We all know about these commonly used inventions, but they had a dark side.


Anton Köllisch developed 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine as a by-product of research for a drug combating abnormal bleeding. It was largely ignored for around 70 years until it became popular in  dance clubs of the early 80s. It was only when the Rave party culture of the late 80s adopted Ecstasy as its drug of choice that MDMA became one of the top four illegal drugs in use killing an estimated 50 people a year in the UK alone. Its inventor died in World War I.

2…Concentration camps

Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts set up “safe refugee camps” to provide refuge for civilian families who had been forced to abandon their homes for one  reason or another related to the Boer War. However, when Lord Kitchener succeeded Roberts as commander-in-chief in South Africa in 1900, the British Army introduced new tactics in an attempt to break the guerrilla campaign and the influx of civilians grew dramatically as a result. Kitchener initiated plans to- “flush out guerrillas in a series of systematic drives, organized like a sporting shoot, with success defined in a weekly ‘bag’ of killed, captured and wounded, and to sweep the country bare of everything that could give sustenance to the guerrillas, including women and children.” Of the 28,000 Boer men captured as prisoners of war, 25,630 were sent overseas. The vast majority of Boers remaining in the local camps were women and children. Over 26,000 women and children were to perish in these concentration camps.


Despite a lifelong passion for astronomy and a dream that rockets could be used to explore space, Wernher von Braun’s talents were used to produce the Nazi V2 rocket which killed 7,250 military personnel and civilians and an estimated 20,000 slave laborers during construction. Later in the US he developed a series of ICBM rockets capable of transporting multiple nuclear warheads around the globe before redeeming his reputation with the Saturn V rocket that put men on the moon


Sir Marcus Laurence Elwin Oliphant was the first to discover that heavy hydrogen nuclei could be made to react with each other . This fusion reaction is the basis of a hydrogen bomb. Ten years later, American scientist Edward Teller would press to use Oliphant’s discovery in order to build the hydrogen bomb. However, Oliphant did not foresee this – “We had no idea whatever that this fusion reaction would one day be applied to make hydrogen bombs. Our curiosity was just curiosity about the structure of the nucleus of the atom”.


Dr. Gerhard Schrader was a German chemist specializing in the discovery of new insecticides, hoping to make progress in the fight against world hunger. However, Dr. Schrader is best known for his accidental discovery of nerve agents such as sarin and tabun, and for this he is sometimes called the “father of the nerve agents”.


Thomas Midgley discovered the CFC Freon as a safe refrigerant to replace the highly toxic refrigerants such as ammonia in common use. This resulted in extensive damage to the Ozone Layer. His other famous idea was to add tetraethyl lead to gasoline to prevent “knocking” thus causing worldwide health issues and deaths from lead poisoning. He is considered to be the man that – “had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history.”


Joseph Wilbrand was a German chemist who discovered trinitrotoluene in 1863 to be used as a yellow dye. It wasn’t until after 1902 that the devastating power of TNT as it is better known was fully realized and it was utilized as an explosive in time for extensive use by both sides in World War I, World War II. It is still in military & industrial use today.

8…GATLING GUNAdd an Image

Richard Jordan Gatling invented the Gatling gun after he noticed the majority of dead from the American Civil War died from infection & illness, rather than gunshots. In 1877, he wrote: “It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine – a gun – which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease would be greatly diminished.” The Gatling gun was used most successfully to expand European colonial empires by ruthlessly mowing down native tribesmen armed with basic primitive weapons.


Arthur Galston developed a chemical that was meant to speed the growth of soybeans and allow them to be grown in areas with a short season. Unfortunately in high concentrations it would defoliate them and it was made into a herbicide even though Galston had grave concerns about its effects on humans. It was supplied to the US government in orange striped barrels and 77 million litres of Agent Orange were sprayed on Vietnam causing 400000 deaths and disabilities with another 500000 birth defects. Service personnel to some extent were also affected


Fritz Haber was a Nobel Prize winning Jewish scientist who created cheap nitrogen fertilizer and also made chemical weapons for the German side in World War I. It was his creation of an insecticide mainly used as a fumigant in grain stores that was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.2 million people. His Zyklon B became the nazis preferred method of execution in gas chambers during the Holocaust.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


A view inside the National Ignition Facility’s target chamber, a space easily big enough for technicians to stand inside. It is hoped the NIF will eventually be a major source of carbon-free energy.

(Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Lab)

LIVERMORE, Calif.–Think clean energy is a fantasy? What if the power of a star was applied to the problem?

That’s the approach being explored at the National Ignition Facility, a huge-scale experiment in laser fusion based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory here. Scientists are looking at NIF as a potential key to producing large amounts of carbon-free power.

It’s not known if the system will ever bear the kind of fruit the scientists and administrators who run NIF would like. Still, the facility is a scientific wonder that can transform a single laser beam no wider than a human hair into 192 beams–each of which is 18 inches wide. Together, the beams are designed to produce 4 million joules, the amount of power that would produce 4 million watts of power in a single second.

Using star power for a clean-energy future (photos)

The NIF was completed in early 2009 and eventually will be used by the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as technicians from national laboratories, fusion energy researchers, academics, and others. It is “the world’s largest and highest-energy laser, [and] has the goal of achieving nuclear fusion and energy gain in the laboratory for the first time,” according to the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, “in essence, creating a miniature star on Earth.”

This is serious high technology. The NIF employs a series of amplifiers and mirrors known as switchyards to route and split the original hair’s-width laser beam over a total distance of 1,500 meters. After being separated by pre-amplifiers into 48 beams, each beam is then split into four beams, and then all are injected into the 192 main laser amplifier beamlines, according to the NIF.

The hope is that NIF will be online as a power plant within 15 to 20 years. For now, the facility is a proof-of-concept system, albeit one comprising two 10-story buildings and more than $3 billion of investment. Eventually, the 192 laser beams reunite to focus on a target fuel pellet that is just millimeters in size, yet placed inside a target chamber that towers over the technicians who sometimes work inside.

And 192 laser beams of this magnitude create some serious heat. The theoretical maximum, according to LLNL retiree and docent Nick Williams, is 100 million degrees Celsius.

For now, because of the amount of power necessary to produce the beams, and the heat created, scientists are only able to fire the laser system once every two or three hours. Eventually, the idea would be to fire it many times a second.

And by 2030, it is hoped, the NIF will be helping produce commercial power and helping scientists and researchers better understand the nature of the universe. That, it would seem, would be a main benefit of producing what amounts to a small star, right here in the middle of Northern California.

On June 24, Geek Gestalt will kick off Road Trip 2010. After driving more than 18,000 miles in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Southeast over the last four years, I’ll be looking for the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation and more throughout the American northeast. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. In the meantime, you can follow my preparations for the project on Twitter @GreeterDan and @RoadTrip.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010

Renewable Energy:

Inexpensive Metal Catalyst

Can Effectively Generate

Hydrogen from Water

Science (May 1, 2010) — Hydrogen would command a key role in future renewable energy technologies, experts agree, if a relatively cheap, efficient and carbon-neutral means of producing it can be developed. An important step towards this elusive goal has been taken by a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley. The team has discovered an inexpensive metal catalyst that can effectively generate hydrogen gas from water.

“Our new proton reduction catalyst is based on a molybdenum-oxo metal complex that is about 70 times cheaper than platinum, today’s most widely used metal catalyst for splitting the water molecule,” said Hemamala Karunadasa, one of the co-discoverers of this complex. “In addition, our catalyst does not require organic additives, and can operate in neutral water, even if it is dirty, and can operate in sea water, the most abundant source of hydrogen on earth and a natural electrolyte. These qualities make our catalyst ideal for renewable energy and sustainable chemistry.”

Karunadasa holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division and UC Berkeley’s Chemistry Department. She is the lead author of a paper describing this work that appears in the April 29, 2010 issue of the journal Nature, titled “A molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water.” Co-authors of this paper were Christopher Chang and Jeffrey Long, who also hold joint appointments with Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley. Chang, in addition, is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

Hydrogen gas, whether combusted or used in fuel cells to generate electricity, emits only water vapor as an exhaust product, which is why this nation would already be rolling towards a hydrogen economy if only there were hydrogen wells to tap. However, hydrogen gas does not occur naturally and has to be produced. Most of the hydrogen gas in the United States today comes from natural gas, a fossil fuel. While inexpensive, this technique adds huge volumes of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Hydrogen can also be produced through the electrolysis of water — using electricity to split molecules of water into molecules of hydrogen and oxygen. This is an environmentally clean and sustainable method of production — especially if the electricity is generated via a renewable technology such as solar or wind — but requires a water-splitting catalyst.

