Ammonia and Biofuels

The following is a guest post by Dave Bradley (TOD User: nb41), who has some very good technical essays on wind power (as well as his contact info) here. Dave introduced himself to me via e-mail several months ago, and after exchanging a few e-mails in which we covered many technical issues, it became clear that we share a number of very similar interests. One of Dave's essays that caught my attention involved the very interesting idea of using excess wind power to make methanol, ethanol, or even ammonium nitrate fertilizer. But Dave doesn't just throw an idea out there; he gets into the important technical details. I first mentioned Dave's paper in my essay on Compressed Air Energy Storage.

Dave explains in the following essay how we could use renewable energy to make nitrogen fertilizer, thus taking some of the fossil fuel inputs out of biofuels production. By doing so, the energy return would be substantially improved, which is one thing that must happen before biofuels can be truly sustainable. So, it is my pleasure to present Dave Bradley's ideas for helping to mitigate our energy problems.

Ammonia and Biofuels

Since biofuels (and right now ethanol, alias EtOH) are the subject of some controversy regarding the composition of fuel blends used in transportation, many arguments invoke the "ammonia problem". As our country is currently arranged, almost all ammonia (=NH3) produced or imported is partly derived from natural gas, although the high price and higher probable future price are going to bring coal into the ammonia equation. NH3 or its many derivatives (and "natural" forms, like manure) are essential for high productivity agriculture, especially as defined and practiced in the U.S. It also is how plants manufacture amino acids/proteins; after all, there is no nitrogen in molecules like glucose, fructose, sucrose, starch and cellulose. My interest is in getting the "non-renewables" out of renewable energy (and fuels in particular) as much as possible, and this semi-torrent of misinformation on NH3 is somewhat frustrating, so maybe this effort will lead to a more informed discussion.

The nitrogen molecule is very stable; one of its primary uses is as an "inerting gas" (ever knit a nitrogen blanket?). I have used N2 as an inerting/diluent for fluorine, so that is a good measure of the stability of the N2 molecule. To become useful to plants, the N2 molecule must be either oxidized with oxygen (making nitrites and nitrates) or reduced with, in some way, hydrogen, which can then be used in a myriad of routes. In nature, elemental nitrogen is oxidized by lightning, while reduction (to ammonia and other forms) occurs as a result of some bacterial action on either elemental or oxidized nitrogen. Other bacteria take reduced nitrogen (amines, amides, ammonia) and oxidize it to nitrites/nitrates, which are then reduced to elemental nitrogen (and in the process used as a source of oxygen) by other bacteria, and thus keeping a balance in nature. There are some crops (notably, beans) which can nurture nitrogen fixing bacteria around their roots, but the production rate of these bacteria is insufficient to supply the plant with enough nitrogen at high productivity levels; after all, soybean production consumes a lot of nitrogen based fertilizers.

The N2 molecule reduction occurs when a catalyst coordinates with the triple bond, and this lowers the activation energy for reactions. N2 reduction by H2 molecules is actually a fairly exothermic reaction (-10.96 kcal/gm-mole), or about 1161 Btu liberated per lb formed. In other words, a bit more than one pound of steam can be made for each pound of NH3 made. NH3 has been produced industrially at large scale since the invention of the Haber Process, where the use of an alkali promoted iron sponge catalyzed the reaction of N2 and H2 at high pressures (200 + atmospheres) and elevated temperatures. This ends up being an equilibrium process, where the extent of conversion of N2 is determined by the temperature, pressure and mole ratios in the reaction zone. With the iron sponge system, conversions per pass are a bit more than 17 %; after separating out the ammonia, the unreacted N2 and H2 are sent back to the reactor. Separating out the ammonia involves stepping down from the supercritical (for NH3) conditions. Thus, producing NH3 from the two elements might involve a lot of energy, but clever engineering can cut this down considerably (for example, using turbines to depressurize the reaction mixture, recovering a considerable quantity of energy that can be used for compressing N2 and H2 to reacting conditions).

Better catalysts have been developed to improve the per-pass conversion, such as those used in the KAPP system. Nowadays, a combination of the KOH-activated iron sponge (initial catalyst) and ruthenium (similar to iron, but 4d instead of 3d on the periodic table) now are used to achieve about 25% per-pass conversion. In addition, due to the heat liberated by the reaction/need for temperature control (at around 500 F), steam cogeneration can be employed to take the reaction energy and use it to (at least partially) drive the enormous gas compressors needed in industrial scale processors. Obviously, catalyst poisoning is highly undesired, so reasonably pure H2 and N2 are required for raw material feedstocks. In addition, CO2 is also an undesired input impurity, as this would lead to urea and other complications, "gumming up the works". Obviously, O2 would just consume H2, further wasting time and effort.

As originally practiced, the N2 for the Haber Process was readily obtained by cryogenic air distillation. The H2 could be obtained by electrolysis of water, which would make very pure H2 high quality feed with relative ease. This process was extensively practiced in Norway by Norsk Hydro (and its predecessors), and was also used in North America (for example, at Trail, British Columbia, on the Columbia River, 15 miles north of the border) by Airco (now BOC). The H2 could also be made by the water gas reaction using coal or petroleum, but the resulting syn-gas had to be extensively cleaned up of ash, sulfur, arsenic, CO, CO2, and other chemical "varmints". In fact, the H2 purification part of the site would be one of the largest and most expensive parts of an NH3 plant.

As the 20th century rolled on, methane became the H2 source of choice, as it was really cheap, readily available and easy to use compared to coal. The water gas reaction is endothermic, so energy must be supplied in the form of steam (water feed) and just plain heat to drive the reaction; carbon is removed eventually as CO and/or CO2, and any CO can be readily oxidized to provide more energy for this process. In other words, preparing NH3 from CH4 also involves the co-production of CO2. Thus, using natural gas as a feedstock for NH3 production does contribute to global warming, especially considering the volumes of NH3 produced. Obviously, coal use for NH3 synthesis sends us to the proverbial "Big Fryer Down Below" at a faster rate, environmentally speaking. But in general, people will say they care about future generations, but rarely do anything about their utterances, such as pay higher energy taxes. You know, the "fertilizer walks" saying.

Up until the Crooked E (Enron) started doing its organized and unorganized criminal run on California, most NH3 was priced around $100/ton. Nowadays it is around $450/ton, and a considerable amount of U.S. NH3 production has been shut down. We now import a lot of NH3 from places like Trinidad, which have more Ngas than they can readily consume, and cheap local Ngas prices. However, these high prices are providing a hint of where future, non-polluting NH3 can be made - from wind turbines. In fact, using any H2 made in large scale from wind turbine derived electricity for NH3 synthesis may prove much smarter than using this H2 as boiler fuel or for transport in SS 304 pipelines to cities. In some ways, this is a perfect match of a vast wind resource (on the Great Plains) with vast farming regions. Sending electricity in bulk to metropolitan areas will not leave a lot of that created value (from wind turbines on farmland) on the farm. So the use of this electricity to make NH3, like EtOH preparation from relatively worthless (money-wise) crops like corn, could be viewed as adding value to an otherwise cheap commodity for rural communities.

Anyway, at one time in the recent past, NH3 consumption on the farm was about 12 million/tons/yr, out of 14 million tons/yr produced. To make all 14 million tons/yr of NH3, about 2.47 million tons/yr of H2 must be prepared and purified (or just prepared and dried in the case of electrolysis). To make 1 ton of H2 using industrial scale electrolysis units requires about 45 MW-hr. So, if electrolysis units operate at 8700 hr/yr, a steady rate of about 72.5 GW of electricity would be needed, requiring 194 GW of wind turbine capacity, or 77,600 x 2.5 MW wind turbines operating at an average capacity of 37.5 % to make all the H2 needed to make all the NH3 used in the USA.

And the last statistics - corn growing uses about 40% of U.S. ammonia fertilizer, while soybean production uses about 6%. These crops use up about 6 million tons of NH3 per year. And most of that ends up going out the "exhaust ports" of cows, pigs and chickens.....and never ends up being consumed as food by the human carnivores who (in general) manufacture the cows, pigs, and chickens via factory farming/feedlots. A strange world, and not a pretty one with regards to how that part of the US food supply is concerned, so if you don't like it ugly, don't look at it too closely.

So, some big questions on this topic could be:

What price Global Meltdown?

Is there room in the Midwest for 77,600 turbines (each one occupies about 1/16 acre for the (largely) buried foundation)?

What is 5% of U.S. Ngas consumption worth, especially 10 years from now?

And the can we compensate some people for the grief of actually observing how some of their energy is produced?

Meanwhile, back to the EtOH energy balance for a minute. In theory, a corn farm uses about 1500 Btu/gallon of EtOH for electricity on the farm, and about 7500 Btu/gal EtOH for the NH3 consumed. The electricity used on the farm that could be made from non-renewables such as coal, Ngas and nukes also could be made from wind turbines, especially in the Great Plains/Great Lakes area. But the H2 preparation for NH3 synthesis will not be changed until fossil fuel prices rise, and the external costs of this fossil fuel consumption are reflected in the price. And the same goes for other Ngas consuming activities. On a raw material basis, the breakeven point is for a delivered price of natural gas at $11.60/MBtu (not Henry Hub!) and wind turbine electricity at 5 c/kw-hr delivered.

Meanwhile, the electricity consumption of a corn to EtOH facility is about 1.2 kw-hr/gallon of EtOH produced (with CO2 recovery), less if it is vented off (CO2 compression uses about 185 kw-hr/ton recovered). Each billion gallons made uses an average of about 160 MW. Lets say we get up to 10 billion gallons/yr in the near future. Powering up these plants with non-polluting electricity would only require about 4300 of these same wind turbines. But on the accounting end of things, if this electricity were directed in this manner to EtOH plants, a significant reduction in the amount of non-renewable energy used to make EtOH would be the result. However, according to some, this is just an accounting trick. And again, putting more renewable in renewable fuels won't happen until it gets more expensive to use fossil fuels for such processes, and also more expensive to pollute our atmosphere with excess CO2, which is roughly equal to the quantity of anthropogenic CO2 made these days (remember the Frog Boiling article on TOD?). And given today's stilted economics, also something not likely to happen in the near future until energy prices are "re-prioritized".

Your thoughts......

Nice. I'll have to re-read for the details. How about a Big Picture?

The Nitrogen Cycle -- Click to Enlarge

That should help, I think.

I would like to complete the picture from David Cohen a bit by stressing the free use of bacteria in delivering nitrogen for all sort of plants in sufficient amount. The amount of artificial fertilizer used in the world could be reduced a lot, if the knowledge about Nitrogen fixing bacterias, which already exists, would be transferred to all the farmers around the world. What about spreading the good news via TV and the usually good broadcasts like the "Discovery Channel" or BBC documentations.

I'm only a software developer, but i learned a lot in the last two years about farming through the german forum about peak oil.

The solution for delivering enough nitrogen to the plants at very low costs is called "Biological Nitrogen Fixation".

Legumes such as clover or beans already use that process ever since. Today this process can be transferred also to non-legume plants like rice, wheat, maize etc. .
In Brazil this is used since a quite few years:  (" Boddey, R. M., S. Urquiaga, V. Reis, and J. Döbereiner. 1991. Biological nitrogen fixation associated with sugar cane. Plant Soil 137:111-117.".(List of books: by implementing the bacteria called Acetobacter diazotrophicus in the roots and stems. So this bacteria is doing now the work of the fertilizer refineries.
Brazil already has a quite low demand for artificial fertilizer despite his huge areas of sugar cane.

