Fuel from water?

By Robert Hickson 10/04/2014 27

Will we shortly be able to stop drilling oil and get fuels straight from the water around us?

That’s been promoted for many decades now, but we may be getting closer.

The US Naval Research Lab announced this week that they have a way of converting carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater into hydrocarbon fuels. And used it to power a radio controlled airplane.

They do this using a catalytic converter. While they claim they could produce jet fuel at US$3-6 per gallon (its currently $2.90), commercial production is probably at least a decade away. What they don’t go into is the amount of energy needed for the conversion process.

Quite a few media reports have been inferring that the development will enable navies to do away with ship refuelling, though this isn’t what the Navy is saying, and it seems that they’ll focus first on providing jet fuel. So they may need their nuclear-powered carriers to run the process.

In a separate development, Stanford University has announced another catalytic process that converts carbon monoxide and water into ethanol with high efficiency. Although they first need to convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide through a separate process (preferably using more efficient processes than currently available).

So both interesting and potentially workable developments, but considerable more R&D and work required before we can hook our cars, boats and planes up to our water systems.


27 Responses to “Fuel from water?”

  • Even with a catalytic converter it should require energy to construct hydrocarbons out of smaller molecules (e.g. carbon dioxide and water) so what are they using to do this when they carry out this reaction?

    • As I noted in the post, they don’t discuss what powers the process, but its probably mains electricity at this stage. I expect a carrier’s nuclear reactor would provide enough juice to generate jet fuel for it’s planes. CAn’t see it working for the Interislander.

  • Wow and I remember just 12 months ago this prospect was being rubbished right here on this site something to do with relativity(theory) I think.
    Its pretty obvious water is the next big fuel. Hydrogen is the universes most abundant element and is fused into water. All we needed to do was find a cheap way to split the molecule.
    We humans are pretty stupid about our oil use but I suppose thats what happens when money is king.

  • Derek.

    Water is not the next big fuel. The thing is using water (directly) as a a fuel challenges the laws of thermodynamics (not relativity). The reaction of hydrogen and oxygen to water is an exothermic reaction. Going the other to make hydrogen and oxygen needs energy.

    In this case, the plan is to use a nuclear reactor to provide the energy and split the water. Hardly a cheap option I would have thought. Other groups are looking to use sunlight. Making fuels from water and carbon dioxide is an important area of research. But, all of these inititives need energy to make the fuel. The laws of thermodynamics hold. Not magic!

  • Well tell the folks at LENR about thermodynamics, here is something that can produce great quantities of hydrogen.
    Sunlight and wind can be used as well to make hydrogen.
    Electricity is a good way to split it, frequency the same as the resonant frequency of the molecule.
    I wasn’t sure that thermodynamics told us water could not be used as a fuel.
    This video talks about waters potential
    Also there is radio wave frequenceys that can make water burn.
    So please look at what is being done with water already.

    • Phillip Ball from Nature looked at burning water and was unconvinced by it, particularly the lack of explanation about why it works for sea water but not fresh water. http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070914/full/news070910-13.html

      John Kanzius (the guy in the videos) died in 2009, and nothing in his work seems to have progressed since then. He also noted that more energy had to go into creating the resonant frequency than was produced by burning.

  • I totally agree. Sunlight and wind can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen; that takes energy. There will be energy losses and it is an overall inefficient process. Using a nuclear reactor (or sunlight) to make jet fuel is perfectly understandable,

    With all due respect to the people from LENR, I will wait for peer reviewed, independently reproduced reports before I get too excited. The same applies to John Kanzius’s burning salt water.

  • ok well at least discussion in the topics is appreciated.
    I have a few points to make.

    How are rockets propelled into space ?
    If rockets why not cars ?
    I read most of that article by Phillip Ball
    I found “But making hydrogen from water takes more energy than you can ever recover from burning it. Extracting net energy from this total cycle is impossible, if you believe in the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Otherwise, you have the basis of a perpetual-motion machine.” This statement to be quite ridiculous. I believe that what he is saying is erroneous, I am convinced that there are cheap ways to break the covalent bond. This statement doesn’t take the advances in quantum physics into account. For example dark energy makes up roughly 70% of the universe, we do not know what this energy is or what effect it has on the day to day runnings of the universe. There could be a way to piggy back on this energy, in that case the thermodynamics law would not apply as thermodynamics operate in a closed loop environment, this would be an open system.
    Also the zero point field indicates a resonating frequency of atomic structures, resonating these frequencys at higher points would create nodular points at which differing environments would have effects upon the atomic structures. A bit like Tesla’s rumored earthquake machine. Mythbusters found “Amazingly, that did send a detectable vibration through the bridge — one that could be felt even hundreds of feet away from the oscillating motor. But while those results confirmed Tesla’s theory was on the right track, the machine wasn’t capable of inciting earth-shaking damage.” They couldn’t make it work properly but they showed the principle exists.
    Since theory tells us what we can’t do how about some theory that we might be able to do . http://www.kodasplace.com/more/watermotors.html

    even more fusion this being completely verified

  • Derek you can not argue by saying “We don’t know X therefore because of stuff I just made up unrelated thing Y is totally doable.”