Nature has developed extremely efficient water-splitting enzymes — called hydrogenases — for use by plants during photosynthesis, however, these enzymes are highly unstable and easily deactivated when removed from their native environment. Human activities demand a stable metal catalyst that can operate under non-biological settings.

Metal catalysts are commercially available, but they are low valence precious metals whose high costs make their widespread use prohibitive. For example, platinum, the best of them, costs some $2,000 an ounce.

“The basic scientific challenge has been to create earth-abundant molecular systems that produce hydrogen from water with high catalytic activity and stability,” Chang says. “We believe our discovery of a molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water without the use of additional acids or organic co-solvents establishes a new chemical paradigm for creating reduction catalysts that are highly active and robust in aqueous media.”

The molybdenum-oxo complex that Karunadasa, Chang and Long discovered is a high valence metal with the chemical name of (PY5Me2)Mo-oxo. In their studies, the research team found that this complex catalyzes the generation of hydrogen from neutral buffered water or even sea water with a turnover frequency of 2.4 moles of hydrogen per mole of catalyst per second.

Long says, “This metal-oxo complex represents a distinct molecular motif for reduction catalysis that has high activity and stability in water. We are now focused on modifying the PY5Me ligand portion of the complex and investigating other metal complexes based on similar ligand platforms to further facilitate electrical charge-driven as well as light-driven catalytic processes. Our particular emphasis is on chemistry relevant to sustainable energy cycles.”

This research was supported in part by the DOE Office of Science through Berkeley Lab’s Helios Solar Energy Research Center, and in part by a grant from the National science Foundation.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 2nd May 2010

Cars of Tomorrow

Automotive Engineers Team Up to

Improve Energy-Saving Technology


October 1, 2006 — Mechanical and electrical engineers at DaimlerChrysler, General Motors and BMW have jointly developed a hybrid-vehicle technology that shuts the internal combustion engine off when the vehicle stops. Meanwhile, engineers are working to replace the platinum in fuel cells with cheaper materials, which could lead to viable hydrogen cars.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The high cost of hybrids has kept many people from going green, and a new Edmonds.com study shows that with the cost of gas — combined with tax credits — it only takes about three years to break even.

Now a new breed of hybrid is going to lessen that time even more. It’s the brainchild of not one car company but DaimlerChrysler, General Motors and BMW! They are all working together to create the car of tomorrow.

As gas prices go up, the pressure is on to create cars that use less.

“The hybrid system that we’re developing, we can apply to any vehicle that we have,” Glenn Denomme, a chief engineer of Hybrid Powertrain Programs at DaimlerChrysler in Auburn Hills, Michigan, tells DBIS.

It allows for increased performance compared to a conventional SUV and improves fuel economy by up to 25 percent. Denomme says, “You can still haul your cargo, but you can still be environmentally sound too.”

Today’s hybrid works best in stop-and-go traffic — tomorrow’s hybrid will give you better fuel economy, not only in the city, but on the highway. When the new hybrid is stopped, the advanced system shuts the internal combustion engine off, conserving fuel. When the car starts to move, electric power is used to conserve fuel, adding power from the engine as needed.

Speeding up even more, power from both the engine and electric motors are routed to the wheels for greater acceleration.

The new technology doesn’t stop there! A fuel cell car is 100-percent electric.

“It takes hydrogen and oxygen, combines it to form water, and at the same time produces electricity,” says Doanh Tran, an advanced vehicle engineer with DaimlerChrysler’s Fuel Cell Vehicles & Technologies.

Hydrogen can be produced from just about anything that has a hydrogen molecule, and the car has no emission out of the tailpipe except water vapor.

Right now, platinum is used for the fuel cell’s parts and is expensive, but materials engineers are working to find new metals. And as for mileage, it gets 56 miles per gallon, so a little can go a long way.

The fuel cell car won’t be for sale until around 2012. The new DaimlerChrysler hybrid will hit the market in 2008. It will cost more than a conventional car, but the price hasn’t been set yet.

BACKGROUND: The German-American consortium of BMW, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors are developing a new type of two-mode hybrid system for a wide range of cars, trucks and SUVs, starting with the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe available in fall 2007. Current hybrids perform well in stop-and-go city driving, but don’t get as good mileage on the highway. The new hybrid version will get 25 percent better mileage in combined city and highway driving.

