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back to article German boffins aim to burn natural gas - WITHOUT CO2 emissions

Top boffins based in Germany - including a Nobel Prize laureate - believe they may be able to largely eliminate carbon emissions while nonetheless permitting the human race to use cheap and convenient fossil fuels as much as it likes: and this doesn't involve any tricky and probably expensive capturing of CO2 which must then be …

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Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

But apart from that notion this is a very clever idea that totally side steps the classic problems of getting the H2 away from the C.

How many people (who don't investigate liquid metals) would have thought of this one?

Note that with modern high temperature insulation the column can be kept hot with relatively little heat input, obviously bigger diameter, more volume, less surface area to emit it over.

Version 0.1 tech but what potential.

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Flame

Re: Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

Pumping room-temperature gas into a column of molten metal at several hundred degrees C is going to cool it down significantly, requiring more external energy to be injected to keep it operating. The more gas injected, the more energy needed to keep the column from cooling down and solidifying.

Is the decomposition reaction endo- or exothermic? If it's exothermic then it's possible some of this cooling effect can be alleviated but I suspect TANSTAAFL applies.

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Coat

Re: Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

They haven't mentioned that there must be carbon deposits as a waste product also.

The great thing is these can be compressed into conveniently sized lumps and burnt to provide the heat to keep the metal liquid.

Why is no-one investigating a thermocouple between somewhere on the equator and a Clarke-orbit satellite?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

And you can use the heat from the outgoing gas to pre-heat the incoming gas in a counter-current flow system.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

It must be endothermic, because the combustion of hydrogen and carbon separately releases more energy than the combustion of the same mass of methane. If methane decomposition was exothermic at room temperature, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn wouldn't have methane atmospheres (the methane would decompose and the hydrogen would escape into space, leaving a soot covered planetoid.)

I imagine they have a brilliant wheeze: burn all the carbon to generate the heat to fuel the process. Oh...

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Childcatcher

Re: Like a lava lamp for people with X ray vision

Carbon removal is a toxic subject. How do you get it out of the column? And it is at 1000C. Considerations here of spontaneous combustion (- like a loud BANG if is still hot). Anyway what do you do with all that carbon: loads of nano-tubes is suppose?

How do you get the metal hot in the first place? Some external combustion required here.

What metal melts at less than 1000C and that won't react with hydrogen or carbon? Sodium, potassium, lead, tin, antimony, cadmium, arsenic or some alloys of these; what a toxic bunch especially at 1000C.

Phew! I wish them well with the research.

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pointless stupidity

yet another example of the huge amount of effort and recources wasted by humans - resulting from our amazing ability to blindly follow so called experts who are in fact almost alll idiots.

warm good for humans cold bad.

co2 not poison is fertilizer

anyway greenhouse effect of co2 now mostly done - think saturation law of diminishing returns

water vapour by far biggest greenhouse gas - not co2 - maybe a scheme like this on a grand scale would cause more warming than co2

weather diificult to predict - too many variables - therefore models are silly

some cycles are predictable

eg cold at night warm in day - fairly convincing that sun is most important variable

sun cycles such as caused by jupiter and saturn orbits are predicatable or elipse and tilt of earth orbit

these are more of a factor than co2 in our climate

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Re: pointless stupidity

gary27, are you an expert in this field, i.e. an idiot by your own definition? Or do you just jabber about things you neither understand?

Just wondering...

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Boffin

Re: pointless stupidity

Ah, truly a little learning is a dangerous thing.

GJC

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Re: pointless stupidity

gary27, you made my day.

No one ever seems to point out the differences of IR absorption between all gases/vapours that enrich our atmosphere. The tiny, tiny greenhouse effect of CO2 in relation to others, (most of all plain water vapour being very, very abundant) seems to difficult to grasp...

Even small amounts of radiation differences we receive of our Sun have vastly greater effects.

It's not easy to jump of a popular bandwagon it seems. CO2 it is. It *must* be. Yeah... :(

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Re: pointless stupidity

"The tiny, tiny greenhouse effect of CO2 in relation to others, (most of all plain water vapour being very, very abundant) seems to difficult to grasp..."

Because it's contradicted by actual evidence. Eg:

"We find that water vapor is the dominant substance — responsible for about 50% of the absorption, with clouds responsible for about 25% — and CO2 responsible for 20% of the effect. The remainder is made up with the other minor greenhouse gases, ozone and methane for instance, and a small amount from particles in the air (dust and other "aerosols")."

http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/schmidt_05/

20% isn't "tiny, tiny"

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Re: pointless stupidity

Yes we need other countries to act too or there's no point

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Holmes

Re: pointless stupidity

> "Because it's contradicted by actual evidence. Eg:"

A model does not equal "actual evidence"... At all..

