1. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Water-Powered Cars?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by AnonyMouse, Sep 21, 2008.

    I'm currently working on a Fantasy story set in 2055. By then, people will probably be moving away from gasoline, so for realism's sake I thought it would be wise to come up with an alternate power source for automobiles.

    It's not particularly important for my plot, but so far, I've been using cars that run on water. It's sort of a closed-loop: put water in the "gas" tank, electolysis converts it to hydrogen, which is then combusted in an engine, producing mechanical power, electricity, and water as a by-product. Only occasionally would the owner of the vehicle have to add anything, and that's only because the system isn't completely in balance. it's never explained in that muhc detail in the story, readers only know cars run are fueled by water and contain explosive hydrogen somewhere inside.

    Like I said, it's not super-important to the plot and I'm open to other ideas. I'm just wondering if this sounds feasible or will readers get hung up on it? I can only think of two small instances where it becomes relevant to the plot. (1) One of my characters, who is a 1,000 year old vampire, drives a gasoline car, which is basically considered an antique by most people's standards. (2) I wrote a fight sequence where one of my magic-users makes a sword of ice using water from a car's gas tank. Both of these are only minor things and can easily be edited out if need be.

    Note: I considered placing this in "Research" but because I'm not looking for specific facts, just people's opinions on the subject, I figured this was the best place to put it.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Water will not work that way as a primary energy source. You can combine hydrogen and oxygen to get water and makr use of the energy released in that reaction. However, it takes exacly the same amount of en energy to separate water into hydriogen and oxygen. Furthermore, it is impossible to retrieve 100% of the energy released from the 2H2 + O2 -> 2H2O reaction, even if you did not use some of that energy to move the car (Second Law of Thermodynamics).

    You need another primary energy source to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen.

    For the forward reaction, you can burn hydrogen and oxygen to produce heat, which is how hydrogen-burning engines work currently, but it's not the most efficient use of energy. Fuel cells also wokr by combining hydrogen and oxygen to directly generate electricity; that process is more efficient, but is not currently feasible for high rates of energy production.
     
  3. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    So it's mechanically impossible for the alternator of a hydrogen-burning engine to generate enough electricity to make enough hydrogen to fuel itself? I was afraid of that...

    Would it work if there was a source of additional electricity? For example, if the car had a store of re-chargeable batteries? I'm not a fan of cars that run solely on electricity, so I'm really trying to have some sort of fuel in there. But I also don't like the idea of fuel being an issue. (Water is available almost anywhere and wouldn't be a problem.)
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    guess what, fellas?... there IS actually a process for using water to make hydrogen that can power vehicles, developed by an east coast [ivy league, i think] university team long ago, but not taken seriously till just recently... it's related to 'hydrogen fuel cell technology' and kits are even on the market!... see more here: http://www.pressemeldungen.at/39725/water-for-gas-technology/
     
  5. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Luckily with Global Warming and polar ice cap melting we will not have a water shortage :p.
     
  6. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    No offense, but that article is bogus. I've seen those "run your car on water" ads all over the net; they're everywhere. The science was only vaguely explained. It actually sounds exactly like what I explained above, which Cogito says is imposible.

    I agree it's impossible, but feel that some minor tweaks could make it feasible. I certainly think we can nail this thing by 2055, I'm just trying to see how. At the moment, I'm thinking solar panels on the roof, but that screams ELECTRIC CAR, which I hate.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No, it's not just impossible from an engineering standpoint, it violates the Three Laws of Thermodynamics.

    You have to have some additional source of energy into the system, and it has to provide all the energy that will be transformed into kinetic energy, plus an inevitable extra amount that will be lost as waste heat (The Law of Conservation of Energy also applies).

    The function of any chemically fueled engine is to utilize an exothermic reaction to liberate energy from a less stable to a more stable state. Revitalizing a fuel always requires adding energy from another source, with less than 100% efficiency.

    I was an electrochemical researcher many years ago, and in fact I did some work with fuel cells, so this is an area of science I am pretty familiar with.
     
  8. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    The closed-loop example I used above certainly does violate the Laws, but couldn't it work if an extra source of energy was added, such as solar panels or batteries that are charged by plugging the car in? I honestly don't know how much power it takes to perform electrolysis in high-volume, so I can't be sure if panels and batteries would be enough.
     
  9. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    you beat me to it, Mom! You're on the stick today!
    :cool:
     
  10. Honorius
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    Honorius Active Member

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    actually you could power a car by putting water in the fuel tank.

    its meerly hydrogen fuel cell technology (which does work; ive been to a zoo in florida that is entirely powered by a fuel cell the size of a large car [that includes the hydrogen tank]

    what you would do is have a solar panel (or a battery) supply electricity for electrolysis to change the water in hydrogen and oxygen, then the hydrogen and oxygen is run through the fuel cell supplying electricity.

    though whether or not you can reuse the oxygen and hydrogen that was already put through the fuel cell, i dont know, but i would assume that its possible
     
  11. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    This is a great idea on the cars running on water. I suppose in this front the technology should be based on what we know.

