However, Counting Cats highlights a novel process that I have never heard of before.
I haven’t mentioned this before, because it seemed just too weird. But, well, here is one for you, a company called Blacklight Power. To me, they sound like charlatans, but it looks as if there might be something real here. The problem is, if they are right the physics books will need to be revised and that is not something to be done at the drop of a hat - or the bounce of a molecule.
Seems they extract energy from hydrogen by dropping the electron into a lower orbit...
For those of you without a chemistry grounding, I will provide a brief (and very simplistic) explanation of what this means.
An atom is (usually) made up of a positively-charged nucleus (containing protons and neutrons) and negatively-charged electrons circling said nucleus.
The electron shells of sodium. Note the single electron on the outer shell, which endows upon sodium its high reactivity.
The electrons are generally depicted as being on a series of successive orbital electron shells and each shell can only contain a fixed number of electrons. When the shell is filled, the electrons are added to the next orbital shell. (The outermost shell is known as the valence shell and it is this orbital which, to a large degree, determines the reactive properties of an element).
Each electron shell is said to have a certain natural energy range: the higher the orbital shell (in other words, the further from the nucleus), the higher the inherent energy required to occupy it.
As such, moving electrons between valence bands carries an energy value (negative or positive). In this case, dropping a hydrogen electron down to a lower shell (i.e. the next one in) releases energy. Except that, in a normal hydrogen atom, there is no lower electron shell.
Hence, broadly-speaking, the scepticism.
Well, yes, that would release energy, if the electron weren’t already in the ground state. For those who know any physics this sounds like nonsense on stilts; hell, if the term hadn’t already been discredited I would almost be tempted to state that there is a scientific consensus that this can’t happen (snigger), but something is going on.
They have raised sixty million dollars in venture financing, and you don’t get that with just a sketch of a perpetual motion machine, half of their 25 staff are PhDs, and Rowan University, on testing a Blacklight “50KW” unit, have confirmed significant heat energy release [PDF].
From the Summary:In the actual heat experiments the calorimeter generated over 1.01-1.02 megajoules of excess heat of which only 9.4-11.0 kilojoules could be accounted for by our chemistry team. The combination and variety of testing by the chemistry team (TPD & XRD) generated results that characterized the primary compounds in the BLP materials and provided no evidence of other reactants, to the limit of the techniques used to characterize the samples.
Which is, I think you'll agree, all very interesting—especially given the fact that it should be impossible. But why is this important now?
The thing is, this is not just people playing around in laboratories any more, after years of work Blacklight has finally gone commercial. Two days ago in fact.BlackLight Power Inc. Announces First Commercial License with Estacado Energy Services [Word document]
Non-Exclusive License to produce up to 250 MW of continuous power
Yep, that’s right, they have signed a contract with a New Mexico power utility and are about to deliver on their claims, on an industrial scale.
Addendum: Apparently less than 2 cents per kwh - if it isn’t complete twaddle.
It's a very interesting idea, and one that I shall follow with interest. Still, if it does work, it's another process that will piss off the Green lobby: the thing that they fear the most is clean, sustainable power and one cannot really blame them—when you've spent decades building up a massive AGW hoax and suddenly human ingenuity finds a way around it, you are going to be mightily pissed off.
I wonder what their next excuse to take us back to the Dark Ages will be...?