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New Chemical Process Could Make Ammonia a Practical Car Fuel

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the plant-engine-hybrid dept.

Transportation 380

overThruster (58843) writes A phys.org article says UK researchers have made a breakthrough that could make ammonia a practical source of hydrogen for fueling cars. From the article: "Many catalysts can effectively crack ammonia to release the hydrogen, but the best ones are very expensive precious metals. This new method is different and involves two simultaneous chemical processes rather than using a catalyst, and can achieve the same result at a fraction of the cost. ... Professor Bill David, who led the STFC research team at the ISIS Neutron Source, said 'Our approach is as effective as the best current catalysts but the active material, sodium amide, costs pennies to produce. We can produce hydrogen from ammonia "on demand" effectively and affordably.'" The full paper. The researchers claim that a two-liter reaction chamber could produce enough hydrogen to power a typical sedan.

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waste of time (-1, Troll)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 6 months ago | (#47326787)

This fragmented "let's try everything" car fuel crap is getting really old. 100% of all research funds should go to electrical storage for electric cars. That's the farthest along and the most accepted. It puts pressure on utilities to use wind and solar and hydroelectric and battery increases help smartphones and laptops and everything else we use. It's a no brainer. The last thing we need 30 years from now are 10 different types of car fuels cruising around.

Re:waste of time (5, Funny)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 6 months ago | (#47326799)

Actually, the furthest along are gasoline engines. 100% of all research funds should go to increasing fuel efficiency.

Re:waste of time (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 6 months ago | (#47326903)

Yeah, because that's a limitless fuel.

Re:waste of time (2)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 6 months ago | (#47326947)

Whoosh!

Re:waste of time (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327017)

Yeah, because that's a limitless fuel.

Translation: Basement-dwelling pasty Slashdot poster takes time between Mommy bringing down meals to throw rocks at things he doesn't like, thinks he knows what's best, and everyone else is an idiot.

The only match for your limitless ego is your lack of awareness regarding your limitless stupidity.

Re:waste of time (4, Insightful)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 6 months ago | (#47326989)

Actually, we should spend a bit more money on increasing traffic control and road design efficiency. Every car gets 0 miles to the gallon unnecessarily stopped at a light.

Re:waste of time (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 6 months ago | (#47327089)

Except the cars that turn off their engine, of course.

Re:waste of time (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 6 months ago | (#47327183)

They still get 0 miles to the gallon technically... Plus even if they aren't running the engine, it probably doesn't turn off the radio/AC/accessories, so they are running on some sort of energy that will need to be recharged. Regardless, better flowing traffic with minimal stops is much better for everyone. Longer battery range for electrics, better fuel economy for gas cars. Sadly, pretty much every city has lights that are poorly timed for rush hour that really screw everyone over for the other 22 hours of the day. Not to mention every residential neighborhood that has stop signs instead of yield signs, or 4 way stops when they should be 2 way stops. So much energy savings could be had with some good design, but it's the government that would have to fix it, and they have no incentive to do so...

Re:waste of time (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327329)

They still get 0 miles to the gallon technically...

If they are traveling zero miles on zero gallons then that is zero divided by zero.

When you divide zero by zero (ignoring calculus and limit theorems) the result is undefined, not 0 mpg.

Re:waste of time (4, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | about 6 months ago | (#47327273)

Every car gets 0 miles to the gallon unnecessarily stopped at a light.

I'm wondering, instead of using red/green switches at intersections, maybe we can have the cars drive through diffraction plates set up around the intersection. Then the wavefunction of you and car can spread out into the intersection via diffraction and arrive randomly into one of several quantum states (outbound lanes) which head toward your destination. If we made cars and their drivers out of bosons instead of fermions, it might work. Only one fermion can occupy any given quantum state. So with fermionic cars, there's always a small probability of quantum entanglement within the intersection between you and some other guy trying to make a left.

