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Thread: Turning Air into Gasoline

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    Turning Air into Gasoline 
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    Bluelight Crew neversickanymore's Avatar
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    New company can turn air into gas to save the planet.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/...-study/562289/
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    Oh, not another snake oil bullshit that capitalizes on people's lack of knowledge in chemistry. Let me take it apart step by step. First, the pumps that pump the air require a lot of electricity. Next, you're introducing all sorts of substances that you need to acquire and then also separate from your reaction mixture. Next comes the really absurd part. You want to hydrogenate carbon dioxide into hydrocarbons. There's this funny law of physics called conservation of energy, and its derivative Hess's law. Basically all the energy that is released from burning a hydrocarbon fuel to CO2 and water is also required to perform the reverse reaction, except there's no process with a 100% yield and/or energy conversion efficiency, so you actually need to input more energy than you will receive when burning the fuel. The hydrogen is most likely going to come from water electrolysis using electrical energy produced by solar panels, hydro or wind energy, or perhaps nuclear, but nuclear wouldn't appear as "green" to the public - it really doesn't matter, it's energy all the same, and energy that could be used for much more useful purposes. There are no free lunches in nature. This idea is retarded and that's the sad reality about most "groundbreaking" ideas as of late.

    So what should we do? Well, replace internal combustion engines with fuel cell engines. Fuel cells can work on hydrogen, also from water electrolysis, except this method avoids the headfuck of reducing carbon dioxide from air into alkanes and then also burning them, which is also a process with energy losses. Fuel cells also work on methanol, which can be produced in many ways, hydrogenation of carbon monoxide being one of them. Hell, you can even use ethanol from biomass fermentation. Anything other than this crap.

    What about the high carbon dioxide levels? Deal with it. If we remove anthropogenic CO2 sources, the problem may be avoidable. This CO2 -> alkanes solution costs so much that it's not economically feasible. I only skimmed the article to find the technological aspect of it, but I imagine the money will come from government funds and public donations. No private consumer in their right mind is going to actually pay for this fuel, not at its full price. As far as greenhouse gases go, carbon dioxide isn't even the worst one, it's just the one most talk about. Methane from animal factories contributes at least as much to the greenhouse effect for starters. Many more greenhouse gases that are rarely mentioned.
    Last edited by belligerent drunk; 08-06-2018 at 14:27.
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    This reminds me of this "invention", called AirCarbon meant to produce hydrocarbon (and perhaps other) polymers from air carbon dioxide using pretty much the same basic principle of pumping air, reducing CO2, polymerizing.
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    Bluelight Crew neversickanymore's Avatar
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    Considering all the cost to find, drill, transport and refine.. All useing mechanical processes that are no ware near 100% efficient.. I think it will be cheaper to do what they are proposing in the long run. 1 to 2.50 a gallon to produce from the air. How much does it cost now to produce a gallon of gas?
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    Bluelight Crew neversickanymore's Avatar
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    I didnt read this fully either.. I guess thats just the cost to remove co2 from one gallon of gas.
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    Shadowmeister
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    It seems to me that the aim should be to produce means of fueling that eliminate carbon emissions, not to create MORE fossil fuels to burn and release carbon into the atmosphere. To be honest, although it would be relatively catastrophic to commerce/way of life short-term if we ran out of fossil fuels to burn, it would be great long-term because we'd have no choice but to develop other methods of fueling. If we could just create it endlessly, we'd probably turn Earth into Venus.
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    Bluelight Crew neversickanymore's Avatar
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    Plant more trees, cultivate more kelp forests, clean up and take care of the ocean. Why mechanically remove CO2 when we have plants? With a warming climate does plant abundance go up or down.. I would hope up.
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    Yeah we should also do what you're saying, for sure. Just saying, I'd much rather companies invest in developing clean energy sources than a way to generate more hydrocarbon fuels to burn.
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    Also if you burn Hydrogen you get water as the result, zero pollution, zero greenhouse gasses.