    The energy that it takes to break a bond is greater than the energy gained by allowing the bond to form again, that is just how these things work. Now if you want to argue that we could use an energy source that is cheaper to build/run to break the bonds that’s fine. But inventing physics to support your argument is not a valid move.

    I’m not sure what your point about rockets is.

  • yeeeeeees. Not much of a step from not knowing what dark energy is to using it to create hydrogen from water….

    And the word “quantum” is not an incantation that makes all things suddenly possible.

    Mythbusters is a great half-hour of fun on TV, but is as close to serious scientific research as an episode of Third Rock is to confirming alien life.

    There is nothing new about the announcement in the original piece. It uses a large energy source of a particular type (nuclear generated electricity) to produce a portable energy source (hydrogen gas). But all of the known rules of physics still apply.

    Quantum effects and all.

  • Thanks for your comments , good to see the gang is still in town. Well all the data from LENR over the last 20 years confirms excess heat and hydrogen and don’t doubt me in this, the data is there for those who are really interested and to show the laws of physics still fully aren’t understood.
    Thermodynamic laws apply to closed loop systems a lot like closed loop electronics, that work on electron flow theory.
    Here is an example of nano technology rewriting the laws.
    “When the research paper arrived on March 4 at Physical Review Letters, one of the world’s top physics journals, editors winced. “Experimental Demonstration of Violations of the Second Law of Thermodynamics,” the title boldly proclaimed.
    Claims of violations of the Second Law tend to come from the same folks who talk to ET via aluminum foil, but this one, the editors quickly saw, was different, offering tantalizing hints about questions as diverse as the behavior of nanomachines, the thermodynamic arguments against evolution and the universality of nature’s laws.” “for Small Systems and Short Timescales.” But by whatever name, the paper in the July 26 Phys Rev Letters announces a discovery that, in the era of nanotechnology, has startling implications: For brief periods, tiny particles can suck up entropy, converting heat from their surroundings into useful work.” Apparently someone forgot to tell these guys.

    Thermodynamics explained “There are several ways to express the Second Law, but the basic idea is twofold. First, in a closed system, entropy (disorder) increases.”
    So yes emphasis is on the closed system, so guys sorry to burst your bubble, I am not into breaking the laws of physics. I was talking of open systems.

  • “Claims of violations of the Second Law tend to come from the same folks who talk to ET via aluminum foil,”

    Do you really think making such comments adds to your arguments?

    So when do you think we will have vehicles powered by LENR?

  • I already knew that LENR is a sensible research group.

    I doubt their scientists would be happy to hear that you are claiming they can make fuel from water. Nothing in the reference list suggests anything of the sort. Just detailed fundamental studies. Time will tell if anything comes of the work.

  • Thank you Maurice, yes when it comes to this field the “Widom Larsen theory” seems to describe this phenomenon the best. I watched most of Nasa presentation on LENR for aircraft and it sounds like they have extremely practical ways to use reactors to power aircraft.

  • by “practical”, you refer to an already existing technology – the electrolysis of water into its component gases.

    LENR, were it ever to reach a practical form, would possibly reduce the size and cost of the generation equipment. It won’t change the fundamental process.

  • I find it ironic that an energy solution that is clean green and abundant is so underground. No the boys at Nature magazine wont talk about it. No the press aren’t talking about it. No the schools aren’t telling the kids. But everyone else is talking about it. Mitsubishi, Toyota,Nasa, Spawar and so many others. There is soo much positive science data recorded including Mitsubishi using LENR to clean up nuclear waste, but hey you didnt hear about that (look it up you will find this is real).

    The unwashed masses all know about the yolk of the energy cartels the influence of the rockerfellers in the press.
    Its funny how science has focused on fairys and Einstien and the practical guys like Tesla with his work with electricity including radiant energy, wireless electricity, disruptive discharges and his alternatives to electron flow theory. Remain underground.

    Ashton you know nothing about LENR you dont even believe its real. So your comment comes from ignorance.
    Occams razor people

  • LENR has been shown to be far stronger than any known chemical reaction and up to 20’000’000 times the power density of today’s combustion energy processes. The LENR technology can continually create large amounts of heat in a small sized reactor for several months using small amounts of low cost fuel and without producing any greenhouse gas like CO2, any harmful nuclear waste or any dangerous radiation.

    It is an extremely clean and safe way of producing energy

    This is the future

  • @Derek – “Its funny how science has focused on fairys and Einstien and the practical guys like Tesla with his work with electricity including radiant energy, wireless electricity, disruptive discharges and his alternatives to electron flow theory. Remain underground.”

    science focuses on “fairys”?? What does that mean? Maybe it depends what papers you take, but certainly Tesla had more of an overt share of the physics curriculum than Einstein did.

    I’m sure this must have been said before, but when you make claims about the amount of positive science data recorded, it needs to be verified by peer-review. Anyone can make a youtube video, it doesn’t mean much!