January 22, 2005

More Hydrogen, and an Experiment 

This week I attended a lecture by professor Chunshan Song of Pennsilvanya State University on the processing of fuels for fuel cells applications*. The conclusions are that, while thi first fuel cells for commun use are almost ready to enter the market (it will take a couple of years), there still much work to do before fuel cells can have a significant role.

The main obstacle is that hydrogen and methanol are still much more expensive than conventional hydrocarbon fuels, both in terms of money and energy spent to produce them. To lower the cost of these fuels to competitive levels, better processes of desulphurization, reforming and purification are required. These are quite specific subjects, and I'm afraid that people without at least a good knowledge of chemistry (chemical engineering even better) cannot fully understand why it's difficult and time-consuming to obtain significant progresses in these fields. But take my word for it, even if researchers have money and work hard, sometimes results take a long time to come out.
Professor Song and his group, hovewer, last year proposed an almost revolutionary approach to the desulphurization of hydrocarbon fuels: the sulphur-containing compounds are adsorbed on specifically designed materials and thus separated from the rest of the fuel, to be eventually hydrogenated later. In this way, only a small fraction of the original fuel stream needs to be treated with hydrogen, and this can bring significant savings.

However, it's common opinion among the experts in the field that fuel-cell powered cars are not such a big deal. Yes, the media love them, but the best applications of fuel cells are others.

* At a certain point, Song showed a slide with a pic of President Bush, and his State of the Union speech when he decided to devote $1.7 billions to an alterantive fuels research programs. I could feel the horror emanating from some mebers of the audience: "The Idiot Evilgenius Chimpy BusHitler is only a puppet of the evil Halliburton Military-Industrial Complex conspiracyl... how can he have a good idea? He can not, he must not!" they were probably thinking.

And now, The Experiment.
I decided to experimentally activate comments on my blog.
I am not a patient guy, and the amount of time I can dedicate to blogging is limited, so comments will be restricted to registered Blogger users - and I will be ruthless against eventual trolls and other obnoxious types. Lunatic ravings, anti-American and anti-Jew rants will probably cause immediate banning and deletion, together with anti-Arab and anti-European ones.
Remember, this blog is my own little piece of cyberspace of which I am lord & tyrant.

Of course, comments do not necessarily reflect my views and opinions.


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