Re: waste of time (4, Funny)

monkeyhybrid (1677192) | about 6 months ago | (#47327335)

As long as all drivers keep their eyes closed.

Re:waste of time (0)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 6 months ago | (#47327005)

Well, gasoline engines are the furthest along and they still suck. Trying to make them more efficient is a dead end, that is why hybrids appeared in first place.

Re:waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327155)

Except my 1.0 liter geo metro gets around 70mpg without a hybrid drivetrain, just using a gasoline motor appropriately sized.

55 horsepower and 3 cylinders.....

It's not one of those fuel burning 4 bangers.

If companies tried they'd easily have us driving 100mpg+ cars. EASILY.

Re:waste of time (1)

s122604 (1018036) | about 6 months ago | (#47327265)

It's also slow, pollutes more than cars made in the 21st century, and a veritable deathtrap, but hey...

Re:waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327303)

Your geo metro also accelerates slowly, can't carry much (all 3 square feet of storage space) and get squished in an accident because it's the size of a postage stamp.

Meanwhile, for a little less efficiency, my Honda Civic has pulled trailers across the country (added a hitch), tons of storage room and is relatively safe.

The chances of surviving a real crash in a Metro is slim to none... You go ahead and tell me how that head on crash goes for you WHEN it happens. I know I'm still walking...

Re:waste of time (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 6 months ago | (#47327203)

How about reducing weight that we all have to drag around with us just to get our bodies from point A to point B. Do I really need to haul around a backup camera? How about a computer to manage stability control? 15 airbags? A plastic engine cover?

Re:waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327361)

How about reducing weight that we all have to

Let's ditch safety apparatus for inconsequential gains. Grand idea, that.

Re:waste of time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47326845)

This fragmented "let's try everything" car fuel crap is getting really old. 0% of all research funds should go to electrical storage for electric cars. That's the farthest along and still least accepted.

Battery powered cars are have always been and will always be failures. People just don't have hours to waste waiting for a piece of shit electric car to recharge.

Re:waste of time (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 6 months ago | (#47326921)

You're an idiot. That isn't a mandatory part of electric cars. I bet in 5 years we'll be able to charge them in 5 minutes and go 5x farther.

Re:waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327023)

I bet you i'll be riding a Pegasus perched on the back of a Unicorn before your can get a full charge in a battery in 5 minutes.

Re:waste of time (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 6 months ago | (#47327063)

Because why ?

Re:waste of time (2)

sribe (304414) | about 6 months ago | (#47327153)

Because charging your electric car that fast would require more than 10x the entire power supplied to your whole house. (Not to mention the cabling...)

Re:waste of time (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327191)

Because a Pegasus perched on the back of a Unicorn is less fictional than a battery that can charge in 5 minutes.

Re:waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327149)

1. Unlatch side battery door.

2. Slide out weak battery.

3. Slide in fresh battery.

That's 30 seconds tops.

Re:waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327263)

Similiarly, for a 'flow battery' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_battery:
1) attach two-way hose
2) pump out spent electrolyte, while pumping in fresh electrolyte
3) detach hose! (Important step: I failed to do this once as a 16 yr old 'pump jockey' working 'full service'. Fortunately for me, it was a car w/ the fill port behind the flip-down license plate, so instead of ripping anything apart, it just pulled the nozzle out of the car)
3) (after car has driven away) - recharge electrolyte w/ local power

Re:waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327277)

1. Unlatch side battery door.

2. Slide out weak battery.

3. Slide in fresh battery.

That's 30 seconds tops.

1. Still haven't charged a battery in five minutes.
2. There is no way you are going to just "slide" out a Ton [wikipedia.org] batteries in 30s let alone 2 tons.
3. Where am I supposed to store a spare battery that's on the order of the size of my car?

Re:waste of time (3, Insightful)

Altus (1034) | about 6 months ago | (#47327341)

4. Find out "fresh" battery has gone through so many cycles it only has half its capacity left and find yourself stranded just short of the next "filling" station.

