Last night I went to the second in a series of eight Food for Thought lectures about Energy. This one was presented by Dr. Janusz Kozinski, a researcher at McGill who created the Energy & Environmental Research Laboratory.
Here are some things I learned:
- One way to explore Mars and come back again is to harvest energy from the surface of Mars. Energy is most abundant there in the form of aluminium and magnesium
- When water is heated to 374 degrees centigrade at a pressure of 218 atmospheres it becomes “supercritical”. Supercritical water is a good solvent. So good that reactors using supercritical water must be made from something tough, like diamonds or platinum. Supercritical water reactors can be used to break down organic compounds to produce hydrogen.
- A portable reactor now exists which can break down natural gas into hydrogen and carbon. This may be used in the near future residentially by feeding the hydrogen into a fuel cell to produce electricity. The carbon waste would have to be sold to make this cost-effective.
- Biomass such as willow, switchgrass or paper/pulp byproducts could be used to produce enough hydrogen to serve our energy needs without causing pollution. No efficient way has been found to do this yet.
- The large oil companies own most of the patents for hydrogen fuel cell technology.