1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)
    Caluwe - Passion for Fire and Water ( Pellet and Wood Hydronic and Space Heating)

Energy is limitless - one small example...

Post in 'The Green Room' started by webbie, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,330
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    The future bodes well for energy...that is, if we can get past the next 50 years or so.

    Here is one simple example of tech that could be used in just about everything:
    http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/26689/

    "Devices that harvest wasted mechanical energy could make many new advances possible—including clothing that recharges personal electronics with body movements, or implants that tap the motion of blood or organs. But making energy-harvesting devices that are compact, flexible, and, above all, efficient remains a big challenge. Now researchers at Georgia Tech have made the first nanowire-based generators that can harvest sufficient mechanical energy to power small devices, including light-emitting diodes and a liquid-crystal display"

    Lots of stuff on the horizon - but we certainly are not going to power big Hummers with these......the future also involves using the lowest amount of energy to do any particular job (efficiency).

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2008
    Messages:
    3,095
    Loc:
    NH
    we are so close to so many cool things, the problem ends up being that we need fantastic energy inputs to develop materials and technologies that will give us higher efficiencies and higher outputs...like carbon fiber...thats stuff isn't cheap to make, but it allows us to make bigger lighter and faster....stuff. Same with super magnets.....they need fantastic energy input to become...super. Its the old chicken and the egg thing. I'm waiting for thermo-electrics to make a big jump in efficiencies....that whole seebeck effect is mind boggling.....and cool like a cucumber.
  3. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    2,793
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts
    MIT is supposedly working on breakthrough TEG performance which is 3 or 4 times as effective as current devices. Then when they perfect it, Exxon-Mobile can buy it and we will never see it.
  4. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2008
    Messages:
    3,095
    Loc:
    NH
    Amen brother, amen
  5. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2009
    Messages:
    2,026
    Loc:
    The island of Rhum Boogie
    When I was 10 my grandfather told me about a carburator that could get 100 mpg. It was the oil companies that killed it, of course. Personally I don't buy it. Depending on where you are in the world, it takes 1 barrell's worth of energy to recover 99 more barrells of energy. Nothing else comes close. Not to say gains in efficiecny aren't laudable goals but there's a reason we love the magic muck. No one is working harder on renewable energy than the oil companies, not only because they want control but they really do believe they're fighting the good fight.


    Wouldn't it be cool to burn wood to keep the lights on? I don't think I'd go to work.
  6. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Messages:
    1,630
    Loc:
    Northern NH
    25 years ago, I sat in on a presentation from a National Science Foundation fellow on Fusion power and how in about 20 years there would be fusion power plants in every region. I havent seen one yet. The laws of physics just ruin everything.
  7. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Messages:
    1,092
    Loc:
    Merrimack Valley, MA
    fusion is coming, right now they can almost make it last for one second, now getting more power out than it takes to make it happen will be the next big hurdle
  8. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    2,793
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts
    TEGs currently available convert 4% of the heat they take in to electricity. MIT's prototype aparently is 20% efficient. This does not violate the laws of thermo-dynamics.

    I too do not beleive in the 100 mpg carberator but I do beleive that Chevron has kept the highly sucsesfull nickel-metal hydride battery out of production for over a decade, greatly slowing the advancement of the electric car.

    Oil companies are doing far more research than anyone else into one form of research, making hydrogen from petroleum. That's pretty green.
  9. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,466
    Loc:
    Hayden, ID
    Nickel Metal Hydride batteries have been around for a long time. I have a 15 year-old laptop with one in it. Noone has hobbled battery technology as the first person to make a high energy density battery will make a lot of money.
  10. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,330
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    I'm not sure what is ad hype and what is real, but there are some new car engine(s) which claim a higher efficiency....probably a couple different versions of these. I don't think these are revolutionary, but definitely evolutionary.

    Ads on the TV are pushing Hyndais new 2.0 turbo - a small 4-cyl powering a mid-sized sedan and getting over 30MPG. Again, not completely futuristic, but one example of getting more with less! My car is somewhat similar (2.0T Passat) and I am amazed at the power and MPG.