Look, all of these technologies have issues... maybe those batteries made from carbon that supposedly don't loose their capacity will end up being practical in a large scale, that would be great, but also, maybe this design will turn out to be a huge boon for the hydrogen car industry, basically solving one of the biggest problem in hydrogen fuel cells.... how to store enough hydrogen safely to have a reasonable rage.

Now I would be curious how the energy density of Ammonia, converted using this process, compares to that of gasoline which is currently pretty much top of the heap for portable energy density. It would also be nice to know how it compares to the current generation of batteries.

Everyone has their own particular chosen winner/looser but that is stupid. Innovation could come from anywhere and right now we need all the irons in the fire that we can get. We can't afford to put all of our sustainability money behind one thing that may or may not turn out to be the best choice in the long run.

Re:waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327213)

You're an idiot. That isn't a mandatory part of electric cars. I bet in 5 years we'll be able to charge them in 5 minutes and go 5x farther.

Yep, thats what the engineers were saying 10 years ago too...

Re:waste of time (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 6 months ago | (#47326983)

Supercap technology is one of those that addresses it. Yes, it takes a lot of amperes, but instead of feeding a battery a constant voltage/amperage and nursing it along with its chemical reactions, while watching its SoC and temperature level, a supercap can be charged quite quickly, since the charge is a physical process (electrons stashed at one end of the dielectric.)

Of course, the problem is that batteries have such a relatively low energy density per volume. Get battery energy within an order of magnitude of diesel or gasoline, and this revolutionizes things. Ineffecient diesel and gasoline engines that have a sizable chunk of their energy spat out the tailpipe now get replaced by vastly more efficient electric motors. Noxious fuels get replaced by whatever electrical source is usable in a region, be it geothermal, wind, solar, or others. Petroleum can be used for its most important use -- making plastics, rather than just turned into carbon dioxide.

Re:waste of time (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 6 months ago | (#47327217)

Hey, don't forget asphalt for paving roads and straight up gasoline for cleaning things!

Re:waste of time (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 6 months ago | (#47327243)

That's not true they were more common than gas at one point but since gas cars have greater range and were cheaper the electric car eventually lost popularity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org]

Re:waste of time (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 6 months ago | (#47327339)

Battery powered cars are have always been and will always be failures. People just don't have hours to waste waiting for a piece of shit electric car to recharge.

I don't see why you say that-- I, personally, spend at least eight hours every day when I'm not driving my car. Often more.

As long as the car can charge up overnight, it won't "waste my time waiting", because I'll be asleep.

Re:waste of time (3, Interesting)

Varka (767489) | about 6 months ago | (#47326877)

If I can't drive from Atlanta to Chicago without multiple hour stopovers, it's no-go. What I think we NEED are electric/gas hybrids; something I can head back and forth to work in solely on plug-in power, yet I can kick a small electric generator on for essentially unlimited range.

Re:waste of time (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 6 months ago | (#47326931)

100% electric cars with electrical-output-only generators have been proven to get unbelievable gas mileage and range in Europe so that's not a bad idea.

Re:waste of time (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 6 months ago | (#47327081)

Why carry that generator around with you all the time. Just slap in on a little trailer and bring it along when you need it. Or, rent one.

we're already close to that! (5, Insightful)

Maxwell (13985) | about 6 months ago | (#47327167)

Uhm, we're pretty close to that already. About 700 miles give or take. Tesla can do 250 easy, some are pushing 300. So a 1 hr full charge stop (you do have to eat, right?) plus another 30 minute stop (pee break) to 50% charge would get you there. Next year, in the lighter Model X a single 1hr stop might do it.

You'll need a new excuse soon. I suggest Miami to Seattle. People are *constantly* driving that route, so if an electric can't do it, it will never be a success.

Re:we're already close to that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327237)

It takes you 30 minutes to stop and piss?