In the last years scientist discovered other bacterias for the non-leguminous plants:

For wheat: : Azospirillum brasilense (=Spirillum lipoferum)
For soja: Bradyrhizobium japonicum
For rape (Brassica napus): Azorhizobum caulinodans (the transfer process is enhanced together with Naringenin, which you can find in simple tomato concentrate from your local supermarket ;-) )

To use these bacterias (you can buy them already per Internet) one just has to inoculate the seed with a solution of water and sugar together with a certain amount (from a bottle) a few hours before the sowing e.g. in a small mobile concrete mixer for a single field or in a big concrete mixer for a whole landscape.
The only restriction for the best results is a good soil. Like you can't beat an old horse to win the famous races in the world you can't get super yiels from a soil which has been "totured" by the massive use of artificial fertilizer.

A long crop rotation together with cover crops for green manure would certainly enhance the soil quality. Another possibility would be to plant trees in rows every 30-50 yards in the fields (for getting wood for constructions or for the oven and for getting a protection of sun, wind and too much transpiration in dry areas). This method is called Agroforestry and which is i think an ancient culture which is now revived e.g. in Europe (Project SAFE = Silvoarable Agroforestry For Europe). Very important is to cut the roots of the trees which are growing into the field by not squeezing the water for the plants.

Here are some links for deeper information. What really sad is, is that texts that are easy to understand are quite seldom in the net (Wikipedia e.g. has only few information about this biological "sensation"):

A scientific articel (PDF-Document) about "Potential use of rhizobial bacteria as promoters of plant
growth for increased yield in landraces of African
cereal crops

Short description of actual work about "Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus" by Professor Edward Cocking of the University of Nottingham:

About the "Dinitrogen-Fixing Bacteria":

The role of Bio-fertilizer  (Azospirillum SP) with organic and inorganic sources of nitrogen on quality and yield of rice:

An articel advice in "Plant and Soil": Yield increases in spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) inoculated with Azospirillum lipoferum under greenhouse and field conditions of a temperate region (129)

A scientific articel about "Enhanced Soybean Plant Growth Resulting from Coinoculation of Bacillus Strains with Bradyrhizobium japonicum":

I attended an excellent presentation at HydroVision about the Grand Inga hydroproject.  Basically a massive 44 GW (44,000 MW) "run-of-river" scheme (storage for daily/weekly peaks but not seasonal).

The Congo River has uniquely stable flow since half of the watershed is north of the equator and the other half south.  Still, the weekly minimal flow is half the maximum weekly flow.  The year to year variation is also small.

The primary use of Grand Inga would be, with existing & planned hydro projects and massive HV DC lines in all directions to provide basically all of Africa's electricity from renewable sources.  Perhaps some exports to Spain & Italy.

However, there would surplus power at times (why build a 2,000 km power line for peak use 10% of the time) and the production of ammonia is likely.

The capital cost and labor costs for a plant that is used half the time is acceptable IF the power is extremely cheap (8 euros per MWh was hypothesized).  But at much less than 50% load factor, it appears that it would be cheaper to let the water just spill and the world loses this renewable resource.

The economics of an ammonia plant in Africa in a failed state are different than in the US, but the fact remains that ammonia production capacity factor needs to be relatively high.  (Skilled workforce has to be kept on payroll regardless of production).

Best Hopes,


Big dams have tended to be a disaster for the indigenous people and the ecosystem.  Even if you don't care about that, you would face decades of desparate opposition.  Africa is not China, nor is it Northern Quebec.

Just the carbon release from the flooded rainforest alone would probably offset much of the benefit in the short term.

Better to build a series of smaller dams-- which is what the British proposed for Aswan, but Nasser wanted a great big dam and all of the attendant prestige.  So we got 'Lake Nasser' and some of the world's most precious archaeological sites were flooded, forever.  And there is massive evaporation, salt destruction of the temples at Luxor, etc.

A stereotype of "big dams" without looking at specifics.

Grand Inga could produce the equilavent of 40 or so nuclear plants.  Provide a stable power supply without greenhouse emmissions.  Equal to roughly the entire world's installed windpower ! Get an entire continent on renewables !!

Inga I & II and been in operation for decades.  Marginal additional rainforest covered with Grand Inga.

The smaller dams have been built, Inga I & II (II is being expanded, new turbines added).

Grand Inga could supply power when droughts reduce supply in smaller river systems.  Total rainfall will not decline with global warming, but increase.  And an Africa wide grid (Africa is second largest continent) of local hydro and Grand Inga should be quite stable with global warming.

About 120 years of hydrology data.  Rainfall from two seperate systems that are mirror images of each other make a best case for Grand Inga.

I reject your criticism.  Perfect appears to be the only acceptable solution for you.  

Grand Inga seems as close to perfect as any unrealized real world solution that I have seen.  (Niagara Falls hydro, 4 GW, is best energy source in the world IMO).  Massive positive gains with minimal downside.  A good % of world's nitrogen fertilizer as a side benefit (think reduced NG use and less global warming).

It would be good to read something on it.  I know nothing about the specific project.

I am just a sceptic of that kind of megaproject. The outcomes tend to fall short of the promises.  Usually there was a less grand, less risky strategy that could have been applied as I cited re the Nile.

The drought problem remains. Maybe the world's rainfall goes up, maybe Africa's rainfall is stable/ goes up.  Maybe.

I am prejudiced on Niagara (or rather St. Lawrence Power which was kind of a grandson).  My father built a part of it ;-), and my parents met there ;-).  

Probably Churchill Falls was an even bigger success, but marred by the fact that Newfoundland signed an agreement with Quebec that had no CPI price escalator.  Quebec Hydro has been banking billions on that deal ever since.

Well the problem with this are too numerous to list, but the largest and  severest one is this is the thinking that has put us where we are -- we're going to remake the earth -- and it's certainly not going to get us out.
I actually tend to disagree with this.  The problem we have is due to our unintentional impact on the Earth.  We have operated in a damaging fashion because we haven't looked at the large scale impacts of our actions.  If we accepted our ability to effect the environment that would be a step in the right direction.  No matter what we're going to impact the Earth, if we try to do so with an eye on the big picture, and how we can change things for the better, we stand to do much better than we currently are doing.  
Aswan was before my time, but my understanding is that the key to building a high dam was not prestige but irrigation.  

Lake Nasser significantly increased arable acreage in Eygpt (vague memories of 1/3 & 40%) and removing the annual flooding allowed double cropping on existing farmland.  Farmland, not prestige or electrical power, was, AFAIK, the motivation for the Aswan High Dam and all of the negative effects.

You missed one of, if not the most important negative.  The Nile delta fisheries were destroyed.

If Egypt thought that the negatives exceeded the positives, they could raise & lower Lake Nasser with the annual flood or just destroy the dam.

Again, vague memories of facts.

PS building a dam on the bet that Africa continues to have regular rains is a very long bet that global warming doesn't entirely change the picture.

The Amazon is facing 3 years of drought.  Estimates are at least 1/3rd of that is because of loss of green cover-- the water recycling mechanism is broken.

The problem I can see is that power is spotty but you want the NH3 plant to run 24/7.  This indicates that some kind of hydrogen storage is desirable.  Would it be feasible to use e.g. deep aquifers or spent gas wells as long-term storage for gaseous hydrogen?  Would the economics of the electrolysis be seriously affected by low capacity factors?
As long as we're dreaming of $100 billion worth of turbines we could just add some more with some H2 liquefiers.  Would just be cheaper to shut down some of the NH3 capacity though.
  How much water is consumed? Most of the Great Plains is in rather dry areas with aquifers that are already overpumped for agricultural uses.
  Also, does anyone know whether pure H20 is required for electrolis processes? Could excess wind energy also be used to osmoticially purify brines and polluted water in non-peak electrical useage periods?

This is a wonderful article, I only hope Vinod Khosla pays attention because it addresses his EROI problem with ethanol.

I think a bigger question is, "Does large scale, monocrop agriculture have a long term future so as to justify the cost?"  For a variety of reasons, including aquafir depletion, I am not convinced that the agricultural status quo can be maintained even out to 2050. Would the money be better spent transitioning production ag away from its current paradigm?

Still, an interesting essay.  A technically elegant idea.

This site is about peak oil, of course.  But quite likely our civilization is also at peak water, peak coal, not to mention peak soil (industrial monoculture has ruined much of world's farmland), and peak trash-- where are we going to put all that plastic crap we make out of oil and natural gas?
where are we going to put all that plastic crap we make out of oil and natural gas?

We're probably going to end up burning it for heat.

There are already people doing it.  Someone at was bragging about how they were burning PVC pipe in their wood stove.

I hate to think about what kind of emissions that would generate...

ugh, it's an ugly picture - and what happens when 6 - 8 billion of us start doing the same thing?
I have often had the vision that as suburbs begin to shut down, people will see their neighbors' abandoned houses as a handy fuel source--vinyl siding and all.  The houses with fire places and wood stoves will be the last ones standing having devoured the others.
I live in a lovely older wooded area near DC and I can't help pondering the fate of the mature trees all around the area when the NG and grid go down.  Americans clear cut most of New England with 2 man saws before 1880.  The last dribbles of gasoline from the pumps may wind up in chainsaws rather than Priuses.  
-Matt, new e-bike rider, DC
It's certainly already the case that in some Midwestern Cities where derelictions are common (Mother Jones has a piece this month about mortgage scams in Cleveland, leading to abandonments), that houses are already being stripped for scrap aluminum siding and copper to ship to China (Buffalo houses were being broken into and this was being done).

I imagine those 'mcMansions' going the way of some of those neighbourhoods in Detroit: just the odd lonely house standing amidst deserted lots with rubble in them-- maybe with huge razor wire fences on the survivors (South Africa is a bit like this in places).  Homeless people sheltering in the ones that remain.

Some people in the society will always have access to fuel and transport.  They will cluster in protected zones or parts of cities.

Plastic is harder to recycle.  Burning it strikes me as the height of folly-- what if your kids get a whiff?

Of course they'll be cut down.

After D-Day, the Germans (a garrison of about 8,000) were dug in Jersey (British island off the French coast) until V-E Day.  The local population (about 20,000) nearly starved as all supplies were cut off.  Eventually a Red Cross Convoy was organised from England to provide some food to the locals.

Same thing happened in Holland from September 1944 to May 1945.  The Dutch had assisted the Allied paratroopers, and the German occupation authorities simply cut off all food and fuel transport, through one of the coldest winters of the Century.

If someone wasn't living in their house, the roof and furnishings were stripped for firewood, ditto the trees.

This is why up until modern times there were severe penalties for cutting down trees on private or common land: down to losing a hand, whipping or permanent scaring.  Primitive societies have always had social means to control deforestation.

Also, does anyone know whether pure H20 is required for electrolis processes?
That's something I'd like to know also. As I understand it, fresh water is needed for electrolysis. If so, how much would be needed to produce the hydrogen needed for the US consumption of fertilizer, would that seriously impact the fresh water problems and what impact will population growth, and the growth in biomass (needing fertilizer) for fuels have on the fresh water problem?