    I think getting brute force from batteries is a big problem.....without the accompanying weight! But for electronics, they are working out well because the power requirements are being shaved down.......so the same battery can power a computer for much longer.

    Transportation still remains a big problem all in all. On the positive side, even a 1 or 2% increase in efficiency is a lot because the total use is so large.
  11. hilly

    hilly Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    May 28, 2006
    Messages:
    283
    Loc:
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    I agree Web that transportation is an issue, but it's a much bigger issue when you try to drag a car around with you! It always seems dumb to me that I am driving a 4000 lb vehicle to move my 170 lb self around. I would like to see vehicles get far, far lighter but that means all vehicles. You really don't want to be driving a 200 lb car and get hit by a 5000 SUV!

    The biggest change I have ever seen in transportation costs came when the price of gas spiked to $1.50 per liter here (I think that's around $6/gallon). People rethought what they drove, where they drove and whether they could carpool or not. I think the "green" movement will be dictated by economics and the price of oil. And I think we should pay the real cost of oil, not just the cost to get it out of the ground and refined to gas or diesel but the cost to clean up the mess the extraction creates (tar sands here in Canada) and the pollution that the burning of it produces. Currently everyone is paying for the clean up so the costs aren't based on use. Oops, I got a bit off topic...
  12. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2008
    Messages:
    3,095
    Loc:
    NH
    big $$ is being sunk into the opposed piston-opposed cylinder engine (like a double 2 stroker).....that has some cool potential. I think we'll be using capacitor arrays in cars before we see some super battery. There still a lot to be said for things that have failed because their time wasn't right...like the fly-wheel car or wood gas engines, even some cool steam junk. We could do with making cars lighter, but the materials to make them lighter are very expensive and very energy demanding (afore mentioned carbon fiber, aluminum is cheap to recycle but pricey to make from bauxite). We've made harvesting raw materials cheaper with bigger diggers or dredgers and big trucks and scoopers but we're collecting only small fractions of the material we want with each 20 tons scoop. It like we make one step forward and are content to make the same step backward before we can motivate ourselves to take another forward step. Sadly, I think we'll unravel the mystery of gravity (and the elusive graviton) before we have viable fusion. A 20% eff TEG would be a huge game changer...so long as it doesn't require something like gold to make (the way things seem to work you can almost guarantee that it will require a very hard to get or very highly demanded material). I'm just waiting for some guy to figure out how to harness lightning for something useful (and not to light up a key on a kite string), we have plenty of that around, and rumor has it.....theres a bunch of energy in them there bolts. I'm working on a cat powered generator (like a hamster wheel) cuz my cats have way to much free time.
  13. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    15,044
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    I want a string of those piezoelectric gadgets on every tree and branch in my yard. Imagine the energy that is absorbed by a 100 large trees in as little as a 10 mph breeze - it has to be enormous.
  14. Cowboy Billy

    Cowboy Billy Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2008
    Messages:
    885
    Loc:
    Britton MI
    Now that would be a great idea for all the over weight people in the US! Make them exercise to get the electricity to power their tv.

    Billy
  15. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    15,044
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    Ed whatshisface has been doing this for years with a stationary bike and a generator.

    I think kids are the untapped energy source we have been missing. You ever notice how they never run out of energy - tap into that. And Jack Russels. Lets not forget about those little bundles of energy.
  16. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    2,793
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts

    Tell that to wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_encumbrance_of_large_automotive_NiMH_batteries
  17. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2009
    Messages:
    804
    Loc:
    Central NY
    Internal combustion engines running on fossil fuels are going to be here a long time. For 40 years, there have been large advances in fuel economy for a given engine displacement and power output, but the problem was for the last 20 years, we traded even more horsepower for the same fuel economy. Now, that tradeoff is not happening as much and we are seeing better fuel economy with same horsepower as before. There is a lot more to play out in this, and the established engine designers have a huge advantage since they are 1) established and 2) benefit from the very high energy density of liquid fossil fuels. Batteries just don't cut it - we are seeing that with the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt (the first true electric or electric/hybrid cars) - they cost a lot and have very limited range.