Re:waste of time (3, Insightful)

reanjr (588767) | about 6 months ago | (#47326879)

Yes, because centrally planning technology development worked so well for Russia.

Re:waste of time (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 6 months ago | (#47326959)

Okay so next time you do an IT project and already settle on one solution and you spent money researching and designing it, let 100 other people come up with another solution and another solution and another solution and seriously consider them. See what that does to your deadline and budget. If you want to get a project done, pick the best solution and put all your resources into it.

Re:waste of time (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 6 months ago | (#47327045)

Taken to extreme and you've got a whole nation committed to Lysenko genetics/socialism or some other bad idea.

Re:waste of time (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327139)

Well that's just it, mate, not all the research has been done. We're far from fixed on the best solution to this problem. Not to mention the fact that you're comparing apples to oranges with this "IT project" thing.

Lack of diversification in fuels is one of our main problems. So to counter your other argument, the very best outcome in 30 years would be to have at least 10 different fuel options available. For example, if continual research on other fuels had been going on for the last 50 years, it would be much easier to transition away from fossil fuels right now. But your mode of thinking got us stuck in the fossil fuel ditch, with no way (or at least an extremely difficult (i.e. expensive) way) out.

You have an extremely narrow-minded vision. I'm really glad you aren't running the show.

Re: waste of time (1)

VTBlue (600055) | about 6 months ago | (#47327293)

The whole central planning Russia meme is overused. China is succeeding beyond anyone's wildest dreams with centralised planning. Every country on earth has centralised planning.

Re:waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327353)

>centrally planning technology development worked so well for

Nazi Germany

Re:waste of time (4, Insightful)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 6 months ago | (#47326885)

Ammonia reacts to form hydrogen. Hydrogen reacts in a fuel cell to produce electricity. Electricity drives the electric car. This is electrical storage, just one implemented as an irreversible flow battery rather than a solid rechargeable one.

Re:waste of time (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 6 months ago | (#47326977)

Ammonia is toxic and isn't renewable. Plus, I was just thinking that my hydrogen fuel cell car was definitely explosive enough but the toxicity level of the explosion was seriously lacking. I better add ammonia.

Re:waste of time (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#47326911)

The last thing we need 30 years from now are 10 different types of car fuels cruising around.

Long term, I should think it would be to our advantage to pursue as many different kinds of fuels as we can find.

Because some might be better suited for some applications, and until you have a universal replacement for gasoline, you have no idea of what will be viable.

You're suggesting we decide a winning technology now, and ignore all others. Problem is, we don't yet know what the winning technology is.

Re:waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327039)

But ammonia! A cat can pee in my tank and I can go 30 miles! Yay!

Re:waste of time (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 6 months ago | (#47327247)

I think you've played too much Civilization or similar games. Real life does not have a tech tree with resource allocation sliders.

Re:waste of time (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 6 months ago | (#47327289)

This fragmented "let's try everything" car fuel crap is getting really old. 100% of all research funds should go to electrical storage for electric cars...

The article here is about using ammonia as the energy storage medium for fuel cells, which are for electric cars

Beer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47326793)

Though you'll have to wait about 20 min

Why not just burn the ammonia (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 6 months ago | (#47326797)

I'm not sure if I understand the point. Why crack the ammonia to get the hydrogen out-- anhydrous ammonia is flammable; why not just burn the ammonia?

--stinky and poisonous, of course, but I suppose no worse than gasoline.

Re:Why not just burn the ammonia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47326943)

Fuel cells burn hydrogen, not ammonia.

Re:Why not just burn the ammonia (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#47326957)

Fuel cells burn hydrogen, not ammonia.

Well, make fuel cells which burn ammonia. Problem solved. :-P

Re:Why not just burn the ammonia (2)

itzly (3699663) | about 6 months ago | (#47326969)

Combustion engines have very low efficiency. Electric motors have very efficiency, and also make for a much simpler and lighter car.