If salt water needs to be desalinated first, then the energy costs of that need to be factored in.


You can electrolyze sea water, you just get chlorine and oxygen instead of just oxygen.  Hard water scale would be a bigger problem.

Instead of electrolysis you could go with a thermal-based system.

Actually, you won't.  You'll get hydrogen (H2) and chlorine (Cl2).

Oxygen (as an OH- ion) combines with Na to form NaOH.  That's the basis of the chlor-alkali process.  But it uses a highly concentrated brine in the process.

I'm a little confused on exactly how your idea to generate nitrogen fertilizer would be implemented, apart from installing on-site wind power or microhydro.  Obviously some sort of reactor is needed, but could you detail this a bit more?  Are these commercially available in size(s) to match farm use requirements, etc.  Thanks!

Your very close to my idea.

The energy density of compressed are is still very low however. Once you have paid the cost of compression you just as well go ahead and liquefy the air and store liquid nitrogen. The liquid oxygen can be expanded and used to power more compression.

A side benefit is you will extract C02 which could be combined with H2 from electrolysis to produce organic products.

Also a very big win in dry environments is you can extract water vapor from the air in your expander's so it provides a source of water.

Finally you get all the air conditioning you would ever want.

For the liquefaction phase I've been looking into Vortex

Chaining several of these together can give you liquidification without moving parts. The energy from the hot side of the tube could be captured in a number of way's
say tying in Stirling engines

For my goal to eliminate moving parts.
Acoustic stirling engines are fascinating

Also of interest to replace complex compressors and turbines
is a Tesla Turbine

Combine this with a air bearing which I've not seen done.

And you have a very simple and very cheap turbine.
In the case of using liquid nitrogen for power it can be
made from a plastic or organic composite.

As long as your gas is under pressure and the may be relative to a vacuum using a combination of turbines Hirsch vortex tubes and Stirling engines allows you to extract most of the energy at very high efficiencies by switching between pressure and heat and fractionating the exhaust of each stage through a vortex tube. In fact you should get well over the 60% recovery of the best single effect Carnot engine since your using two different properties of the working gas and you have the trick of fractioning the exhaust via the vortex tubes.

Finally the energy recovery studies for liquid nitrogen done to date are bogus.

They are expanding the liquid nitrogen before trying to extract work from it. Instead you need to inject the liquid nitrogen into your turbine along with a heat transport liquid either water/steam or ethylene glycol or other alcohol. The heat transfer liquid can be at ambient or you can use heat from partitioning a vortex tube to increase the temperature. In any case your actually driving the turbine with a aerosol of the expanded nitrogen and the heat transport liquid so you should get very good momentum transfer from the liquid droplets being blown across the blades.

That's why I'm interested in Tesla turbines in particular.
I've considered disks etched with some sort of pattern that interacts well with the aerosol causing a virtual liquid blade to form on the disk. If you have gone through a automatic car wash you now the effect of blowing a liquid with a high pressure stream its the same effect.

The traditional Tesla turbine works exactly in this manner but by getting the gas boundary layer to ripple. I just don't think anyone has ever tried them with and aerosol.

And last but not least its easy to create a vacumn with no
moving parst via a aspirator

And you can power vortext tubes by either pulling a vacumn on the exhaust side or applying pressure.

memel -

Re: The Tesla turbine

While Tesla was one of the most brilliant inventors who ever lived, many of his ideas were hopeless impractical.

I am familiar with the Tesla turbine. And from an unelated little project of my own (a working model of a Victorian Wimshurst electrostatic generator), I am also familiar with the enormous difficulty in getting closely spaced flat discs to all rotate precisely in the same plane.

There are some very good reasons why the Tesla turbine has never (to my knowledge) been commercialized since Tesla invented it over 100 years agao. It is one thing to produce thin closely space discs for a 10-inch diameter model, but quite something else again to do the same with say 5-ft
diameter discs for even a moderate size unit.

It's hard enough just making large thin discs that precise, but to then put them on a common shaft, precisely align them, and then expect them to stay in alignment, after being subjected to both the thermal stresses of high temperature steam and the mechanical stresses of high rotational speeds, is asking a bit much. (As I recall, these are the exact same problems Tesla himself ran into when trying to actually build his turbine.)

While the science behind the idea of the Tesla turbine is quite sound, the physical embodiment of the concept is highly problematical, with what appear to be insurmountable obstacles of a purely mechanical nature. Maybe someone will eventually work these out, but from what I've seen, the Tesla turbine is a technological deadend - a good example of something that is elegantly simple in concept but horrendously difficult in execution.  

Thats the trick its not high temperature done correctly its running at room temperature or in reality a little lower. The power is provided from a mix of say methanol and gassified liquid nitrogen basically compressed air. Like I said you can make most of it out of plastic. The central shaft would probably have to be carbon fiber.

And you don't need huge ones many small ones are fine.
I don't see scaling providing a huge benifit since your just driving electrical generators and they don't have scaling effects. 10 small generators are bascially as efficient as one large generator.

Finally agian as far as I know no one has worked with a tesla turbine powered by a aerosol. The addition fo the liquid for translation of energy to the disks could change the dynamics.

I found a design made from CD's which should work quite well for this application. What are normally considerd toy turbines are fine for this use. Methanol or ethlyene glycol
is co injected with the liquid nitrogen to heat it past its boiling point.

Even that is just a super simple injector.

Similar to this

But you only need the double cone on the left.
The innercone is liquid nitrogen the outer is your heating fluid which could be a gass but you get better heat transfer atomizing a liquid.

The trick is getting the liquid nitrogen efficiently in the first place normal designs waste tons of energy. Even scavanging the heat of a traditional compressor to power a stirling engine to generate eletricity to run the compressor would vastly increase the efficiency.

Obviously I want bettern then that by moving to sytstem with almost no moving parts.

Even check valves might be eleminated using Teslas Vavle

The only thing different from what Tesla did is I' working with liquid nitrogen and I have plastic :)
And of course air bearings which were invented later.
You can also use the bearing out of a cd player they work
for demos but a small air bearing is perfect for this application.

I even looked int electrostatic generators to remove the expense of the generator. Doing electro chemistry via ion bombardment is intresting by sending accelerated electrons into say a frozen water target. Yeah this is in left field
but I've always wondered if you could not get efficient conversion via ion bombardment as apposed to traditional electric chemistry. The emitter electrodes could be very small. The reason I think it might work for H20 is that the hydrogen will asorb most of the kinetic energy and move away from the reaction site quickly so it won't simply recombine
producing heat its flying off to react with other water molecules generally extracting another hydrogen atom.
Less wacko is the production of Hydrogen Peroxide via
electric discharge in water vapor.

In anycase the main product is probably Hydrogen Peroxide
well what can you do with that

With a touch of silver catalyis whe have high temperature steam.

If you added in excess C02 into the stream you get a shot at

And yes I know there is too much C02 but it reacts with hydrogen to make methane. You probably need to inject excess
hydrogen stripped from some of the product or via electrolysis to get the reaction right. But who knows maybe there is a catalyst that would select for the reduced carbon prodcut even with all this 02 floating around.

The point is you can via electrostic generators create a high voltage spark from there you can make Hydrogen Peroxides and nitrogen peroxides the dissasociation of these peroxides can be used to drive eventual reduction reactions.
Generally via steam reforming.
But in acid solutions Hydrogen peroxide can act as a reducing agent.
2MnO4- + 5H2O2 + 6H+ → 2Mn++ + 5O2 + 8H2O


2 Fe3+ + H2O2 + 2 OH− → 2 Fe2+ + 2 H2O + O

I'm assuming once you have Fe2+ then you can  probably
eventaually get to hydrogen or use it in a battery.

The reason for this is electrostatic generators can be made
from cheap plastic while a magnetic based generator is expensive hydrogen peroxide and nitrogen oxides are about the only reactive products that can easily be made via
high voltage discharge to my knowledge.


memmel -

A mini Tesla turbine made out of old CDs:  I love it! (That's a far more creative use of an old CD than using a sharpened CD to carve up a dead dog, as has been envisioned by some of the doomers around here.)

Still, I think you will find that trying get those CDs all aligned on the same shaft with no more than a few milimeters of space between each of them is not as easy as it looks.  Try it.

Still, I like your creative spirit, and if only small percentage of your ideas work out, you will be doing well. Keep them coming!

Thank you.

But I think you also missed one of the critical parts of the post unless you have dug deeply into the way the Tesla turbine works I could understand missing the importance.
I'm not suggesting running the turbine with a gas but with a gas fluid mixture. The millimeter requirements are from the boundary effects for adhesion of a gas. A fluid on the other hand has far larger adhesion dimensions for the boundary layer.

The liquid boundary layer is far larger then that of a gas.
But even that's not the important part in this case since we are dealing with small droplets of fluid adhering to the disk
its the size of the droplets that influence the momentum transfer.

For 100 plus years it looks like no one considered running a
Tesla turbine with a atomized spray since everyone assumed they would run it via combustion.

Now whats even more interesting since they did not consider this it also looks like they never considered running any turbine against a vacuum.

So instead of passing combustion products or steam through your turbine and all the problems you have with that you use
simple steam or gas aspirators to draw a vacuum on the back side of the turbine pulling the cool working gas through the
turbine instead of hot working gas.

Viola cheap low temperature turbine running at room temperature. For fast rates this is a variant of a pulse
engine and a simple tube suffices its basically a central
tube with ejector vents along its length and pulse jets
or steam or combustion gasses used to evacuate the tube.
The incoming air can easily get hypersonic if you can
evacuate fast enough since it would the be expanding against
a constant vacuum. The point is the hot gases are contained
in simple tubes that could be ceramic and basically as
hot as you want.

 Combustion or flowing gas along here

Vacuum here

Whats funny is

The very first steam engine almost got it right they
just needed to pull the vacuum outside of the engine and
allow the ambient air to do the work.

So whats the point ?
I could care less about all the mega-project approaches ethanol, expensive windmills, solar cells etc etc. I'm not saying they won't provide energy some energy for the wealthy nations and they have a place but your going to have 5.5 billion pissed of poor people to deal with. Unless we come up with energy generation solutions that can be made from cheap materials at about the same cost as plastic toys today
we don't have a future.

Whats Spain going to do when the immigration pressure from Africa becomes a flood same with the US/Mexico ?

We can set here with our million dollar wind turbines and ethanol plants and kill everyone that tries to enter and ignore that they will cut every single tree down in their own country devastating the planet. Once they get desperate the devastation will be as bad as any natural disaster that has ever occurred on this planet. Think about it.

Or we can think think think and put together simple super cheap energy collection systems to distribute to alleviate
the effects of the loss of oil.

A lot of people have not figured out that unless we save most of us we save nothing. 5.5 billion people are not going to set around and quietly die while we drive our SUV's on subsidized ethanol.

So despite a lot of crap I seem to get from people that really really don't get it I am working on the super cheap solution and will continue to post my ideas in hopes someone can pick them up and save our asses. If we let the current western engineering mentality that got us into this mess lead then we are dead. I think a lot of people sitting on there asses waiting for a technical solution don't realize they are waiting for the same people that willfully screwed up the world to fix the problem.

A small example but once you start looking its scary.
Did the people that made freon stop for one second and
pressure their bosses to halt work until the effects of this
none destructible gas could be determined on the environment ? I assure you they considered it. These are the  same people your trusting with your life going forward.