    It is easy to imagine a 3000 lb. car big enough for five people, running only on gas, getting 50-60 mpg on the highway and having all the power and acceleration anyone needs. We are approaching that very fast.

    As much as I like the concept of hybrids, their overall fuel economy has been pretty disappointing compared to my 1990s technology Saturn SL that was rated 40 mpg on the highway (and which I can drive to get 45 mpg on the highway). I have driven a total of 400,000+ miles on two of these and paid a grand total of $20,000 for them both (one new, one used). I doubt a single new Prius would last that long, and the 10% better mileage I would get from it hardly justifies the higher cost. Granted, this is a smaller car than most would want, but 20 more years of engine development (i.e. now) should make this possible in a bigger car. We are not that far away, and I believe that hybrids have a shorter life span that most of us are willing to believe.

    And no, I don't design engines or work for an automotive company.
  18. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2007
    Messages:
    520
    I'm amazed that there is not a lot more research in thermoelectric materials. Think about how much waste heat is lost every day all around us? How about thermoelectric stick pads that you can stick anywhere and everywhere, plug into a power controller, deep cycle battery bank, inverter and store power for household use.

    Others are correct though in that development of such materials and technologies take enormous inputs of traditionally produced energy.
  19. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    2,793
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts
    Electric cars are very real, and the leaf and volt are far from the first.

    Any new tech costs more, at first. Give them a little time. As the manufacturing volume increases, the prices will decrease.
  20. midwestcoast

    midwestcoast Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2009
    Messages:
    1,637
    Loc:
    NW Indiana
    I don't buy it. I'm not saying there's a magic pixie dust out there that would power the world if oil companies would just open the vault. It's the many incremental improvements that have been made over decades only to be bought-out and shelved in the name of competition.
    I was lucky enough to share a long conversation a few years back with a German engineer who had worked on experimental battery tech back in the 60's-70's. They had made prototype lead-acid batteries based on a mesh of lead instead of the standard plates. Eventually after many years of work the batteries worked, weighed a fraction of regular ones and could charge & discharge much faster due to greater surface area for electroysis. The patents were bought-out by a large battery manufacturer and subsequently bought by an oil company. Would this tech have led directly to electric cars & a changed world? No. But when you add up all similar stories & the lost innovation involved I say it has put us well behind where we otherwise would be WRT energy.
  21. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Messages:
    6,418
    Loc:
    S.NH- Mass's smoking section
    DBoon- I had an SL2 with great mileage. Little weird things went before the car did- it was a great vehicle.


    Piezoelectrics, thermoelectrics, etc- all could be put to wider use. Engine noise could be converted to electricity. Waste heat, pressure of people walking on sidewalks, cars driving down the road powering the lights overhead- why the heck not? There are technical hurdles, we just have to make them a priority.

    I'd love a simple way to convert waste kiln heat to power. At about 8-10 cord of wood a year, it could make a nice dent in my power usage.

    By the way- small measures mean little to an individual's power bill in many places. Even if you generate a lot of spare charge, a lot of the bill is transmission fees, taxes, bent knee fee, lobster bib renewal tax, etc etc. Staying on the grid acts as a good backup and battery system of sorts- but you need to go off grid to realize the real savings I think.
  22. midwestcoast

    midwestcoast Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2009
    Messages:
    1,637
    Loc:
    NW Indiana
    I agree car companies have used efficiency improvements to boost HP almost exclusively, just have to look at car specs & see all the 300hp v6 sedans out there. I also agree there are incremental gains to be had yet in fossil-fueled Internal Combustion Engines & car design that could get over 50mpg without hybrid systems. So where TF are these cars? I'd wait in line to buy. So will many (like you) who want high MPG, but are leary of hybrid tech. Your Saturn SL probably has about the best re-sale vs new price possible because people want efficient cars & it's one of the best. The old 3-cylinder Geo Metros and any VW TDIs = same thing.