ADVANTAGES: Current hybrid engine systems have a single mode of operation, using a single gear set to split the engine’s power into two systems — routing it to drive the wheels or charge the battery — for both city and highway driving. Like other hybrids, the two-mode combines the power of a gasoline engine with that of electric motors, capturing energy from braking that would otherwise be lost and shutting off the engine at a stop. The battery alone can power the vehicle at low speeds. The new technology can operate much more efficiently at highway speeds with a greater boost from the electric motors, shutting down half the cylinders when not needed, thereby improving gas mileage. The components of the new two-mode system are also lighter and more compact, making them especially useful for reducing overall fuel consumption.

BATTERY BASICS: Whenever one type of matter converts into another, as in a chemical reaction, one form of energy also changes into another. A battery has two ends, called terminals, one with a negative charge, and one with a positive charge. Electrons congregate on the negative terminal. Connect a wire between the two terminals, and the electrons will flow from the negative to the positive end as quickly as they can. Connecting the battery starts the flow of electrons, jumpstarting a series of chemical reactions inside the battery to create even more electrons.

HOW FUEL CELLS WORK: Just like batteries, a fuel cell is a device that uses chemical reactions to convert hydrogen and oxygen into water, producing electricity in the process. A battery eventually goes dead when all the chemicals are used up, but in a fuel cell, there is a constant flow of chemicals into the cell. The voltage produced by fuel cells can be used to power lights, electrical appliances, and laptops, as well as cars and trucks. Fuel cells are light, more efficient than internal combustion engines, and don’t produce damaging emissions. They are currently expensive to manufacture, however.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 14th April 2010

Viruses Harnessed to Split Water

ScienceDaily (Apr. 12, 2010) — A team of MIT researchers has found a novel way to mimic the process by which plants use the power of sunlight to split water and make chemical fuel to power their growth. In this case, the team used a modified virus as a kind of biological scaffold that can assemble the nanoscale components needed to split a water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen atoms.

Splitting water is one way to solve the basic problem of solar energy: It’s only available when the sun shines. By using sunlight to make hydrogen from water, the hydrogen can then be stored and used at any time to generate electricity using a fuel cell, or to make liquid fuels (or be used directly) for cars and trucks.

Other researchers have made systems that use electricity, which can be provided by solar panels, to split water molecules, but the new biologically based system skips the intermediate steps and uses sunlight to power the reaction directly. The advance is described in a paper published on April 11 in Nature Nanotechnology.

The team, led by Angela Belcher, the Germeshausen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering, engineered a common, harmless bacterial virus called M13 so that it would attract and bind with molecules of a catalyst (the team used iridium oxide) and a biological pigment (zinc porphyrins). The viruses became wire-like devices that could very efficiently split the oxygen from water molecules.

Over time, however, the virus-wires would clump together and lose their effectiveness, so the researchers added an extra step: encapsulating them in a microgel matrix, so they maintained their uniform arrangement and kept their stability and efficiency.

While hydrogen obtained from water is the gas that would be used as a fuel, the splitting of oxygen from water is the more technically challenging “half-reaction” in the process, Belcher explains, so her team focused on this part. Plants and cyanobacteria (also called blue-green algae), she says, “have evolved highly organized photosynthetic systems for the efficient oxidation of water.” Other researchers have tried to use the photosynthetic parts of plants directly for harnessing sunlight, but these materials can have structural stability issues.

Belcher decided that instead of borrowing plants’ components, she would borrow their methods. In plant cells, natural pigments are used to absorb sunlight, while catalysts then promote the water-splitting reaction. That’s the process Belcher and her team, including doctoral student Yoon Sung Nam, the lead author of the new paper, decided to imitate.

In the team’s system, the viruses simply act as a kind of scaffolding, causing the pigments and catalysts to line up with the right kind of spacing to trigger the water-splitting reaction. The role of the pigments is “to act as an antenna to capture the light,” Belcher explains, “and then transfer the energy down the length of the virus, like a wire. The virus is a very efficient harvester of light, with these porphyrins attached.

“We use components people have used before,” she adds, “but we use biology to organize them for us, so you get better efficiency.”

Using the virus to make the system assemble itself improves the efficiency of the oxygen production fourfold, Nam says. The researchers hope to find a similar biologically based system to perform the other half of the process, the production of hydrogen. Currently, the hydrogen atoms from the water get split into their component protons and electrons; a second part of the system, now being developed, would combine these back into hydrogen atoms and molecules. The team is also working to find a more commonplace, less-expensive material for the catalyst, to replace the relatively rare and costly iridium used in this proof-of-concept study.

