May
25
2007

Ragnarok is here! ... and some new fuel cell technology.

I am the proud owner and driver of a Gordon Ragnarok, a medium sized family sedan. The Ragnarok was developed by my brother and I, hence the Gordon branding. It is fueled by a diamond-rich blend of precious stones (I’ve tried using a more ruby-heavy mixture, but the performance suffers), and it emits a burning stream of sulfurous gas, which is quite harmless to the occupants of the car.

The vehicle is a delight to drive, and is admired by my neighbors and coworkers, however I am beginning to realize that diamond/jewel fuel is increasingly difficult to find. Sure, there are more jewels out there – quite possibly vast reserves of them – but the politics of acquiring and operating a reliable diamond mine are… sticky.

New developments in hydrogen storage technology may be bringing alternative fuels closer to practical application. This is good news for me (and, perhaps, other people, although most other people run their cars on, ha, considerably less concentrated carbon than I use).

Many of you are probably already familiar with the concept behind hydrogen fuel cells (take a look at this post’s tags for some other good blogs on fuel cell technology), but the basic idea is to use an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, which can then be used, of course, to run something like, say, a car of the future. What’s more, this car of the future should only emit water vapor, instead of CO2 and other polluting gases. The volunteers in the SMM’s Experiment Gallery have a pretty slick visitor activity where they use a glass of water and miniature fuel cell to power a fan. I recommend it.

Anyhow, there’s lots of science involved here, and some sophisticated proton exchange membranes, and some hydrogen storage tanks. Lots of hydrogen storage tanks, unfortunately. See, safely and efficiently storing enough hydrogen fuel for a vehicle to have a reasonable range (something like 300 miles) has been a major obstacle to fuel cell cars. Compressing enough hydrogen gas into cylinders or storage tanks to reach a sufficient range would be prohibitively heavy and bulky. Scientists in the UK, however, have recently developed a new compound of the element lithium that could allow for high-density, light weight storage of hydrogen.
Li4BN3H10 - Not as pretty as the Ragnarok's crystal fuel, or as cuddly as the Mark II's, but maybe more practical.: "Hydrogen (H) atoms are shown in green, lithium (Li) atoms in dark grey, nitrogen (N) atoms in blue and boron (B) atoms are in grey and inside the pyramids." (Credit: Image courtesy of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council)
Li4BN3H10 - Not as pretty as the Ragnarok's crystal fuel, or as cuddly as the Mark II's, but maybe more practical.: "Hydrogen (H) atoms are shown in green, lithium (Li) atoms in dark grey, nitrogen (N) atoms in blue and boron (B) atoms are in grey and inside the pyramids." (Credit: Image courtesy of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council)

Crystals of the lithium compound (Li4BN3H10, to be specific) absorb atoms of hydrogen gas, and then release it as needed. The process, called “chemisorption” isn’t anything new, but a material was needed that would be a “light, cheap, readily available material which would enable the absorption/desorption process to take place rapidly and safely at typical fuel cell operating temperatures.” Li4BN3H10 seems to be an excellent mix of those properties, and the scientists involved in the project claim that it could allow for fuel cell cars to become “viable for mass-manufacture within around 10 years.”

Oddly enough, this is where this story loses me a little bit – it seems like we often hear about breakthroughs that place next generation technology right around the corner, and yet it’s difficult to imagine very many people driving around in fuel cell cars in anywhere near ten years. GM, as it happens, produced a prototype fuel cell vehicle in 1966 called “The Electrovan.” I’m sure The Electrovan had some serious practicality issues (it weighed twice as much as a normal van, for one), but, still, that was over forty years ago. The world has produced some rad stuff inside the last forty years (me), but no more Electrovans. Is the problem that, however excited the lithium researchers might be, there are still too many other barriers? Or because it won’t be in the interest of businesses and governments until fossils fuels are no longer a practical option? Or simply because we can’t imagine a near future swarming with Electrovans?

I’m definitely interested in the progress being made with fuel cell technology, and I’m hopeful that practical application isn’t too far away, but that doesn’t mean that my brother and I will be halting the development of the Gordon Ragnarok Mark II. In an effort to take advantage of a cheaper, more plentiful energy source, the Mark II is designed to use puppies as fuel. Theoretically, full-grown dogs should work as well, but dogs suffer from the same storage barriers as compressed hydrogen (heavy, bulky, and potentially dangerous). Woof.

Links:
Hydrogen Storage Breakthrough

Wikipedia’s Fuel Cell Entry

A future swarming with Electrovans

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

No name's picture
No name says:

Fuel cells became available fully operational in 2001.

In 1999 the projected cost was under 10000dollars.

In 2002, the 'new' cost was over 10 times MORE. wonder why? (hint: keyword:greed - that's the only reason, simply greed)

Still, does anyone know where/how to get one or designs for one (of the less expensive ones).

Providing electricity to 10 city blocks without maintenance costs for 7cents/kwh is not something that will be allowed. Anyone who tries to do this will have everything they say and do used AGAINST THEM, in or out of a court of law doesn't matter to those in charge (who think they're in charge).

This post may expire/disappear without fanfare. It will be categorically denied by every authority in the usa and world for that matter.

The author of this post may simply pass on without fanfare. No one may know what happened to him, ever, in this world,
but he will have already received his reward for honesty and truth in the next world. It is accomplished by Yahweh's Doing.

posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:14am
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Agents are being dispatched to your location presently.

posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 9:03pm

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