Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hello Hydrogen, Good Bye House of Saud

There’s a new car coming, folks. Not a hybrid, either. And there are further ironies to this story, too, proving once again — as Sarah learned all those thousands of years ago — God laughs last.

You see, the company developing the technology for this new form of energy production is located in the nowhere place called the Zionist entity (it doesn’t exist on some maps, but no doubt the venture capitalists have already found their way. Kind of like the Three Wise Men, only these guys are following the money).

This Israeli company is called Engineuity, proving that even engineers can be cute. Their car will use a method to produce hydrogen while the engine is running, rather than trying (and failing) to somehow store hydrogen to create energy:
     The Hydrogen car Engineuity is working on will use metals such as Magnesium or Aluminum which will come in the form of a long coil. The gas tank in conventional vehicles will be replaced by a device called a Metal-Steam combustor that will separate Hydrogen out of heated water. The basic idea behind the technology is relatively simple: the tip of the metal coil is inserted into the Metal-Steam combustor together with water where it will be heated to very high temperatures. The metal atoms will bond to the Oxygen from the water, creating metal oxide. As a result, the Hydrogen molecules are free, and will be sent into the engine alongside the steam.
The solid waste product of the process, in the form of metal oxide, will later be collected in the fuel station and recycled for further use by the metal industry.
Refuelling the car based on this technology will also be remarkably simple. The vehicle will contain a mechanism for rolling the metal wire into a coil during the process of fuelling and the spent metal oxide, which was produced in the previous phase, will be collected from the car by vacuum suction.
hydrogen production

The company says that their engine will not involve much in the way of design change. They hope to be ready to roll in about three years, providing the investors show up to fund the production of a prototype.

I sure hope this isn’t a “cold fusion” story. It has all the elements of miracle, irony, and a way out of the petrochemical fight with China that’s only a few years down the road.

The whole story is here, with links. Maybe the engineers will weigh in with their opinions; the best I can contribute to the conversation is keeping my fingers crossed.

Hat tip: Luigi, a commenter at LGF.


sammy small said...

Not much detail to comment on. How is the water-maagnesium combustor heated? Do you have to wait 10 minutes for the water to boil before driving away?

I'd be willing to bet that the price of magnesium will approach that of oil once this technology matures, if ever.

metaphysician said...

Okay, giving this a first look:

The fuel for this isn't really hydrogen. Hydrogen just happens to be produced in the process as the method of producing a combustion-type reaction in a combustion-type engine. The fuel is the magnesium.

Now, alkali and alkaline earth metals *do*, effectively, store energy when in their natural state ( hence why they don't *occur* in their natural state ), so there's no energy coming from nowhere, a good sign.

Possible problems:

-Sufficient concentration of hydrogen to actually get a meaningful power output

-Infrastructure: even if the car doesn't need changing, the "gas station" would

-Complexity, and thus, cost

-Supply of suitable metals ( though recycling would actually be possible, with a fueling up consisting of adding metal and leaving oxide )

-The big one: increased electricity consumption. Vastly increased electricity consumption. If this were adopted, its either nuclear or coal. Pick one.

X said...

Nuclear. Easy really. The latest pebble-bed reactors are impossible to meltdown as they require an active influence to keep the reaction going. Any failure would simply shut the plant down.

Aside from that, though, wouldn't it be feasible for the fuel production plants to run on a combination of solar and other local energy sources? Siting them near the coast would allow the use of tidal energy, for instance, as well as giving the big oil companies a chance to re-use some of the land currently use for oil refineries. That's assuming the oil companies jump on this. They're certainly best placed to take advantage of the situation.

metaphysician said...


Unfortunately, nope. You just couldn't get enough energy that way.

X said...

I suspect you're right, but at least they could reduce their drain on the central energy grid by supplementing from these other sources where possibhle, right?

Unknown said...


Hydrogen is never really the fuel in any hydrogen scheme - it must be produced from something else. It's always the energy carrier.

The metals are recycled - it a comination of oxidizing the metal to release energy and reducing the metal to "store" energy in it's metallic state.

The Ergosphere has a good discussion on a similar topic using zinc metal. Fairly complex calculations and zinc behaves the same way as the aluminum, etc. His conclusions deal with the overall efficiency and the results are surprising. How it will work in the real world is another matter. I highly recommend this site.

Search zinc.

Charles Martel said...

