On the Road To Somewhere?
Depeting oil resources and climate change pose significant challenges to our oil-addicted transport sector. What, if anything can we do about this situation. Scientists are working hard on finding new ways to make low carbon transport the way to get around.
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It is the most common element in the universe. Stars are made of it. Say hello to Hydrogen!
Test firing one of the Main Engines on NASA's Space
Shuttle. The flame emits mostly ultraviolet light so is
practically invisible to the naked eye.
Hydrogen could be the fuel of the future; it can be used to provide clean energy without harmful emissions and it can be made from water using renewably generated electricity. Brilliant! But why aren't we using hydrogen as a fuel already?
Well, first let's consider
how hydrogen can be used to provide energy at the point where it's needed.Hydrogen,
like any fuel, acts as an energy store.
To produce hydrogen, energy is used to break the chemical bonds in hydrogen containing compounds like water (H2O). This converts the energy used during this process into chemical potential energy, which is stored in the hydrogen. When it is required, it is possible to release the stored potential energy by making the hydrogen react with other elements such as oxygen.
This energy can be released
from hydrogen in a number of ways.
The first of these is called combustion. Typically this is burning hydrogen in air and produces energy in the form of heat and also liquid water, although this quickly turns into water vapour (steam) with the heat from the reaction. This reaction is used inside an internal combustion engine and it is possible to modify car and jet engines to burn hydrogen instead of petrol or aviation fuel.
If you want to release a serious amount of energy through combustion then you can burn hydrogen with pure oxygen. This happens inside each of the three main engines of NASA's space shuttle where liquid hydrogen is burnt with liquid oxygen to produce almost 5,000,000 Newtons of thrust - that's enough to accelerate a car from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 0.007 of a second! The fastest production car, the Bugatti Veyron takes 2.5 seconds, and your cousins MPV 11+ seconds.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Alternatively we can use an electrochemical reaction to directly produce electricity in what is known as a hydrogen fuel cell. This consists of two conductive plates called the anode and cathode, separated by a special membrane that only allows positive ions to pass. The hydrogen is injected at the anode where it splits into protons and electrons with the help of a platinum catalyst. Oxygen is injected at the cathode; this creates a potential energy gradient across the cell. The protons flow down this potential energy gradient through the positive ion conducting membrane towards the cathode. The electrons cannot pass through the membrane, so are forced to flow through an external circuit connected across the cell. At the cathode, the electrons and protons react with oxygen to produce water. Hydrogen fuel cells can be made small enough to replace traditional battery technologies in portable devices like laptops and mobile phones or larger fuel cells can be made which can provide power for electric vehicles.
A representation of how a fuel cell works. The fuel cell takes in hydrogen and oxygen and produces pure water and electricity.
Now we know how hydrogen is produced and how it can be used, we can ask. "why are we still so dependent upon fossil fuels?"
One of the answers is that
hydrogen can be difficult to store in the applications where it could be
really useful. Hydrogen has a boiling point around 20 Kelvin (-253oC),
that at room temperature and pressure it is a gas. Due to the difference
in density between liquids and gasses you get 8000 times more hydrogen
atoms in 1 litre of hydrogen liquid then you do in 1 litre of hydrogen
gas at laboratory conditions (25 oC, 1 atmosphere) This is why
traditional hydrogen storage techniques have involved either storing hydrogen
at low temperatures, so it stays as a liquid, or by storing the gas at
high pressures so you can fit more hydrogen atoms in a smaller volume.
Both of these methods have drawbacks.
- Storing hydrogen around its boiling point takes energy and requires specialized cooling systems.
- Storing hydrogen gas at high pressure could be dangerous if there is a chance that the pressure vessel could be damaged.
This has lead to scientists look for alternative solutions. One such solution is to store hydrogen using a chemical compound in which the hydrogen atoms are only loosely bonded to the other atoms. This means that gently heating the compound causes hydrogen gas to be released. The hydrogen can then be replaced by exposing the compound to a high concentration of hydrogen gas.