> ""We find that water vapor is the dominant substance — responsible for

> about 50% of the absorption, with clouds responsible for about 25% —

> and CO2 responsible for 20% of the effect. The remainder is made up

> with the other minor greenhouse gases, ozone and methane for

> instance, and a small amount from particles in the air (dust and other

> "aerosols")."

>

> http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/schmidt_05/

>

> 20% isn't "tiny, tiny"

Okay, a well written article and fine piece of scientific research. But you only pick an issue that helps your view and discard everything else it seems.

1) Modeling finds a 20% attribution of CO2, so would it not be well worth to look into the other 80% ?

2) Modeling finds that the CO2 attribution behaves non linear: "the impact of removing the CO2 is approximately seven times as large as doubling it" or as gary27 stated: "greenhouse effect of co2 now mostly done - think saturation law of diminishing returns";

3) Every model makes assumptions of values of other variables. In this case, the model greatly simplifies the earth and weather. It can therefore by no means be seen as being "actual evidence". It is, at most, a very good piece of work to understand what the effects of CO2 could have been, given a certain basic environment. It helps getting an understanding of the issues at hand, no more.

4) The article describes a negative net greenhouse effect of clouds, which of course creates a negative feedback to heating. Cloud cover also increases as more cosmic radiation falls upon earth, so which percentage of our current heating can be attributed to less cosmic radiation than usual ?

I mean, it's not so simple. Any model can find suspects for both cooling and heating. The real world is way more complex than that. I think CO2 is much overhyped. Farting animals and vulcanism ? Good suspects too. But we really don't want to get rid of our cows and pigs or welcome big vulcanic eruptions. We *can* get a grip on CO2, so come on, create world peace and join together to fight it.

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Re: pointless stupidity

'The tiny, tiny greenhouse effect of CO2 in relation to others, (most of all plain water vapour being very, very abundant) seems to difficult to grasp..."

No, it's very easy to grasp. However he fact that the atmosphere is saturated with water vapour, but not with CO2 seeems very hard for some people to grasp.

:"Even small amounts of radiation differences we receive of our Sun have vastly greater effects."

And the fact that there is NO TREND in solar flux changes is hard for some people to grasp.

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Re: pointless stupidity

"Okay, a well written article and fine piece of scientific research. But you only pick an issue that helps your view and discard everything else it seems."

Someone posts false information regarding "tiny, tiny" effect of CO2. Consider the repercussions of their claim. If CO2 was really a "tiny, tiny" part of the greenhouse effect it would mean the whole issue of human CO2 emissions was irrelevant! So I think the falseness of that original claim warrants a little more criticism, than my correction of it.

Especially with regard to complaining that I didn't address N other issues. Why should I? I was correcting the "tiny, tiny" misconception.

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Re: pointless stupidity

Alternatively if we burnt all the C to produce lots of CO2 and destroyed the nasty toxic oxygen we could return the planet to it's natural pristine state.

I for one welcome out blue-green algae overlords

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Mushroom

Re: pointless stupidity

"No, it's very easy to grasp. However he fact that the atmosphere is saturated with water vapour, but not with CO2 seeems very hard for some people to grasp."

Given its nonlinear behaviour as greenhouse gas, puffing more CO2 into the atmosphere won't do much anymore. We'll suffocate of its abundance before dying of heat IMHO...

"And the fact that there is NO TREND in solar flux changes is hard for some people to grasp."

There's more to solar flux than an IR component. Other EM radiation types as well as particle outputs can all attribute to our climate in different ways. It's not the solar flux itself, but primarily its composition (as well as other cosmic radiation).

Concerning the CO2 greenhouse issue, there are multiple reasons to have great suspicions towards it. But most other (80%) climate changing factors have not nearly been researched as good as the (modeled...) 20% CO2 factor. It's just not a clear cut issue. Dwelling on CO2 is easy to sell to the public, but we may miss other more important factors while riding the CO2 bandwagon all the time. Funding should be spread more to give all possible attributing factors a good chance to be researched. That's my 2 cents at least.

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Re: pointless stupidity

"Given its nonlinear behaviour as greenhouse gas, puffing more CO2 into the atmosphere won't do much anymore"

It might be logarithmic but CO2 level is low (400 parts per million), so there's plenty of warming left from increases above that level. Humans have already increased atmospheric levels by about 30%.

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Meh

Re: pointless stupidity

A couple of points:

Absent any greenhouse effect, the Earth would on average be about 30 degrees C colder than it is now. It's not that hard to do the basic calculation, which is why the greenhouse effect was discovered in the 19th century. Calculating the proportion of anthropogenic impact on the greenhouse effect as a whole is misleading, because we only need to move it by a few percentage points to create a very large swing in average surface temperature.