Wouldn't it be ironic that the technological innovation necessary to cut us free from Islamic terror would come from Israel. If this is even a remote possibility we should pursue the technology as aggressively as humanly possible. Our old gas cars would not be obsolete. Gas prices would fall dramatically as demand for oil diminished.

blert said...

The Magnesium, Aluminum can release Hydrogen rapidly, yes. Once lit, Magnesium will keep burning -- virtually uncontrollably in water. Putting it OUT is the problem.

The only hitch is the energy conversion losses and expenses mean that this idea is worthless.

These boys are jerking everyone's chain. This scheme should've never left the napkin. It reminds me of my own schemes -- when I was twelve!

It'll never, ever, ever fly.

It is much, much more practical to create a hydrogen economy by displacing all other carbon fuels before attempting transportation.

Noodles said...

I agree with blert. Imagine fuel trucks shipping hundreds of tons of metal coils per load from refinery to fueling station. Just to burdensome to load and unload

Also, wouldn't the shape and size of the coils have to be pre-fabricated? what if you wanted to "fill up" with only half a coil left in the tank? Its like a maintenance job everytime you go to buy fuel.

Unless the fuel economy is extremely efficient (like having to refuel every 6 months) cars will need to have a fluid fuel. Solids are just to awkward and heavy.

mango said...

I'm not really sure what's up with "sending the hydrogen to the engine" either. Because generally speaking, burning hydrogen isn't what you want. If they'd said "send the hydrogen to the fuel cell", I'd be a lot less worried.

The real key to a hydrogen infrastructure is nuclear energy, which would split the water, and then you would fuel hydrogen.

metaphysician said...

No, the real key to hydrogen is to get it efficient and cost effective enough, that enough of the driving populace will shift, making it cost effective to build the infrastructure. Only, people aren't *going* to switch unless the infrastructure is in place for them to use it.

Which is why I think the answer, long term, is electric sourced from nuclear. Its just, the batteries to make it feasible aren't going to be around anytime soon.

Buffy said...

Interesting idea. It's too early to dismiss it out of hand. People who do that are lousy inventors, but great lawyers.

The fuel is hydrogen, and should be fed to a fuel cell. The combustion process is a preliminary process for producing the fuel. M is thinking of this as a one step process when it is a multi-step process. The metal coil is transported and installed as a wire, and is made into a coil inside the automobile. Waste oxide is removed by vacuum.

Play with it, folks. It's an idea, play with it. Too early for Alzheimer's, so use that lump between your shoulders.

moderationist said...

How ironic if Israel came up with the perfect hydrogren fuel. Perhaps the Almighty had a hand in protecting his children from the butchers.

metaphysician said...


Two step process means an extra step worth of complexity and cost, making the whole thing that much less cost effective.

And regardless of whether it works, the infrastructure difficulties still stand. This kind of engine would require a ludicrous amount of investment in fuel production, shipping, and distribution facilities before you could even start commercial distribution.

Papa Bear said...

The reason we use gasoline-powered internal-combustion engines is that this is the currently-cheapest solution. There are lots of other ways to extract energy out of something, and use that energy to move a vehicle. The reason the other ways aren't being used is that they are (currently) all more expensive.

For a hydrogen-powered vehicle to work, it must be able to efficiently and safely store hydrogen, and enough of it in a reasonable volume to provide acceptable range. All questions of infrastructure are secondary to this.

Infrastructure is only an issue if you want to have the initial roll out of the technology be for regular cars driven by regular people. An efficient hydrogen technology can instead be initially used in public transportation and taxi services.

If you have an efficient substitute for gasoline, the best vehicle to use it on, is a vehicle that runs 24/7. Take as an example, New York City taxis. The limited number of medalians means that the taxis are on the street in Manhatten close to 24/7, using drivers in shifts. Just two or three hydrogen stations could handle lots of taxis and buses.

Once public transport and commercial fleets have shifted to hydrogen, then the infrastructure will be there for private consumer vehicles

peggy said...

Once again, salvation may come from the Jews.

blert said...

Notions as absurd as this scheme only work to discredit alternatives that really can work.

Please, do not sound off on this fools errand unless you have technical knowledge.

This crack-pot 'engineering' is sure to have chemists, engineers and physicists laughing.

The 'Hydrogen Economy' will come; but this joke won't be a part of it.

Optimism is shaming.

unaha-closp said...

To get 10 barrels of crude oil energy out of a Saudi oil field costs 2 - 3 barrel equivalents of energy.

