21 June 2008

90% Biomass to Electricity Efficiencies in the Pipe

UK researchers have combined two types of fuel cells, and made some important discoveries about the use of solid carbon--including biomass carbon--in efficient fuel cell power production.
Direct carbon fuel cells run on solid carbon fuel and typically use solid oxide or molten carbonate electrolytes to transport ions between the electrodes. John Irvine at the University of St Andrews and colleagues made a hybrid direct carbon fuel cell containing both types of electrolyte. They found that the binary electrolyte system enhanced carbon oxidation because carbon was oxidised not only on the electrode surface but also in the carbon-electrolyte slurry...

Solid carbon, which comes from various sources such as coal or plants, packs a lot of energy into a small volume, making it an attractive fuel. Irvine states that coal will be a major energy source in the future but, unless it can be converted into electricity more efficiently, will lead to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Fuel cells could be the answer, he says. 'Carbon fuel cells offer very high efficiency of conversion and, if implemented in the correct way, can yield two to three times the amount of energy for a given amount of coal compared to conventional thermal generation,' he explains. __Source_via_fuelcellworks
The carbon fuel cell appears to be an even more efficient means to produce cellulosic electricity than using the gasification to turbine (steam or gas) routes. Thermal generation from coal or torrefied biomass may achieve 30% to 40% electric generation efficiency (above 50% in combined cycle operation). Fuel cell generation efficiencies might reach above 80% combined cycle, eventually higher.

The promise of 90% or higher efficiencies from biomass electricity production is a potent goal. Keep in mind that combined heat and power (CHP) is the way of the future. Whether capturing waste heat from heat engine generators such as steam or gas turbines, or capturing waste heat from fuel cells, that added power generated from waste heat of power production can make the difference between an energy-rich "power to spare" society, and a brown-out society like Caw-lee-forn-ya.

Excerpted and modified from a previously published article at Al Fin Energy.

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Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

I had never heard of this idea before. It sounds interesting. Between the chemistry, biology and engineering technology advancements that seem to be coming more fast and furious than ever (accelerating trends and all) it almost seems like there are more potential solutions than be have the ability to evaluate.

Saturday, 21 June, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Not really. The resources need to be re-allocated more rationally, however.

Think of all the money wasted in university and government budgets. Ethnic, gender, queer studies . . . Post-modern irrationalism in various departments including history, philosophy, language, literature, polisci, schools of dumbed-down teacher education, etc. etc. affirmative action, quotas . . .

What about all the billions thrown at catastrophic global warming? Those jokers would return more value for the money digging ditches manually, then refilling them with the same dirt or sand.

Saturday, 21 June, 2008  
Blogger Will Brown said...

Given our recent discussion of fiat currency and the like I'm not certain this activity Al Fin describes is necessarily all bad.

Keeping all those people occupied at relatively lesser real expense (as opposed to "fiat" expenditure) at least keeps them preoccupied and distracted while the rest of us get on with things.

I'm not quite prepared to argue this is an actual advantage, the interference and distraction all this "fiat" activity imposes has a real-world cost, but I think the situation does also offer opportunities to those willing to leverage the intentions of some against the desires of others.

I suggest the history of nuclear power generation is a fitting example of the effect I'm describing. All the disperate activity available has dispersed the focused opposition to further development and implimentation of the technology. Or so recent events seem to indicate.

The resulting relative inertia, rather than effective opposition to technological advancements is certainly a burden, but creates a social atmosphere that is more willing to consider more numerous alternative options then history demonstrates is otherwise often the case, I think.

Many of the political progressive's (ie: socialist/fascist) programs from the early and mid-20th century are impressive seeming in their own right, but at what cost to overall technologic development? Their focused opposition to alternative propositions (both technical and sociological) had the effect of stifilling R&D into alternative mechanisms of achieving the same or possibly greater objectives.

Living in interesting times is disconcerting, but the opportunities that result seem so much greater then more placid-seeming epochs create, or so it seems to me. The trick, as the man said, is to keep your head amidst the fervent actions of all the rest ... and don't panic.

Saturday, 21 June, 2008  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

This is really cool technology and I'm surprised I hadn't heard of it before. I wonder what happens to contaminants. And what is the NOx output and all that. I guess I'll have to look up the technical details.

As far as providing the blue states with research funds, sure, why not explore making paper out of hemp. Makes complete sense provided you don't actually try to build an industry out of it.

Saturday, 21 June, 2008  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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