And yes a lot of  engineers and scientists are just as responsible and greedy as the politicians, wake up people.

Found it yes you can have a Fe+2/Fe+3 battery. 001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes

I figured.

Or rust

In any case simple electrostatic generators are used
to generate hydrogen peroxide which is then used as a reducing agent for Fe+3 ->Fe+2

So you can now power a batter or really a fuel cell since you chemically reduced the iron.

By using chemical transfroms you get from high voltage to
a low voltage battery usefule for further reactions such
as electrolysis of water.
Since the electrodes for discharge can be made from carbon
no metal is involved except for the iron and a touch of silver for the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide.

Once you have hydrogen from your Fe battery you can mix it
with Hydrogen Peroxide and CO2 and it will certianly push the reaction towards Methanol synthesis I noted I said the WSR I mean I want the RWSR i.e go in reverse towards carbon monoxide. Anyway once you get hydrogen you can do anything.

Finally this suggests that simple electric discharge in a
C02/H20 atmosphere can directly produce peroxide and other compounds

Sorry for all the posts :)

I'll bet you haven't tried to calculate the thermal efficiency on even one of these ideas (hint, Hilsch tubes are horribly inefficient - their sole virtue is that they're light and have no moving parts).

Anyone can generate dozens of ideas.  Winnowing the wheat and throwing away the chaff... that is where the value is added.

Start adding some value.

Hmm thats why you combine them with a stirling engine or
other use for the hot exhaust.

Show me the efficiency numbers you claim are bad and I'll show you were there measuring heating or cooling efficiency throwing half the energy away  in this application thats not the case.

So show me the paper and prove me wrong.

How about I give you a few links.

And show me in one case where your efficiency claim is not
a measure of cooling/heating efficiency.

That's not the point in this application as I said in my
long statement or did you miss the part about chaining Stirling engines to reclaim the waste side.

The vortex tube is simply there to partition the compress gas
which it does very well the thermodynamic heat is reclaimed
via very efficient sterling engines.

I think you did not read what I was saying.

And finally if you can design a system that is very very cheap and easy to manufacture then you have a reasonable hope of creating something that can supply energy to a large
percentage of the population. Any other approach will only support a small percentage of the current population even in America. If I can achieve say 5% conversion efficiency with something that costs a few dollars for say 10m2 solar collection area then that's good enough. And finally these conversions are for "waste" power not for primary conversion.

In any case the reason for the acoustic Stirling engine

Is no moving parts.

I'm looking for a engineering solution that would provide
at least a 5% return for a price point of say 2 dollar for 10m2  if its 10% return then that's fine. Other options presented by engineers for solar are at far far higher cost/efficiency rating.

But I suspect from your comment I'm arguing with a wall.


Stirling engines have at very best 60% of Carnot efficiency.  If the high temperature is low, they can't do as high a fraction, and they are very big for the power they produce (cost a lot).  Acoustic stirlings are  less efficient and even bigger.

And why go to acoustic stirlings when the free piston stirlings on gas bearings have very long life and higher efficiency?

I hear too much of this no moving part argument. If you get rid of a moving part that never gives you any trouble, what have you gained, and what have you paid for that gain? There are lots of things with moving parts that last a long time, like a fridge. Or a free piston stirling.  Or a heart, if you're lucky- and stay off sugar, transfats and wild outbursts on TOD.

Good point.
A dead economy has no moving parts.

Doctors take a oath to never take a human life, the Hippocratic

Engineers do not work under such a restriction.

Who has killed more people and destroyed more of the environment ?

I suspect at some point in the next 50 years engineers will have and oath similar to the ones doctors take and will be forced to take personal responsibility for their actions.

I suspect on the wrecked planet we are giving to our children
personal responsibility and accountability will be very important.

I think you did not read what I was saying.
I think you're a lot less coherent than you think you are.
Show me the efficiency numbers you claim are bad and I'll show you were there measuring heating or cooling efficiency throwing half the energy away  in this application thats not the case.
From your Wikipedia reference:  "Vortex tubes have lower efficiency than traditional air conditioning equipment."  Lower efficiency = greater entropy increase in the process.  There is no way to recover useful energy which has been lost to entropy. Your pdf link claims about a 45°C temperature drop at 7 atm inlet pressure (absolute, not gauge).  The pdf does not state the hot temperature or split between hot and cold output, so the total efficiency is impossible to calculate.  However, we can compare against the temperature drop from an isentropic expander.  Assuming an inlet temperature of 303 K, the outlet temperature would be 303*(7^(-.4/1.4)) = 174 K, for a drop of 129 K.  The expander would yield about 175 kJ/kg in work (mechanical output) as well.  This is output that doesn't require another engine (and has no further losses).

No real-world system performs as well as the ideal, but if you could get even 50% of that you'd be whipping the Hilsch tube all hollow; a 65 K drop plus shaft work beats a 45 K drop and no work any day of the week.

So show me the paper and prove me wrong.
That's not how it works.  YOU have to support YOUR claims.  It's not up to the rest of the world to play Whack-a-mole with every unworkable notion you can commit to a blog.
How about I give you a few links.

And show me in one case where your efficiency claim is not a measure of cooling/heating efficiency.

You haven't shown those things for your own schemes.  Why is it up to others to do for you what you won't do for yourself?
That's not the point in this application as I said in my long statement or did you miss the part about chaining Stirling engines to reclaim the waste side.
I don't think you understand the point of your own notions.  You input energy in some form, e.g. electricity.  You want cooling out.  What's the most cost-effective way of doing that?  Everyone seems to use vapor compression; if Hilsch tubes are so great, ask yourself why they aren't everywhere.

It's not because you're smarter than everyone else.  Guaranteed.

Assuming an inlet temperature of 303 K, the outlet temperature would be 303*(7^(-.4/1.4)) = 174 K, for a drop of 129 K. The expander would yield about 175 kJ/kg in work (mechanical output) as well. This is output that doesn't require another engine (and has no further losses). No real-world system performs as well as the ideal, but if you could get even 50% of that you'd be whipping the Hilsch tube all hollow; a 65 K drop plus shaft work beats a 45 K drop and no work any day of the week.

You just threw the hot side of the tube away again. At least you admitted it this time.

You can look here for example Its not a 50 50 split generally depending on design but lets just use the numbers they have -45C +127C so the actual out put is 258 on the cold side and 430 on the hot side.

For a Carnot cycle this gives 1-Tc/Th = 1-(303/430) = 0.29 so yes not a great Carnot engine but don't throw it away and then claim you have better results.

Now I would not run a Carnot engine on the hot side but a acoustic sterling engine the efficiency is not great they claim 30% right now. I'd use it to drive cooling via a pulse tube refrigerator. Or this Which says you get 180F for 1.5 W of input which is 80K of cooling.

Not that I think it makes much sense to calculate this but from here. Its 4184W per 1C for water with a specific heat of 1one. This is watt/seconds I'm assuming the 1.5 is Watt/hours. So in watt hours for water its about 1 watt/hour per degree C. Air has a specific heat 25% of that of water giving 0.25 watts per 1C. So for a 50C temperature we would have about 12 Watts of power. Anyway this is is kinda of a bogus calculation and is probably wrong. The main thing is that 1.5 Watts seems readily extractable from a system with a temperature differential of 50C. Its 3.6 KJ per Watt/hour so you have 48 watts in your calculation. If my hot side is +100C then I have 24 watts. At +127 its 31 watts.

So you gain and additional heat extraction running the sterling side as a cooler also. So just to use a number say 20% decrease in temperature this would be done on the input side but the total is the same you get and additional cooling 60K lets say. So that gives you a temperature of -105K total if you use both side of the tube for cooling. Your approach got 129K plus work I have a reasonable estimate of 105K with no extra work provided but I've used all the inputs and what I consider to be a very low estimate of gain on the hot side. A experiment is of course in order here to figure out the real total to many variables are unknown. But I'm not throwing away the hot side.

Next you can chain two or more vortex tubes together to gain additional cooling in fact I've bought two for this purpose. Depending on the pressure drop I might get and additional tube in the chains and as I said before you can apply vacuum to the outlets and get separation. So lets say my second tube give a temperature drop of another +-/20 C I get both halves of this as cooling since the outlet is now less than room temperature and can be used to cool the incoming gas. Simply doing two vortex tubes buys another 40C of cooling.

So we got the traditional 45C for one tube plus a split on that with a second for 105C and potentially 60C on the hot side of the first tube that has to be reclaimed with a heat engine giving a drop of 165C total. No I did not get any work out but once you include all aspects and a second vortex tube its not looking as shabby as you are asserting. Hey maybe I can get three vortex tubes going who knows. In your case if you use the mechanical energy to compress more air then your going to suffer losses converting to cooling. Who wins ? I don't know but I don't see dismissing what I'm saying they are almost certainly close and I thinking I can do better overall since I can play with cascading vortex tubes and acoustic engines your solution does not cascade. Thats why I think my proposal acutally beats the traditional approach.

Do I know for sure what the total is ? No since no one has done it it could be a lot better should not be a lot worse then this guess. Once you use both sides of the tube the efficiency claims based on throwing away half of the work are seen for what they are wrong.

But NO MOVING PARTS and the can be cheaply fabricated since this is not high temperature. The whole system can be made of plastic in molds for a few dollars.

Next no one has seriously optimized a combined acoustic sterling / vortex tube arrangement since its not been built.

Next you consider how you create the compressed air or vacuum or both since vortex tubes also work by dropping the outlet pressure below the inlet.

If you can move water then you can use simple aspirator to cause a vacuum to form. So your done you can now run your vortex/acoustic combo. Better is to combine this with a injector similar to a steam injector. But different because the goal is to allow the entrained air bubbles to escape the water flow at a higher pressure.

So you get both a tank at vacuum and one at a pressure higher then atmosphere on the other side.

So we know we can create vacuum/pressure if we can get a water flow which actually does not have to be that high initially.

Notice still no moving parts fabrication can still be done using cheap injection molding.

So how do you get water to flow ?

Solar is easy just use a big black evaporation sponge. similar to solar hot water heaters but in this case we are using evaporation to pull the water getting a flow.

The device can be covered and the moisture condensed and reused or better its a clean water supply and the system is charged with dirty water.

A river is obvious just flow through the aspirators. But note we can any sort of gradient or the smallest trickle.

Wind is actually the hardest problem windmills are far to expensive to consider. But kite based solutions can be manufactured cheaply.


It seems you even commented on it. This would require some sort of traditional pump but its just a water pump and can be made of plastic.

I've not thought of a reasonable way to capture wind energy except in mechanical form. On choice is to consider good wind solutions a secondary stage of conversion and use the proceeds of a solar based solution to purchase the more expense wind based solution.

Next is wave action and tidal flow. Tidal can be treated like a stream. A ram pump is a interesting solution for waves or some sort of cheap float based solution. It's the next most difficult source to harness cheaply after wind. I feel if I can get a complete solar solution working then each of these can be tackled.

Having repeated myself yet one more time what have I shown ?

A route to extract useful energy via liquidification of air using parts that can be manufactured out of plastic very cheaply. A route to power this same system with natural energy sources and again no moving parts in the case of solar with some initial thought on other sources.

Why is this important because we need to figure out how 5 billion people are going to live a decent life without access to oil.