To get 10 barrels of crude oil energy out of hydrogen costs 11 - 13 barrels of energy.

Saudi crude is quite profitable and going to get even more so until it runs out. Expected to run out in 2070 (?).

linearthinker said...

Not my field, so should keep quiet and take blert's advice. The backyard mechanic in me says when process is ramped up from lab bench to prototype corrosion will be a problem. Also, in the metal/water reactor it seems you have an incredibly "dirty" process. Not dirty as pollution, just a big swirling mess of metal oxides, H2 gas, super heated water and steam, both acidic. There's probably a solution for each of these concerns, but at what cost in added complexity? I can't even keep the injectors clear in my Toyota fuel system when I have to change gas brands on cross country trips, or when the station has just filled their storage tanks and bottom sediments are sucked up into my tank.
OTOH...what would the Wankle engine have looked like to Otto Diesel. Baron, what do you think? You were there, weren't you?

Baron Bodissey said...

I know nozzink about these topics. Nozzink, I tell you!

That's why I stayed off the thread so far -- I'm very much an amateur at science.

Perhaps the junior Baron will arrive here & comment. After all, he is a chemistry major...

linearthinker said...

I said, "Not dirty as pollution, just a big swirling mess of metal oxides, H2 gas, super heated water and steam, both acidic." In thinking about it further, I suspect it might be more caustic than acidic. Corrosive in either case, if my intuition holds. Never send a civil engineer to do a chemist's work. I await the junior Baron's opinion.

Dymphna said...

Yes, it would be interesting to hear from The Boy. He does like to blow things up, though, so his enthusiasm might outstrip his knowledge.

Right now, being a college slave, he is selling Celtic bric-a-brac to tourists in Colonial Wmsburg.

Or that's his roommate's story,anyway. And it's probably true, given that said dormie is a pre-mininsterial liberal religious major not given to prevarications.

Gryffilion said...

An amateur chemistry major's thoughts:

They're probably also going to generate large amounts of hydroxide. When you react MgO with H20, you get Mg(OH)2--magnesium hydroxide. Which is what would happen if you left that metal oxide wire in the solution.

Secondly, this doesn't seem like a very effecient way to get hydrogen. You generate one mole (roughly 2 g) of H2 gas for every mole (roughly 24.31 g) of magnesium. I don't personally know if this kind of yield would do any good--I leave that up to the autmotive industry.

Lastly--we base our current cell voltage system off the SHE; the standard hydrogen electrode. However, no one uses the SHE anymore. Why? It contains hydrogen. It BLOWS UP and MAKES FIRES. I'm never touching a hydrogen car. If one of those things gets in an accident where combustion is an issue, there's going to be an awfully big bang. Anyone remember the Hindenberg? Oh, the humanity of H2 cars.

Anyway...just my thoughts. If any of you have more info on this stuff than I, please elucidate me.


quark2 said...

Let me jump in, a minature cold box with an expander. The magnesium is the origin of the fuel, and the cb/expander is the little engine that could. :)
And yes this system has existed for about 40 years, used in the manufacturing of ethylene and propylene.
The metals used would be stainless steel and some exotics. They still have to deal with fugitive emissions.

Gryffilion said...

An addition to my earlier post...

In talking to my fellow Sinfonian Kevin, I discovered that the hyrdogen cells are manufactured with the magnesium *prior* to being in the car's engine or wherever. So my fears of the massive hydrogen explosion were somewhat groundless. Still, though, this seems a pretty ineffecient/dangerous way to get hydrogen, and I still don't entirely trust the project, which I why I plan to research it in depth.

The main problem is, the flip side of having a fuel source with a big pay-off is the high risk factor involved. If you break high-energy bonds you get a lot of bang, which can be good or very bad depending on the conditions and surroundings of the energy-release. Whether H2 is safer than gasoline, I guess we'll have to see.

Sorry my observations are less-than-definite. They don't teach us everything in PChem and Instrumental Analysis--although they try.

westbankmama said...

This technology is in its infancy - like the early days of internal combustion engines, which threw off dozens of ideas on the way to uncovering the few designs of merit.

Regarding the arguments about complexity: this argument was also made by the US auto industry to push off hybrid vehicle technology. We know see that the complexity of additional systems is offest by the energy savings. It's all a matter of fine-tuning.

No technology is born at the peak of its efficiency.

The Israelis are approaching hydrogen extraction from many angles, including the renewable solar angle: