The Anonymous Widower

This Material Can Store The Sun’s Energy For Months, Maybe Even Years

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Anthropocene.

This is the sub-title.

Thin coatings of the material could soak up sun in summer months and provide heat to buildings in winter, all without using fuel or electricity.

This sounds like something to file under Too Good To Be True.

But the research does come from the University of Lancaster and uses a type of material called a metal-organic framework.

Conclusion

Increasingly, it seems to me, that we’re seeing lots of outstanding chemistry coming to the fore.

 

December 11, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage | , , | 1 Comment

Microwaves Could Turn Plastic Waste Into Hydrogen Fuel

This headline from this article in The Times could be the headline of the day!

Although thinking about it, it wouldn’t be a good idea to put all your plastic waste in the microwave and switch it on. It might catch fire or even worse create lots of hydrogen in your kitchen, which could be followed by a mini-Hindenburg disaster in the kitchen.

These are the introductory paragraphs.

From the yellowed bottles in landfill to the jellyfish-like bags clogging the oceans, plastics pollution is an apparently intractable problem.

Yet, chemists lament, it shouldn’t be. Within this waste there is something extremely useful, if only we could access it: hydrogen. Now a British team of scientists believes it has found a way to get at it, and do so cheaply, thanks to tiny particles of iron and microwaves.

If their system works at scale they hope it could be a way of cheaply converting useless plastic into hydrogen fuel and carbon.

Don’t we all want to believe that this impossible dream could come true?

Some Background Information

Some of the things I talk  about will be technical, so I will have a bit of a preamble.

Hydrogen; Handling And Uses

Because of pre-World War Two airships, which tended to catch fire and/or crash, hydrogen has a bad reputation.

I used to work as an instrument engineer in a hydrogen plant around 1970. To the best of my knowledge the plant I worked  in is still producing  hydrogen in the same large building at Runcorn.

Hydrogen is one of those substances, that if you handle with care, it can be one of the most useful elements in the world.

It is a fuel that burns creating a lot of energy.

The only by-product of hydrogen combustion is steam.

It is one of the feedstocks for making all types of chemicals like ethylene, fertilisers, ammonia, pharmaceuticals and a wide range of hydrocarbons.

Hydrogen is a constituent of natural gas and in my youth, it was a constituent of town gas.

Hydrogen and hydrocarbons are involved in the manufacture of a lot of plastics.

In the future, hydrogen will have even more uses like making steel and cement, and powering railway trains and locomotives, and shipping of all sizes.

Hydrocarbons

According to Wikipedia, hydrocarbons are compounds consisting entirely of atoms of hydrogen and carbon.

In a kitchen, there are several hydrocarbons.

  • If you cook by gas, you will probably be burning natural gas, which is mainly methane, which is a hydrocarbon
  • Some might use propane on a barbecue, which is another hydrocarbon.
  • I suspect you have some polythene or polyethylene, to use the correct name, in your kitchen. This common plastic is chains of ethylene molecules. Ethylene is another hydrocarbon.
  • There will also be some polypropylene, which as the name suggests is made from another hydrocarbon; propylene.

Hydrocarbons are everywhere

Plastics

I used to work in two ICI divisions; Mond at Runcorn and Plastics at Welwyn Garden City

  • The forerunners of ICI Mond Division invented polyethylene and when I worked at Runcorn, I shared an office, with one of the guys, who had been involved before the Second World War. in the development of polyethylene.
  • Plastics Division used to make several plastics and I was involved in various aspects of research plant design and production.

One day, I’ll post in this blog, some of the more interesting and funnier stories.

Many plastics are made by joining together long chains of their constituent molecules or monomer.

  • Ethylene is the monomer for polyethylene.
  • Propylene is the monomer for polypropylene.
  • Vinyl chloride is the monomer for polyvinylchloride or PVC.

So how are the chains of molecules built?

  • Polyethylene was made by ICI. by applying large amounts of pressure to ethylene gas in the presence of a catalyst.
  • They used to make polypropylene in large reaction vessels filled with oil, using another catalyst.