    We've had the technology to create electricity this way since the 60's.
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    ^ you can't burn hydrogen without first creating it because hydrogen in its molecular (H2) form is not found on Earth. You need water electrolysis* to make hydrogen to later burn it, and because of conservation of energy, you need to input at least as much energy into electrolysis as you will get later from burning it; due to energy and mass losses in imperfect systems, you would actually input more energy than you would get from burning that hydrogen. The appeal of hydrogen is due to fuel cell technology, which in its simplest form means using renewable (or nuclear) energy sources to electrolyse water into hydrogen for later use. It's a form of energy storage. Same as fossil fuels are actually solar energy stored in carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen chemical bonds thanks to photosynthesizing organisms, we can store solar/wind/hydro/geothermal/nuclear energy in hydrogen-hydrogen bonds and later use that energy for whatever purpose in hydrogen fuel cells - to power an electric car, a household, a portion of a city.

    However, you're completely correct in that the only byproduct of using hydrogen as a fuel (or energy storage to be exact) is water. And last I checked, water is pretty environmentally friendly. It is a strong greenhouse gas, but there would be no net production of water using any hydrogen synthesis method.

    Bottom line, I agree with NSA - we don't need to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, the situation isn't that dire yet, not due to carbon dioxide anyway. We should focus on limiting the destruction of rain forests and other heavy photosynthesizers instead. But that means great economical conflict with many industries...

    *you can also use chemical reactions to make hydrogen, such as metal + acid, but those are incredibly commercially inefficient.

    Quote Originally Posted by Xorkoth View Post
    It seems to me that the aim should be to produce means of fueling that eliminate carbon emissions, not to create MORE fossil fuels to burn and release carbon into the atmosphere. To be honest, although it would be relatively catastrophic to commerce/way of life short-term if we ran out of fossil fuels to burn, it would be great long-term because we'd have no choice but to develop other methods of fueling. If we could just create it endlessly, we'd probably turn Earth into Venus.
    The method in the OP would be carbon-neutral. All the carbon in the fuels produced by this method would come from atmospheric carbon dioxide. Which is why it's so appealing to scientifically illiterate masses. "Oh, this method removes carbon from the atmosphere! *throws money at them*". The devil is in the details as I tried to point out in my first reply. The method is inefficient and there are better alternatives.
    Last edited by belligerent drunk; 10-06-2018 at 16:52.
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    Ah okay I see
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    Actually, I do recall reading a while back of a copper nanoparticle on carbon nanospikes composite material which is capable of catalytically converting CO2 to ethanol, and given its a catalytic process, depending on the efficiency (jt was a while back I read of this), or else using natural energy sources such as hydro power to drive the pumps, it could conceivably be made to output more energy than it consumes. I've been contemplating giving the synthesis a crack myself in my own lab actually, partly to see if I can do it, and partly because CO2 is cheap as dirt, and EtOH is worth much more than the cost of the CO2, and besides, its a useful lab solvent, and on occasion either reactant or substance needed to create other reagents, such as ethyl halides, metal ethoxides, ethyllithium etc. etc.

    And of course, to get pissed, once it has been distilled to ensure there is no methanol, if it happens that the nanocatalyst produces any methanol in with the EtOH.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Limpet_Chicken View Post
    ...which is capable of catalytically converting CO2 to ethanol, and given its a catalytic process, depending on the efficiency (jt was a while back I read of this), or else using natural energy sources such as hydro power to drive the pumps, it could conceivably be made to output more energy than it consumes.
    No. Laws of thermodynamics are pretty clear in that you can't do that. IMO a good explanation for it is the Hess's law. Basically you input energy which is "saved" in chemical bonds in the CO2 -> EtOH conversion. When you oxidize ethanol back to carbon dioxide, you get the exact same amount of energy no matter how you do it.

    Catalysts increase the speed of the reaction by providing a reaction mechanism with a lower activation energy, but they don't change the thermodynamics. What matters is the energy difference between the states of all the products and all the reactants.

    What you describe is basically a source of free energy if I understand you correctly. Each cycle produces a net positive difference in energy, so with each cycle you "make" energy - doesn't work that way in nature. No free energy.
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    #14
    Bluelight Crew neversickanymore's Avatar
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    I will pay top dollar for a continuous motion machine or any machine that creates more energy then it uses. Just fill in any amount you want on that blank check. Just throwing that out there.
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