back to article Academics propose carbon-capture kit for cars

US-based researchers have unveiled a cunning plan for future motoring in which carbon-capture technology would be used aboard vehicles. The stored carbon would then be recovered at filling stations and - rather than being "sequestered" underground or wherever - get reprocessed back into synthetic fuel. "We wanted to create a …

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Boffin

No need to store and transport the CO2

Simply let the cars release the CO2 to the air...

The fuel plant should be able to grab CO2 out of the air much more easily than requiring that it be recovered from the cars and transported as a liquid.

The overall effect on CO2 is identical - each tonne of CO2 that would be carefully carried from car to plant in the current plan is instead released by the car, then a matching tonne is removed from the air by the plant.

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Boffin

Not just carbon dioxide

To only capture pure CO2, you'd have to work rather hard to remove the other exhaust components like unburnt fuel, NOx, CO, water, and the trace nasties in the fuel and the fuel additives.

If you just capture everything, you will be left with a chemical waste tank rather than a harmless SodaStream bulb. And even if you're allowed to carry those around, anyone trying to reprocess it into a fuel will have to deal with the separation and the waste.

If you try to remove them, its going to get complex and unreliable, not to mention expensive.

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Go

Feeble over renewables

Instead of providing up 20% of electric power by renewables, we need to be looking to provide 200%, with excess energy stored as hydrogen or hydrocarbons for transport. There is more than enough sunlight in lower latitude and in many places like the UK more than enough wind, It is currently expensive against fossil fuel, but we have to stop using that, anyway.

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Stop

Surely...

they could just perform the separation at the pump? Where's the need to have all the excess fuel components in the car, weighing it down thus reducing fuel efficiency? That way it's easier for the consumer, and easier for the petrol company to get it back to the plant for processing.

In addition to what GettinSadda said about releasing CO2 rather than storing it and transporting it - it would also result in less fuel being used to transport the CO2!

Trust the Americans to come up with the least environmentally friendly way to be environmentally friendly...!

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Boffin

How to turn CO2 and H2O into fuel

"The greatest remaining challenge... will be developing a method for making a synthetic liquid fuel from just CO2 and water using renewable energy sources."

Some kind of factory or plant (hint) that turns CO2 and H2O into fuel using, say, sunlight... I think this is covered in your other article today: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/13/science_biofuel_reports/

The conclusion being that it's bollocks.

Mr. Fusion anyone?

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Silver badge

A possible solution?

We already ship crude oil all over the world in big tankers from the few places whilch can supply it. Well, there are certain places on earch which can supply vast amounts of renewable energy.

Deserts are vast wastelans, virtualy uninhabitable by mankind and therefore mostly uninhabitted. Large solar arrays (probably solarpowered steam turbines, or something similar, would be preferable to photovoltaic cells with current tech, but this could change in future) could be spread accross these wastelands, and the energy used to process the CO2 & Water (obviously either the water or elecy must be transported, as theres little water in the desert). This can then be shipped back to "civilisation".

There are also places with a lot of geothermal power available, which could be harnessed (although I would be worried about what effect sucking vast amounts of energy out of the earths core would do). There are large rivers, very windy sites, and other similar phenomenon all over the world.

I think the desert idea is great myself, using land which is unusable for any other purpose, and this way you just transport from, say, the sahara instead of the middle east. Negligible difference in transport (the main difference being you must transport both ways, however the fuel is also already processed rather than in need of refining, which may offset the difference).

Just my two pence worth (I've been thinking about it for a while, for production of hydrogen, but hydrogren + extremely high temparatures doesnt sound like the best plan to me :S )

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Alert

Liquid CO2?

Hang on; doesn't CO2 go directly from gas to/from solid (deposition/sublimation) at normal temperatures and pressures? There is no liquid state at pressures below 5.1 atmospheres.

I'm not too hot on pressure containment - do SodaStream bulbs really contain liquid at > 75 lbs/sq in? (sorry, don't know what that is in bags of sugar / olympic sized swimming pool)

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Focus Nick

Nick,

The CO2 would be captured when released by the pre processing CHAMP reactor, not when burnt. And hydrogen when burnt with oxygen produces only one by product, H2O, which can definitely just be released.

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Re:GettinSadda

But that would be far less profitable than having to manufacture an exhaust processor into each new car.

We already have carbon processing plants. Although in my country, we call them plants. (which, incidentally, turn that carbon into things that can be combusted, and thus feed a new generation of plants. Except now, the population control/culling environmentalist movement would have you believe CO2 is the worlds worst pollutant.)

I'd like to say now that I'm all for conservation, and against genuine pollution (heavy metals, irradiated waste, fertiliser runoff). However, I loathe how the genuine good work of these organisations is being hijacked by a population control movement.