I suspect both processes use large quantities of energy.

Catalysts

catalyst is a substance which increases the rate of a chemical reaction.

Judging by the number of times, I find new catalysts being involved in chemical reactions, the following could be true.

  • There are processes, where better catalysts can improve yields in the production of useful chemicals.
  • There is a lot of catalyst research going on.

Much of this research in the UK, appears to be going on at Oxford University. And successfully to boot!

Velocys

It should be noted that Velocys was spun out of Oxford University, a few years ago.

This infographic shows their process.

This could be a route to net-zero carbon aviation and heavy haulage.

The beauty is that there would need to be little modification to existing aircraft and trucks.

Oxford University’s Magic Process

These paragraphs from The Times article explain their process.

The clue came in research on particles of iron, and what happens when they get really small. “There’s a fascinating problem,” Professor Edwards said. “You take a bit of metal, and you break it into smaller and smaller bits. At what stage does it stop behaving like a copy of the bigger bit?”

When the particle gets below a critical size, it turns out it’s no longer a metal in the standard sense. The electrical conductivity plummets, and its ability to absorb microwaves does the reverse, increasing by ten orders of magnitude.

Professor Edwards realised that this could be useful. “When you turn on the microwaves, these things become little hotspots of heat,” he said. When he put them in a mix of milled-up plastic, he found that they broke the bonds between the hydrogen and carbon, without the expense and mess of also heating up the plastic itself.

What is left is hydrogen gas, which can be used for fuel, and lumps of carbon nanotubes, which Professor Edwards hopes might be of a high enough grade to have a use as well. The next stage is to work with industry to find ways to scale it up.

It sounds rather amazing.

Going Large!

This article from The Times on Friday, is entitled Plastic To Be Saved From Landfill By Revolutionary Recycling Plants.

These are the two introductory paragraphs.

Thousands of tonnes of plastic waste will be turned into new plastic in Britain rather than dumped in landfill sites, incinerated or sent overseas under plans for four new plants that will use cutting-edge recycling technology.

Up to 130,000 tonnes of plastic a year will be chemically transformed in the facilities, which are to be built in Teesside, the West Midlands and Perth.

It all sounds like technology, that can transform our use of plastics.

Conclusion

In the years since I left Liverpool University in 1968 with a degree in Electrical and control Engineering, it has sometimes seemed to me, that chemistry has been a partly neglected science.

It now seems to be coming to the fore strongly.

 

October 19, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Artificial Leaves Make Green Energy With Just Water, Sunlight And CO2

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on The Times.

The title says it all and the scientists behind the technology are from the Chemistry Department at Cambridge University.

August 25, 2020 Posted by | Energy | , | Leave a comment

Velocys Delivers 4 FT Reactors To Red Rock Biofuels In Oregon

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Biodiesel Magazine.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Velocys plc has completed manufacturing and delivery of four of its Fischer-Tropsch reactors to Red Rock Biofuels. Red Rock Biofuels plans to convert 136,000 tons of waste woody biomass into more than 15 MMgy of renewable diesel, sustainable aviation fuel and naphtha fuels in Lakeview, Oregon.

It would appear that MMgy is million million (billion) gallons per year, which I assume are US gallons. Why can’t they use litres, tonnes or Olympic swimming pools, like everybody else?

It appears 15 billion US gallons per year is 56.8 million Olympic swimming pools per year!

This page on US Energy Information, which is entitled Diesel Fuel Explained, says this.

In 2019, distillate fuel (essentially diesel fuel) consumption by the U.S. transportation sector was about 47.2 billion gallons (1.1 billion barrels). This amount accounted for 15% of total U.S. petroleum consumption and, on an energy content basis, for about 23% of total energy consumption by the transportation sector.

If I haven’t got my millions and billions mixed up, that is an awful lot of diesel.

Especially, to be produced from woody biomass from reactors designed and built by a company spun out of Oxford University.

August 4, 2020 Posted by | Energy | , , | Leave a comment

Turning Waste Plastic Into Hydrogen – Is This The Future?