Thomas Mallouk, the DuPont Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics at Pennsylvania State University, who was not involved in this work, says, “This is an extremely clever piece of work that addresses one of the most difficult problems in artificial photosynthesis, namely, the nanoscale organization of the components in order to control electron transfer rates.”

He adds: “There is a daunting combination of problems to be solved before this or any other artificial photosynthetic system could actually be useful for energy conversion.” To be cost-competitive with other approaches to solar power, he says, the system would need to be at least 10 times more efficient than natural photosynthesis, be able to repeat the reaction a billion times, and use less expensive materials. “This is unlikely to happen in the near future,” he says. “Nevertheless, the design idea illustrated in this paper could ultimately help with an important piece of the puzzle.”

Belcher will not even speculate about how long it might take to develop this into a commercial product, but she says that within two years she expects to have a prototype device that can carry out the whole process of splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen, using a self-sustaining and durable system.

Funding was provided by he Italian energy company Eni, through the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI)

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 14th April 2010

Blueprint for ‘Artificial Leaf’

Mimics Mother Nature and helps to

turn water to hydrogen for fuel

ScienceDaily (Mar. 26, 2010) — Scientists have presented a design strategy to produce the long-sought artificial leaf, which could harness Mother Nature’s ability to produce energy from sunlight and water in the process called photosynthesis. The new recipe, based on the chemistry and biology of natural leaves, could lead to working prototypes of an artificial leaf that capture solar energy and use it efficiently to change water into hydrogen fuel, they stated.

Their report was scheduled for the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Francisco. It was among more than 12,000 scientific reports scheduled for presentation at the meeting, one of the largest scientific gatherings of 2010.

“This concept may provide a new vista for the design of artificial photosynthetic systems based on biological paradigms and build a working prototype to exploit sustainable energy resources,” Tongxiang Fan, Ph.D. and colleagues Di Zhang, Ph.D. and Han Zhou, Ph.D., reported, They are with the State Key Lab of Matrix Composites at Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai, China.

Fan pointed out that using sunlight to split water into its components, hydrogen and oxygen, is one of the most promising and sustainable tactics to escape current dependence on coal, oil, and other traditional fuels. When burned, those fuels release carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Combustion of hydrogen, in contrast, forms just water vapor. That appeal is central to the much-discussed “Hydrogen Economy,” and some auto companies, such as Toyota, have developed hydrogen-fueled cars. Lacking, however, is a cost-effective sustainable way to produce hydrogen.

With that in mind, Fan and co-workers decided to take a closer look at the leaf, nature’s photosynthetic system, with plans to use its structure as a blueprint for their next generation of artificial systems. Not too surprisingly, the structure of green leaves provides them an extremely high light-harvesting efficiency. Within their architecture are structures responsible focusing and guiding of solar energy into the light-harvesting sections of the leaf, and other functions.

The scientists decided to mimic that natural design in the development of a blueprint for artificial leaf-like structures. It led them to report their recipe for the “Artificial Inorganic Leaf” (AIL), based on the natural leaf and titanium dioxide (TiO2) — a chemical already recognized as a photocatalyst for hydrogen production.

The scientists first infiltrated the leaves of Anemone vitifolia — a plant native to China — with titanium dioxide in a two-step process. Using advanced spectroscopic techniques, the scientists were then able to confirm that the structural features in the leaf favorable for light harvesting were replicated in the new TiO2 structure. Excitingly, the AIL are eight times more active for hydrogen production than TiO2 that has not been “biotemplated” in that fashion. AILs also are more than three times as active as commercial photo-catalysts. Next, the scientists embedded nanoparticles of platinum into the leaf surface. Platinum, along with the nitrogen found naturally in the leaf, helps increase the activity of the artificial leaves by an additional factor of ten.

In his ACS presentation, Fan reported on various aspects of Artificial Inorganic Leaf production, their spectroscopic work to better understand the macro- and microstructure of the photocatalysts, and their comparison to previously reported systems. The activity of these new “leaves,” are significantly higher than those prepared with classic routes. Fan attributes these results to the hierarchical structures derived from natural leaves:

“Our results may represent an important first step towards the design of novel artificial solar energy transduction systems based on natural paradigms, particularly based on exploring and mimicking the structural design. Nature still has much to teach us, and human ingenuity can modify the principles of natural systems for enhanced utility.”

