Friday, August 01, 2008

More on alternative power solutions

Ars Technica has an article studying three breakthroughs in the field of alternative fuel cells, including this one...
Widespread use of fuel cells will rely on cheap sources of hydrogen and oxygen. Researchers at MIT have now made an oxygen-producing catalyst that operates on water in a neutral environment (pH 7 at atmospheric pressure) and can be coupled with solar cells; it's essentially a man-made equivalent to photosynthesis.

Platinum has been used as a catalyst for this reaction in the past, but the costs associated with platinum (it closed today at over $1,730 per ounce) have prompted efforts to eliminate its use. The new research describes the formation of a catalyst composed of a combination of cobalt, potassium, and phosphorous—all cheap and easy to obtain. The researchers found that two different inert electrodes would, when placed into a dilute solution containing cobalt and buffered with potassium phosphate, spontaneously form a coating of the catalyst. When provided with relatively low electrical potentials, such as those obtained from a solar cell, the catalyst would liberate oxygen gas by splitting the water that was acting as a solvent.

Interesting stuff; do go and have a read.

You see? We are moving away from oil, the high price of which is helping to make these technologies economically viable and thus worth investing in. At the same time, there are engineering problems to overcome: we will solve them, but we really need some stop-gap powerstations to stop the lights going out in the meantime...

But what I like about such articles is that they are positive; green activists are always so fucking negative. Their attitude is all about cutting back on our lifestyles, not travelling so much, switching off this and rationing that. They are depressing cunts whose ultimate aim seems to be to drive us back to the agrarian Dark Ages (where, of course, we will all be vegans) and then to ensure that we still feel guilty about the fact that our horses fart.

Those of us who put our faith in technology are fundamentally more optimistic. And imaginative.

19 comments:

anthonynorth said...

I see you've finally come round to my way of thinking.
That's good.

FlipC said...

"feel guilty about the fact that our horses fart"

Ah DK you need to buy a bag of corks so that whenever someone starts waffling on about emissions you can explain how much their own bodily processes produce, then present them with a cork and a suggestion of where they can shove it to do the most good.

Devil's Kitchen said...

What?

I have always been a fan of alternative power sources: you will find posts on the subject going back almost as long as I have been writing.

Thinking that AGW is a load of crap is not incompatible with thinking that we should still stop burning oil -- as I have also stated many, many times.

DK

Devil's Kitchen said...

P.S. That was a reply to anthonynorth...

John B said...

indeed - given that everyone in the entire oil industry, even the ones who don't believe in AGW [*], now believes that peak oil is a fact, alternative power sources are pretty uncontroversial.

(I know you know this but) it's obviously worth noting that this fuel cell makes it cheaper to turn electricity into portable energy, but doesn't actually produce energy itself...

[*] the CEOs and the experts. Yes, tThere are probably some idiots who clean pipes in the oil industry and think it'll all last forever and that peak oil is a conspiracy cooked up by dirty hippies.

Henry Crun said...

flipc - I just tell the AGW wankers to stop breathing - at least that way they stop producing CO2.

@DK another Hollywood type plot article in the Groaniad about how we only have 100 months to save the planiiiiiiiit. I look forward to the usual fisking.

anthonynorth said...

Maybe I come here too intermittently, and for not long enough. But I think you fail to give that impression in many of your posts.
And certainly you've appeared hostile in the past to my suggestions of new, smaller business enterprises based on alternative tech.
Still, if I've got you wrong, I apologise.

Carl Richardson said...

Green activists are no different from those insane preachers you see on the street. Always going on about the end of the world and how our the sinfulness—not using energy saving light bulbs and shitting on compost heaps—is the cause.It's a pity people actually listen to them.

Patrick said...

Ahh.. The beauty of science and the free market working in tandem.. Imagine if there was NO govt?.. The possibilities could be endless... Great article DK...

V said...

The nice thing about preaching the end of the world is that you will be right - once!

The rest of us need to do more positive enviromentalism - it drives the hippies nuts! :)

Roger Thornhill said...

HN, I think you might find that DK (and I come to that) dislikes it when "alternative" sources are bunged huge amounts of subsidy/money so impractical "solutions" can be thrust upon us. Wind is an example.

anthonynorth said...

It may come as a shock to some of you guys, but not all green activists preach the end of the world, or want to see the end of capitalism. Some even think that wind power and enforced recycling are simplistic, cosmetic measures imposed knowing that they'll put people off green issues.
Okay, it may only be me, granted. But I believe that if enough money was thrown at our engineers they could come up with viable alternatives very quickly indeed. So why isn't this happening?
Well, people who think we have free market economics today are living on the wrong planet. As soon as businesses and tech came together to remove themselves from immediate consumer pressure, free markets stopped and empire building began, turning us all into obedient little serfs.
This system is maintained only because fossil fuels - and nuclear - require big systems to maintain them. The new tech I'm talking about would be operable by smaller businesses, more accountable to the consumer, and this terrifies Big Biz, for they would be finished. And smaller Biz would return us to a proper capitalist free market economy.
So how does this happen? Well, it begins with the message.

asquith said...

Have you read this?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/31/biofuels.travelandtransport

asquith said...

http://tinyurl.com/5wwotw ,sorry

Guardian apostate said...

DK, I wonder what you make of this:

http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=3340274697167011147&q=the+energy+non+crisis&ei=xYdXSND8EJCEjgKwt4T6Dg

The Remittance Man said...

Forget the horses DK, flipc is right on the button. Have you ever seen one of those "reality" shows where they take a bunch of people and make them live like stone agers? The diet they get fed must mean the poor buggers are forever wandering around in their own personal miasma.

bernard said...

"cobalt, potassium, and phosphorous—all cheap and easy to obtain". Are you kidding?
Most of that stuff comes from Africa, esp. Zimbabwe.
Why do you think the Chinese are about to re-colonise the place.
We'll be lucky to be left with a bag of NaCl!

Devil's Kitchen said...

anthonynorth,

"And certainly you've appeared hostile in the past to my suggestions of new, smaller business enterprises based on alternative tech."

I am hostile to taxpayer funding of such businesses: this is partly because politicians are shit at choosing decent technologies, and partly because subsidisation of business conceals whether said products are actually viable.

As such, I am against all business subsidies (in kind as well as in cash).

DK

anthonynorth said...

And as I made very clear in my comments a while ago, so am I.
I'm for a world where the message is spread that Big Biz is bad, and people begin to support smaller business, which will then take up the challenge.
I'm for a world where we subvert political parties themselves by spreading the message that independents can curtail the power of party politics.
We disagree on some things - AGW and drugs for starters - but we're not far apart, really.