I need help finding accurate information

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Little Ghostman, Mar 17, 2014.

  1. Little Ghostman

    Thread Starter Member

    Jan 1, 2014
    First off I understand that the topic is off limits, but I am in a corner and need some help.
    I am doing a huge project, it is a project in advance!! in 2 1/2 years times I will be 16 and doing my final technology project, but I am starting to get it together now! My project is on alternative fuel's for generation.
    I am using Oil waste, algae, piezo, Thermal electric generation, Hydro, wind and the dreaded hydrogen mixed with another gas.
    My project isnt to prove or disprove anything, its is about taking measurements and scoreing on certain traits.
    1) how abundant is the fuel
    2) how effective is the fuel in terms of power produced V power needed to refine, alter, or provide the fuel (or source, but lets just call it all fuel).
    3) as a finished fuel how green is it?
    4) how green is the fuel taking into account the energy needed to produce it.

    Yes the project is more of a university level than a UK secondary School level, but that is exactly why I want to do it and I am starting now.

    I have a list of things I need to know, such as how to work out calorific value etc, amount of fuel needed to produce x amount of power.

    Now the banned word and topic is proving hard to research, yes it will burn, yes it will run a engine. but What do I need to measure to get all the facts? Anyone got any idea how I find out the calorific value of it, and how do I measure the energy need to actually produce it?
    I did have steam as an option (steam engine), but that proved too difficult because there are too many ways to produce steam, and you get things like wood need the moisture content taking into account!

    I would appreciate the pointing in the right direction :D Accurate information, non biased.
    I really wanted to do a hydrogen cell but making one looks a total nightmare!
    Bio gas is also difficult but is staying in! Infact I am going to argue in the project that it is worth while to process human waste in bio digeasters that collect the gas! instead of the way its done now, the argument centers around large units using crops as fuel while we throw fuel down the toilet and then collect it to erm make safe and do nothing with it!
    anyway sorry for the topics but my question is, what factors do I need to consider and collect data on?
  2. Alec_t

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 17, 2013
    For any combustible material you could burn it in an insulated container and measure the rise in temperature of the container plus contents.
    If it's produced by electrolysis you integrate the power input required.
  3. studiot

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 9, 2007
    Both biogas (methane) and hydrogen are explosive when burned incorrectly.
    Further there is no need to measure their calorific value since that information is readily available.

    Other less well defined fuels, such as oils, organic sludge etc can safely be burned in a bomb calorimeter (not as unsafe as it sounds).


    You might try writing to the Pembroke Power Station for some support.
    This power station is unique in that is was designed to burn waste scrapings out of oil tankers that would otherwise be dumped. So they have a special eco status.

    Have a successful project.
  4. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    Answering your bullet points requires a lot of research and calculation but no lab measurements. I think you'll have a hard time finding a potential fuel for which the calorific values and your other bullets are not published. So I guess my question is, what do you see for the lab work part of your project? Do you want to validate calorie contents using a calorimeter? Do you want to make some alternative fuels by some process?

    One hurdle you will encounter in your research is politics, or maybe I should call it advocacy. I worked for years an in industry related to fuel ethanol. In that business there is an age-old debate on the green-ness, overall energy efficiency, carbon efficiency and so forth. There are genuine attempts at bias, but even innocent reports can differ. Depending on the questions you ask and the "state-of-the art" conditions you choose, you can arrive at almost any answer you want. It's not necessarily that one claim is right and one is wrong, it's that they are apples and oranges. For instance one report might use an industry average from 5-10 years ago, another report might use numbers from the top-performing producers, and another report might not include all the relevant factors. It can be very tough to sort out what the "truth" is. Most of the battle is formulating the right questions.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
  5. Little Ghostman