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 9th April 2010

Danish Researchers Reveal New

Hydrogen Storage Technology

ScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2005) — Scientists at the Technical University of Denmark have invented a technology which may be an important step towards the hydrogen economy: a hydrogen tablet that effectively stores hydrogen in an inexpensive and safe material.

With the new hydrogen tablet, it becomes much simpler to use the environmentally-friendly energy of hydrogen. Hydrogen is a non-polluting fuel, but since it is a light gas it occupies too much volume, and it is flammable. Consequently, effective and safe storage of hydrogen has challenged researchers world-wide for almost three decades. At the Technical University of Denmark, DTU, an interdisciplinary team has developed a hydrogen tablet which enables storage and transport of hydrogen in solid form.

“Should you drive a car 600 km using gaseous hydrogen at normal pressure, it would require a fuel tank with a size of nine cars. With our technology, the same amount of hydrogen can be stored in a normal gasoline tank”, says Professor Claus Hviid Christensen, Department of Chemistry at DTU.

The hydrogen tablet is safe and inexpensive. In this respect it is different from most other hydrogen storage technologies. You can literally carry the material in your pocket without any kind of safety precaution. The reason is that the tablet consists solely of ammonia absorbed efficiently in sea-salt. Ammonia is produced by a combination of hydrogen with nitrogen from the surrounding air, and the DTU-tablet therefore contains large amounts of hydrogen. Within the tablet, hydrogen is stored as long as desired, and when hydrogen is needed, ammonia is released through a catalyst that decomposes it back to free hydrogen. When the tablet is empty, you merely give it a “shot” of ammonia and it is ready for use again.

“The technology is a step towards making the society independent of fossil fuels” says Professor Jens Nørskov, director of the Nanotechnology Center at DTU. He, Claus Hviid Christensen, Tue Johannessen, Ulrich Quaade and Rasmus Zink Sørensen are the five researchers behind the invention. The advantages of using hydrogen are numerous. It is CO2-free, and it can be produced by renewable energy sources, e.g. wind power.

“We have a new solution to one of the major obstacles to the use of hydrogen as a fuel. And we need new energy technologies – oil and gas will not last, and without energy, there is no modern society”, says Jens Nørskov.

Together with DTU and SeeD Capital Denmark, the researchers have founded the company Amminex A/S, which will focus on the further development and commercialization of the technology.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 9th April 2010

University of North Texas Cool N2Car – Nitrogen powered prototype car

Designed, built, and tested by Dr. Carlos Ordonez (Physics), Dr. Mitty Plummer (Engineering Technology), and Dr. Rick Reidy (Department of Materials Science) of the University of North Texas , this developmental zero emission vehicle employs a cryogenic heat engine and is fueled by liquid nitrogen. This research was funded by the Texas Advanced Technology Program.

Liquid nitrogen vehicle

(Redirected from Liquid nitrogen economy)

liquid nitrogen vehicle is powered by liquid nitrogen, which is stored in a tank. The engine works by heating the liquid nitrogen in a heat exchanger, extracting heat from the ambient air and using the resulting pressurized gas to operate a piston or rotary engine.

Liquid nitrogen propulsion may also be incorporated in hybrid systems, e.g., battery electric propulsion and fuel tanks to recharge the batteries. This kind of system is called a hybrid liquid nitrogen-electric propulsion. Additionally, regenerative braking can also be used in conjunction with this system.

liquid nitrogen economy is a hypothetical proposal for a future economy in which the primary form of energy storage and transport is liquid nitrogen. It is proposed as an alternative to liquid hydrogen in some transport modes and as a means of locally storing energy captured fromrenewable sources. An analysis of this concept provides insight into the physical limits of all energy conversion schemes.


Currently, most road vehicles are powered by internal combustion engines burning fossil fuel. If transportation is to be sustainable over the long term, the fuel must be replaced by something else produced by renewable energy. The replacement should not be thought of as an energy source; it is a means of transferring and concentrating energy, a “currency” or energy carrier.

Liquid nitrogen is generated by cryogenic or Stirling engine coolers that liquefy the main component of air, nitrogen (N2). The cooler can be powered by renewable-generated electricity or through direct mechanical work from hydro or wind turbines.