I don't know where you get your 3% number for anthropogenic contribution to atmospheric CO2. Or are you quoting some other number? The pre-industrial level of atmospheric CO2 was about 300ppm. It's now about 400ppm, all of which is us. The natural sources of CO2 emission are in equilibrium with natural sources of absorbtion. The bottom line is that we've moved the level by 30%, and are moving it at an increasing rate.

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Re: pointless stupidity

Of course more relevant would be the % contribution of human CO2 emissions to atmospheric CO2 level, which is closer to 30% than 3%.

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Re: pointless stupidity

"citation needed"

see here for example:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/a-saturated-gassy-argument/

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Stop

Re: pointless stupidity

Even worse, water vapour is at least twice as efficient as carbon dioxide is when it comes to capturing heat. IPCC ignores water vapour as though it is little or no consequence, but they shouldn't be. We produce tons upon tons of additional water vapour along with carbon dioxide whenever we burn fossil fuels. Waste heat production along with the release of addtional water vapour are more likely to be responsible for climate change than carbon dioxide--that is assuming that humanity is the culprit. I am not convinced that we are. What the Germans are attempting to accomplish with this Rube Goldberg grade contraption is contrary to the laws of thermodynamics. Not only will it prove to be insupportably expensive, it will dump even more waste heat no top of the already vast quantities of waste heat we dump into the atmosphere at present. Not only that, it will be perceived as a solution to the "carbon dioxide" problem and will result in much larger releases of water vapour into the atmosphere, and as I have pointed out, water vapour is a much more efficient green house gas.

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Re: pointless stupidity

"Relevant? No! Convenient? Yes!"

CO2 level has increased by 30% in the atmosphere.

Yet your calculation assumes CO2's greenhouse effect has only increased 3%.

That's because you are wrongly using the proportion of CO2 emissions that are manmade vs natural. Nature actually absorbs more CO2 from the atmosphere than it emits, so it's emissions aren't counting towards the CO2 rise.

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Re: pointless stupidity

"IPCC ignores water vapour as though it is little or no consequence,"

So how come the IPCC report discussing water vapor at length and refers to it as "a key climate variable"?

http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch3s3-4-2.html

"Waste heat production along with the release of addtional water vapour are more likely to be responsible for climate change than carbon dioxide--that is assuming that humanity is the culprit."

Waste heat production is an order of magnitude smaller than the cumulative heat gain from rising GHGs.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=6

Additionally, as the IPCC reports, water vapor is expected to increase with CO2 warming, because warmer air holds more water vapor. So water vapor is such a strong greenhouse gas as you've mentioned, means the warming effect of rising CO2 in effect is amplified.

Climate skeptics tend not to like that idea, so many of them downplay the warming effect of water vapor. In extreme cases they'll even try to claim more water vapor will actually cause cooling because of more clouds. Just find it amusing that you, a different climate skeptic, are trying to dismiss man-made global warming by *up-playing* the warming effect of water vapor.

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Re: pointless stupidity

CO2 has increased from about 300ppm to over 395ppm today.

You've assumed humans are only responsible for 3% of that.

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Re: pointless stupidity

The fundamental mistake you've made in your calculation is ignoring CO2 absorption by nature.

You've calculated the proportion of CO2 emissions that are anthropogenic, but you've neglected natural absorption of CO2.

Natural CO2 absorption exceeds emission, so nature has on net drawn CO2 from the atmosphere and not contributed to the increase in CO2. So it isn't the case that only 3% of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere came from man, as if 3% of CO2 in the atmosphere is a result of man's emissions.

Man has actually emitted twice as much CO2 as is necessary to explain the 30% rise.

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Re: pointless stupidity

And Evil. What about you? Are you an expert or just another one regurgitating what you've heard? You 'understand' climate change do you? You understand the centuries long cycles of the climate do you? How a billion, trillion tons of atmosphere (let alone oceans) behave and will behave in 50 or 100 years time? You have a complete understanding of how variations in radiation from the sun affect the atmosphere long term, right? You have detailed understanding of the interplay of the many components of the atmosphere which may have a warming effect work, do you? You understand and can explain why the predicted rise in global temperatures has not materialized?

There may be a case for putting for human produced CO2 in the spot light. But to belittle someone else based on their 'understanding' which implies you know better about a massive and inherently chaotic system which is probably beyond comprehension is arrogant hubris beyond belief.

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Re: pointless stupidity

"There's more to solar flux than an IR component. "

So what. Where's the trend. Without a trend how can you explain the temperature trend. Cycles don't cut it.

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FAIL

Re: pointless stupidity

No.

1. Waste heat production is tiny compared to what's coming from the sun.

2. The amount of water vapour we release is minsicule compared to other sources. You may have noticed that much of the planet is covered in water. The water vapour in the atmosphere is in equilibrium (Well, there is *one* way we could increase the water vapour - by warming the atmosphere. Whoops).