Re:Why not just burn the ammonia (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47326987)

no moving parts and you can use an electric motor to power it. an electric motor is 95% effeceient, while even gas turbines are only around 45%

math favors the fuel cell. depending on how light you can build the fuel cell and how small you can build an electric turbine motor, this could work well for aircraft, boats, and cars.

battery vehicles don't work very well for ships and aircraft.

Re:Why not just burn the ammonia (4, Informative)

jcgam69 (994690) | about 6 months ago | (#47327021)

why not just burn the ammonia?

Actually this is possible. From wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

Ammonia cannot be easily or efficiently used in existing Otto cycle engines because of its very low octane rating, although with only minor modifications to carburetors/injectors and a drastic reduction in compression ratio, which would require new pistons, a gasoline engine could be made to work exclusively with ammonia, at a low fraction of its power output before conversion and much higher fuel consumption

Re:Why not just burn the ammonia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327049)

It's not efficient enough. Any combustion looses lots of energy as waste heat in the exhaust. The fuel cell and electrical transmission have a lot less waste heat, and that extra energy goes instead to the wheels. Ultimately, reducing the waste heat reduces the amount of fuel you have to burn and overall expense. Also, I don't think low energy density fuels work well in IC engines, though I am only guessing there.

Definitely a good point about being a difficult fuel to work with. I'll take a gasoline spill over an anhydrous ammonia spill any day (and I have cleaned up quite a few fuel spills). I would never go near an ammonia spill, that's a job for the hazmat team.

One step closer to the whizz powered car. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47326811)

Pardon me while I pull out my pump...

Wow, pretty cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47326813)

So I guess there's one less "killer app" for asteroid mining... Technology keeps improving, so we don't need the high-energy/precious metals shenanigans of the 1960s Space Age anymore. We never did!

amonia = ureia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47326817)

Finally I will be able to pee into the fuel tank...

Finally! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47326839)

They called me crazy for keeping all those jars of pee, but now I have free fuel!

I see a problem here... (1)

carlhaagen (1021273) | about 6 months ago | (#47326853)

"For a fraction of the cost". There is no money to be made by selling the world something it needs for just pennies. Ammonia is available everywhere for pennies, and I suspect sodium amide is available for pennies as well. This doesn't equal good business when you can still sell gasoline for some orders of magnitude more, and as such you can be damned sure no one will ever allow this to be a legit fuel for cars.

Re:I see a problem here... (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 6 months ago | (#47326945)

Ammonia isn't particularly cheap for it's energy content.

Re:I see a problem here... (3, Insightful)

SlaveToTheGrind (546262) | about 6 months ago | (#47326973)

There is no money to be made by selling the world something it needs for just pennies.

Um, yeah. Just ask this guy [wikipedia.org] .

Re:I see a problem here... (5, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 6 months ago | (#47326991)

The reason we use gasoline as a fuel is because it is incredibly cheap. It costs less than pretty much anything else you can think of, with the exception of tap water in locations where tap water is common.

The reason why the gas companies have power is not because they are magic, but because they sell it so cheaply, yet make a huge profit.

So when you say "damned sure no will will ever allow this to be a legit fuel for cars", you are basically wrong. The proof is that diesel and ethanol additives are also sold as fuel.

If this was cheaper per gallon than gasoline, without any additional problems (i.e. cars still went as fast, no deadly poisons released), then you would be trampled by the rush to convert cars to ammonia.

Re:I see a problem here... (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 6 months ago | (#47327019)

It's just the catalyst that's simple and cheap. The ammonia itself is probably not significantly cheaper than gasoline. And if it were possible to lower overall transportation cost, almost everybody would be better off, so the idea that "no one will ever allow this" is crap.

Re:I see a problem here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327259)

You're naive. You're grossly underestimating exactly how willing the oil industry is to protect their profits :) Yes, the world would be better off, but their wallets owuldn't, and that's what matters to them.