    Right now we have cars that run on Hydrogen cells and give off water as a final product. Nice thing with that. Might want to look into it.

    There is also an attachment that you place on your car that uses the power from the alternator to separate water into Hydrogen and Oxygen and then infuse your gas with Hydrogen to increase your gas mileage.

    Now. The law of conservation of Energy says that the Efficiency of a closed system can not be greater then 1. This backed by the First and Third law of Thermodynamics (The Three laws bing: You loose, You Fail, You Die) makes the idea of Water being a primary power source a bit beyond belief in such a short time. (None of this Helps.. I know.. But this Post has some Hope in it)

    I suggest that you present the water is worked with "sympathetic equilibrium, quadrupole negative harmonics, etheric disintegration" as presented by John Worrell Keely, of the Keely Motor Company. His designs and plans led to prove that one gallon of water could hold the harmonic "etheric force" far greater then Gas or coal could ever hope to achieve.

    I hope this helps you and that you can get started on your story now that you have solved the problem of cars that run on water.
     
  12. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    There is a guy that uses simple electrolysis to make use of water in his blow torch. It has been on the news several times. He has engines that use a similar technology that he is now perfecting.

    It is 2055, so I wouldn't even worry about explaining how it works. I think that is far enough into the future that it is believable. That we have come up with a way to run a car on water. I don't think many cared when, in Back the the Future, his car ran on garbage.

    An idea I have been bouncing around that you might make use of. I was thinking by 2070 everyone has the same shade of skin. Because humans are naturally prone to be separatists and thus racist, they find new differences to separate over, such as eye color. KKK are now the blue eyes, and they hate anyone with brown eyes. Damn those brown eyes.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No, the hydrogen and oxygen that enter the fuel cell are converted to water + electricity. The electricity is used to run the car. If you use any of the electricity for electrolysis, you get back less hydrogen and oxygen than you ysed to generate that excess electricity, so you have simply wasted energy output from the fuel cell.

    The solar cells or charging station are what I meant by a primary energy source. Also, hydrogen and oxygen are gases, which need to be pressurized to be useful in avehicle, and that too requires energy.

    Rather than carry electrolysis equipment and a compressor on the vehicle, it makes more sense to fill up with pressurized hydrogen and oxygen at the charging station.

    Or use a different type of fuel that is eaiser to handle or has a higher energy capacity (per pound or per cubic foot), and preferably whose byproducts are environmentally friendly.

    The thing to know about high energy density is that although it makes for very efficient energy production, it also means that any accidents that cause that energy to be released uncontrolled will be that much more destructive. In simpler terms, it generally means more devastating fireballs or explosions. It's an inherent property of high available chemical energy.

    Ungood, a better description of the three laws is: You can't win, you can't break even, and you can't get out of the game.
     
  14. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    This and Honorius's post solved my problem completely. I think the title may have been misleading; I never intended for the cars to "run on water." The engine itself uses internal combustion; it runs on hydogen. That hydrogen is derived from water using electrolysis, the electricity for which comes from the alternator. The main thing that differentiates it from a "pure" hydrogen-powered car is that you don't fill it up with hydrogen; you fill it with water and it makes its own hydrogen.

    As Cogito explained (and Honorius showed by example) this system would fail without some extra source of energy, such as a solar panel. It's impossible for the engine to make enough energy to reproduce it's own fuel, like a perpetual motion machine.
     
  15. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Unless you're Rube Goldberg.
     
  16. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmmm . . . got me to thinking. Free energy!

    If I pull a small trailer behind my truck, I can hold two cows who are temporarily fitted with a proctology device to capture methane. A flexible tube can run from the cows' rear ends to my truck engine, voila, free gas! And any time I "run out of gas", I can stop at the next lawn to let my bovines graze for a few minutes. At the end of the day, I can milk the cows to save money on milk, cheese and butter! Eureka - I am a genius!!!
     
  17. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Haha that's funny. That could make for a cool scene in a comedy.
     
  18. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Slinky on an escalator, my friend. Perpetual motion device, right there.

    Well, that or the good old cat-and-buttered-toast maglev system.
    You strap the toast to the cat buttered side up, see, and then drop the completed device. Since cats always land on their feet but toast always lands butter side down, they'll keep rotating in midair until the axiomatic principle gives out.
     
  19. Shadow Reeves
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    Shadow Reeves Contributing Member

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    i plan to actually build a hydrogen engine this school holiday, from an old patient i found that has been long since forgotten.

    it involved a 12V battery running through a couple of transformers to boost the power then through thin aluminum wire, which arcs with a high speed spinning plate thousands of times a second, making copious ammounts of hydrogen. this H2 can then be put straight through a carbi engine where it combusts and powers the engine.
    it is called the cornish engine and the patient design and details are here:

    http://keelynet.com/energy/cornish.htm
    the only issue with this design is 2AlO3 or alluminium oxide powder that the reaction produces.

    as for the time of 2055 and the world being run on water cars is very unrealistic, the world as enough oil left for something like 200 years, and if you watch "the energy non crisis" on youtube it may be longer than that. as for a petrol car being vintage by that time is also much more unlikely even if we all switched to water tomorrow. if the 2055 is an integral part of your novel then just include some narration of when the world leaders booted out the oil companies and moved the worlds technology forward.

    but that is a hydrogen engine that has been tried and tested, even by BMW who agreed it worked and is very cheep. the only cost being the aluminium.