You solution requires a expensive machined piston its not viable on the scale I'm talking about and the bulk of these people cannot afford it.

Moving back up the ladder. The liquid nitrogen can be used to power simple plastic turbines which can then be used to generate electricity condense clean water cool and refrigerate crops/meat make hydrogen and other chemicals all the good things about modern living. These same turbines can also be run on the compressed air if your not storing so they work directly as well in this proposal.

The only technology that's difficult to reproduce with a cheap solution is the electric generators driven by the turbines. But only a few are needed per liquid nitrogen storage area not electric power using compressors per collector as you suggest.

And I'm even looking at electrostatic devices which certainly can be produced using cheaper materials.

Or if we are lucky we get decent plastic magnets And we already have organic conductors and of course you can use carbon as a conductor. A super cheap all plastic generator is not beyond the realm of possibility.

In any case the cost is reduced with my proposal well down into a range where even the poorest of villages can deploy the solution.

If we are going to wean ourselves off oil then we have to create a way for all people to have a high standard of living based of renewable energy. What has been presented by most solar cells, big windmills, ethanol plants represent a way for a few people to have a high standard of living not the world. And starting with the solar solution the village should be able to produce excess goods/food and keep it refrigerated if needed to get it to market. Thus they can build the financial means to eventually purchase higher technology such as windmills, solar cells, computers health care etc since they are capable of producing excess energy and goods.


If we are going to wean ourselves off oil then we have to create a way for all people to have a high standard of living based of renewable energy. What has been presented by most solar cells, big windmills, ethanol plants represent a way for a few people to have a high standard of living not the world.
This is reminiscent of the rhetoric around Mao's "Great Leap Forward".

Let me repeat a story of this which I read once.  Part of the "Great Leap Forward" was the claim that agriculture would be mechanized.  There were no massive factories, but the Party said that villages would make their own tractors.  So villagers came to the site on the appointed day, bearing their tools, cooking pots and other goods for raw material.  The Party man kindled a fire, produced coals, melted the metal...

And produced nothing more than a useless lump.  There were neither means nor expertise to cast or machine the raw material into engines, axles, wheels or anything else.  The villagers left with neither tractor nor goods, even poorer and less able to feed themselves than they had been the day before.

Thus does the ship of BS strike the iceberg of reality, and the credulous suffer the consequences of folly.

I do not suffer fools gladly.  I do not usually argue with fools, but I think you'll serve as an object lesson:  most of the other posters and readers here are not fools, but they do not have the subject-matter expertise to debunk your brand of nonsense.  This refutation is mostly for them.  It is also for the people who might otherwise try to construct one of your unworkable mechanisms, and suffer through the failure.

I won't address chained vortex tubes, laddermills, plastic magnets and other off-topic stuff.  I'll limit myself to the thermodynamic merits (or lack thereof) of your single-tube scheme.

You can look here for example Its not a 50 50 split generally depending on design but lets just use the numbers they have -45C +127C so the actual out put is 258 on the cold side and 430 on the hot side.
The only temperature stated in your cited example is 50°F (28° C) drop, not 45° C.  That's at an 80/20 split, so the hot outlet temperature could be expected to be 200° F (111° C) higher than the air feed.  The pressure is stated as a range (80-100 PSIG), centered around ~7 bar absolute.  I'll use the 7 bar figure for comparison.

The output cooling would be (28°C * 1005 J/kg/°C * 0.8) = ~22.4 kJ/kg.  The output heating is the same, only the opposite sign.  If you had a Carnot cycle engine operating at 100% of theoretical efficiency between a 303 K ambient and 414 K hot output, it would have 0.2681 efficiency and extract 6.01 kJ/kg of work from each kg of inlet air.

Contrast this to even an inefficient expander chiller.  The theoretical cooling from a 7:1 expansion would cool from 303 K down to 174 K [1], for a drop of 129 K.  If the expander only achieved 50% of this, it would chill 100% of the air from 303 K down to 238 K, for a drop of 65 K and 65 kJ/kg of cooling (almost 3 times as much as the vortex tube).  The mechanical output of this inefficient expander would also be 65 kJ/kg, or nearly 11 times the output of the hypothetical Carnot-cycle engine running on the vortex tube's hot output.

Expanders can be made of plastic.  The "Air Hog" series of toy cars and airplanes each had one good for some tens of watts.  They were made with materials like Teflon pistons and bearings.

In short, you scheme with a vortex tube would require 3 times as much air (meaning 3 times the compression hardware or labor) as the low-efficiency air expander for a given amount of cooling.  Even using an impossibly efficient heat engine, it would require almost 11 times as much air (and hardware or labor) to yield a given amount of output work compared to a low-efficiency expander.

And you think poor people are going to live lives of ease based on your schemes?  Reality always wins in the end.

[1] Air near room temperature behaves as a nearly-ideal gas with a ratio of specific heats (constant-pressure specific heat over constant-volume specific heat, or k) of 1.4.  An isentropic expansion of a gas by a given pressure ratio P yields a temperature T = T0 * P^((1-k)/k).  In this example, T0 is 303 K and P is 7, yielding T=173.77 K theoretical outlet temperature.  That air better be dry...

Dry air has a constant-pressure specific heat of 1005 J/kg/K.

First I'll try and shorten these posting to bring this to and end.

First -50 F == -46 Celsius which is in my cited example.
50 F = 10 C

So you munged the numbers at the beginning and sidestep a important factors of chaining the tubes. And another important aspect especially for chaining which is to pull a vacuum on the exhaust side of the tubes. I've mentioned this a few times.

So your ripping me here and can't even convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius the irony does not escape me.

Next the heat is not being extracted at a constant pressure on the hot side so not sure why you even bring that up. Its expanding still I've not even brought up the exit pressure of the tubes you seem to have assumed that its atmospheric
It's not, it has to be less by some % then the input pressure but its by no means a requirement. CV = 718J/kgK btw. You gave Cp which is not relevant.

My full proposal is this

A chain of 2 or more tubes with a closed initial vacuum on the
final output tube size of the vacuum chamber can be varied.
Input pressure say 125psi but this is again a variable.
A simple acoustic Stirling engine driving and expansion cooler to cool the input air. It can even be allowed to cool  via expansion and be entrained on the input side lowering the pressure of course but heat is rejected. I don't have any thing against expansion cooling just pistons.

Finally your example of the Chinese is perfect.
You should remember it when oil is running low.
This is what I'm trying to say they can't make tractors
so what can they make ?  Or probably closer to reality
in the case a billion starving Chinese do their atomic missiles reach America yet ?

Your right they can't create tractors out of metal but they could do simple metal working and glass and thermo molded plastic. What they can't do is create the dimensional tolerances required to produce a piston. Its non trivial and Teflon is not what I would call a easy material to work.
Nor is it cheap.

My approach does not require any tight tolerances.

Parts can be manufactured from wood, clay, glass, plastic.
I see no reason to not assume at least a starter kit is manufactured using injection molding. Local materials can be used effectively to expand the system. There is enough plastic in the world that it can be considered a natural raw material today. I have of course looked into building very small plastic manufacturing. And of course other approaches.

I think plastic will be important to solving the problems we
will be facing. But we will eventually need to work out how to use it without a fancy injection mold. Vacuum molding is trivial for example. In any case I'm assuming that at least initially injection molding of common plastics will continue to exist for a sufficient amount of time. And of course for problems like this its better to actually work with people in the third world that are masters at making stuff with limited technology. Poor does not mean stupid.

In the mean time I'll keep tinkering on my approach.

I will leave you with one example of a person thinking
the same way I am and the same I suspect most engineers will think in 50 years. 007&partner=USERLAND

I may be wrong time will tell but I have the right thought framework to find the solution.
Sadly it sounds like you and probably many engineers in the western world are not up to the challenge.

I actually don't mean any offense except in general because this means engineers like you will squander a lot of our remaining resources building systems that won't last long enough to convert our societies. What are you going to do with your fancy windmills and expansion engines when parts start breaking and  the suppliers  where in china ?
I'd be surprised if half of the windmills up today are running 15 years post peak.

I'll still be popping out my vortex tubes.


Folks, gather 'round.  Here's the example you've all been waiting for.  Example of what is uncertain; he's either a True Believer or a Charlatan, but since they talk the same you can't tell them apart without a mind-reader anyway.

You all know Straight Talkers.  This blog and the comment sections are full of 'em.  What I'm about to show you here is just why this bozo is about the furthest thing from a Straight Talker that you could imagine.  He has a lot in common with the Psychobabbler, but Charlatans and True Believers are all best dealt with the same way:  smile, nod, and back away slowly.

Charlatans and True Believers are distinguished by being full of It, or something that rhymes with It.  Here are some solid examples from the parent post:

First -50 F == -46 Celsius which is in my cited example.
In a word, bull**His example says (from a page which uses Javascript to attempt to prevent cutting and pasting):
Maximum refrigeration (80% cold fraction) is achieved when cold air temperature is 50°F (28°C) below compressed air temperature.
Either Mr. memmel did not think you would ever check his source to see if it says what he claims [Charlatan], or he couldn't be bothered to read it (or was too careless - or stupid - to understand it) [True Believer].

He continues:

So you munged the numbers at the beginning [1] and sidestep a important factors of chaining the tubes.[2]
On these points:

  1. I'm sure that busted several irony meters.  True Believers project, Charlatans accuse to shift the burden of proof - both say the same things.

  2. Nobody chains vortex tubes.  Does Exair sell any chained vortex tubes?  I'll lay a solid bet on "no" without even looking through their site.  Yet after having the merits of the single-tube example solidly debunked relative to the simplest conventional scheme, Mr. memmel now hangs his whole concept on this element.

Which is hilarious, because he hasn't even begun to think it through.  Vacuum aspirators?  How much energy would they take?  (He either can't calculate it, or wouldn't post the numbers because they'd make him look ridiculous.)  And if you're pulling the cold stream out under a vacuum, you need to keep your chilled volume under a vacuum as well.  So much for the idea of cooling, say, the volume of a simply constructed ice-box.  A 7:1 pressure ratio below atmospheric would put the outlet at about 2.1 PSI absolute.  Not only does the "icebox" have to be built strongly enough to withstand about 12.5 PSI of pressure from the outside (the better part of a ton per square foot), every bit of air leakage into the "icebox" is a loss of cooling power because it doesn't pass through the vortex tube.  And you needn't doubt that such a gadget would be very noisy!

Chain two such things together and you get about 100°F of cooling from the inlet compressed air temperature.  You have considerable power requirements for the vacuum pumps, and the one thing Mr. memmel does not ask is:  could you get the same wattage of cooling for less input power by some other method?

He can't ask that.  He can't ask any such question where the answer might be "yes".  That would either mean giving up his True Belief, or the Charlatan having to find something else to sell.  That's just not going to happen.

But you, John and Jane Public, don't have to fall for it.

76,600 turbines on 1/6th acre each?

That's a no brainer if true.

My understanding is the density is much, much lower than that because of airflow disruption.

121 turbines over 20k hectares on Ontario's Bruce Peninsula.

