June 05, 2004

Energy, O Energy! 

Steven DenBeste wrote an new article (just the last one of a series, actually) regarding the huge difficulties in the storage of energy produced by renewable sources, like solar and wind power. In particular, Steven wrote about another idea to store surplus energy:

"Converting electric power, CO2 and water into methane" is certainly an appealing idea. I don't think we actually know how to do that now with anything like an acceptable yield, if we know how to do it at all.

Well, I suspect this process will never be viable: the chemical reaction involved is the reverse of methane combustion.

CO2 + 2H2O --> CH4 + 2O2

(Geez, hand formatting text is a pain in the back...)
I don't know if anyone tried to do that, but I can tell you that this reaction is a bitch: highly endothermic (methane combustion is higly exothermic); the number of moles does not change during the reaction (3 molecules at the beginning and 3 at the end), so it's impossible to use pressure effects to our advantage. Not to mention that a stoichometric mixture of oxygen and methane is basically an armed bomb, ready to explode with every spark, overheating and such.
Forget about it, it's what I'd say about this idea. If you really want to give it a try, an electrochemical cell might work, but you have to do all of the research and development from scratch.

Time and money would be better spent on scientific and technological education programs, so that maybe people will start to consider energy problems in the proper terms.


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