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on H2 View.

This paragraph is a description of the process from Myles Kitcher of Peel L&P Environmental.

At Peel L&P Environmental we’ve been working with PowerHouse Energy who have developed a world first plastic to hydrogen technology. The first plant at Protos, our strategic energy and resource hub in Cheshire, is due to start construction later this year. It will take unrecyclable waste plastic – destined for landfill, or worse export overseas – and use it to create a local source of clean hydrogen to fuel buses, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and cars. Not only will this help reduce air pollution and improve air quality on local roads, it’s helping us deal with the pressing problem of plastic waste.

This sounds like an eminently sensible way of dealing with unrecyclable waste plastic.

July 31, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Twisted Mind That Gave Us Chemical Warfare

The title of this post is the same as that of an article by Ben Macintyre,  in today’s copy of The Times.

It is subtitled.

Fritz Haber’s pacifist wife killed herself as he plotted Great War carnage…and he picked up a Nobel price.

Fritz Haber was a brilliant chemist, described in the first paragraph of his Wikipedia entrry.

Fritz Haber ( 9 December 1868 – 29 January 1934) was a German chemist who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his invention of the Haber–Bosch process, a method used in industry to synthesise ammonia from nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas. This invention is of importance for the large-scale synthesis of fertilisers and explosives. The food production for half the world’s current population depends on this method for producing nitrogen fertilisers. Haber, along with Max Born, proposed the Born–Haber cycle as a method for evaluating the lattice energy of an ionic solid.

This description is rather stained by the second paragraph.

Haber is also considered the “father of chemical warfare” for his years of pioneering work developing and weaponizing chlorine and other poisonous gases during World War I, especially his actions during the Second Battle of Ypres.

Ben Macintyre feels strongly about Haber and finishes with this paragraph.

Rescinding Haber’s Nobel prize will not stop Assad from killing his own people with poison bombsbut it would be a profound symbolic expression of the moral revulsion over the misuse of science so dramatically demonstrated by Haber’s wife a century ago.

I don’t know whether Nobel prizes can be rescinded, but the article is a very informative read about the origins of chemical weapons.

 

 

 

April 14, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , , | 3 Comments

A Blue Plaque In Stepney

I found this blue plaque as I walked back to the Overground from the river.

A Blue Plaque In Stepney

A Blue Plaque In Stepney

Sir William Henry Perkin, FRS 4 July 1907) was an English chemist best known for his discovery, at the age of 18, of the first aniline dye, mauveine. So it is not just today, when people create something amazing before their twentieth birthday! But how many today do such work, when they were born into relatively humble circumstances?

He was certainly one of the world’s greatest chemists.  He is even commemorated by the Americans with the Perkin Medal.

June 2, 2013 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Syria And Sarin Gas

following the attack on the Tokyo subway with sarin gas in 1995, I asked a friend, who is one of Cambridge’s most eminent chemists about how difficult it is to make sarin gas. He indicated that making the gas is not the problem, but stopping it killing those who make it, is a difficult one, as even a tiny leak is fatal.

For protection, he said, you need the best protection suits. And they are very difficult to obtain and extremely expensive.

So who is providing Syria with these suits? Or do they want to kill everybody, even their own soldiers?

But with Syria, who knows what they think?

April 27, 2013 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Le Pong Invades England

The whole of the south of England has been invaded by Le Pong, which originates in a plant in Rouen.  Reports of the smell have been received by the BBC from people as far north as Daventry. The story is here on the BBC web site.

January 22, 2013 Posted by | News | , | Leave a comment

Magnetic Soap

You might say so-what as there have been magnetic soap holders for years.

But Bristol University have come up with something special, if it can be used to say clean up oil spills or waste water.

There’s a more technical explanation here in The Engineer.

Could it be that the next ten years will be decade of chemistry, as micro-electronics have ruled for too long? I have also heard that some of the new techniques used in chemistry owe a lot to chip fabrication methods. After all you could argue that a lot of chips are just a three-dimensional array of atoms.

January 24, 2012 Posted by | News | , | Leave a comment