1 HA = 2.471 acres.  77 Square Miles.  

76,600/121 X 77 = 48,745 square miles.  Not impossible in the Great Planes, but not small.  Of course you can farm underneath.
Project Overview
Enbridge Ontario Wind Power LP ("Enbridge") is planning to develop and operate a wind power project in the southern part of the Town of Saugeen Shores and the northern part of the Municipality of Kincardine. The proposed project would generate almost 200 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy - enough electricity to supply up to 70,000 Ontario homes.

The project generation facilities are to consist of 121 wind turbine generators, each capable of producing 1.65 MW, dispersed over approximately 20,000 hectares. Other project components include access roads, overhead and underground 44 kilovolt (kV) electrical collection lines, and a 44 kV to 230 kV electrical substation. Commencement of an Environmental Screening Process for this project was announced in June 2004.

The project would be built in a single stage, with construction anticipated to start in 2006 and an in-service date in 2007.

  1. Great Plains, even.  I think Boeing is based on Great Planes -).

  2. Those 76,600 turbines would cost, roughly $76.6bn at current costs.  But those costs would fall by up to 30% by the time you were done.

(the learning curve effect to date is a doubling of installed capacity, 8-15% fall in unit cost.  The US has about 12GW capacity now, the world about 40GW, so you would get at least 1 if not 2 doublings).

The key to the economics are that when the Pool price is high, you would shut down fertiliser production and sell the power directly to the Pool.  It's like Carbon Sequestration: if you can find another use for the CO2 (like EOR) then it's almost a no brainer.

Wind Turbines in Texas tend to be spaced about 1 to every five acres. They  are mostly on ridgelines and mountains in non-farmable areas. They could also be erected in road ROW's in many areas, depending on the wind speed.
  The 1/6th of an acre refers to the amount of land needed for the base, not for the spacing. That will depend on the actual  site. Also, a square mile contains 640 acres. Its probably going to be impossible to estimate land useage very closely until a site is proposed.
He actually said 1/16th of an acre, not 1/6th.
"Those 76,600 turbines would cost, roughly $76.6bn at current costs.  But those costs would fall by up to 30% by the time you were done."

Boy, that's a lot of money. We could buy ourselves 38 weeks in Iraq for that  kind of bread.

Cost of Iraq war nearly $2b a week


This is the real tragedy. For a fraction of the war cost and energy usage, we could have an alternate energy future. I guess we are not smarter than yeast.
Boeing even used to have facilities on the Great Plains, in Wichita, Kansas, but I think they sold them off or closed them.

Based on a couple other projects in Kansas, already operating or coming online soon (100 turbines, 150MW, 20k acres; 170 turbines, 12k acres) it seems that you can space them closer: the first project achieves 109 acres per megawatt, or 200 acres per turbine; the second achieves 70.5 acres per turbine. This is about 3 to 6 turbines per square mile, versus 1.5 in Ontario. It may be more instructive to consider megawatts per acre, though; the larger turbines probably become less dense proportional to the interference, which might be proportional to the square root of the amount of power (horizontal distance, not total area).

So that's somewhere around 12,500 square miles to 25,000 square miles for 76k turbines. And if your turbine sits on 200 acres, you only lose far much less than 1 acre (208 feet by 208 feet) from farming. So this seems easily doable.

As an aside, my grandmother owns a couple square miles of very windy farmland (class 4-5?). For awhile I thought it might be nice to invest in a wind turbine there, until I learned that it's only really efficient if you have one of the big, $1.5M+, 1.5 megawatt turbines, not just one of the 100kW turbines. Not only that, but the local utility is required to buy power from you up to 100kW, but beyond that you have to have a contract and pay for extending power lines, which is probably not cost effective until you're getting up to around 100MW.

Later I learned that she actually has leased her land to a company which intends to put up wind turbines there -- but it looks like they're not going to actually go ahead with construction before it expires, since they want to put up a large project, and one of the neighbors doesn't want to lease.

"76,600/121 X 77 = 48,745 square miles.  Not impossible in the Great Planes, but not small.  Of course you can farm underneath."

You could farm, but would you have any birds left?

Yes, you would.  The bird-shredding turbines are small, rotate quickly, and have lattice towers which are attractive for perching and even nesting.  Huge, slow-rotating turbines on pylon towers pose much smaller hazards and may not even extend down to the altitudes where many birds spend most of their time.
Just for efficiency, shouldn't we have a little side note on how many birds are killed by:


all the windmills needed to power the usa

all the windmills needed to power a sane usa (low pop.  low energy)



transmission lines

bad little boys with 22's and/or bb guns.


other birds

exasperated gardeners


So every time somebody puts "windmills" close to "bird kills" a flag goes up with all that above stuff, flying in the stiff breeze created by that flapping oil graph on the right.  Data should include important dimensionless group proportional to bird/kw-hr, compared to coal power (summed over all its effects).

Me, I like birds.  Sometimes I get an exciting show when a hawk grabs one off my bird feeder.  My barnkat gets the ones that don't see our window.

Farming and nitrogen(N--of the N,P,H nomenclature spoken of in chemical fertlizers) very closely .Without it intensive farming would cease to exist, pretty much.

Farmers use N in three differing methods. First as dry and spread via large vehicles with a spreader on the back, second as a liquid which is injected behind 'sod cutters or colters, and third as a gas in the form of anhydrous ammonia. The third method appears to be the cheapest for but is extremely dangerous due to the temperature and the possibilities of extreme burns via freezing.

Some 'banding' is also performed in order to place it in specific bands next to the seedinglys.

It is very difficult to do a soil test and determine the amount of N in your sample. In fact to my knowledge it is not even reported nor easily measured and that is even by university testing facilities.

Most ag extension agents will tell you and recommended that if you are growning clover mixed with your forage(hay crop) to not even bother applying N.

Also they preach that N over time  has a tendency to percolate right thru the soil and is therefore lost to the crops.This I assume is the dry type or one of the others and possibly not the natural forms , such as manure,broiler litter, etc.


"It is very difficult to do a soil test and determine the amount of N in your sample. In fact to my knowledge it is not even reported nor easily measured and that is even by university testing facilities."

This seems odd to me. I buy cheapie soil test kits at the Big Box that gives me N-P-K and PH. Are you telling me that I'm being ripped off?

I sent hundreds of soil samples pulled on a 2.5 acre grid with 5 samples per grid.

We had plenty of data to work with including OM(organic matter) and far more BUT no nitrogen analysis.

I have never really explored the reasons why but have been told repeatedly that its very difficult to do and likely then very costly.

Are you being ripped off? I think so. Yet the ph is very easy to determine and with a litmus paper and some liquid agents or whatever. Probes even exist for ph measurement.

Yet realize that normal ag lime disolves very slowly into the soil. I threw a spare truckload out on my yard and it took a year but the results were amazing.

However when using a cheapie Home Depot tool it gave exactly the same reading , even when I probed a pile of lime.

But its usually easy to tell if your lime deficient in a hay field by the type of weeds that flourish. For instance clover won't do well without the right amount of lime.

Just my experience for what little its worth. Mother nature doesn't give her secrets away easily.

I agree that agriculture as it now stands requires large amounnts of N-based fertilizers.

However, and perhaps I am misreading you here, but the measurement of N content in soils and/or fertilizers is trivial.  Your agricultural experiment station (or the like) can do these anlayses at a realtively low cost (probably $5 to $12/sample). And yet, measuring total soil N will not give you what you really want - which is how much "available N" (for plants) is in the soil (and at what rate is it being produced).  One could also measure extractable N (NH4 and NO3), which is correlated with -but not equal to- the mysterious "available N", to get an idea of the N-based fertility of that particular soil.  Alas, there are no CRC tables of soil N content to tell you if your soil is rocking, or just put-putting along.

N leaching, primarily of NO3, is a very big deal.  Under high-growth conditions, N applications tend to lose over 50% of equivalent N below the rooting zone, and this does not include trace gas losses.  Both fertilizer N and 'natural' N - as NO3 - are easily leached from surface soils (eventually to groundwaters and/or streams and wetlands) particularly in areas that receive abundant rainfall (i.e. good farmland).

Also, apparently we have doubled the production rate of N available as a nutrient source for plants (I think this is the correct citation: Vitousek, P. M., and P. A. Matson. 1993. Agriculture, the global Nitrogen cycle, and trace gas flux. in R. S. Oremland, editor. The biogeochemistry of Global Change: Radiatively Active Trace Gases. Chapman and Hall, New York.) - globally.

This is not to poo-poo the idea of creating fertilizer N using wind power, I think it's a pretty cool idea.  I just wanted to offer some of my thoughts on the small point of soil N and fertility.

Would it be possible to scale down the N-fixation process to the local or per-farm scale?  How much fertilizer could be made from each windmill?  I suppose that the start-up costs would be massively prohibitive for farm cooperatives to do this, but I like the idea of having farmers more in charge of their own costs.


The anhydrous ammonia injection is the dominant method used in the MW.  This injection method allows large areas to be covered per unit weight of product being hauled.  

There is a question of loss to the atmosphere (NH3 is one of 8 gases lighter than air).  But application rates are based upon agronomic rates.  

There are various reporting values for nitrogen, including TKN, for estimating nitrogen uptake be various crops.  

Crop uptake.

Most ag bulletins I receive have this update clearly delineated and I was shocked at the large amounts removed by haying or removing say the wheat for baling.

That convinced me to quit giving my hay away. It was like throwing money in the air or just giving it to the guy on the baler BUT the old timers believed that it was a wise thing to do and OHHHH it 'cleaned'up the field so nicely BUT the sticker weeds and bitterweeds next year were NOT SO NICE.

You gain an enormous advantage to just letting a good hay crop just go fallow. With maybe one or two 'hi cut' clippings per year to cut down the Johnson Grass trying to 'boot' out.

When I first go my present farm I couldn't wait to mow down all the hairy vetch and kill out the multiflora roses. Sadly later I learned of their benefits and so I let them grow back. NOONE can go thru a full grown , thich mortifloara roses headge row unless he is suicidal. It forms a perfect fence at no cost.

Now they rip it out along with all the persimmon, sassafras and wild cherry and what ever else gets in the way.

Sometime soon this madness to rip out all vegetation is going to have to cease or we will be trying to sip water thru a reed like the aborgines in Australian and eating flies.

Beats me how we can set upon a course that is the exact opposite of good conservation and take active measures to destroy what little we have left.

The Zanax is starting to kick in so I am going to end the rant.

One thing that is missed is, just like the carbon cycle and the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, we are fundamentally altering the nitrogen cycle and the relationships of nitrogen loadings for the atmosphere, land, and water.  The real issue is "reactive nitrogen" and the fact that these reactive nitrogen cycles are altering climate in ways that are direct (global warming) and indirect (nitrification and altering of the ecological footprint for various species that are adapted to other conditions).  We won't run out of nitrogen in the atmosphere, but we are altering the ecological responses.  

Dave Cohen's got a nice drawing posted, I have one with the nitrogen flows that are approximated for each of the streams.  I'll see if I can't get that posted later.

Another issue missed (or maybe I missed it reading the posting) is whether we really ought to be messing with the nitrogen cycle.  This issue was discussed extensively at the Workshop on Agricultural Air Quality: State of the Science, held in Potomac Md on June 5-8, 2006.

It's not really an issue of whether we "can", it's a question of whether we "should."  

I didn't get any responses last time I posted this so hopefully I will now that it's higher up.  This article "debunks" the Y2K argument which is used to attack peak oil & climate change doomsayers:

It didn't seem to properly address the fact that Russia and other countries didn't spend billions to fix the problem.  Yet they were ok.  Does anyone have a rebuttal for this?