First we were told our incandescent bulbs are illegal, so now everyone happily uses mercury filled florescent bulbs. Next we're told families in Australia (and subsequently the rest of the "civilised" world) should be taxed for having more than one child. Now streetlights (a feature that has done a lot to improve safety) will be turned off.

You mark my words. There will be food rationing (because some foods take more carbon than others to make). There will be clothes rationing. Then power rationing. This is not about protecting the environment, it never was, it never will be. This is about population control, a gradual, subtle descent into world tyranny.

They (the powers that be) have learn't from the previous century that rapid martial law and fascism never works. The people resist it strongly. So now they are doing it gradually, so no one will notice the wool being pulled over their eyes.

Go back to bed world, everything is fine. Here, watch TV, take your vaccinations, drink your fluoridated water. Shut up, don't question, don't think.

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Paris Hilton

@Nick

Come on Nick. If you feel the need to reply, at least read the article. The fuel is not burned as such it s run through the reactor first and changed into CO2 and hydrogen. Remember your GCSE Chemistry? The hydrogen is then burned to make water.

Paris? Cos she can't read either...

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Go

Convert CO2 to Fuel - complete the virtuous circle?

So... locate the Co2 -> Hydrocarbon factories between deserts and the sea, use seawater (salt is a useful catalyst in the process - see http://www.freepatentsonline.com/6987134.html) and energy derived from sunlight as the source energy for the conversion.

CO2 from atmosphere + Seawater + Sunlight -> Hydrocarbons -> Tanker to where required -> Existing fuel distribution to forecourt -> Burned in vehicle engine to produce Energy -> CO2 back into atmosphere.

Where's the flaw(s)?

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A possible disolution.

Dr. Mouse:

"Deserts are vast wastelans, virtualy uninhabitable by mankind and therefore mostly uninhabitted. Large solar arrays (probably solarpowered steam turbines, or something similar, would be preferable to photovoltaic cells with current tech, but this could change in future)"

Solar steam turbine tech relies on shiny mirrors, and photovoltaic cells need a clear surface.

Now consider sandstorms. Airborne sand scratch shiny surfaces, so less light is reflected by a mirror, and less light is transmitted through the glass covering a photovoltaic cell. Sand also buries things, so in some cases no light gets through at all.

Counterintuitive though it may be, deserts are crap places for solar power.

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Flame

The energy efficiency stinks.

The energy in the bonds in hydrocarbons runs

carbon-hydrogen bond 413 kJ/mole

carbon carbon bond 348 kj/mole

hydrogen-hydrogen bond 74 kj/mole

For gasoline (mostly octane), that means the 1/3 of the energy is in carbon-carbon bonds as opposed to carbon-hydrogen bonds. That energy is lost in the preprocessing of the fuel. Given that in this scheme you also have to form H2, you lose an additional roughly 10% of the energy doing that. So all in all, this scheme intrinsically throws away roughly 40% of the energy in gasoline BEFORE you then have to deal with the internal combustion engine.

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Flame

can they

can they also turn tin into gold? bloody Alchemists....

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1,000-psi liquid CO2

http://www.eagle.ca/~gcowan/boron_blast.html#Liquid_CO2

Large pressure tanks of CO2(l) are definitely hazardous. A tanker truck of this sort killed a lot of people sometime in the past year.

Best is not to have the CO2 at all, and not have any hydrogen either. Almost as good, just let the CO2 go; abundant minerals can and do pull it spontaneously out of air. They don't mind doing the work of unmixing.

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Boffin

Low attention span

@all....Yep, I missed the non-combustion part out, but I think contamination problems would still exist for natural (lets call them "organic" for the green lobby) fuels, since they are an impure mixture of hydrocarbons and many additives to help improve engine performance and pass environmental emissions standards. So todays supermarket petrol or diesel might well poison the reactor quite quickly. Would be OK if it was a pure synthetic fuel though,

Meh....its 10 years since I left my postdoc job in Chemistry and ran away to the IT circus.

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Leaks

"Nothing very bad will happen" except for suffocating everyone who happens to be in the garage at the time. And it can still blow up if the tank ruptures suddenly.

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Re: Liquid CO2?

"""There is no liquid state at pressures below 5.1 atmospheres."""

They did mention in the article that the tanks would store CO2 at 30bar... Which is damned near 30 ATM. So there would be a liquid state. Liquid CO2 is actually pretty common.

