Screen name "humble mechanic" about another poster he considers to be arrogant: "Would he listen to the Almighty? Maybe, if His approach was suitably humble."

## Friday, November 29, 2013

### Ack! ANOTHER "capture the energy of walking/driving" system

I really don't want to turn this blog into a debunking site but some things just must be said. Here I described a completely impractical system for "capturing energy from pedestrians." And now we find an article from Science Daily about Mexican entrepreneur Héctor Ricardo Macías Hernández, pictured at left, who's developed yet another system for capturing energy from passing traffic - vehicular or pedestrian.

It apparently consists of a traffic wearing surface that sits five centimeters above street or sidewalk level. Passing traffic squeezes a bellows, compressing air into a tank (the linked article says "...where it is compressed..." but I don't imagine that that's accurate) from which it is expanded into a turbine to generate electricity.

Think about it. Your engine (either that of your vehicle or of your metabolism) is squeezing air into a tank. This work will reduce your gas mileage (or use your food energy) as your vehicle or your feet do the work of compression. There is no free lunch here. I'm surprised to see it in Science Daily which, although it is sometimes prone to exaggeration, usually doesn't publish nonsense.

There are no figures given, either in the Science Daily article or the articles linked from there, so I don't know what kind of traffic would be claimed to generate what kind of power. But I do know that, whatever the amount generated, it would be more efficient to burn natural gas in a turbine. Both vehicular internal combustion engines and human metabolisms are inefficient and compressing air is a lossy process. I'd love to see figures for this but it's yet another candidate for my prospective Greenwashing Hall of Fame. Yes, I know that the term "greenwashing" is typically applied to deceptive ad campaigns but I think it's equally applicable to deceptive products.

Update: In thinking about it, I suppose that one could concoct a scenario wherein a developing country with few energy resources would rather have the "rich" who own cars spend some of their energy (i.e., gasoline or diesel) purchase on providing energy for township than purchase natural gas, oil, or coal and then charge the poor residents for the electricity or pay for the fuel with taxes. But even there, better a gasoline tax with the proceeds used to pay for more efficient energy generation.

### Solar panels on a truck?

I took my family to the LA Auto Show yesterday. Despite studies and articles contending that young people today are not so attached to automobiles, my son is absolutely captivated by them. He knows the makes and models, what he'd like, how he'd modify it, etc. I knew he'd have a great time and he did. I wanted to see developments in electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids (PHEV), etc., both production and concept.

I noted a pickup truck with a tonneau cover consisting of a solar panel and wondered about its practicality. Neither the Via Vtrux pickup (a series PHEV) nor the SolTrux panel option are in production, which is anticipated for 2014. It's a nice looking truck.

But is the solar panel practical? I have a Jeep pickup into which I've installed a 32 gallon water tank and other items designed to let me be self-sustaining in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Great Basin deserts of the Southwest. Where better to capture the sun?

So what are the appropriate numbers? We'd like to have battery capacity, dimensions and efficiency of the solar panels, and the claimed output. Here we find that the battery pack is 22 kWh. The dimensions of the panel array aren't given. but the standard bed is 78.7" long. The width isn't given but might be 65". The larger panel is stated to be 800 watts.

I see here that, in March (about average) I can expect on the order of 5 kWh/(m^-2*day) (kilowatt hours per square meter per day) for a panel mounted horizontally as it would be on a tonneau cover or roof rack. If I assume that the panels are 72" X 60", or 2.8 m^2 they should intercept 2.8*5 14 kWh per day. At 20% efficiency, I should get (surprise) 2.8 kWh/day. Assuming that I'd never let the battery pack below 20% charge, it would take 17.6/2.8 or a bit over 6 days to fully charge the battery. And the 22 kWh is represented to be good for 35 miles (though my desert miles are VERY hard on energy use). At that ratio, a day's worth of sunshine would take me (2.8/17.6)*35 or about 6 miles and probably a lot less in the rugged terrain where I'd be operating.