    In the mean-time I've already owned a car for 5 years that's big enough for 5 people running only on gas getting 50 mpg highway OR City (real-world #'s not EPA). 2006 Prius. Mid-sized vehicle that is my bigger car. Yes I've had 5 regular sized people in & yes everyone is surprised about the size because it's assumed to be a small car. It is gas-only because the batteries are only charged with energy from gas, not plug-in. Doesn't that count?
    Did I pay a premium over a reg car? I paid $23K -$3K tax rebate. There are many similar sized & equiped cars at that price that people buy without having to defend their choice 'cause they're not hybrids. Only if you compare the larger, better equiped hybrid to a smaller, cheaper car, which is only done with hybrids for some reason??.
    110,000 trouble free miles so far. Replaced tires, headlights, turn-signal, wiper blades and the 12v battery (@ $110) & that's it. I fully expect another 100K. Based on the whole crapload of reading I did before purchasing I disagree that hybrids have a shorter lifespan than ICE only cars. I've seen no evidence of that, in fact Gen II Prius is consistently rated one of the most reliable cars. I've saved about $4,500 in gas over a 30mpg car so far so any premium is long since paid-off.
    I agree hybrids are just a bridge technology. We need bridge technologies & they appear to be a good one. Some much better than others.
    Bring on the Leaf, the Volt... may they sell like hotcakes & push prices down & innovation up. In another 5 years (I hope) I'll need a new ride & I'll be looking for the least-polluting, reliable, usefull car I can afford. Don't care if it's powered by chicken-poop.
  23. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,317
    Loc:
    Holliston, MA USA
    When oil was first discovered, yes. Today that ratio is closer to 1 for 20. Its as low as 1 for 10 for deepwater and 1 for 4 for the tar sands in Canada. That whats keeping crude in the $80 range.
  24. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2009
    Messages:
    804
    Loc:
    Central NY
    I'm not criticizing anyone's Prius or hybrid vehicle purchase, but that is a more complicated machine with two propulsion systems. Over time, that will cost more to maintain on average no matter who makes it. Take away the tax credits, and compare to a straight engine car that gets 45 mpg already and the dollar savings aren't there. If I had bought two Prius's for $23k each, and run them each 200,000 miles AND never had to replace the battery pack, they would be equal in mileage (and roughly gasoline) cost of my two Saturns at $20k total. The $26k saving is money in my pocket that I can insulate my house, buy a wood stove, replace an oil boiler with something more efficient, etc., and save a whole lot more oil than I would have by getting a Prius, and the savings would be permanent since they wouldn't end (mostly) when the car stopped running. Or, I could use my $26k savings and get a solar panel system to create all the electricity I needed and then some.

    My point is that buying a Prius isn't necessarily the best investment, and that hybrid technologies are really going to be disadvantaged long-term unless they can show real savings to the majority of people. They look good right now only because the auto companies made such stupid choices for so long that we don't believe they can do anything really differently, but they are already starting to put new products out that get way better mpg than they used to.

    Case in point - GMs new Chevy Cruze ECO gets 42 mpg on the highway. That is 1 mpg less than the Civic Hybrid for less money, and less complexity.

    I'm all for electric cars - I would like one someday, and I'd like to produce all the electricity from a wind or solar-powered generated system on my own land - but I won't be paying a $10k, $20k, or $30k premium for limited range - I'd pay the same as a regular car and accept it for use on short trips only. And energy density in a battery will NEVER be what the energy density of fossil fuels is. Like it or not, if you want to have a car that can go 300 miles without stopping for refueling and have it be affordable to 90% of people in this country, it will never be battery powered. Those are just the facts, and will remain the facts for a long, long time, regardless of what new battery technologies you read about that are "coming soon".
  25. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    2,793
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts
    Batteries are here now. You can drive 300 miles in an electric car today, without recharging. Yes, they are expensive, but the cost will drop with ramp up in manufacturing.

Share This Page