    Thread Starter Member

    Jan 1, 2014
    Thanks for the answers guys, I guess I was vague because of the topic! its a shame that some have made it a no go area by makng stupid claims. If we are talking the HHO thing, then yes its obvious that in a closed system the claims are mad. for the lab part of that bit, what I want to do is accurately measure how much energy is required to produce enough of the gas to run a engine, now please dont jump on me hear me out.
    On hybrid cars such as the Vauxhal Ampera it does things a bit different to alot of hybrids. When its low on battery power the petrol engine is fired up to run a generator not to actually turn the wheels, this apparently buys you an extra 50 miles (might be 100 I forget at the moment), anyway the point is the car is run on electric with a petrol generator as a kind of quick top up.
    So using something similar I am trying to work out how much energy is needed to produce different gases and if these could be used to power some kind of system.
    BUT and this is the main reason
    Forget the oxygen part for a moment
    My original idea was to see if hydrogen could be manufactured on board a car for use in a cell. Hydrogen cells seem a good idea, but carrying hydrogen around dosnt seem so good. But how much do you need to power a cell?could this be made on board on demand. So in other words would it be possible to produce just the hydrogen your using with a small amount extra to run a cell?
    YES I totaly accept you are going to need heavy duty batteries or whatever to run the production side, and YES I know that these will need to be topped up like a hybrid car is now.
    But What I see as plus points
    No need for mass storage or production of a highly dangerous gas (although no one moans at LPG cars!).
    The production of Hydrogen isnt complicated
    Carrying water around is no different to petrol fuel tank.
    A large battery pack is no different from any hybrid car out there now.

    What I dont know
    How far would a car running a hydrogen cell travel on one fully charged battery bank (like the ampera) using self made hydrogen.
    So that part is more about is it possible to make a hydrogen safer by using on board water to make the hydrogen?
    YES totally obvious eventually it all grinds to a halt, energy out is never greater than energy in, but that is the same for every single electric car made, what I wanted to work out was how does it stack up in terms of distance and power. Could you get 10 miles or 200 miles?
    Interesting thing slightly off topic, I saw a program on cars the other night, and they had a prototype from the 70's that did 300 miles to a gallon of fuel!

    Bio gas
    This is a hard one, we have a farm near here that has a bio gas plant. the problem is the gas produced depends on the feed material! Its always quoted that bio gas is mainly Methane, but infact it depends, all kinds of combustible gases are made and each has a different burning temperature!
    Totally amazing process and for me the one I would invest in if I was in Government! Alot use crops for fuel which is bad, we need food etc and its not a waste product, but smaller units like the farm one use all kinds of things, Fuel of choice? CHICKEN POO! apparently its the best they have found but demand outstrips supply in our area, Ironic that 20 years ago my dad had to pay £25 a ton on the farm to get rid of it! now its worth money.
    The end product from the process is a great fert, they gave me a bag so I will try it out, they even run there septic tank to it!
    Best temperature to run at is body temperature so they use solar heaters when needed.
    I can see loads of lab work, but first I am looking at the theory. All the figures I have found for example large Bio plants use one fuel type so the data is accurate for that fuel, but isnt the same as the smaller units that use all kinds of things.
    My own View is smaller power plants run around small Bio units (in rural area's) and in towns alter sewage plants to use the waste to run bio plants, would also save huge amount of money thats needed to make the stuff safe to discharge!

    Please feel free to argue against, after all a good scientist according to dad is only interested in the truth, Just because I think this should be done or that should be done, dosnt mean I wont try and experiment to prove myself wrong. In fact dad says the best way is to try and disprove what you think is correct. Then you have the bases covered, But ultimate goal is collect data, I dont mind which way it goes.
    The algae thing I am doing at home, growing it and seeing how much gas they produce (hydrogen and oxygen), but also looking to see if they can be used as a solid fuel, because there growth rate is so fast.
    Ok so its all a bit mad but isnt that what makes science great?

    Regarding Rodin starship coils, utter nonsense about the special powers, yes more power from same number of windings, but DOH lot more wire because of the shape!
    There are however two special powers I can prove!
    1) They look awsome compared to a round col of wire
    2) They are very directional, much more so than a normal coil, the field is concentrated in a smaller area so if you need tight control on where a field is then they are great! (my spinning globe thing will use them to spin the globe).

    Steam power

    my favorite of the lot! and I am using a mahood model steam engine to test some the gases, using the gas to heat the boiler then get the engine to run a dynamo and measure out put etc. Maybe no scientific purpose but all my projects have to have a fun factor or I refuse to do them, and this bit is my fun factor!
    Oh and I still argue steam power is how we get the vast majority of our electric even today! so in some ways you could argue we already run on water :D
    Thanks for the help. I will give better details of the experiments once I know the background bit first
  6. Little Ghostman

    Thread Starter Member

    Jan 1, 2014
    re read some of it and wanted to clarify, the hydrogen produced wasnt for burning, it was purely to put into a hydrogen cell
  7. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    That's the part I don't follow. Why use a battery to make hydrogen, only to then convert it back to electricity (or burn it)? Most of the loss in fueling an electric car happens before the electricity gets to the car. From the battery to the wheels, the efficiency is very good. Why put any break in that path?