Liquid nitrogen is distributed and stored in insulated containers. The insulation reduces heat flow into the stored nitrogen; this is necessary because heat from the surrounding environment boils the liquid, which then transitions to a gaseous state. Reducing inflowing heat reduces the loss of liquid nitrogen in storage. The requirements of storage prevent the use of pipelines as a means of transport. Since long-distance pipelines would be costly due to the insulation requirements, it would be costly to use distant energy sources for production of liquid nitrogen. Petroleum reserves are typically a vast distance from consumption but can be transferred at ambient temperatures.

Liquid nitrogen consumption is in essence production in reverse. The Stirling engine or cryogenic heat engine offers a way to power vehicles and a means to generate electricity. Liquid nitrogen can also serve as a direct coolant for refrigeratorselectrical equipment and air conditioning units. The consumption of liquid nitrogen is in effect boiling and returning the nitrogen to the atmosphere.


Cost of production

Liquid nitrogen production is an energy-intensive process. Currently practical refrigeration plants producing a few tons/day of liquid nitrogen operate at about 50% of Carnot efficiency

Energy density of liquid nitrogen

Any process that relies on a phase-change of a substance will have much lower energy densities than processes involving a chemical reaction in a substance, which in turn have lower energy densities than nuclear reactions. Liquid nitrogen as an energy store has a low energy density. Liquid hydrocarbon fuels by comparison have a high energy density. A high energy density makes the logistics of transport and storage more convenient. Convenience is an important factor in consumer acceptance. The convenient storage of petroleum fuels combined with its low cost has led to an unrivaled success. In addition, a petroleum fuel is a primary energy source, not just an energy storage and transport medium.

The energy density — derived from nitrogen’s isobaric heat of vaporization and specific heat in gaseous state — that can be realised from liquid nitrogen at atmospheric pressure and zero degrees Celsius ambient temperature is about 97 watt-hours per kilogram (W-hr/kg). This compares with about 3,000 W-hr/kg for a gasoline combustion engine running at 28% thermal efficiency, 30 times the density of liquid nitrogen used at the Carnot efficiency

For an isothermal expansion engine to have a range comparable to an internal combustion engine, an 350-litre (92 US gal) insulated onboard storage vessel is required . A practical volume, but a noticeable increase over the typical 50-litre (13 US gal) gasoline tank. The addition of more complex power cycles would reduce this requirement and help enable frost free operation. However, no commercially practical instances of liquid nitrogen use for vehicle propulsion exist.

Frost formation

Unlike internal combustion engines, using a cryogenic working fluid requires heat exchangers to warm and cool the working fluid. In a humid environment, frost formation will prevent heat flow and thus represents an engineering challenge. To prevent frost build up, multiple working fluids can be used. This adds topping cycles to ensure the heat exchanger does not fall below freezing. Additional heat exchangers, weight, complexity, efficiency loss, and expense, would be required to enable frost free operation 


However efficient the insulation on the nitrogen fuel tank, there will inevitably be losses by evaporation to the atmosphere. If a vehicle is stored in a poorly ventilated space, there is some risk that leaking nitrogen depletes the level of oxygen in the air and causes asphyxiation. Since nitrogen is a colorless and odourless gas that already makes up 78 % of air, such a change is difficult to detect.

Cryogenic liquids are hazardous if spilled. Liquid nitrogen can cause frostbite and can make some materials extremely brittle.


The tanks must be designed to safety standards appropriate for a pressure vessel, such as ISO 11439.

The storage tank may be made of:

The fiber materials are considerably lighter than metals but generally more expensive. Metal tanks can withstand a large number of pressure cycles, but must be checked for corrosion periodically.

Emission output

Like other non-combustion energy storage technologies, a liquid nitrogen vehicle displaces the emission source from the vehicle’s tail pipe to the central electrical generating plant. Where emissions-free sources are available, net production of pollutants can be reduced. Emission control measures at a central generating plant may be more effective and less costly than treating the emissions of widely-dispersed vehicles.


Liquid nitrogen vehicles are comparable in many ways to electric vehicles, but use liquid nitrogen to store the energy instead of batteries. Their potential advantages over other vehicles include:

  • Much like electrical vehicles, liquid nitrogen vehicles would ultimately be powered through the electrical grid. Which makes it easier to focus on reducing pollution from one source, as opposed to the millions of vehicles on the road.
  • Transportation of the fuel would not be required due to drawing power off the electrical grid. This presents significant cost benefits. Pollution created during fuel transportation would be eliminated.
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Liquid nitrogen tanks can be disposed of or recycled with less pollution than batteries.
  • Liquid nitrogen vehicles are unconstrained by the degradation problems associated with current battery systems.
  • The tank may be able to be refilled more often and in less time than batteries can be recharged, with re-fueling rates comparable to liquid fuels.