@1,000-psi liquid CO2:

30bar is only around 450psi, and thats when its warm out. There are a number of factors that would make a truck-sized tank significantly more dangerous than the tank that would likely be needed for this plan, plus most tanks don't just explode when they fail - they're designed to rupture a little bit and blow off all of their pressure, not simply convert themselves to shrapnel.

Seems like this CHAMP thing wouldn't be energy neutral in itself - Sounds like it would heat up. And we all know how useful low-grade thermal energy is.

I'm just glad that we can get news of this quality (You know, the sort with accurate thermodynamics) from El Reg. Excellent article.

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Anonymous Coward

technology schmechnonlogy

Horses. Carts. Canal boats. Tea clippers.

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Boffin

fuel conversion

Energy Conversion Devices (inventor of the NiMH battery) produces a fuel converter whereby any organic fuel can be run through it to produce pure H2 and Carbon (black). Burn or run the Hydrogen through a fuel cell, catch the solid carbon in a suitable container, and there you are.

Carbon black is a valuable commodity, and no problems with high pressure containers for either H2 or CO2...

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Boffin

Efficiency? Or Just Big Oil at it Again.

This looks to me very much like a desperate grasp by 'big oil' to hang on to their oligopoly and enormous profits. I just can't see how this method could beat other contenders for renewable-based transport energy in a fair competition.

To consider any of the alternative transport energy sources, one must keep a firm eye on the big picture - efficiency - though there are other considerations. This assumes minuscule or zero greenhouse emissions at the tailpipe, of course.

Nick has a point about those harmful by-products, even if not derived from combustion per se. If synthetic fuel is used to avoid them then where's the point in adopting GIT CHAMP at all? Why not use other more efficient approaches?

@Dr Mouse - just a point of clarification if I may - geothermal power uses heat derived from the gradual fission of radioactive isotopes in rock. Few locations are suitable, but where it is suitable, the energy potential is truly huge. Australia supposedly has many suitable sites.

@AC @Dr Mouse - "deserts are crap places for solar power". Well, no, actually. Have a look at where several solar installations are being built. And then there's the Mars rovers, driving about in the biggest desert of them all, purely on solar power. One consideration against deserts is the distance to population centres (where the power is used and from where the labour force and building materials are derived).

In previous articles, El Reg seems to have taken a stance against battery-electric vehicles. I don't understand why this is. Battery-electric vehicles are by far the most efficient and are improving year-by-year. With the latest technology, battery life is not dissimilar to the life of mechanical components in existing vehicles. And recharge times are improving, plus there's the promise of a couple of imminent technological developments (lab-demonstrated but not yet prototyped) to significantly improve that parameter. Given we already have efficient electricity trading markets and distribution infrastructure, and the ability to 'plug in' any renewable energy source we like to the electricity grid, it just looks obvious to me. An electric-based transport energy sector provides not only zero emissions at the tailpipe, but also all of the incentives for renewable energy development and energy-source competition with no 'lock in'. I studied this in detail in 2007, and I know where I'm investing my money. But finding the information isn't easy, and there are a lot of counter arguments. IMHO, many of those counter arguments are a deliberate ruse aimed at preserving the power if current energy market suppliers.

If we (the people) do anything, it should be to ensure our governments legislate for free and open competition in all energy sectors, within a national/global carbon-cap and emissions trading scheme. The market will take care of the rest.

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How do you store it

It would take about 5bhp to compress the CO2 fast enough to a liquid in the British climate, and add about 30KG in weight resulting in a full 100KG tank every 2 hours @ 60mph. (assuiming 300grammes/mile of CO2) plus the compressor parts.The tanks would be massive to take CO2 as a gas.

5bhp for 10cfm compressed to around 800psi. I need around 6.5cfm of CO2 compressed every minute minimum.

.

About 10% extra fuel would be used to store the CO2 in tanks. You could pump the liquid through oil pipelines much easier afterwards than a gas but that's about it.

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CO2 vapour-liquid equilibrium pressures, per NIST

273 K (-0.15°C), 34.713 bar

283 K (9.85°C), 44.855 bar

293 K (19.85°C), 57.089 bar

303 K (29.85°C), 71.89 bar

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Dead Vulture

People have missed the boat on this one.. literally..

Look with the seas about to rise about 12 meters in the near future (500 years or so), literally everyone that drives will own environmentally sound sail boats.

So why bother all this green stuff, why stress over whether bio-fuels will actually produce more CO2 than sticking to gasoline (petrol), or whether the sea really is a great place to dump nuclear waste (why not, it's bottomless and all set to give us another 12 meters of protection). The fuss over whether our local chippies will double as dirty bombs when they fry up all those 3-headed fish is just more lentil-fueled hippy talk.

Because we all know that despite the itsy bitsy issue of spent fuel rods, newqueuelar is an awesomely clean energy source, and tons of it available too.