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@Jnemo

"Absent any greenhouse effect, the Earth would on average be about 30 degrees C colder than it is now."

Good, let's put a stop to ALL greenhouse gas emissions right sodding now. Australian summers might be a much more comfortable temperature then, rather than the open furnaces they are now. :I

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Re: pointless stupidity

Says who?

Wow, a nameless poster in a second rate blog claims to know all about climate change, while 99.9% of climate *scientists* know nothing and only push their agenda. Quite an achievement for someone that cannot understand the difference between "too" and "to" or "off" and "of".

Yeah, I know, Einstein and dyslexia and all that. Or is it that the ignorant feel comforted in siding with any far fetched opinion that will paint the really intelligent and knowledgeable as jerks?

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Re: pointless stupidity

I agree about the stupidity of the device, and the ruthlessness of the laws of thermodynamics. The rest of your comment does not make much sense. Water already evaporates off the seas at rates gigantically larger than the participation from burning fossile fuels. And it precipitates out of it when it rains, which I have not seen CO2 do yet in this planet.

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Unhappy

Where does the carbon go?

What keeps it at 1000deg C as you pump all that gas in?

What cools the resulting hydrogen to storage temperatures?

Heat exchanger from output to input will help, but not all that much as the gases are rather different.

This technique has the same problem as steam reforming - it takes a very large energy input to turn a very energy-dense fuel into much less energy-dense one - except worse because you can't turn it off.

The fate of the carbon is even more important!

Reading the press release, it would appear that they have no idea how to get the carbon out or if that's even possible - sounds like instead of being stuck to the walls of the reactor it's thoroughly mixed throughout the liquid metal.

That would normally be called an alloy, and the only way to get that out is to react it - usually with oxygen. Oops, CO2.

All in all - interesting, but nothing like the "saviour" the press release makes it out to be.

They always get published in newspapers as "Woo! XXX fixed!" when of course, it doesnt even work yet - and so nobody is even starting the process of scaling it up to a useful size.

I hate and despise these kinds of press release. Right now, some students have just finished their degree project. Brilliant, they'll get a good honours or PhD. But nothing that will yet affect anybody else.

No university publishes press releases for "Student writes really good dissertation", this is no different.

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Go

Re: Where does the carbon go?

Depending on the liquid metal to use, the fact that the Carbon thoroughly mixes into the metal could be fantastic. Think of the production of high carbon steels, you run your regular steel in molten form through the converter and bang you will have coming out the top end your high carbon steel and a nice amount of H2 for burning. Win Win...

And whilst you might not like the fact they are issuing press releases to say they are investigating new technologies, personally I love hearing about this stuff. If this press release inspires other research agencies to work on it and develop improvements to make it a viable system then fantastic, or at the very least if it inspires some kid to get into a science or engineering career in the future then its jobs well done. If all you want from Science news is articles of when they have actually solved a problem and saved the world then you better get used to only hearing about politics and crime on the news because science doesnt work that way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Where does the carbon go?

If you hate and despise these kinds of press releases, stop reading science news and other science feature articles, which provide a weird and idiosyncratic view of science. But, in its favour, it has at least been made (mostly) intelligible to the general reader.

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Re: Where does the carbon go?

High carbon steel is at most about 2% carbon, beyond that and you are actually producing something like cast iron.

So to produce a ton or so (a tonne - forget the US, they don't know what a real ton looks like) of hydrogen gas you will have 4 tons of carbon giving 400 tons of steel.

I don't disagree its not a start, but there needs to be a way of removing the carbon as it is formed without diluting the liquid metal "reactor". Perhaps another adjunct - that doesn't react with hydrogen - is required to help the carbon precipitate out....

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Re: Where does the carbon go?

Think of the production of high carbon steels, you run your regular steel in molten form through the converter and bang you will have coming out the top end your high carbon steel and a nice amount of H2 for burning.

How much carbon do you think there is in high carbon steel? Hint: cast iron has a few percent. The carbon has to be taken out of the iron to make steel, not put in. And that takes lots of energy. Where does it come from? Oh, fossil fuels.

Paris, because I suspect she may not always think before putting fingers to keyboard.

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Re: Where does the carbon go?

They could collect all the carbon from these Flüssigmetallblasensäulenreaktors and burn it in some of the new power stations Germany is building.

Solves the disposal problem, and reduces the amount of coal they have to dig out of the ground, the electricity generated can be used to power the Flüssigmetallblasensäulenreaktors there might even be some left over.

A solution every technically illiterate eco green twat will applaud.

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Re: Where does the carbon go?

It will all be turned into laser printer toner to keep up with the demand if you keep writing Flüssigmetallblasensäulenreaktors everywhere

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