PROJECT INTRODUCTION LETTER
The Power-Core: A First-Generation Self-Sustaining, Renewable Battery
Sir William Grove invented the first fuel cell in 1839. Grove knew that water could be split into hydrogen and oxygen by sending an electric current through it (a process called electrolysis). He hypothesized that by reversing the procedure you could produce electricity and water. He created a primitive fuel cell and called it a gas voltaic battery. After experimenting with his new invention, Grove proved his hypothesis. Fifty years later, scientists Ludwig Mond and Charles Langer coined the term fuel cell while attempting to build a practical model to produce electricity.
The developments leading to an operational fuel cell can be traced back to the early 1800s. Throughout the remainder of the century, scientists attempted to develop fuel cells using various fuels and electrolytes. Further work in the first half of the 20th century served as the foundation for systems eventually used in the Gemini and Apollo space flights; however, it was not until 1959 that Francis T. Bacon successfully demonstrated the first fully-operational fuel cell.
Proton exchange membrane fuel cells were first used by NASA in the 1960s as part of the Gemini space program and were used on seven missions. Those fuel cells used pure oxygen and hydrogen as the reactant gases and were small-scale, expensive, and not commercially viable. NASA’s interests pushed further development, as did the energy crisis in 1973. Since then, fuel cell research has continued unabated, and fuel cells have been used successfully in a wide variety of applications.
Now at the peak of the 21st century, a physicist by the name Robert O’ Keeffe has successfully invented the world’s first self-sustaining, renewable battery which is capable of providing electric current for extensive periods of time, with a minimum level of input, refurbishment, and “recharge.”
Why is the U.S. government working with universities, public organizations, and private companies to overcome all the challenges of making self-sustaining devices a practical source for energy? More than a billion dollars has been spent on research and development on fuel cells alone. A hydrogen infrastructure will cost considerably more to construct and maintain (some estimates top 500 billion dollars). On fusion alone, over $200 billion has been spent over a 60–65 year period.
Why are these renewable sources worth the investment? The main reasons have everything to do with oil and gas, as a majority of the oil-rich nations, Canada and America, must import 55 percent of their oil. By 2025, this is expected to grow to 68 percent. Two thirds of the oil Canadians and Americans use every day is for transportation. Even if every vehicle on the street were a hybrid car, by 2025 we would still need to use the same amount of oil and gas as we do right now. In fact, Canada and America consume one quarter of all the oil and gas produced in the world, though only around 10 percent of the world population live there.
Experts expect oil and gas prices to continue rising over the next few decades as more low-cost sources are depleted. Oil companies will have to look in increasingly challenging environments for oil deposits, which will drive oil prices higher.
Concerns extend far beyond economic security. The Council on Foreign Relations released a report in 2006 titled “National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency.” A task force detailed numerous concerns about how America’s growing reliance on oil compromises the safety of the nation. Much of the report focused on the political relationships between nations that demand oil and the nations that supply it. Many of these oil-rich nations are in areas filled with political instability or hostility. Other nations violate human rights or even support policies like genocide. It is in the best interests of Canada and the world to look into alternatives to oil in order to avoid funding such policies.
Using oil and other fossil fuels for energy produces pollution. Pollution issues have been in the news a lot recently—from the film “An Inconvenient Truth” to the announcement that climate change and global warming would factor into future adjustments of the Doomsday Clock. It is in the best interest for everyone to find an alternative to burning fossil fuels for energy.
Renewable technologies are an attractive alternative to oil dependency. They give off no pollution. Other countries are also exploring renewable applications. Oil dependency and global warming are international problems. Several countries are partnering to advance research and development efforts in renewable technologies.
Clearly scientists and manufacturers have a lot of work to do before the Power-Core becomes a practical alternative to current energy production methods. Still, with worldwide support and cooperation, the goal to have a viable fuel-cell-based energy system may be a reality sooner than expected, because Canada (or any other nation for that matter) could increasingly rely on domestic sources of energy production.
Advantages of the Power-Core
The Power-Core is usually compared to fuel cell systems, internal combustion engines, and batteries and offer unique advantages and disadvantages with respect to them.
The Power-Core system operates without pollution while running on a complex mixture of gases. Some emissions result, although they are less than those emitted by an internal combustion engine using conventional fossil fuels. To be fair, internal combustion engines that combust lean mixtures of hydrogen and air also result in extremely low pollution levels that derive mainly from the incidental burning of lubricating oil.
The Power-Core operates at a higher thermodynamic efficiency than heat engines. Heat engines, such as internal combustion engines and turbines, convert chemical energy into heat by way of combustion and use that heat for functional operations.
In addition to having higher specific thermal efficiency than heat engines, the Power-Core also exhibits higher part-load efficiency and does not display a sharp drop in efficiency as the power plant size decreases. Heat engines operate with highest efficiency when run at their designed speed and exhibit a rapid decrease in efficiency at partial load. The Power-Core, like batteries, exhibit higher efficiency at partial load than at full load and with less variation over the entire operating range. The Power-Core would be modular in construction with consistent efficiency, regardless of size.