I liked the distinction between the 'real' economy and the current 'fictive' economy.

This guy should check his history books.  Go back to Ancient Rome, and you still find inflations and deflations, crashes and panics and booms.  The 'fictive' (monetary) economy is a reflection of the real economy-- the two are inseparable.

We spent a lot of time and money fixing Y2K-- I would estimate 2-3% of a $100m IT budget.  This was in the 1980s, in Canada, in a large financial institution.  So that work was done.

The thing with IT was that you scrap a lot of your 'equipment' (ie software systems) every 10 to 15 years-- the client server architectures of the late 90s had displaced many of the mainframe based systems of the 70s.  So the problem was contained.

It's a complete logical fallacy to say:

'some people argued the world would end with Y2K.  It didn't. Therefore other people are wrong to worry about PO and GW'

Matt Simmons has pointed out the problem with those who argue 'Limits to Growth didn't happen, therefore PO and GW won't'.  1. that isn't what LtG said 2. the timeframe is completely different (LtG was about 100 years out ie 2070).

We didn't destroy civilisation in a nuclear holocaust, either.  Nor did we destroy the ozone layer (yet)-- if we had used bromides rather than CFCs, an accidental choice of technology, the ozone layer would have disappeared already. (Source: Flannery, Tim.  The Weather Makers )

Neither of the above means people were wrong to worry about them, Reagan was wrong to meet with Gorbachev, Salt I and II were wrong, etc.  At least 2 times (Cuban Missile Crisis and Exercise Able Archer in 1983) the world was days, if not minutes, from full scale nuclear war.

Nor that we were wrong to phase out CFCs.  We nearly lost that one too.

Y2K- .. an American Crisis?


  1. It was principally a software issue, relating to how we annotated the Year fields with only the last two digits, right?  (Otherwise playing into a natural superstition about the 'change' of seeing that big number roll around.. same thing happened in 'Y1K', I read)

  2. How many other nations were using software and operating systems made here, and so the fixes were 'done for them'?

  3. How many other nations had industries/banking that was on their own code, and didn't happen to paint themselves into the same corner?  (Our Date layout standards are often different from other parts of the world..)

Bob Fiske
The two digit year problem was NEVER fixed. They applied a bandaid , known as 'windowing'. They just made assumptions on the date implied via a sliding window algorithm.

Only the Social Security Administration to my knowledge was only one of the large entites that actually went and created 4 digit date fields and updated all their records.

Even Windows XP does 'sliding windows'. However since I haven't looked closely as the code(propietary anyway) I wouldn't swear but that is what I have been told by those who should know.

One of the big problems was that some many records were archieved on tape storage. Try to update that!!!!! You simply cannot update a date field 'in place' without rewriting every byte thereafter it.

The one very large electrical utility I consulted for had an enormous tape archive. I looked at it and then at the DP mgr and said"are you going to even attempt this"? His reply was a chortle. We windowed it.

Everyone basically 'windowed' the code. There wasn't time to do anything else.

I am sure someone will disagree(as always) with my comment but I worked on mainframes for both 1998 and 1999 doing just that. Well not actually doing the coding but building the 'bubble' systems and integrating the y2k test tools, etc and re-ipling the MVT systems with varying dates plus fixing a really stupid tape expiredate problem and believe me there were a huge number of very very bad problems.

Programmers worked their asses off and as a reward their jobs later got outsourced overseas and H1Bs came flooding in.

Thanks then to the grateful asshole Corp execs. May you rot in hell!!!

FWIW, the UNIX systems I worked on had a problem with lazy conversion from the 2 digit year to the UNIX timestamp (good until 2038, and longer if everyone migrates to a 64bit time_t).

For those who wonder about the scale of the problm, I can sat that I fixed some programs - and more interestingly for a year or two we had an accelerated transition from older legacy systems to UNIX and "open" systems.

If the new software (and hardware!) was cheaper to maintain than some "who has the source?" system, that was the way to go.

Unix was not a mainframe. Back then mainframes running mostly IBM software was where it was at.

Bring in huge server farms , as the beginning , just created far more problems due to intensive feeding and absolutely zero error recovery. Ever glitch ...the answer was REBOOT. Lots of pretend geektoids got very rich but did zip. They didn't have a clue to what the mainframe OSs were doing but somehow MSFT convinced TPTB that they had the big answer. They had SHIT!!!

Just what I seen of it. Maybe different elsewhere. But basically it was a fiasco. Mgmt was it total disarray. Operations was dying daily. I loved it,,the chaos,the endless stupid meetings, the big paychecks, the extravagant meals by the very good looking pimpette body hunters.

Ahhhh ye oldense dayse....never again. Today it will just die and thats it..end of story..and we climb back into the trees or into the caves. THe big wooden stick rules. The cornucopians tried to start song fests around the campfire but its all turns into a sexual frenzy rout and some ethanol gets passed around. No sense using it for fuel when its drinkable.  

Over my career I saw people pursue uptime and software quality for years, until they veered off to pursue other things, like new features and time-to-market.

It is really interesting when you think about it, people did leave systems with uptime in the "years" range.  For what we did it was not big deal.  A database warehouse, secondary and non-critical repository, for wide web access on intranet.  The productivity gain was presumably more important than the occaisonal downtime hit.

Or in our case, if you used to need to jockey for mainframe access or wait for a printed report, web access from your desk was higher "uptime" even with the "downtime."

I say it's interesting because that seems to be decision that the world has made.  TOD has downtime, but we don't sweat it too much because the uptime has sufficient value to offset it.

oh, I worked on some medical systems in the 80's that used two digit birth-years.  If those systems were not replaced (some had programs in firmaware), they have a hard time figuring out who is really a pediatric patient right now.
Your only looking at part of the Y2K picture. What happens when you create current records.

Lets say that some business has a huge number of archived records that have embedded 2 digit date fields. They never went back and rewrote all those records into new media that had 4 digit date fields. It was simply too onerous and time consuming and they really didn't have much time nor money nor resources(like programmers who knew Cobol, Fortran,etc)
they made some assumtions the the code that deals with processing transactions. Say health related or even financial and in that regard dates can go way way back.

So they simply slip in an algorithm and call it whenever a date field has to be processed. They can then assume that if the 2 digit date is 11..Since we are not at 2011 yet and its and old record they can assume(rightly or wrongly) that the date is really 1911. Now it could be 1811 but thats pretty the algorithm returns a value of 1911.

The algorithm used a time frame parameter to effect this changeover and what we called it was a 'sliding window' since time is constantly changing and when 2011 gets here then this algorithms 'sliding window' needes some config changes. This is coded to be easy to do but sometimes , maybe usually, a real live person needs to make a judgement call and set it up based on many variables.

This then is how most of my cohorts dealt with the problem adn hence I say it was never FIXED but just covered with a bandaid.

What should have been done is each and every record with a 2 digit date should have been rewritten in a new format, such as we likely use now with newer versions of applications.

I am not an ap 'coder' so I am not real privy into this area, but as a systems operator I saw plenty of ABENDS due to mousy code. And I have to say that even some ws shipped overseas instead of using american programmers who actually understood the nuances better.

To show just how ignorant some of the mgmt was , right in the midst of our most trying testing the DP mgr (CIO) decided out of the clear blue to swap out one of the main mainframe processors. All the systems programmers screamed but it made not a bit of difference. Having to learn a new mainframe right in the middle of chaos was ignorance beyond belief.

But who was I to bitch,,just a lowly systems programmer who got blamed for their mistakes.

I was glad to leave that acct. Later I heard there was blood all over the floor and many good people left.

End of story.

check this url out :

and plaease no conspiracy theories,I have heard them all.

We just slide by Y2K. This one is not 'slidable'

That was a generation before medical lab networking.  IIRC, we were on 4 digit dates by the time interconnect was common.  But that was just us, at one unnamed vendor.
  Interesting stuff, but I didn't hear whether you or Odo had any sense of whether Overseas systems were in the same boat, cuz' of the same Mainframes or Software.. or did they sidestep this issue.  Any idea?


Being a programmer, I was a little surprised that Nothing At All happened. I never expected anything big, specially after all the hype, but at least a couple laughs at some poor soul spending New Years Eve in an elevator, and some accident in a developing country factory. But at least at the time nothing at all was reported, and I was looking for it. I still have the suspicion that little embarrasing incidents were just not publicised.

But to the point of other places not suffering Y2K:

They all did. The crash in the technology world was partly fueled by Y2K spending. And it was felt all over too.

They all also spent the billions to fix the problem, by paying the US software makers for already fixed software.

Poorer countries skipped on the low memory, taylor programmed in COBOL, era when the more dangerous programs were deployed, and jumped right into the PC era. I still remember my amazement at the teller of the central bank in Prague in ~1990 calculating the value of foreign currency with pen and paper.

And yes, Y2K was a real problem that got hyped to the skies. Managers overspent, consultors overcharged, programmers overworked. That is what we call business as usual in the computer industry.

Definitely much better than using fossil fuels to drive fertilizer production.

Of course, there is the problem that the use of nitrogen fertilizer has its own set of problems. It can certainly be argued that the use of nitrogen fertilizer, even ignoring its fossil fuel inputs, is not sustainable. If I were sitting by my bookshelf at home, I'd include some references.

I tend to like systems with tighter circles. For example, properly processed municipal sewage (food -> sewage -> fertilizer -> food) has some distinct advantages over synthesized nitrogen fertilizers. (And currently some tremendous pitfalls due to the fact that bodily waste, a valuable resource, is mixed with a cocktail of household chemicals, and turned into something worthy of the word "waste". I've addressed this problem on a household level, and the system works really well, but a municipal-sized system is a different beast.)

PS Alan Greenspan worried about Y2K, enough that the world's central banks flooded the system with monetary liquidity, which caused the final peaking of the 'dot com' bubble and the blow off which followed.
Perhaps it would make more sense to convert back to a more grass based, relatively closed loop form of agriculture as described in the Omnivore's Dilemma.  Does it make sense to perpetuate an energy intensive industrial agriculure with the use of wind energy when there are so many other critical uses for a limited resource. It is going to be difficult to scale up wind energy as it is so I don't think it would be appropriate to use this limited resource to help out a corn based industrial agricultural system that I don't even support.  

I would prefer to use my wind power to fire up my laptop, not support an agricultural system that I think is flawed, energy intensive, wasteful, and ultimately destructive both to the land and to the consumer. Use the electricity to power plug ins and EVs, not to perpetuate our addiction to a liquid fuels economy.


I would prefer to use my wind power to fire up my laptop, not support an agricultural system that I think is flawed, energy intensive, wasteful, and ultimately destructive both to the land and to the consumer.

While I agree with you, you can't eat your laptop. Ethanol has been mandated. We are going to make it. So, we need ideas on how to make it more energy efficiently. I just don't think, with the political climate, that it will die even if it deserves to.

Damn.  Now you tell me.  I was just telling my wife that if things got really bad and we ran out of fertilizer, I would eat my laptop.  If goats can do it, why can't we?

Come to think of it, maybe biodegradeable lap tops are in the cards. They've got biodegradeable plastic cups now, why not laptops.  

