles but you may have to wait a little bit longer. By 2017 Ford intends to introduce its own Hydrogen Car.

It seems that 150 years of experimentation is starting to bear fruit- Not the kind that laypeople have to watch distantly orbiting our planet. Rather, we will begin to see a transformation of our society away from haste and waste and move toward longevity and thoughtfulness.

Related Article: Waking Up: New State of Consciousness Proposed
 

Sources:
http://www.qrg.northwestern.edu/projects/vss/docs/power/1-what-are-fuel-cells.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_vehicle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell_vehicle

http://americanhistory.si.edu/fuelcells/origins/origins.htm

http://paultan.org/2013/11/21/tokyo-2013-daihatsu-deca-deca/

http://www.topspeed.com/cars/suzuki/2013-suzuki-x-lander-ar160981.html

http://www.corrosion-doctors.org/Biographies/GroveBio.htm

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/gemini/index.html

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/technology/fuel_cells.html

http://www.siei.org/electrolyzers.html

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/technologies/spinoffs.html

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/510416/ford-daimler-and-nissan-commit-to-fuel-cells/

More Hazardous Weather Patterns for World

weather patterns ice cream truck

They say the erratic weather patterns got him. Poor truck never stood a chance in this heat. http://www.mobypicture.com/user/Joseeete/view/12792610

Pollution is affecting our climates, increasing the severity of storms, and causing shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. It has been said time and time again, and yet it continues to be said, with good reason might I add! A recent study published in the scientific journal Nature, conducted by a team headed by Camilo Mora, claims that global temperatures will be drastically climbing within a generation. In less than 50 years we can see historical increases in temperatures, beating all past recorded highs for global temperatures. Imagine unbearable summers, intense heat waves, and dry times causing droughts and famine. At the same time, imagine freezing winter storms, strange weather patterns and unpredictable seasons.  This is all in response to the amount of increase in greenhouse gas emissions and the effect they have on our temperature and weather patterns.

Related Article: Costly Climate Changes

Now you may be wondering what exactly it all means, what a good comparison would be. The world’s hottest day was on July 10, 1913, clocking in at 134 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley, California. With global temperatures on the rise, and with the study predicting a drastic increase of global highs within 50 years, we can expect to see that high of 134 degrees Fahrenheit once again being reached, maybe even surpassed, sometime in the near future. Yikes. It is not only the heat we have to worry abut, but the erratic weather patterns as well, causing melting ice caps, deadly storms, intense rain; just to name a few.

Related Article: The Ugly Face of Overpopulation 

After all, weather patterns are responsible for half of our daily waking lives:

  • It rains, we cancel our sporting activity (some hardcore players may disagree).
  • It snows, well SNOW DAY of course! (Sometimes).
  • Hurricane/Tornado/Typhoon, houses damaged.
  • Humid Hot Days, stay in and blast the A/C

Anyway, you get the point. Whether you agree that weather and weather patterns are intensifying and impacting the world is up to you, but what are our preventative measures against this? Some talk of greener technology, some speak of wind power and solar power, while some encourage changes in car performance and oil usage. Some ideas even recommend taking advantage of the increasingly severe weather patterns to embrace the positive changes and avoid or harness the bad.

None of these ideas are drastic enough to stop pollution all together, nothing drastic enough to clean up more pollution than we are generating. Maybe it is because we believe ourselves to be unbeatable and indestructible, that no matter what we do or destroy, human ingenuity will persevere.

Related Article: A Cheaper Alternative to Pollution

Actually, we humans have always adapted and something like changing weather patterns and rising temperatures would be nothing new for us. In fact, I believe it would call for new crop irrigation techniques, new ideas towards more efficient cooling systems, and maybe even force us to venture out into space to colonize planets for the sake of our survival. An extreme, yes, but with our rate of pollution, and with the way we like to live comfortably and excessively, I would not be surprised if the proposed colonization of Mars is actually a trial for the coming desperate times. Weather patterns may shift, but so will humanity.

Cheers to new methods of preventing pollution!

 

 

Research:

Study Abstract: The Projected Timing of Climate Departure From Recent Variability

Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science

Camilo Mora, Postdoctoral Employee

USA TODAY: World’s hottest day was 100 years ago in Death Valley

 

Wondergressive: I Believe in GMOs

Wondergressive: A Cheaper Alternative to Pollution

Wondergressive: The Ugly Face of Overpopulation

Wondergressive: Costly Climate Changes

Wondergressive: Sign Me up for Mars!

Sweden is Running Out of Trash

 

landfill garbage trash sweden

In Sweden, this trash would be almost as good as gold. http://newenergyandfuel.com

Sweden is now importing trash from surrounding countries in order to sustain its waste-to-energy program. Its recycling program is so successful that only 4% of all trash that the Swedish population produces ends up in landfills.