The Power-Core exhibits good load-following characteristics. Fuel cells and combustion engines, like batteries, are solid-state devices that react chemically and instantly to changes in load. The Power-Core, however, is comprised of predominantly mechanical devices, each of which has its own response time to changes in load demand.
The Power-Core will be suitable for all automotive transport applications because it operates normally in all temperatures. This is an advantage in that the Power-Core system requires little to no warmup time. High temperature hazards are reduced, and the thermodynamic efficiency of the electrochemical reaction is inherently better.
The Power-Core can be used in co-generation applications. In addition to electrical power, the Power-Core can generate pure hot water and medium-grade heat, both of which can potentially be used in association with domestic or industrial applications. When this is done, the overall efficiency of the combined systems increases.
The Power-Core does not require tuning.
The Power-Core does not require recharging; rather, the system must be refurbished according to the wear and tear from time.
The Power-Core provides a DC (direct current) voltage that can be used to power motors, lights, or any number of electrical appliances.
Gasoline and Battery Power Efficiency
The efficiency of a gasoline-powered car is surprisingly low. All of the heat that comes out as exhaust or goes into the radiator is wasted energy. The engine also uses a lot of energy turning the various pumps, fans, and generators that keep it going. So the overall efficiency of an automotive gas engine is about 20 percent. That is, only about 20 percent of the thermal-energy content of the gasoline is converted into mechanical work.
A battery-powered electric car has a fairly high efficiency. The battery is about 90-percent efficient (most batteries generate some heat, or require heating), and the electric motor/inverter is about 80-percent efficient. This gives an overall efficiency of about 72 percent.
The electricity used to power the car had to be generated somewhere. If it was generated at a power plant that used a combustion process (rather than nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, or wind), then only about 40 percent of the fuel required by the power plant was converted into electricity. The process of charging the car requires the conversion of alternating current (AC) power to direct current (DC) power. This process has an efficiency of about 90 percent.
So, if we look at the whole cycle, the efficiency of an electric car is 72 percent for the car, 40 percent for the power plant, and 90 percent for charging the car. That gives an overall efficiency of 26 percent. The overall efficiency varies considerably depending on what sort of power plant is used. If the electricity for the car is generated by a hydroelectric plant for instance, then it is basically free (we didn’t burn any fuel to generate it), and the efficiency of the electric car is about 65 percent.
The Power-Core will compete with many other energy- conversion devices, including the gas turbine in your city’s power plant, the gasoline engine in your car, and the battery in your laptop. Combustion engines like the turbine and the gasoline engine burn fuels and use the pressure created by the expansion of the gases to do mechanical work. Batteries convert chemical energy back into electrical energy when needed. The Power-Core should do both tasks more efficiently.
There are several different types of fuel cells, each using a different chemistry. Fuel cells are usually classified by their operating temperature and the type of electrolyte they use. Some types of fuel cells work well for use in stationary power generation plants. Others may be useful for small portable applications or for powering cars.
Fuel Cells, Combustion Engines, Hybrid Engines, Turbines, Solar, Wind, Hydro (have to elaborate on all)
Types of Fuel Cells
- Alkaline fuel cell (AFC). This is one of the oldest designs. It has been used in the U.S. space program since the 1960s. The AFC is very susceptible to contamination, so it requires pure hydrogen and oxygen. It is also very expensive, so this type of fuel cell is unlikely to be commercialized.
- Phosphoric-acid fuel cell (PAFC). The phosphoric-acid fuel cell has potential for use in small stationary power-generation systems. It operates at a higher temperature than PEM fuel cells, so it has a longer warm-up time. This makes it unsuitable for use in cars.
- Solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). These fuel cells are best suited for large-scale stationary power generators that could provide electricity for factories or towns. This type of fuel cell operates at very high temperatures (around 1,832 F, 1,000 C). This high temperature makes reliability a problem, but it also has an advantage: The steam produced by the fuel cell can be channeled into turbines to generate more electricity. This improves the overall efficiency of the system.
- Molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC). These fuel cells are also best suited for large stationary power generators. They operate at 1,112 F (600 C), so they also generate steam that can be used to generate more power. They have a lower operating temperature than the SOFC, which means they don’t need such exotic materials. This makes the design a little less expensive.
INDUSTRY CHALLENGES Costs, durability, refurbishing, delivery, infrastructure, storage and other considerations
The Power-Core is a low-input, resonate power generator.
Prototyped scale 36” (diameter) by 14”.
Prototype capable of providing upwards of 100kW of power when integrated with the Plasma Fusion Reactor Core.
Power-Core—responsible for operating:
- Positive Ion Generators
- Gyro Guidance System
- Static Propulsion
- Co2 Laser Initiators
- Radiation Shields
- Bi-polar Magnetic Field Generators