Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Making Liquid Fuels From Sun And Air


Liquid Fuel for Internal Combustion Engine – Inefficient

Liquid fuel for internal combustion engines is inefficient due to various explosions leading to kinetic work to be done as well as loads of heat together with various other reasons. With the same quantity of energy put in an electric motor and an internal combustion motor, it could produce more usable work for the earlier than the later.

 Moreover, electric motors tend to operate at the same efficiencies over a range of speeds where internal combustion motors need more messing around to alter the speed, besides the torque. Torque is probably at the core of coolness for several vehicles enthusiasts.If one could get the hot car or a motorcycle to go from zero to fast within a second or two, it is considered to be cool even if it tends to have no day to day application.

An electric motor has that potential and internal combustion motor need to be a super motor to perform well. Besides, liquid fuels tend to spill and smell bad and there could be chances of explosion. Electricity on the other hand has its own limitation. We would need to change most of the moving things, in the long run, like vehicles, planes etc. to electric, though fuel would still remain to be important to certain extent.

Liquid Fuel in Flying Machines

Mission critical backup generations which are not needed much but are life or death,are apparently run best on liquid fuels stored long term such as the one at the South Pole research station or in any hospital. We would eventually see electric airplanes though for long time we would apparently have to put liquid fuel in flying machines.

A present issue of Science has a write-up on recent research on machine that takes sunlight, CO2 from the atmosphere and some water producing burnable liquid. The write-up conveys about several alternative research projects which have approached this issue with various levels of success that is very early research though promising.

The job tends to boil down to run combustion in reverse, inserting energy from the sun or other renewable into chemical bonds. According to John Keith, chemist at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania states that `it is a challenging issue since it is always an uphill battle’. It is what plants tend to do in making sugars they require to grow.

Methanol – Converted to Variation of Products

However, plants only convert around 1% of the energy into chemical energy and to power the industrial society, researchers need to do much better. Keith compares the challenge to putting a man on the moon. The simple method tends to be almost the same in all cases. One could take CO2 molecule and change it to CO by knocking off one Oxygen atom and then combing the CO with H2 to get syngas that can be changed to methanol.

Methanol is a type of alcohol which can be converted into a variation of products. Same process in the widespread use utilises fossil methane as a base molecule rather than atmospheric CO2. A paper is to be published in Advanced Science informing the process which utilises CO and H2 together with photovoltaic generated electricity.

This focuses on a band of sunlight on to a semiconductor panel converting 38% of the incoming energy into electricity at a high voltage. The electricity is shifted to electrodes in two electrochemical cells. One tends to split water molecules while the other splits CO2. Most of the remaining energy in the sunlight is trapped as heat and utilised to preheat the two cells to hundreds of degree, which helps to lower the amount of electricity essential to split water and CO2 molecules by 25%.

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