    And carrying water as a fuel is a problem because of the low density of hydrogen, ignoring the large amount of energy needed to extract the hydrogen.
  8. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012

    The laws of thermodynamics say, you can't get more out than you put in. And, getting out exactly what you put in means 100% efficiency. Very few things are 100% efficient (if any). Certainly, water electrolysis methods are not. Water solutions have resistance and adding electrolytes reduces the resistance but also makes the water bond more tightly to the salt and thus requires higher energy to split the water. Essentially every chemical transformation will generate heat and, unless that heat does enough work to bring the temp back to the starting temp - you have inefficiency.
  9. WBahn


    Mar 31, 2012
    You already know what you are going to argue before you have even done any research?

    The fact that you make the blanket claim that nothing is done with human waste flushed down a toilet indicates the total lack of basic research you have done. In five minutes you can find enough about modern sewage treatment systems to know that this is, in general, not true.
  10. Little Ghostman

    Thread Starter Member

    Jan 1, 2014

    I am going by 3 visits to treatment plants here in the UK, most are old (not all), no idea what you do with it over there, but the three near me do as little as they can. So I have researched it, and as stated I am at the start.
    I think in part the problem is we are in different places, I have to go with what is done around me. I am pleased the USA has the sense to not see waste as erm waste!

    The battery thing let let me explain.
    I read about HYDROGEN cells, but they need Hydrogen to work, alot of the apparent reason we dont have hydrogen cell cars is the safety in using hydrogen, so how far would a car get using a hydrogen cell on hydrogen made on board? dosnt matter if you need a petrol generator to make it! The point was how does it stack up as a hybrid car like the Vauxhal one?
    I fully understand the whole you cant get more out than in. As for arguing my point before I start, I probably explained that wrong sorry.
    I start of saying I think X Y Z, then do the experiments, at the end I will be right or more likely wrong! I think the term is thesis, where you say I think this then try and disprove it or prove it. So when I say I know what I am going to argue I mean I Know what I think will happen, so that will be at the start, then do the work and see if the assumption was correct.
    Another thought on human waste, alot here in the uk use septic tanks (in rural area's at least, in the future (30-40 years) it may be we need to look at new ways to use it.
  11. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
    Ha! I suppose next you'll want accurate, non-biased information on global warming and nuclear power! ;)

    In addition to what Wayneh said about politics and what Wbahn said about innocuous differences in findings (which are both very true), I've found in my experiments with ethanol (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 : summary) that evaluations of cost/energy efficiency also depend to a great degree on scale. It is totally cost ineffective to try to produce your own ethanol for fuel at home. You cannot make it make fiscal sense. In large scale production however, the process would be more efficient; BUT I don't have the resources to try it and see to what degree it would be more efficient, so I have to take the word of they people who are already doing it large scale, but those people are taking government subsidies and therefore biased, and down the rabbit hole we go...
  12. alfacliff

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2013
    and the even worse safety in using HHO, hydrogen isnt explosive or very daqngerous by its self, but then the oxygen is alread there, it is. if I remember right, you can only get 1/3 the energy out of burning the hydrogen and oxygen from water than it takes to split it out.
  13. Little Ghostman

    Thread Starter Member

    Jan 1, 2014
    A hydrogen cell dosent burn it? my limited understanding is a hydrogen cell is considered a good energy source, the bad part is the hydrogen.
    I know scale will affect it, but for this scale is ignored. Algae are a great fuel but you get to the point that the space needed isnt there. But for speed or growth and biomass is a good fuel. Just not very practical.
    I am 13 1/2 I am not looking to solve world energy problems (not yet anyway), but as a project for my final exams in 2 1/2 years time its a killer :D. With top marks all the way and good exam results I can study at a good uni. THEN I can start solving world problems!
  14. Little Ghostman

    Thread Starter Member

    Jan 1, 2014
    Yes once I am doing my nuclear reactor project at uni! thats if dad lets me have a reactor in the out buildings :D
    Global warming is something we will live with but never solve, some will get rich from it and some will get wet from it. Accurate information would be nice though.
    My own view is the ice caps are melting (pic of polar regions prove that), but then again they always have apparently. Economies and the world go in cycles, it has to. The sun and moon have cycles, nature has cycles we call them season's. Living on a farm taught me every year a insect or creature would be seen in numbers way above normal, like ants about 5 years ago, flies 4 years ago,wasps 2 years ago and so on.
    We live we die, everything is a cycle. Does it bother me? Sometimes but then I think as long as I am a good person and try and do no one harm then it will be ok.
    Will it be ok? I dunno. But getting in a panic wont help