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a hydrogen economy

2007-05-11 22:59:35.770309+00 by Dan Lyke 7 comments

We linked to the first Doctor Doctor video, of imploding a 55 gallon drum with a little bit of water. Now the duo have upped the anté: Launching a 5 gallon Alhambra bottle with hydrogen generated from electrolysis. Diane points out:

Note that it doesn't touch down audibly until the credits are rolling. :-)

[ related topics: Humor Cool Science Video ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-12 01:46:49.115755+00 by: Diane Reese

The duo notes in the comments that the next video has a flame thrower. Stay tuned....

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-14 14:53:04.941507+00 by: petronius

If we find ways to move more strongly into using hydrogen as a fuel, it will be interesting to see how videos like this color people's perceptions of how dangerous it is. Handling H in a commercial fashion will take a lot of engineering to keep people from fearing it too much. Of course, we already have thousands of gallons of highly flammable fuel on every streetcorner in filling stations, and I've got 16 gals of the stuff in my car right now. A lot of people think that if you get rear-ended too hard your car will explode, just like in the movies. That hasn't made anybody swear off petrol.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-14 16:29:56.792132+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, I think one of the issues with hydrogen as a fuel is that we'll have two failure modes:

  1. Straight combustion, and even though we're already carrying enough fuel to propel a four thousand lb hunk of metal four hundred and fifty miles there's the additional issue of flow versus gas rising.
  2. The fact that cars will have to have a pressure vessel containing a few hundred PSI of energy, above and beyond whatever combustion issues there are.

I think the second is the big psychological hurdle people will have to get over, just like there's been some alarm about the potential for inadvertantly welding things to other things in hybrids and electrics.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-15 16:49:22.37025+00 by: jeff [edit history]

While I think hydrogen fuel cell technology has certain advantages over internal combustion engines, I'm not a long-term proponent.

If one looks at the overall energy costs, and the localized entropy effects here on Earth (proper), then it's not as "efficient" as straight electric vehicles which are recharged directly from the existing electric power grid during off-peak hours (i.e. overnight, from an extension cord in your garage). And the energy required to produce the electricity should come from a mix of renewable sources as well as from nuclear power.

It's pretty clear that this is not a war over the best technology, but rather who will control the methods of energy distribution. I'm not betting against the coal and oil companies, but I am hoping for the electric utilities to become more aggressive in this area.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-15 16:54:15.508292+00 by: Dan Lyke

So, Diane, what were they using as a power supply and what did they drive the spark gap with?

I'm going to visit yet another pseudo nephew in June, and if I could have people assemble the stuff to do this while I'm there...

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-15 23:55:11.917625+00 by: Diane Reese

Response from one of the Doctors:

"for the electrolysis power supply we used two 36volt DC 4amp supplies from halteds. $20 each. and for the spark we used a piezoelectric igniter for replacing gas barbecue igniters. however a lot depends on how big a bottle you're trying to launch. in our test 1 liter launcher (which i recomend for safety and ease of use), that much power caused the water to boil and bottle to warp. one 36 volt DC power supply would do nicely if monitored for temperature cafefully.

he didn't ask this and it's mentioned in some of the links from the site, but the carbon rods we used as contacts came from 6Volt Lantern batteries. non-alkaline, el cheapo, lantern batteries. open them up and pull them out. most important lesson we learned that wasn't necessarily mentioned anywhere we researched on the internet was to make sure the launch pipe is narrower than the bottle neck so that the water isn't stuck (causing the bottle to explode). that's only really a problem if you're launching water cooler bottles though. soda bottles are strong enough to take the pressure of a relatively snug pipe. make sure to use heavy well insulated wire for the igniter or the explosion will mess it up. in our case on the test launcher, the first launch caused the ignition wires to short somewhere inside and unreachable."

He also mentions to watch out for shrapnel with the Alhambra-type bottles, if they should shatter.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-05-16 13:15:02.605899+00 by: Dan Lyke

Thanks. I need to call up my dad and see what he's got in terms of higher current power supplies, all I've got lying around here are wall warts.

And I hadn't thought about the "snug pipe" issue, that's good to think about.