Cella Energy, based in Oxfordshire, is one company that is looking at addressing this issue. They have been working on a method of storing hydrogen using the chemical properties of hydrogen rich chemical compounds and new manufacturing techniques.Their technology exploits the properties of certain 'hydrides' like ammonium borane (chemical formula H3NBH3). These compounds contain hydrogen atoms that are loosely bonded to the other atoms in the molecule. This means that the hydrogen in these compounds can be released by gently heating them. Unlike just storing hydrogen gas, these compounds can be stored at room temperature and pressure. In fact it is possible to store more hydrogen in a given volume of ammonium borane then in liquid hydrogen due to the way that the molecules arrange themselves. Unfortunately, these compounds are not easy to handle and can breakdown in air. They can also release chemicals that might damage a fuel cell.
has solved these problems using nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology involves working with materials at the nanoscopic level - around 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Cella Energy are able to make materials that have tiny features, such pores or tubes, which can hold the hydride compounds. These materials can then be handled and they prevent the hydride from breaking down. They also allow the hydrogen gas to flow out of the hydride but trap any harmful chemical that might be released.
Research is still being carried out to further develop both the hydrides and the nanotechnology storage materials.It is hoped that in the near future this technology could be used to provide safe and convenient hydrogen storage and enable the change from fossil fuels to hydrogen fuels in many applications.An example of the hydrogen storage material from Cella Energy; the nanostructure pores that are visible at 5000 times magnification store the hydride compound and make the handling of the compound possible.
Where dose the wind blow all the time? The answer is underneath a speeding
Clever designers Ale Leonetti Luparinia and Qian Jiang have come up with a new idea for a device that uses the wind energy produced by a running train.
The device, dubbed the T-box, is a wind power generator that uses the wind power created when a train moves down the tracks.The T-box is composed of mechanical components required for supplying, harnessing and storing the converted energy. The generated power could be provided to remote areas where there are not any sources of electricity and public facilities along the railway.
150 T-boxes could be assembled on a 1000 m long railway track. A train that runs at a speed of around 200 kph would produce a wind speed equivalent to 15 m/sec. In such conditions, a normal wind power generator can produce about 3500 W of power. Generally speaking, a train (200 m long) running at a speed of 300 kph, is able to travel a railway track (1000m long) in 18 sec. The electricity produced by the T-boxes would be of about 2.6 KWh.
Get on the Magic Bus
Ultracapacitors like these are being
used to capture energy from the
brakes in some hybrid buses.
Credit: Maxwell Technologies
diesel-electric BAE Systems HybriDrive system being installed in the new
ADL Enviro 400h hybrid buses for Oxford and Manchester will deliver fuel
consumption and emissions that much lower than normal
buses. HybriDrive technology currently powers more than 2,500 buses in
cities across the UK and North America, transporting more than one million
passengers every day.
So far, these buses have travelled more than 150 million miles, saved 10 million gallons of fuel and stoped more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from reaching the atmosphere.
Definition of. Hybrid: Anything of mixed origin, unlike parts, etc.
On Yer Bike!
The EBCO Eagle is on test on Oxfords streets
right now, so watch out for it!
An other area of hybridisation is the humble bycicle, if you find that hill on the way to school a bit hard to climb plug an electric motor into your bike and cruise around at a not to shabby 25kph [15.5mph]
Uphill? No thanks
How does a Hybrid vehicle work?
In some hybrid vehicles, there is an electric motor providing all of the power to the wheels, as well as batteries to supply the motor with electricity. Then there is a separate and very small petrol engine powering a generator. The purpose of this engine is to provide enough power for the car at its cruising speed. And re-charging the batteries. This sort of hybrid vehicle is fully electric with an on borad charger.