The principal disadvantage is the inefficient use of primary energy. Energy is used to liquify nitrogen, which in turn provides the energy to run the motor. Any conversion of energy between forms results in loss. For liquid nitrogen cars, energy is lost when electrical energy is converted to liquid nitrogen.

Liquid nitrogen is not yet available in public refueling stations.

Details of this work were presented in July 1997 at the Cryogenic Materials Conference in Portland, Oregon. Questions about this program can be addressed to:

Dr. Carlos Ordonez
Department of Physics
PO Box 311427
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas 76203-1427

Dr. Mitty Plummer
Dept. of Engineering Technology
PO Box 13198
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas 76203
email: plummer@unt.edu

Dr. Rick Reidy
Dept. of Materials Science
PO Box 305310
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas 76203-5310
email: reidy@unt.edu

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 9th April 2010

Toshiba Enters Residential Solar Cell

System Market

Mar 2, 2010 12:57 Motonobu Kawai, Nikkei Electronics

Toshiba Corp will start selling residential solar cell systems using SunPower Corp’s monocrystalline silicon solar battery module April 1, 2010.

“We decided to enter the residential solar cell system market to promote our electric appliance and smart grid businesses,” the company said.

Toshiba plans to sell its solar cell systems together with its “SCiB” lithium-ion batteries and smart meters in the future.

All of the devices used for the residential solar cell system are purchased from outside companies, including the solar battery module, power conditioner (power conversion efficiency: 94%) and color display. Among them, SunPower’s solar battery module, “SPR-210N-WHT-J,” features a cell conversion efficiency as high as 21.5%, which Toshiba claims is the world’s highest level for commercialized solar cells.

The high conversion efficiency was realized by, for example, employing the monocrystalline silicon cell and the back-contact structure, in which electrodes are formed only on the back to increase the light-receiving area. The conversion efficiency as a module is 16.9%, and the maximum output is 210W.

The advantage of the back-contact structure is not only the enhancement of conversion efficiency. Because there is no electrode on the surface, electrodes do not glare when solar batteries are mounted. Some construction firms say that the electrodes on the surface of solar cells are a problem in designing, and this problem can be solved by employing the structure.

Toshiba’s employment of SunPower’s solar battery module will probably influence the business strategies of Japanese solar cell manufacturers. So far, Sanyo Electric Co Ltd’s HIT (heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer) solar cell has been known as a solar cell with a high conversion efficiency in Japan.

Sanyo and SunPower have been competing for the highest conversion efficiency at academic conferences. Also, as for the back-contact structure, Kyocera Corp is planning to release a product using polysilicon solar cells with the structure.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 4th March 2010

All-solid Li-polymer Battery Goes

Flexible, Slim

2010 21:39 Tetsuo Nozawa, Nikkei Electronics

Mie Industry Enterprise Support Center (MIESC) announced that it prototyped a “sheet-type all-solid polymer lithium storage battery” by using only printing processes.

The battery is safe, thin, flexible and large in area, MIESC said. It will be exhibited at the 1st Int’l Rechargeable Battery Expo, which will take place from March 3 to 5, 2010, in Tokyo.

The positive electrode layer, electrolyte layer and negative electrode layer of the lithium-ion battery are made by roll-to-roll processes. No separator is used between layers.

The positive electrode is made with LiFePO4 and a carbon complex while the negative electrode is made with Li4Ti5O12 and a complex of graphite, silicon, etc. A film made of a polymer material using a cross-linked polyethylene oxide is used for the electrolyte.

The polymer material is not in a gel state but in a solid state, and the battery does not use an organic electrolyte, which is flammable, ensuring high safety.

The A6-size lithium-ion battery is 450?m in thickness. Its initial capacity is 45mAh. When half of the capacity is discharged, its voltage is 1.8V. The discharge rate can be changed between 0.02C and 1.0C.

Existing all-solid lithium polymer storage batteries can hardly be used at a room temperature or below. But the new battery can be used even at a temperature from 0 to 25°C, MIESC said. The charge-discharge cycle is more than 100 and is still being evaluated, it said.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 4th March 2010