The Anonymous Widower

Hydrophilic Polymers: The Key To A Green Future

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

This is the first paragraph.

Researchers from the University of Surrey and the University of Bristol are working on innovative devices to tame and store carbon-free renewable energy from unpredictable sources such as wind and solar.

That got me interested and I read the whole article.

This abstract on SpringerLink gives a definition of hydrophilic polymers.

Hydrophilic polymers are those polymers which dissolve in, or are swollen by, water. Many compounds of major technical and economic importance fall within this definition, including many polymers of natural origin. Many foodstuffs—containing substantial amounts of carbohydrate and protein— can be classified as hydrophilic polymers, and some have important technical and industrial uses, apart from their nutritional value. For example, although over 95% of the starches produced from corn (maize), wheat, potato, tapioca, and other vegetable sources are used as foods (human or animal), the remaining quantity represents an important part of the technical polymer market. In fact, more than two-thirds of hydrophilic or water-soluble polymers used in industry are derived from polymers of natural origin, so coming from renewable resources (harvested crops, trees, waste animal products and so on), rather than petrochemical sources of finite availability.

This paragraph from the Tech Xplore article describes the research.

The Chemistry Department at Surrey is working with collaborators at Bristol, Professors Ian Hamerton and David Fermin, and Superdielectrics Ltd., an innovative British Research Company located at the Surrey Research Park to transform simple hydrophilic polymers which were originally developed for use as contact lenses, to realize a second critical energy storage process.

This could lead to the next generation of supercapacitors.

Conclusion

This is fascinating technology and it could save the world.

November 6, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, World | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Diamond Synchrotron Sparkles And Shows Its Value To UK Economy

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Chemistry World, which is a monthly chemistry news magazine published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

This is the first paragraph.

Diamond Light Source, the UK’s synchrotron, has generated a ‘fantastic return on investment’ since it became operational in 2007. That’s according to a new study that values its socio-economic impacts at around £1.8 billion with each taxpayer contributing £2.45 a year towards it.

If you read the article about the Diamond Light Source, you will find example applications where the synchroton has been used.

  • Non-destructive testing of materials and structures. Some have been over a metre in size and a tonne in weight.
  • Drug discovery and development.
  • A team from the University of Portsmouth has used Diamond to study the bacterial enzyme PETase, which digests plastic.
  • Rolls-Royce has used Diamond to examine the stresses in fan-blades.

The article also states that it has hosted 14,000 users.

With an energy of only 3 GeV, Diamond is not the most powerful synchrotron, but it is certainly one of the most sophisticated.

Related Posts

I have written about the Diamond Light Source in these posts.

The Diamond Light Source is a serious scientific tool, that ranks with the best in the world.

 

October 24, 2021 Posted by | World | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How To Build A Liverpool-Style Optical Bench

When I worked at ICI in Runcorn, one of the guys had developed a very accurate instrument for measuring trace chemicals in a process stream. I remember one of these instruments was used to measure water in parts per million in methyl methaculate, which is the misnomer or base chemical for Perspex.

All the optical compliments needed to be mounted on a firm base, so a length of one-inch C-section steel beam was chosen. The surface was then machined flat to a high accuracy.

In the end they found that instead of using new beams, old ones decades-old from the depths of a scrap yard gave better accuracy as the steel had all crystallised out. Machined and spray-painted no-one knew their history.

But they were superb instruments and ICI even sold them abroad.

October 14, 2021 Posted by | World | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chemistry Nobel Awarded For Mirror-Image Molecules

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Two scientists have been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on building molecules that are mirror images of one another.

Strangely, I was involved in a project, when I worked at ICI, where I was trying to sort out how a reaction could be persuaded to only produce one form of a chemical. So I do understand, something about what the two scientists were trying to achieve.

The involvement in that project has left me with a belief that chemical catalysts could be one of the routes to a greener and better world.

I have invested in one company, that is developing new catalysts.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Could Drax Power Station Solve The Carbon Dioxide Shortage?

Drax Power station is the largest power station in the UK, with a  2.6 GW capacity when burning biomass.

It has also been a regular target of environmental activists complaining of the power station’s carbon dioxide and other emissions.

But could it be an unlikely saviour to replace the carbon dioxide that comes from two fertiliser plants run by the CF Industries, that have been shut down by high gas prices?

I wrote about the shortage in Food Shortages Looming After Factory Closures Hit Production.

Two and a half years ago I wrote Drax Becomes First Wood-Burning Power Plant To Capture Carbon, which was based on an article in the Financial Times.

I said this about the report.

This news has been treated in a more sensationalist way by other news media and sites, but the FT gives it very straight.

Drax power station is running an experiment, that removes a tonne of carbon dioxide a day.

But that is only the start of the process and most of it is released to the atmosphere.

They are currently, looking for profitable and environmentally-friendly ways of disposal, including selling it to beer manufacturers.

Didn’t we have a carbon-dioxide shortage a few months ago?

Now is probably a good time to dig a little deeper into what Drax is doing.

The Wikipedia entry for Drax power station has a section called Carbon Capture And Storage.

This is the last paragraph of the section.

In May 2018, Drax announced a new carbon capture and storage pilot scheme that it would undertake in conjunction with the Leeds-based firm, C-Capture. The focus of this pilot will be on capturing carbon post combustion from the biomass burners as opposed to the coal burners. Drax will invest £400,000 into the project. The company, C-Capture, is a side company of the Department of Chemistry established at the University of Leeds. This would yield about 1-tonne (1.1-ton) of CO2 stored per day from the process, which could be sold on for use in the drinks industry. The pilot scheme was launched in February 2019. The capture of carbon from biomas burners is known as Bio Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).

Who are C-Capture?

Their web site is very informative and this page is called Our Story, which explains the project at Drax.

We designed, built, and installed a pilot plant and have been operating it on site, with real flue gas, since early 2019. The data gathered from this trial is feeding directly into the design process for a full-scale plant, with a target of 10,000 tonnes of CO2 per day captured from one of Drax’s four biomass fired boilers. A recent development has been the installation of equipment to bottle the captured CO2 to allow other organisations to test their own developing technologies with genuine Drax derived CO2.

That looks like a result to me for C-Capture.

This page is called Technology and has a very neat interactive guide to how the technology works.

Conclusion

This company has some very special technology, that has a lot of applications.

It is also significant that Drax and BP have taken a shareholding in C-Capture.

 

 

September 18, 2021 Posted by | Energy, World | , , , , , | 3 Comments

H2 And NH3 – The Perfect Marriage In A Carbon-Free Society

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

It is an article, which explains in detail, how we can use hydrogen and ammonia in the future.

April 23, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Hydrogen, World | , | Leave a comment

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