This is very delightful news and sheds light on a brighter future in environmental conservation as well as a cleaner environment overall. However, this recycling-centered mindset has caused a rather peculiar problem: there is now a shortage of trash to power this waste incineration program.

On average the waste-to-energy program handles two million tons of trash annually and heats 810,000 homes. It began in the earlier half of the 20th century, and has increased in capacity and efficiency throughout the years. The trend goes like this: waste incineration capacity increases, while percent of garbage going in to landfills decreases.

According to Public Radio International, Sweden now imports 800,000 tons of trash on an annual basis. Most of the trash thus far has come from Norway. The deal that Sweden gets is nothing short of spectacular. Norway pays Sweden to export the trash from their landfills. What Sweden gets in return is a FREE energy source to provide thousands of homes with electricity and heat.

The flip-side is that the waste byproduct known as dioxin, which comes from the ashes of trash, is an environmental pollutant. Along with the dioxin there are also heavy metals in the ash. These all get exported back to Norway where it gets put back into the landfills. Norway does not seem to mind this as burning waste seems to be more expensive than exporting it.

(One thing I do not understand is why Norway does not implement the same energy-to-waste program as Sweden, that way an even larger part of the Nordic area could become a waste consuming powerhouse. As Norway’s economy continues to thrive, I don’t think that finding money to fund such a program would be much of an issue.)

Countries like Italy and France could benefit from exporting waste to Sweden as well. Naples, Italy produces more trash per square meter than any other place on the planet. Have you been to Paris recently? If you are traveling from Chicago, you can definitely smell the stench in the air in many areas, especially where trash is left out on the curbs.

How about implementing this kind of system in Africa or Asia? There are numerous countries with waste treatment programs that are not on par with the developed world, posing various health threats.

I hope that one day Sweden will lead the way in other regions of the globe by continuing to handle waste creatively as well as educate individuals and groups on recycling methods.

For more information regarding how trash affects our planet, click here.

 

Sources:

http://www.avfallsverige.se/fileadmin/uploads/forbranning_eng.pdf

http://www.pri.org/stories/science/environment/swedes-import-trash-to-power-the-nation-10428.html

http://phys.org/news/2012-10-sweden-norway-trash-lots.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/business/global/14frugal.html?_r=1&

http://science.time.com/2011/05/09/this-stinks-italy-sends-troops-to-handle-trash-crisis/

https://wondergressive.com/2012/09/07/unprecedented-changes-and-extinctions-occurring-in-marine-life/

 

30 Wasps Vs 30,000 Bees; Bees Defend With Heat

 

Have you ever seen 30 wasps the size of your fist attack a hive of 30,000 honeybees in real time?  Here’s your chance! It’s like a single Chuck Norris taking on the entire United States Military.

The only defense bees have is to mob the wasps and generate intense heat

by contracting their wing muscles to suffocate the intruder.

Barrett Klein filmed the bees as they attacked a wasp within their hive.  An infrared look at the incendiary strategy can be seen here. 

 

Sources:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDSf3Kshq1M

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/nstv/2012/08/infrared-video-captures-bees-cooking-wasp-invader.html

30 Wasps Versus 30,000 Bees; Bees Defend With Heat

Have you ever seen 30 wasps the size of your fist attack a hive of 30,000 honeybees in real time?  Here’s your chance!  It’s like a single Chuck Norris taking on the entire United States Military.

The only defense bees have is to mob the wasps and generate intense heat “by contracting their wing muscles to suffocate the intruder.”  Barrett Klein filmed the bees as they attacked a wasp within their hive.  An infrared look at the incendiary strategy can be seen here. 

Compost Water Heating

water heat compost

youtube.com

 

Did you know you can heat your water using a compost pile?  Me neither. Compost water heating is fortunately becoming much more well known.  Paul Wheaton explains how he used compost to heat water for his shower.

Cornell University discusses the physics of compost heating and explains:

Compost heat is produced as a by-product of the microbial breakdown of organic material. The heat production depends on the size of the pile, its moisture content, aeration, and C/N ratio

A single compost pile can be used to make steaming hot water for over 500 showers!

 

Sources:

Cornell: Compost Physics

Youtube: 500 Showers heated from compost pile tutorial

Rich Soil: Paul Wheaton

Rocket Stove Heating

Check out this rocket stove mass heater.  This method of heating your house and rear combines efficiency, safety, affordability and style.

The rocket mass heater:

  • heat your home with 80% to 90% less wood
  • exhaust is nearly pure steam and CO2 (a little smoke at the beginning)
  • the heat from one fire can last for days
  • you can build one in a day and half
  • folks have built them spending less than $20

Portable versions are also available for those with a mobile lifestyle.

Hop on board the rocket, heat your home and save your pocket.  Okay, that was really lame, but try it anyway!