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hamish

Petrol from thin air

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I caught this tonight on James May's Big Ideas, the idea of literally synthesising fuel out of air and water, using solar heat to drive the process.

Obviously I'm very unsure of the practicality of it, but it is an astonishing idea, and if it works it would of course make peak oil irrelevant. It's also 'green' because it would be a closed loop process, as when you burn the fuel created this way, you are only putting back the same CO2 that was taken out of the atmosphere to make the fuel, rather than adding it as we do with fossil fuels.

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I caught this tonight on James May's Big Ideas, the idea of literally synthesising fuel out of air and water, using solar heat to drive the process.

Obviously I'm very unsure of the practicality of it, but it is an astonishing idea, and if it works it would of course make peak oil irrelevant. It's also 'green' because it would be a closed loop process, as when you burn the fuel created this way, you are only putting back the same CO2 that was taken out of the atmosphere to make the fuel, rather than adding it as we do with fossil fuels.

Great idea but prohibitively expensive. 2-3 gallons a day. But how much does that baby cost to build and put in the back yard? How much energy goes into producing one of the dishes and CR5's? Even on large scale i cant see this happening. Easier to have conventional solar and wind power creating the juice for electric cars. Good find though!

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Great idea but prohibitively expensive. 2-3 gallons a day. But how much does that baby cost to build and put in the back yard? How much energy goes into producing one of the dishes and CR5's? Even on large scale i cant see this happening. Easier to have conventional solar and wind power creating the juice for electric cars. Good find though!

Well ultimately the fuel cost per gallon would determine it's viability, and I suspect that there might be better (cheaper) alternative methods of making liquid fuels, such as the oil from algae that is also being researched. The main reason I posted it was the idea that you could make petrol out of thin air and water, using the sun, just seemed so incredible.

Whilst I think electric cars for the average commuter are reasonably close on the horizon, heavy transport, such as trucks, trains, and ships will rely on liquid fuels for some time yet, not to mention I think it's still quite a long way off before batteries will be good enough to power aircraft, so it's worth pursuing these alternatives.

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Well ultimately the fuel cost per gallon would determine it's viability, and I suspect that there might be better (cheaper) alternative methods of making liquid fuels, such as the oil from algae that is also being researched. The main reason I posted it was the idea that you could make petrol out of thin air and water, using the sun, just seemed so incredible.

Whilst I think electric cars for the average commuter are reasonably close on the horizon, heavy transport, such as trucks, trains, and ships will rely on liquid fuels for some time yet, not to mention I think it's still quite a long way off before batteries will be good enough to power aircraft, so it's worth pursuing these alternatives.

Yes, there are other fuels and ways of pruducing them. In fact i, um, er can produce a fairly flammable fuel myself just by eating beans. Fuel of the future.:o But maybe use animals waste as well.

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Yes, there are other fuels and ways of pruducing them. In fact i, um, er can produce a fairly flammable fuel myself just by eating beans. Fuel of the future.:o But maybe use animals waste as well.

Well there was an episode of Mythbusters where they ran a lawnmower of the methane produced by decomposing cow dung, so 'animal' waste is an entirely viable fuel source :)

Actually, we really should be trying to collect and usefully burn all that methane coming from decomposing organic matter, because methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 molecule for molecule, So we would be doing the planet a favour by burning it, and all the better if we can gain some usefull work out of it. Plus it can substitute for fossil fuels, another win.

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'oilgae' is the organic equivalent of this idea -- algae as the photosynthesising solar collector, converting CO2, H2O and some other nutrients into long chain hydrocarbon lipids in a little organic factory -- botryococcus species presumed to be the species that created the world's oil reserves in the first place...

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The advantages I can see for aglae over other biofuel crops, are that it can be grown in deserts or other areas unsuitable for food crops, so it's not taking from the food supply, and it's yield per hectare is hugely better than other crops like corn. There's even an idea to retrofit algae growing vats or tubes to the smokestack of power plants to bio sequester some of the CO2 that comes out.

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Interesting, may not be entirely ideal from a global warming perspective, but using a wasteproduct as feedstock is a good thing, and it probably cleans up some noxious emissions as a side benifit.

I don't think there's a silver bullet in terms of replacing oil, but instead a whole bunch of technologies like this one, acting in concert will probably do it.

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