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Engineering Materials

Report: 2013 Will Make or Break Alternative Fuels

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Elizabeth M
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Re: Excellent coverage
Elizabeth M   4/10/2013 3:51:08 AM
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I didn't know about Witricity but that sounds perfect. Charging batteries seems like the bane of our existence, and to worry about your car having juice, as you mention, would be a complete pain. If everything was always charging, this would solve a lot of our device-battery woes, and the electric car problem, too.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: Excellent coverage
Cabe Atwell   4/9/2013 5:41:53 PM
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Alleviate the perceived stress of charging your car, and electric will be the only option. I do not want the onmi-present worry of keeping my cell-phone charged to in every facet of my life.

I hope that magnetic-resonance charging, Witricity, makes headway in the near future. Everything would always be charging... I wouldn't give it a second thought.

C

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: We have viable options now
Ann R. Thryft   4/9/2013 3:57:09 PM
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oldguywithtoys, first of all, second-generation biofuels that are based on crops are based on non-food crops, for either people or animals, and grown on land that cannot be used to grow food crops on. So they are not at all decreasing the food supply. Second, ethanol and methanol are not the only fuel possibilities. There's also biodiesel and butane, among others. I do agree that federal subsidies for cellulosic-based biofuels (ethanol, methanol, butane or biodiesel) are a good idea.



oldguywithtoys
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Re: We have viable options now
oldguywithtoys   4/9/2013 2:09:35 PM
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Whether a crop is people-food or animal-food or inedible and only useful for creating ethanol or methanol, it still takes land to grow that crop.  Whether you divert a corn crop from animal feed to the production of ethanol or you divert a field from growing corn to growing switchgrass, you're still decreasing the food supply to increase the alcohol supply.

My own opinion is "all-the-above" - we need to cut our dependence on imported oil by
  1. finding substitutes and making them cost effective.
  2. increasing domestic production.
  3. increasing the efficiency of everything that uses energy.

So far, the processes used to generate biofuels from plant waste haven't scaled very well.  I read somewhere that the federal government has mandated that the oil companies use a certain amount of cellulosic alcohol each year, but that they pay hefty fines simply because nobody has figured out how to make that much cellulosic alcohol in a year.

I'm not saying they'll never be able to figure it out.  What I'm saying is that we need to go more with the carrot than the stick - tax credits for research toward the efficient large-scale production of cellulosic alcohol rather than fines for not using what isn't available.  And above all, funding for R&D into making everything that uses energy as efficient as possible, as cost-effectively as possible.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Research for alternate Energy
Ann R. Thryft   4/9/2013 11:52:42 AM
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Mydesign, cost is also a constraint, as you point out, but that's primarily because of the low energy/power density.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: We have viable options now
Ann R. Thryft   4/9/2013 11:52:00 AM
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oldguywithtoys, I wish everything could be powered by the sun, too. But we're a long way off from that for multiple reasons, and many people would rather start somewhere on alternatives than wait. Meanwhile the biofuels scenario you describe is out of date. Second-generation biofuels are made from plants that are not food crops and don't compete with them (crop-based biofuels), or they're made from the waste from food crops or the waste from other plants (cellulose-based biofuels).

oldguywithtoys
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Re: We have viable options now
oldguywithtoys   4/9/2013 11:12:44 AM
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I'll lump ethanol and methanol together: biofuels.  As their use increases, their prices (low now more due to government subsidy than production efficiency) will go up.  As the production volumes go up, it will be more profitable for farmers to turn their land to the production of ethanol/methanol-producing crops than food and food prices will rise... and petroleum prices will fall.  Meanwhile, ethanol and methanol are still hydrocarbons, the burning of which will still produce greenhouse gasses.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel and still produces greenhouse gasses when it burns.  When a natural gas pipeline leaks, it doesn't spout black goop all over the landscape, it dissipates into the air.  But unburned natural gas is itself a greenhouse gas

The vast majority of our electricity is produced by the burning of fossil fuels and it will take major breakthroughs in battery capacity and solar cell efficiency before wind and solar can replace more than a tiny fraction.

The push by our government should not be to force the use of alternative fuels, but to help fund research to increase the efficiency of solar cells, the capacity of storage batteries and the efficiency of our use of the energy ANY fuels can produce.

Mydesign
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Re: Excellent coverage
Mydesign   4/9/2013 6:50:12 AM
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"Biofuels are manufactured substitutes for fossil fuels. They're still oils and gasses that have to be moved from the point of manufacture or refinement to the point of use."

Oldguywithtoys, yes you are right. I don't think there is much difference between bio fuels and fossil fuels. Both can be drained out .

Mydesign
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Re: Research for alternate Energy
Mydesign   4/9/2013 6:45:32 AM
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Ann, thanks for the clarification. When Google for the same info, it seems that power density, Cost and Vehicle design considerations are some of the constrains. More info will be available with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_vehicle

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Not so fast...
Ann R. Thryft   4/8/2013 11:57:20 AM
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Ceylon0, thanks for the link. I see several announcements like this every month, in fact, tens of announcements such as this one in a year. I don't usually report on these initial research breakthroughs in possible bioprocessing or pre-treatment technologies because they're years away from a production stage. Let's hope this one pans out.

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