Re:I see a problem here... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327033)

By that flawed logic, only expensive products can be viable. If you can produce hydrogen at 1/10 of the cost of petrol but sell it at half the price, that's an extra profit margin worth having. Add some PR and marketing and you're good to go.

Always wanted to drive green, but couldn't afford it? Now driving green is cheaper than fossil fuels and won't cause cancer!**

(** within a week. Not tested on humans, lab animals or anything really.)

Re:I see a problem here... (5, Insightful)

countach74 (2484150) | about 6 months ago | (#47327075)

It makes perfectly good business sense. If you were an entrepreneur, wouldn't you be very happy to move to such a technology, drastically undercutting the oil companies? Contrary to popular belief, businesses don't generally make killings because they charge a lot, but rather because they don't charge a lot, relative to other alternatives. If you were one of the first firms to enter such a market (assuming the consuming public moves on this new tech) and make a very handsome profit, charging far more than your input costs. New players will eventually enter the market and big down prices, but since you were [one of the] first players, you got to make a killing. That is how economics works. The market rewards the first entrants to a market via profits above and beyond the going rate of return.

Actually, I think the crux of the problem is that you don't understand price theory. Price is not determined by the cost of the inputs. Rather, society determines the price via their actions in purchasing or not purchasing a good (and of course to nearly infinite extents of purchasing vs not purchasing). The more society wants a good, the higher prices will be driven up (all things the same), inducing more competitors to the market who compete for the lion's share, in turn bidding down the price until equilibrium is reached. (Nevermind that equilibrium almost certainly will change before it is ever reached.)

Re:I see a problem here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327215)

the one not understanding here is you. what op means is that the ones who don't want to see this happening is the oil industry, they are the ones who will fight it and they are the ones representing "the problem" with cheaper fuel than gasoline.

Now I'm confused ... (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#47326873)

OK, I'm officially confused.

According to wiki [wikipedia.org] :

A typical modern ammonia-producing plant first converts natural gas (i.e., methane) or LPG (liquefied petroleum gases such as propane and butane) or petroleum naphtha into gaseous hydrogen. The method for producing hydrogen from hydrocarbons is referred to as "Steam Reforming".[2] The hydrogen is then combined with nitrogen to produce ammonia via the Haber-Bosch process.

So, we're going to generate hydrogen, so we can make ammonia, and then we're going to ... use the ammonia to make hydrogen?

Either I'm completely not understanding my own link, or there's a magic step in there which eludes me.

If you're already efficiently making hydrogen to make ammonia,and you wanted hydrogen for fuel, why not skip the step of making ammonia?

I guess the obvious conclusion is that it's easier and safer to deal with ammonia, but my dad used to manage refrigeration plants, and ammonia isn't something you fool around with either.

Re:Now I'm confused ... (2)

Bob535 (639390) | about 6 months ago | (#47326899)

Storing hydrogen in cars is bad. It's stored in pressure vessels. Storing liquid ammonia is much safer.

Re:Now I'm confused ... (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 6 months ago | (#47326965)

Liquefied anhydrous ammonia or water with a tiny bit of ammonia in solution?

Re:Now I'm confused ... (4, Interesting)

richtopia (924742) | about 6 months ago | (#47326939)

It is a density issue. Hydrogen is difficult to transport and store. One solution would be to truck ammonia to the service station, where you can dump it into below ground storage and generate/compress H2 on demand. The other option would be to perform the H2 generation onboard of the car, but the issues of the toxicity of ammonia would still require fancy fuel tanks so I think the local generation model would be superior.

Re:Now I'm confused ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47326967)

You die from poisoning, not in an explosion. Much nicer for the funeral.

Re:Now I'm confused ... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327043)

Ammonia can be stored liquid at room temperature and pressure, has high storage density (NH3), and is the second most commonly produced chemical in the world.

Re:Now I'm confused ... (1)

entrigant (233266) | about 6 months ago | (#47327169)

The parent indicates ammonia is produced from hydrocarbons like natural gas. Why not just run the vehicles on that? Is there a production method that does not involve using the same resource that fuel cell and electric cars are trying to supplant?

Re:Now I'm confused ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#47327261)

Yeah, that was kind of my point ... what is the benefit of going through several transformations versus using the stuff you make ammonia from?

That sounds like it does nothing to get us away from petrochemicals, it just changes the form of it.

Re:Now I'm confused ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327111)

5. Profit!

Now I'm confused ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327115)

As I'm not material scientist or chemist I'm just guessing, but based on many of the scientific articles out there describing hydrogen based fuel cells the biggest problem with hydrogen energy is safe storage. While ammonia isn't completely stable, it doesn't explode as readily as hydrogen gas does nor does it require expensive materials to store like liquid hydrogen. Like I said, ammonia can't be called inert, but compared to other forms of storing hydrogen is might as well be and could therefore be a reasonable method for storing hydrogen fuel.

Re:Now I'm confused ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327185)

the flawed logic is on your side, not OP's, you just don't read everything: there is a trillion dollar industry built on gasoline. reducing the gasoline revenue through new fuel at "a fraction of the cost" is something no oil company wants to see happen.

Wait, *why* couldn't we do this? (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 6 months ago | (#47326895)

Catalyst: "a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change."

Yes, metals like palladium and rhodium cost a good chunk of change, but you don't need a lot of them, and you only need them once (per car). You add them in trace amounts to a porous honeycomb-like structure to maximize surface area, and bam, that whole gram of palladium adds $30 to the total cost of your car. Make no mistake, the more ways we have to accomplish a particular reaction, the better, and I consider TFA very cool news... But the cost of the catalyst wouldn't break the bank vs the cost of a new car.

Call me paranoid, but I can tell you a much more realistic reason we don't already have cars running on ammonia - The DEA. I can't buy a goddamned bulk pack of (real, not reformulated) Sudafed without showing two forms of ID, and $Deity help me if I actually need to get more in the same month! On the other side of the meth equation, a convenient source of anhydrous ammonia would make it much easier and safer to manufacture, so no ammonia for you!

Wait, *why* couldn't we do this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327007)

You car may already have a palladium catalytic converter. A replacement catalytic converter may retail from $200 to $1000 USD (and may not be legal in CA) before installation. honeycomb shaped?! they are not, they are in a square grid. They burn up when your car malfunctions.
Fun fact, they retain a value of $10-$50 after they are scraped and are sometimes even stolen right off your car.

Re:Wait, *why* couldn't we do this? (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 6 months ago | (#47327051)

You only need 1 gram of palladium to make a fuel cell that can deliver tens of kW ? That's impressive. Do you have a link to the technology ?

Re:Wait, *why* couldn't we do this? (4, Informative)

pla (258480) | about 6 months ago | (#47327161)

You only need 1 gram of palladium to make a fuel cell that can deliver tens of kW ? That's impressive. Do you have a link to the technology?

Sure, first hit on Google [archives-ouvertes.fr] , gets over 10KW/g of catalyst.

Keep in mind that weight doesn't matter for (solid) catalysts, but surface area does. If you can spread one gram over a square mile's worth of substrate, you get the same catalytic activity as if you used a kilogram with the same area.

Not to mention poisons... (2)

NReitzel (77941) | about 6 months ago | (#47327279)

Well, bureaucratic idiocy ignored, there is another small wart on this process.

Catalysts are very sensitive to "poisons" - chemicals that stop their catalytic activity. Sodium amide used as a catalyst has a vulnerability to a potent catalytic poison - that being water. A little moisture in the fuel tank, a little moisture in the fuel lines, and presto. No catalyst.

I'm not saying it's not possible, I just don't know how one would keep that pestilential dihydrogen monoxide carefully excluded from the process. It's cumulative, every tiny scrap of moisture kills off some of the catalyst.

