Hydrogen Train Takes to the Rails in Quebec

In an effort to show North Americans that train travel can be both good for the environment and getting around Alstom has sent a train to Quebec. The train company has been making a hydrogen powered train to replace diesel engines on routes that don’t support electric operations. Hydrogen isn’t as efficient as electric engines but it provides a good transitional solution in areas that currently only use diesel. Every step we take away from oil makes the world a little better.

According to Serge Harnois, CEO of Harnois Énergies, which supplies the fuel for the train, it uses up about 50 kilograms of hydrogen a day, replacing about 500 litres of diesel that would be burned during the same journey. A diesel-powered truck carries the hydrogen to the train station for refuelling, which results in some carbon footprint, but according to Harnois, hydrogen would likely be produced on-site “one day.”

Read more.

Thanks to Trevor.

More Good News from Web Summit

Web summit panel

Dealing with “fake news” is a challenge for all of us due to the last four years of people in power blatantly telling untruths. Sadly, in regions like Ontario and others, the response to COVID-19 has equally been marred by people in power denying reality. This information environment makes it challenging for journalists to disseminate well-researched and variable information. Today at Web Summit a panel addressed these issues and argued that all of us need to expand our exposure to varied news sources while increasing our critical thinking skills.

This year, news has stepped into the light as a global force for good, communicating the message on how we can stop spreading Covid-19. The fight against fake news has taken on fresh significance in these trying times, but are we winning it?

Another noteworthy presentation looked into the use of hydrogen in the aviation industry. A somewhat secretive startup, Universal Hydrogen, plans to provide the fuel and more to the future of air travel. Of course, the problem with hydrogen is scalability – let’s hope they solve that! They argue that due to the energy requirements for flight that hydrogen is the best solution for decarbonizing the aviation industry (to be clear, they are focussing on large planes not smaller planes which can be fully electric). With the reduction in costs of renewable energy it means that hydrogen production can now happen in a carbon neutral way.

Hydrogen Challenger: Sustainable Energy on the High Seas

The Hydrogen Challenger is a tanker ship that has gone from 20th century ideas to storing 21st century hydrogen energy.

Hydrogen Challenger

From Wikipedia:
Hydrogen Challenger is a 66 meter (216′ 6″) refitted coastal tanker for mobile hydrogen production, it is fitted with a vertical axis wind turbine that generates electricity for the electrolysis of water to fill the hydrogen storage tanks. The total storage and transportation capacity is 1,194 m³ (42,000 ft3), it is stationed in the German Bight or near Helgoland (where the most wind is) and docks in Bremerhaven where the produced hydrogen is delivered to the market.

Read some more at the Power Generation here.

Urine Into Hydrogen: Maybe

I’m not too hopeful in the use hydrogen as a replacement for oil that burns and kills our planet, but there might be hope in the future. Apparently urine can be turned into hydrogen.

Now, as Ariel Schwartz of Fast Company reports, Ohio University researcher Geraldine Botte has come up with a nickel-based electrode to oxidize (NH2)2CO, otherwise known as urea, the major component of animal urine.

Because urea’s four hydrogen atoms are less tightly bound to nitrogen than the hydrogen bound to oxygen in water molecules, it takes less energy to break them apart: Just 0.37 Volts need to be applied across the cell, against the 1.23 Volts needed to break down water.

This means the energy balance of urea-derived hydrogen could be considerably better from start to finish than projections for other so-called pathways for obtaining the highly combustible gas.

Given the early stage of this research, we’re betting that the Honda and General Motors fuel-cell researchers aren’t exactly rushing down to do deals with their local sewage plants.

Fossil Fuels Useless, Two New Green Fuels

Fossil fuels are archaic and I like it when I read about new forms of capturing and storing energy. Here are two new green fuels that are getting attention.

Converting construction waste to hydrogen: Bill Davis of Ze-Gen described his company’s approach to the problem of municipal waste. Each year, the US produces about four billion metric tons of waste that, thanks to the various hydrocarbons in it, actually has about half the energy content as the same weight of coal. Most of that material gets put in landfills, where some of it winds up metabolized into methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Ze-Gen has found a way to liberate hydrogen gas from that waste.

Forget green, solar goes Bloo: Right now, there are many competing approaches to photovoltaic technology, but only one of them made an appearance at the meeting: Bloo Solar, which is working on what it calls a third-generation solar brush. Larry Bowden, the company’s CEO, described it as a solution to two of the biggest inefficiencies in solar power: photons that don’t get absorbed and electrons that don’t get transferred to the conducting portions of the device, where they’re put to use.

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