We also know that the development of glow-in-the-dark dogs is proceeding at a depressingly slow pace, and the answer to both our problems are staring us in the face.

A nuclear power station in your own back yard.

*Penguins because they really ought to start the rebellion, and quite soon if the thing about Antartic self-dissolving is anything close to being accurate.

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Go

Not really viable...

But a step in the right direction. Alternatives are not really viable yet (No, none of them), so for now hydrocarbons are all we have. And now, a company has come up with a way to recycle those hydrocarbons and cut their emissions down to nothing ('Cept water).

So where's the negative to this? There may be downsides, but no more severe than other alternatives. In fact, this seems to be pretty good all round, with a little bit of work, it could go somewhere.

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Paris Hilton

Solar power in deserts

The idea of using deserts as sources of solar energy is good in theory, but I remember seeing a doco some years ago that raised a point few seem to have considered since. That is, the effect of massive solar cell arrays on the climatic/desertification cycle.

Put simply, in order to meet our energy needs from sunlight, given the wattage per square metre, we would need to cover an area twice the size of Libya with solar panels just to satisfy Europe's needs. This is assuming 100% energy derivation from solar power, including electrified transport and logistics. Now, the reason deserts are deserts (i.e. regions of little or no rainfall) is because exposed soil, sand and rock reflects/radiates more heat back into the atmosphere than vegetation. This reflected heat warms the atmosphere above the desert, preventing condensation and therefore rainfall. No rainfall means no vegetation, which leaves the ground bare to reflect back more heat. Thus, a desert remains barren because of this desertification cycle.

So if we cover such a vast area of desert with energy-absorbing solar cells (at a cost approaching the GDP of the USA), this heat is no longer being reflected back to the atmosphere. This results in atmospheric cooling - which brings about condensation and thus an increase in rainfall. Great, you say - that solves the global warming problem, doesn't it? Not to mention turning vast areas of desert into arable land for farming and water collection. Except...

...you've just turned the Sahara back into the rainforest jungle it was 15,000 years ago. Rainforests are cloud-covered regions, that don't get much direct sunlight. Granted, the trees and plants won't just appear overnight, but the energy-absorption equivalent of the solar panels has still cooled the atmosphere, increased the rainfall and created the resulting cloud-cover, which would occur rather rapidly. Which means that all those very expensive solar panels are now about as useful as tits on a bull. Now how's that for Nature being a bitch? We can't win!

Paris because like Nature, she knows how to be a bitch.

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Stop

hold it hold it...

" Rather than being burned right away as at present, the car would initially run it through a "CO2/H2 Active Membrane Piston (CHAMP) reactor" which would convert the juice into carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

The carbon dioxide would be stored as liquid in an onboard tank, and the hydrogen would be used to drive the vehicle. Ordinary car engines can run on hydrogen with only minor modifications; or the hydrogen could be used more efficiently in a fuel-cell and electric drive. In either case, there would be no significant emissions."

so as I understand it (and excuse me cos I am not a hi payed acidmation) but you put the go juce in the car the car tuns it into co2 and Hydrogen and uses the hydrogen to drive and the co2 is shiped baclk to make more go juce ... why not skip the midle man and split the co2 qand hydrogen at te pump and put only the part you are useing in the car? or better yet at the factory before you ship it to the garrage or better yet why do we need it atall if we are just using hydrogen to power the car?

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Flame

No closer to utopia

I'm sorry, what does this article tell us that we didn't already know (other than a new expensive component for my car is being worked on).

We're taking some as yet unknown (bio)fuel, which has to be pre-converted in the car using some expensive add-on (and bangs out CO2 anyway, which is precisely the chemical everyone's trying to avoid).

We're now running a car powered by hydrogen (which we have in hydrogen fuel cells already).

We also now have to 'take our empties back' for reprocessing - and here's the best bit - the one part they don't know is how to convert it back in an energy-efficient way.

I'm sorry, what the hell is this research adding? All they've come up with is another version of an unsolved problem.

Tell you what, travelling faster than the speed of light can be solved if we can find a real value to the square root of -1.

I'll conjecture the same thing if we can find a 4th root of -1. It's the same problem, there's still no solution, but hey, give me a research grant anyway!

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Boffin

Basic biology angle...

"The greatest remaining challenge... will be developing a method for making a synthetic liquid fuel from just CO2 and water using renewable energy sources."

Evolution has already taken care of this - this is exactly what plants do.. So all we need is to genetically engineer a plant that can be { composted / refined / fermented / extruded / ... } into { methane / oil / methanol / diesel / ... }. And if it can thrive in an enriched CO2 atmosphere, we have a place to empty the CO2 tank.