A Parallel Hybrid has a direct mechanical conection between the engine and gearbox like a traditional vehicle and has dual power sources to assist in the vehicles drive train.
A Series Hybrid has a separate electric motor to drive the vehicle and has dual power sources that assist in powering the final drive.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it's SuperCapacitor!
Super or Ultra capacitors merged with batteries (hybrid battery) will almost
definatley become the new 'super' battery. Just about everything that is now
powered by batteries could be improved by this more efficiant energy supply.
But a supercapacitor by itself cannot totally replace the battery. So, by
using a supercapacitor and a battery together - like a 'Hybrid Battery' it
will be possible for supercapcitors to replace the battery as we know it today.
What are the Advantages of a Super Capacitor?
Virtually unlimited life cycle - cycles millions of time -10 to 12 year life
Charges in seconds
No danger of overcharge
Very high rates of charge and discharge
High cycle efficiency (95% or more)
Super capacitors and ultra capacitors are relatively inexpensive in terms of cost per watt.
Why Mathematical Biology?
Giraffe, poison dart frog
and cheetah skin patterns.
During the last half century the field of mathematical biology has grown enormously, in scope and importance. Mathematics has given experimentalists a brand new tool with which to understand biological systems, and has reduced waste from experiments. However, it is prediction rather than description which is the ultimate goal for any theoretical model, requiring a multidisciplinary* approach where models inform experiments, which, in turn, refine the models.
Mathematically, we have a number of models that produce qualitatively the same patterns as animal skins. The patterning systems used tend to rely on diffusion as the key mechanism. In terms of evolution this is important as it suggests that no energy from the animal is needed to produce the pattern; only to create the chemicals which will naturally diffuse. Another important aspect is that it suggests many types of animals depend on the exact same model to produce their individual patterns. This supports the idea that evolution has simply picked the simplest mechanism, whilst mutations and various types of selection will specify how the model behaves.
*Multidisciplinary: Each discipline keeps its unique qualities without modifying or being modified by the other disciplines within the multidisciplinary relationship.
Alan Mathison Turing (23 June 1912 - 7 June 1954) was a brilliant English mathematician who is well known for his work on logic and early computer science, as well as being famous for the fact that he played a definitive role in the code breaking of German naval cipher Enigma during the World War Two at bletchley Park.
The ground breaking paper that really started the field of mathematical biology was titled 'The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis' and was written two years before his death. Turing was trying to solve the question of pattern formation by using well-known basic physical laws. He selected chemical reactions and diffusion as the basis of his study, and analysed the behaviour of a hypothetical system.
Turing discovered that diffusion could have some strange properties. Diffusion normally acts to equally mix the chemicals, as shown in Figure 3. above. However, Turing postulated that, under certain conditions, diffusion could actually drive a system to produce patterns.
Who are Greenpower?
Greenpower promotes engineering as a rewarding career to anyone aged 9-25, while also focusing on sustainability, teamwork and the community.
of Greenpower is to advance education in the subjects of sustainable
engineering and technology to young people.
Greenpower is dedicated to promoting engineering and technology as careers
to students aged 9-25 in any form of full or part-time education. This is achieved
through unique hands on projects to design, build and race an electric car.
taking part in the competition, all participants are given an insight
into the real, tangible world of engineering.
The competition is becoming increasingly popular, which stands as a testament to its unique approach to engineering and its ability to bring together and excite young people from a variety of different areas and backgrounds. Greenpower is not just about having fun. Our aim is also to encourage participants to look at pursuing a career in engineering and technology. Over the years many students who have taken part in Greenpower events have gone on to study or work in the engineering sector. Engineering spans a huge range of topics - everything around you has had an engineer involved with it in some way; in its research, design, development and manufacture. The United Kingdom has always been a world leader in many areas of engineering, and will be for many years to come. Choosing a career in this diverse sector is guaranteed to involve you in fascinating and exciting work.
The Environment Tabs are currently under development
[this section is under development]