Power for nothing, tricks for free!

So assuming this is real and works, we can now catalyze seawater into hydrogen and oxygen at a 96-ish percent efficiency. This is pretty close to the holy grail.

You burn the hydrogen to produce energy, and the waste product is pure H2O. Waste products of the catalysis are brine containing sodium, lithium, and cobalt. Sodium and sulfur can be used to produce molten salt batteries to store energy, lithium can be used for battery tech we have now, and cobalt is actually needed to catalyze the reaction.

The big problem with renewable energy is storage for off-peak times. This could neatly solve that problem. You get energy from the sun or wind or tides or whatever, then use it to produce hydrogen which you burn in a turbine.

The waste product of burning hydrogen is pure water, which you can use to irrigate fields and you know, drink.

It’s sci-fi shit, man. Potentially transformative.

Until it turns out that by doing so we summon a galactic space worm that eats us.

Does that also solve previous issues with being able to cost effectively do desalination with there being a pure h20 waste product? Awesome if they really can make it all work. /me watches the ocean levels suddenly drop

Hmm. The first thing that stuck out to me is “near 100% efficiency” which raises the question, is that 100% of the energy going into making it happen comes out? That would be a net neutral, but the wording is tricky and I don’t get it. The second is that they are achieving similar results to heavily processed input water with less fancy catalysts, but that would say that they also have the same inefficiencies of that process. I’m falling on the side of “cool tech but didn’t really change the game” until I understand it better. Splitting molecular bonds is an endothermic reaction, and can happen with the right catalyst but there should be a penalty in there somewhere.

From what I’ve read reverse osmosis is more efficient if what you really want is pure water, not energy.

The ocean is effectively an infinite resource when you’re talking about seawater rather than bluefin tuna, nothing to worry about there.

It’s ~96% efficient and you do need energy for the reaction, it doesn’t break the laws of physics. That energy can come from renewables. Older catalysis reactions are more like 60% efficient and need nearly pure water to start. Even if this was only 60% efficient it would probably be worthwhile because you don’t need to purify the water before cracking it into H2 and O2.

The reaction also releases chlorine gas which sounds no bueno (deadly) but that degrades rapidly so shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but they need to figure out how to deal with that when cracking ocean water large-scale.

The real breakthroughs kinda sneak up on you. MRNA vaccines, weight loss drugs that actually work (and aren’t meth), and now a nearly 100% efficient way to crack seawater into hydrogen. We’re living in the future, peeps. All those sci-fi books I read as a little boy are coming to life.

If it’s real, and there aren’t any factors rendering it unviable. All that needs to be explored-- but now that we know the reaction, this could really be transformative.

I think what you’re missing is that it isn’t a question of how much seawater there is, it’s about breaking it apart in an energy-positive way. You get hydrogen, which wants to be a gas at normal temperatures and oxygen, same, and they have been bound together in water. If you can break that bond then you have to put in enough energy to send them on their way.
It’s like two spastic children handcuffed, you unlock the cuffs and suddenly you have two way more energetic objects. Breaking those cuffs takes energy and you are never 100 percent efficient about that.

So energy goes in to break them apart, and then energy comes out when they come back together, typically in burning something where the energetic oxygen molecule hooks back up to carbons and sheds heat. The idea of 100 percent doesn’t really apply because there are losses all along the way.

It isn’t exothermic, it isn’t fission or fusion. You need to put energy in, it’s “only” 96% efficient. Thing is, that energy can come from renewables and this gives you a way to store renewable energy as hydrogen (and perhaps large molten salt batteries) so you can burn it when the wind isn’t blowing or whatever. It renders renewable energy sources vastly more viable because storage is (or perhaps, was) their main downfall.

This story is starting to get traction and people are talking about hydrogen fuel cells in cars and houses again. I still doubt that’ll happen because hydrogen atoms are so small they’re real bastards, they can slip right through steel (and degrade it in the process). It’s also less dense than petroleum products unless compressed, which makes it even more of a bastard. This will be used at power plants then distributed along the same wiring we’ve always used. Those power plants will be much smaller and decentralized, though, and only on the coastline.

If it’s real, anyway.

Ah, yes! Another small scale climate wunderwaffen. All it requires is handling sodium, lithium, cobalt, and chlorine, which are fairly inert products, right? Right?!?

I’m sure this is simplifying a ton, but what I hear you saying is that you are effectively converting renewable energy into potential energy that is easily stored and can be used at a later time when demand necessitates it.

I remember when someone was freaking out about hydrogen fuel cells.
“Hydrogen is explosive and dangerous!”

My response was to post a video of a semi-tanker explosion.

They tend to look like this:

Or as I always say: “Gasoline is less an accelerant and more a liquid explosive.”

In essence, the efficiency isn’t as important as at some point our ability to generate power is going to be much larger than what we can consume. This is yet another way to store excess energy, but it’s only suited to certain locations that have sea access. It’ll probably be in competition with pumping fresh water up hill to be used by hydro-electric dams, moving large weights to heights to store potential energy, fly wheels, etc. Likely one of many solutions to convert energy to potential energy for short term storage.

MA is building a giant wind farm off our coast that is supposed to start powering homes this year. Some people have dubbed MA the “Saudi Arabia of Wind” [ed: but not of human rights thankfully!] and this might be a great way to do something the the excess power that will be generated during off peak hours.

On the other hand, given we’re connected to the rest of the energy hungry north east, it’s possible we will not have excess generation for a long time.

This thread has a tag. Is that a thing?

I have nothing to contribute.


Props for the title. Happy Friday everyone!

This is why we should feel optimistic for us and our children. The worlds problems don’t really change, or increase I should say, but the ability of humans to solve the world’s problems is growing at a very high rate. That is why I am hopeful for the future. I stole this observation from a podcast but I do agree with it.

Did they also quantify how smart you need to be to wreck the world? And how that number goes down every year?

That’s pretty much it. This gives us a way to store energy from renewables so we can keep the lights on when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t out without destroying the planet even more, and the waste products are pretty much pure water. Plus brine which can be mined for trace elements, and remaining salt can be dumped into a deep hole in the ground somewhere. It isn’t nuclear waste, it’s just salt.

Tags are a thing in Discourse, but we currently have them restricted to admins only. I don’t know if that was ever actually discussed, they were disabled because vBulletin didn’t have them on. Same as the new Discourse chat feature.

Tags are way more useful on forums that have a lot of short threads (so not this one.)

That said, I’m always for any feature that has comedic potential.

Being able to store energy without the need for rare earth batteries is definitely a big win for renewable energy sources.