Re:Wait, *why* couldn't we do this? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#47327351)

You're talking theory and we're talking reality here.
"In theory" your catalytic converter should never ware out. They told us when they made them mandatory decades ago that they'd never ware out.
But in practice, I end up replacing one every 5yrs or so. During the intended reaction they don't undergo any permanent chemical change. But that requires what they're reacting with to be 100% pure. Which is impossible. All kinds of stuff gets into fuel, the catalyst corrodes and we end up having to replace it.

In the future... (1)

ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) | about 6 months ago | (#47326963)

I will piss in my gas tank at each rest stop, providing ample ammonia for my journey.

Re:In the future... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327141)

I will piss in my gas tank at each rest stop, providing ample ammonia for my journey.

I will put my methane in the passenger compartment while traveling far above the speed limit

Re:In the future... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327345)

I wish to shove my fetid cock into both of your Bayer aspirin holes. What say you?

2 litres, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327067)

Not having RTFAd yet, the summary only commented on the size of the device to release hydrogen, not the size/mass of the ammonia required to drive 300 miles. 2 litres of chamber is fine, but how many gallons of ammonia do we need to carry and what special kind of tank and fueling coupler will we need?

There've been several methods invented to "carry" the hydrogen for H2-powered vehicles. In particular, the AFAIK defunct PowerBall (not the lottery!) concept seemed superior to pumping noxious liquids, though it involved collecting the leftover slush for recycling. I don't think ammonia is much better than the best of other liquid or solid means already suggested.

I agree that hydrogen fuel is just not going to be popular anytime soon. Even if the storage problem is solved, it lacks an existing means of mass production (on the scale needed, anyhow) and it lacks a means of distribution, both of which are already in place for electric. I see the invisible hands of oil companies behind a lot of the hydrogen-mania. Natural gas will still be required, but oil is generally not for electric cars. But they're betting that oil will be the most economical way to mass-produce hydrogen. Sorry, guys, I expect to go with biofuels, battery or capacitor electric, or CNG/LNG in the somewhat near future. It'll be veggie oil, butanol, or methane powering the ICE in my hybrid. Where's your economically-sound fuel cell? Huh? Well?

Terrorist plot (0)

kanwisch (202654) | about 6 months ago | (#47327071)

who led the STFC research team at the ISIS

Clearly this information wasn't intended to be exported from Iraq and fall into Imperialist hands. Someone's going to lose their head over this one.

Re:Terrorist plot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327159)

Wrong ISIS. Kreiger is behind this.

Ammonia avenue (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 6 months ago | (#47327117)

And those who came at first to scoff
remained behind to pray

What are the byproducts? (1)

assertation (1255714) | about 6 months ago | (#47327193)

What are the byproducts?

The timing is interesting.... (1)

who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) | about 6 months ago | (#47327231)

This article was published Jun 24, 2014, a day later an article states Japan Moves to Fast-Track Cars Powered by Hydrogen Fuel Cells. Coincidence? I think NOT!

Well, good thing then. (1)

azav (469988) | about 6 months ago | (#47327317)

That ammonia's not insanely explosive.

Ever been around a serious ammonia leak? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327327)

Even a gas mask is not protection. But of course, real cars never crash. That's only in the movies.

Ammonia is not an energy source... (1)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | about 6 months ago | (#47327355)

Producing ammonia [wikipedia.org] today consumes more than 1% of all man-made power, and natural gas is used as a source of hydrogen. Like hydrogen, it is an energy carrier and not a energy source. That considered, ammonia produced with nuclear heat [energyfromthorium.com] would be an excellent carbon neutral liquid fuel, and is expected to cost significantly less than gasoline.

Terrorist dream??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47327365)

1) Find a practical way to use ammonia as a car fuel
2) Find a practical way to turn said fuel into a bomb while driving
3) ???
4) Profit, er, I mean blow myself and everything around me into itty bitty pieces.

Captcha: smolders

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