First, I appreciate the stimulating discussion of the possible use of wind power for production of nitrogen fertilzer. But, Robert, it seems to me that you did not address the substance of the previous writer's concern. OK, some level of ethanol production is happening, just as some level of nuclear plant production happened in the fifties (and just as a pretty high level of violence happened and continues to happen). That doesn't convince me that I have to support any addition to expand the program. It may very well magnify the destructive consequences of ethanol production. Bandaids on the existing energy economy may lead to an even more catastrophic collapse than reconsidering our use of energy.

It's time to encourage dissent to orthodox solutions, to continuation of the status quo. It is certainly not time to squelch concerns by saying, "It's going to happen. Get with it."

I don't want to argue about whether wind power for nitrogen is a good idea; I am convinced that nitrogen based agribusiness and high use of CO2 producing fuels is creating an environmental catastrophe that may leave far less to eat. But, specifically, I object to squelching objections with "It's going to happen. Shut up and get with it."


You wrote what I was thinking.  The restructuring of the farms in this country away from these monocultures is such an important part of a successful future.  Ethanol is getting in the way of doing the important things that need to be done.

My vision is:

Let's build that 30 mile diameter solar collector in the Mojave desert (according to Heeger) to power this whole country.  Then, let's have an Apollo project of electric rail transportation combined with very small electric cars and bikes.  Beyond that, decentralize energy needs into what is appropriate regionally, or individually.  Mandates need to be placed on all new building construction for energy efficiency.  In the interim, conservation is the answer. We have enough oil to run our farm equipment for the time being until we can transition to smaller, more labor intensive organic farms using renewable energy.  

There are many unexplored avenues of renewable energy usage as it relates to the enhancement of biofuel production.

Burning residual biomass is one way, capturing methane gases from manure is another, while utilizing wind generation as stated above is example once more that the biofuel industry need not be static - nor is it.

Today, many corn-ethanol operators recognize the limitations of their production paths and are therefore actively engaged in the implementation of new technologies that will provide them with competitive and cost advantages while decreasing the amount of fossil fuel inputs.  Some are working on ways to eliminate said inputs outright.

This leads us to the last statement by our Guest re: energy prices being 're-prioritized' which I shall leave open for discussion.

Robert is correct about ethanol. What most do not realize is that the current method only procures 392 gallons an acre, using 19th century technology and sub-par feedstock crops. Sugercane is ok but takes 2 years to harvest.
there are several other feedstocks that work incredibly well. Corn is not the answer, but sugarbeets, milo, and to many others to mention.
to see how a real company does it and obtains 7000 gallons per acre( not including cellulosic ethanol)go to the following web-page:
And see how it SHOULD be done

If we use a current price for NH3 of $176/ton and each turbine produces 14,000,000/77,600 = 180 tons of NH3 per year. The pay back time for a $1,500,000 2.5MW turbine project would be 47 years.
Here is but one example of how renewable energy can be used to complement ethanol production:

Take note that the producer/syngas can be used not just to replace NatGas in ethanol fermentation but also for the production of LTFs proper via thermo-chemical conversion.

It is these types of complimentary cogen technologies that myself (and Khosla) have stressed over and over as the evolution of 1st to 2nd to 3rd generation ETOH production paths that will lead to increased EROEI, higher yields and better 'green' performance.

I agree with others that the problem is horizon-to-horizon monoculture. There is also a parallel with the hydrogen debate in that it is better to move electrons, not materials.  If agriculture was done along more organic lines there would be less need for external nitrogen, such as requiring only small amounts of a phosphate, potash and urea (NPK) mixture.  Gaseous ammonia is a precursor to solid urea. As an alternative I suggest
  1. legume/clover rotations in  a patchwork pattern
  2. postharvest animal grazing to add manures
  3. small applications of urea based mixtures.

In Australia it is now quite difficult to buy ammonium nitrate if you are not a longtime customer. Let farmers use the electricity off the grid for household appliances and so forth.  
Excellent points.

Many decry the use of animals eating the forage on land that could be better suited to growing grain.

Fact is that IMO(always my opinion it seems) hoofed animals tend to create small pockets or depressions in the soil. These hold water and seed and allow for the regrowth or reseeding of grasslands and are therefore beneficial. The return manure as well which if spread with a chain harrow will allow the worm eggs to be destroyed by sunlight as well as making it a more even covering.

One needn't pen the cattle up and feed them corn to fatten them. A steer slaughtered at the proper age can be just as tasty and problably better for you. Besides with the right breeds you obtain dairy products AND a source of animal power. Our forefathers used cattle as draft animals. Slow but sure and very docile as well. No need for large supplies of leather to build harness with , just a wooden oxbow and a trace chain. No reins needed either.

IMO cattle ( I suggest Red Poll) can be a very good way to attain sustainability in the future to come.

Its sounds insane to todays society but it worked back then.

Oh yes and no need for 'wheels' ,,a sled worked quite well.
Doesn't do too well on concrete or asphalt.

Think about it. A low low tech solution. Where I live huge numbers of Amish and Memonites travel by buggy. You see them tied up outside SprawlMart and other places. These folks are survivalists.

Maybe this off topic but is it possible to install small wind turbines on every existing power(telephone) pole and put that power on the grid.

If it were possible it would be nice because you would only have to install the turbine portion of the windmill as the telephone pole (windmill support) infrastructure is already in place.

The problem with small wind turbines (and small towers) is that they are inefficient. Wind speed rises with altitude, because the wind closer to the ground is impeded by friction with the ground. The power available to a turbine varies with the cube of the wind speed, so a higher tower is far more efficient. And then the small turbines may have inefficient blades as well, further decreasing the efficiency.

A large 1.5MW wind turbine is around $1,000/kwh capacity. A small wind turbine might be $10,000/kwh. And this is before the capacity factor, which makes things worse.

There has been work doen that suggests that a mix of quite large (I think 3 MW) wind turbines mixed with smaller, shorter 600 kW WTs would extract more energy than big ones alone.

The study was on an uninhabited plain with 1:1 ratio large to small and 1:4 ratio large to small.  1:1 seemed to be more economic, but 1:4 extracted more energy/area.

In many real world cases, since WTs cannot be placed closer than the fall distance from human habitation, smaller WTs should be next habitation.

This is a real world problem on Prince Edward Island.  They are planning to install about every large WT they can on the island.  But so many newly built "starter palaces" (Canadian for McMansions) by part-time residents or retirees that want an ocean view are popping up that it is ruining plans.  I suggested, off hand, that they think about a mix of larger & smaller WTs.

That's interesting. It might be geometry-related ... it seems like a good energy extraction strategy would correspond to a (2-dimensional) sphere packing. If you have smaller turbines, you can put them into the gaps between larger turbines.

With turbines all the same size, you can do a hexagonal packing, but this gets expensive because some of the towers should be taller than others.

Did they use a CFD program to do the study? I'm interested in learning more about CFD so I can model wind turbines ... but if there's already a program available, that would be great. It seems that the effects of a turbine can be approximated reasonably well by a disc that just extracts some fraction (up to the Betz limit) of energy from the air.

The key issue is avoiding the downwind "wind shadow" as much as possible.  The packing is not of the WTs themselves, but packing their wind shadows.  There is an economic balance between infrastructure costs (wiring, access roads, etc.) which like close together WTs and the loss of energy production due to the wind shadow from the upwind WT on the downwind WT.
In more detail, if the land is flat, the wind speed varies according to the height, with speed cx^{1/7} at height x. That is, it's proportional to the one-seventh power.

Since energy varies according to the cube of the wind speed, this means that if the tower is 2^{7/3} (approximately 5) times as tall, the ratio of power available is 2^{7/3}^{3/7} = 2. That is, a tower 5 times as tall gives you twice the amount of power. That's before you expand the blade area.

Ethanol facility powered by renewable energy from dairy waste planned for Fair Oaks Dairy Farm in Indiana
June 20, 2006

FAIR OAKS, Ind. -- Bion Environmental Technologies and Fair Oaks Dairy Farms, the largest dairy east of the Mississippi River (27,000 cows) and an industry leader in efforts to find a solution to dairy environmental issues, today announced a joint venture that will enable environmentally sustainable expansion of animal agriculture in concert with ethanol production. Bion's patented animal waste technology supports the synergistic integration of ethanol production with animal agriculture by enabling herd concentration. Herd concentration both provides the scale needed to achieve the economically viable generation of renewable energy in support of ethanol production, and establishes a stable local market for the entire volume of produced co-product distiller grains without the need for drying.

Bion's technology platform provides sufficient renewable energy from the associated animal waste stream to produce ethanol absent any outside fuel source such as natural gas or coal, while it directly addresses the growing long-term risk to distiller grains revenues as those markets become increasingly saturated by the continued expansion of U.S. ethanol production. The result of Bion's unique integration of ethanol with animal agriculture is economic and environmental sustainability for both.

Early results indicate that implementation of Bion's patented and proprietary technology improves the net energy balance in the production of ethanol from corn from 1.4 to 1 up to 2.5 to 1.  In essence, Bion's technology platform utilizes the inherent energy value of the cellulosic component of the manure stream to improve both net energy value and margins in the production of ethanol.  

The integrated Bion platform incorporating ethanol production at Fair Oaks will be a balanced, closed-loop system that the company's research indicates will create sufficient renewable energy to support one million gallons of ethanol for every 1,000 dairy cows. "Based on Bion's ratio forecast between herd concentration and ethanol production, it appears that both heat energy and ethanol co-product can be in balance in an environmentally sustainable manner," according to John Ewen of Ardour Capital, an advisor to Bion.

The two-stage joint venture announced today provides for the construction of a research center in Stage One to determine the economic and environmental sustainability of utilizing sand bedding in conjunction with Bion's technology platform. Based upon that evaluation, Stage Two will include a Bion treatment system for Fair Oaks' dairy herd and potentially other local dairy herds, along with an ethanol plant of a size to be determined by the number of participating dairy animals. Stage I construction is expected to commence shortly; Stage II is projected to commence in 2007.

End products from the animal waste stream in Bion's proprietary system include renewable energy. and high-value biological solids to be marketed as either organic fertilizer or as a high-protein animal feed ingredient for other species.

Bion's implementation plan projects a number of dairies located within a geographic area, each with modular waste treatment facilities capable of handling the waste stream of 10,000 dairy cows or more. Renewable energy produced by the Bion technology platform will meet the natural gas requirements of an ethanol plant on a ratio of 1,000 dairy cows to one million gallons of ethanol production. This model will enable Bion to secure burner-tip (retail) values for the renewable energy produced, instead of wellhead (wholesale) values presently being achieved by anaerobic digesters and other renewable energy technologies focused on the animal waste market.

Expanded herd concentration directly resulting from the implementation of Bion's patented technology platform can lower capital costs while significantly improving operating margins of expanding or new ethanol facilities. Ethanol production sites will not require dryers, eliminating both the capital and the imbedded energy costs in the corn co-products. In addition, the ability to create a local herd in immediate proximity to the ethanol plant essentially eliminates the distiller grains marketing and revenue risk, reducing transportation costs and eliminating the requirement for natural gas in the site selection process. It will enable existing older plants and East Coast facilities to "create" markets for their ethanol co-product, and therefore to remain competitive with newer larger facilities in the Midwest.

I haven't read every post on this thread but hasn't someone pointed out the problems of high grain diets in cattle? Refer