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Earth Power Hardware

New Sunlight Reactor Produces Fuel 269

eldavojohn writes "A new reactor developed by CalTech shows promise for producing renewable fuel from sunlight. The reactor hinges on a metal oxide named Ceria that has very interesting properties at very high temperatures. It exhales oxygen at very high temperatures and inhales oxygen at very low temperatures. From the article, 'Specifically, the inhaled oxygen is stripped off of carbon dioxide (CO2) and/or water (H2O) gas molecules that are pumped into the reactor, producing carbon monoxide (CO) and/or hydrogen gas (H2). H2 can be used to fuel hydrogen fuel cells; CO, combined with H2, can be used to create synthetic gas, or "syngas," which is the precursor to liquid hydrocarbon fuels. Adding other catalysts to the gas mixture, meanwhile, produces methane. And once the ceria is oxygenated to full capacity, it can be heated back up again, and the cycle can begin anew.' The only other piece of the puzzle is a large sunlight concentrator to raise the temperature to the necessary 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The team is working on modifying and refining the reactor to require a lower temperature to achieve the two-step thermochemical cycle. Another issue is the heat loss which the team claims could be reduced to improve efficiency to 15% or higher. Since CO2 is an input, the possibility exists for coal and power plants to collect CO2 emissions to be used in this process which would effectively allow us to "use the carbon twice." Another idea listed is that a "zero CO2 emissions" is developed along these lines: 'H2O and CO2 would be converted to methane, would fuel electricity-producing power plants that generate more CO2 and H2O, to keep the process going.' The team's work was published last month in Science."
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New Sunlight Reactor Produces Fuel

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  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @02:17PM (#34930016) Journal
    That strange and exotic metal Cerium, is it at least cheaper than gold? How rare is this? Admittedly it sucks to have our oil stuck under their sand, but trading it for our Cerium stuck in their jungle is not a better solution either.
  • Patent trick (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Iffie ( 1410897 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @02:43PM (#34930324)
    This is old stuf, but the metals originally proposed are not rare and the patent has expired. I did a piece about it here.. [] It shows the patents and the reactions proposed. Supressed technology is reintroduced as an invention. Cerium spiked up 600 perscent last august..
  • by VernonNemitz ( 581327 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @03:13PM (#34930772) Journal
    While a "hydrogen economy" in whatever broad implementation is a fine idea in theory, there is one extremely important detail that must be done very carefully right from the start. The leakage of hydrogen gas must be kept to an absolute minimum. Why? Simple! Just multiple any X amount of leakage you choose, per person, by a couple billion users in a scaled-up hydrogen economy. Now factor in the simple fact that all leaked hydrogen will naturally rise through the atmosphere to the ozone layer, and that ozone is naturally "hypergolic" with hydrogen --the two chemicals instantly react. If you thought the effect of chlorocarbons was bad for the ozone layer, well, "you ain't seen nothin' yet", as the saying goes, if a large hydrogen economy doesn't do everything it can to keep hydrogen gas leakage to an absolute minimum.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!