@ nickf

I actually prefer this solution too :-) Except perhaps for cleaning the stables and streets.... In Slovakia, I sometimes see a farmer-driven horse & cart in the counrty, it's a nice feeling that the changes in the 'civilized' world haven't affected all...

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Anonymous Coward

uk.gov will love this due to the HSE angle

This system would have the added benefit of ensuring that every vehicle generated its own fire extinguisher.

Future Benefits would include the downsizing of the Fire Brigade due to the overwhelming presence of readily available fire fighting equipment. This must be on the radar as the downsizing has already started.

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Ale

Confused

I really don't get the complexity of this. Once you have a plant capable of using electricity to convert CO2 + H2 into hydrocarbon fuels, surely the rest of this scheme can be dropped?

A Normal car converts hydrocarbon fuel into CO2 and water in the atmosphere. The power plant then takes CO2 and water from the atmosphere and converts them into fuel. No need for expensive sequestration and transport. Unfortunately also no need for headline grabbing "carbon capture kits for cars"!

And as for this being bad for renewables, wouldn't some some great big fuel storage tanks be exactly what would be needed for the massive storage of energy required to make the renewables viable?

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@ale

it problem with taking co2 form the air to make hydrocarobons(even if it is posible and you can genrate the large abounts of hi dence energy needed) the the dencety of co2 in the atmophere is not hi your plant might use up all the local co2 in the air

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Silver badge

@Solar power in deserts

OK then, we have just built said solar plants, and nature kicks us in the teeth making that land into non-deserts.

By working carefully, we can help it out. We are generating energy AND helping the land to regenerate itself. So, once that starts to heppen, we will have less of a worry about CO2 because there will be vastly more vegetation to use the CO2.

It's saving the planet... AND saving the planet.

Of course the down side is the limited lifespan of the solar plants but, hey, by then we may have a better alternative anyway.

Sorry for my earlier comments ignoring desertification, I didnt even think about it, but the only down side seems to be the limited life of the power plants. Still buys us time doesnt it.

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Anonymous Coward

so we're pressurizing CO2 in the vehicle?

It doesn't make sense to pressurize the waste. Why not pressurize the fuel? This is the basis of a steam engine. But... rather than burn tons of coal to generate the heat to release high pressure steam from water, why not use plain old compressed air? This is even safer than compressed CO2, and has the advantage that the rapidly expanding air *cools* rather than heats. I.e., you'd get free A/C from your waste. Kinda essential with global warming.

Stupid idea? Tell that to the guys who're developing it. http://www.theaircar.com/

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They know.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/992431.stm

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academic studies

This isn't the silliest study I've ever heard of. Maybe number 10?

Let's see, pressure bottles of liquid CO2 traded in for a liquid fuel that gives drastically less mileage than a present day car. Vast networks of pipelines to transport CO2 to some refinery, both of which will cost a bunch.

I have a better idea. Build the refinery/fuel making plant and get the CO2 by extracting it from the air. It's hard to imagine that it could cost more than all the added infrastructure needed for this pipe dream. Then burn the synthetic fuel in ordinary cars and blow the CO2 into the air. Better mileage for your fuel dollar and you don't need the CO2 capture-storage system OR the fuel to H2 converter kludge in your car. That will lighten the car and further improve the mileage.

Sound silly? My solution is only a bit less ridiculous than the original proposal.

But the only product the academic needs to produce is paper and they get paid whether it makes sense or not.

One thing though; it makes battery powered electric cars seem very reasonable in comparison.

Craig

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Joke

Here's a thought

Why not just remove all the vegetation which creates the oxygen which permits the fuel to burn which releases the CO2 thereby doing away with ourselves whereby we won't have to worry about it!

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Boffin

car fule

the problem with any car is it needs a store of energy assume you are going toi y you need a amount of energy x to cover the energy costs of acerlation braking and over comming friction on the jorney so the car needs to have an energy store of X

the problem is using a methord of storing X energy that forfils the requirments of being

1 small and light ( the more it masses the more x in incresed my it's mass)

2 resionbaly non volitle ( we need a gradual controled relise not an explosion)

3 easy to replenish (we do not want to w8 2 hours of rechanging to drive 1)

4 must not cause to much ploution eather long turm (global warming) or local (smog)

seames there are escencley only 2 sorces of energy (sun and nuclar) the whole question becomes how to we take energy form there sorces and put them in our cars in the way that best fits out requirments so far all the methords that have been come up with fail at one or the requirments

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Meting teh requirments

My best try: http://www.eagle.ca/~gcowan/boron_blast.html

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