    A 900 Kilo car runs 600 Kilometer on 20 liter water and 1 Kilo aluminum.

    remember, the only reason that we are not driving water powered cars is because there is no viable way to tax the water used...meaning the oil companies with enourmous profit and incredible political power become obsolete.
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    WARNING - Technical discussion!

    What you are really doing is (inefficiently) supplying motive energy from your 12V battery. This is no solution at all, just a crackpot idea. (I take this back - it's not electrolysis being used here - mea culpa)

    FYI, when you use a transformer, you don't boost power. You change voltage, but the power out equals the power in minus losswa in the form of heat and stray magnetism.

    EDIT: I did a little research. A Cornish Engine is actually a stationary steam engine used in mining applications, and has nothing to do with hydrogen generation. A Cornish Hydrogen generator also has nothing to do with the design in your web page, and uses a dangerous chemical reaction to generate hydrogen - the materials needed are relatively heavy, dangerously corrosive and difficult/usafe to handle, environmentally unfriendly, and the apparatus carries an explosion risk. Again, it has nothing to do with the apparatus dhown in your web page.

    The apparatus in the diagram is basically burning aluminum as fuel, so it's not an electrolysis reaction as I thought at first glance. So a little quick analysis:

    The hydrogen generation reaction is:

    2 Al + 3 H2O -> Al2O3 + 3 H2 + 818 kcal/unit heat (this heat is waste heat)

    One unit is 54 g of aluminum and 54 grams of water (just a coincidence that the weights match)
    Then the hydrogen is burned:

    3 H2 + 1.5 O2 -> 3 H2O + 725.5 kcal/unit heat (used for motive power)

    All told, the amount of water remains the same, but water is lost in the exhaust.
    Making metallic aluminum in the first place requires at least 1675.7 kcal/unit. In practice, it requires much more than that - there is a lot of excess heat required in the process.

    Energywise, it's a very costly fuel, looking at the full cycle, but it could be made to work if you have a cost efficient primary energy source to generate the aluminum.

    The spark method used to blast away the passivation layer on the aluminum does waste some energy. Alloys instead of pure aluminum are under investigation, but the passivation layer on aluminum is pretty tough - and it has to be to keep aluminum from spontaneously bursting into flame. But there may be workable technical solutions.

    Still, I'm not impressed with aluminum's potential as a fuel. over half of the available energy is thrown away as heat in the water chamber, and more heat is wasted in the water-> steam conversion (omitted from the above analysis for simplicity). The energy cost of creating the primary fuel, aluminum, is extremely high. To complete the cycle, the aluminum oxide should be recovered and used as raw material for the metallic aluminum, but there will be losses there as well.
     
  21. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    The only reason we aren't driving water powered cars is because there isn't the technology to do it at the moment. Politics doesn't come into it.
     
  22. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Even if this were to work, so what? Cars that run on water which no one remembers how to use due to the profound memory disorders caused by the alluminium oxide aren't of very much use, now are they? :rolleyes:
     
  23. TheAdlerian
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    TheAdlerian Senior Member

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    http://www.blacklightpower.com/

    Read about this company, which us fairly close to me. If they're telling the truth, then we'll have water powered generators.
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If. I have to wonder about these "peer-reviewed" papers. They all seem to be in a single journal I've not heard of.

    Even if he is completely honest, he could be totally off base. Remember Pons and Fleishman's cold fusion?

    I wouldn't make any investments in this without a broader examination of his theories. I also find it a bit suspicious that every "objective" article on his research I could find in a quick search (e.g. Wikipedia) leads back to him. That smells a bit rotten to me.
     
  25. TheAdlerian
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    TheAdlerian Senior Member

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    I'll tell you what, I feel like driving to the place and demanding to see what's going on. That would probably result in arrest, so I think I'll wait for more news instead.

    You should read up on the company, it's very interesting and confounding. The CEO, who's a medical doctor, said that he can change the state of hydrogen in this way physicists say isn't possible. If he's wrong then he's a liar at this point, but if he's right, that will blow the current paradigm in physics.

    That would be interesting!

    Meanwhile, the company seems to be violating the rules of a scam because it's not asking for public investors. It has private investors many of which are people from utility companies. So, either he's quietly ripping these people off, or he's got something. I read that Green Peace hired someone to look at his work and they approved of it, so I'm puzzled.

    So, the lack of peer review is either about a scam, standard scientists not understanding his math (supposedly the problem), or wanting to keep the technique from being stolen pre-market. Supposedly, there's a generator working as of this summer, but who knows.

    I'm not one to wish bad things on people, but if he's lying, then I hope the hammer comes down on him. It's too exciting to think about and too sad to think it another load of BS. Beyond the money, there public demoralization around stuff like this.
     

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