I suppose that, were I (through incredible stupidity or possibly a punctured fuel tank) out of gas and stranded, I could drive six miles per day for however many days it took to get to civilization (a very long way from the places I go). The fact of the matter is that it simply takes a lot of square meters to provide significant power. Verdict? NOT worth the estimated $3,000 price for the panels. ## Saturday, November 23, 2013 ### Embarrassed to be conservative - a (sadly) continuing series And yet, within MY definition and one that I will defend, I still am. 'via Blog this' ### A digression - should interest in sci fi be a qualifier for gifted programs? Since my blog muse has, hopefully temporarily, abandoned me and my calculations regarding the energetic plausibility of carbon dioxide sequestration via carbonate minerals is taking much more time and effort than I'd anticipated, I'm going to go completely outside any subject space I've dealt with. As a youngster, I read a LOT of Isaac Asimov's writing. While Asimov is very well known for his science fiction, I read none of it. What I read were his essays, which covered such an amazing breadth of topics that it's hard to believe that a single individual could do it. However, one that I read rankled. Asimov was clearly a prodigy and, back in my youth, some regarded me as such. All that ever interested me was science and math and I was fortunate enough to attend a progressive (in the academic rather than the political sense) school. I was accelerated, I was offered training in scientific investigation, and I was offered the opportunity to choose what I studied, at least to an extent (I managed to squander most of this advantage upon reaching college but that's a story for another time). But Asimov wrote an essay (I can't find it but remember it distinctly) suggesting that school children be assessed for accelerated learning or "gifted" (a label sometimes applied to me) programs based on their level of interest in science fiction. I found it then and find it now to have been pretty self-serving and self-aggrandizing for such an otherwise objective thinker. I started both Asimov's "I, Robot" and his "Foundation" series and finished none of the stories, finding them much less interesting than reading and studying science and mathematics. I could likely count the science fiction stories I've read on the fingers of a hand (and I wouldn't need the thumb). I read "The Hobbit" and found it quite boring, and made it through two and a half of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (at Northwestern University in the early '70s, at least in my circles, it was a scarlet letter offense not to have read these - I had a fraternity friend who prided himself on reading the entire trilogy every year). Halfway through the third novel, I concluded that "this sucks, I'm reading it only because I'm supposed to" and put it down, never to complete it. Yes, I realize that Tolkien's works are fantasy rather than science fiction but I'm sticking with the point. What point is that? It's not really clear, but it's a rant I've kept inside for decades. The trailers for "The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug" are popping up and brought it to mind. I've not seen any of the previous Tolkien adaptations (for the matter of that, I saw the original "Star Wars" in 1977 and have seen none of the prequels or sequels). I did watch all of "Star Trek" and some "Star Trek TNG" so I guess I'm not completely immune, but these shows could almost as well have been done as westerns! In any case, I'm not at all sure that Asimov's razor (as I'll call it) would be the appropriate metric for determining the suitability of elementary school students for gifted programs (assuming such programs still exist in this day of No Child Left Behind-based teaching to the test). I'm sure it's a reflection of both my ego and my ability to hold a grudge that an essay I read, probably, over 40 years ago still causes resentment but perhaps this post will allow me to finally let it go! ## Saturday, November 02, 2013 ### Sterling Allan's "Aviation 2.0"  Image credit: peswiki.com I've frequently been critical and even sarcastically critical of Sterling Allan and his endless credulous touting of "free exotic energy" schemes and buy-in to every tin foil hat conspiracy theory out there (9/11 truth, Obama birther, chemtrails, "disappearing" of energy innovators, ad infinitum) and I'll likely continue to be so. But just because Sterling believes it, it isn't necessarily false. Allan is now engaged in promoting, both on his multitude of sites and on the crowdfunding site indiegogo, what he represents to be an amazing breakthrough in internal combustion engine technology. The concept being discussed is the "MYT" ("Massive Yet Tiny") engine, invented by Raphial Morgado. The specifications are impressive, particularly with respect to delivered power to weight ratio and the workings of the engine are clever. Below is an animation. A hand-cranked mockup from the Los Angeles Auto Show makes the workings fairly clearly: Because each piston fires twice in each crankshaft rotation and there are four pistons on each of two disks, there are 16 power strokes per crankshaft rotation. And the key to lots of power is burning lots of fuel in a short amount of time. In this lengthy article, Allan gives a fair amount of information and a couple of documents comparing the MYT to existing ICE (internal combustion engine) technology. In particular, I'd like to look at the Angel Flight PackTM. This implementation is claimed to enable the "jet pack" capabilities that have been spoken of for decades and whose success has been marginal at best. The impediment has been the need for large amounts of fuel and a heavy engine limiting the flight durations to seconds rather than hours or even minutes. Below is a comparison spec sheet from Morgado between his Angel Flight Pack and the Martin Jetpack (possibly the most highly developed such device): The key figures are fuel burn at 3 gallons per hour (vs. the 10 gph of the Martin Jetpack) and the fuel capacity of 1.5 gallons (vs. the 5 gallons of the Martin Jetpack), the gross weight of 290 pounds (vs. the 533 pounds of the Martin Jetpack), and the engine weight of 25 pounds (vs. the 125 pounds of the Martin Jetpack). Maximum thrust for each engine is quoted as greater than 600 pounds. So, with my 170 pounds (coincidentally the precise weight of an FAA "average adult") plus the pack, the takeoff weight is 170 pounds of payload plus 9 pounds of fuel and 25 pounds of engine, totalling 204 pounds. This is 86 pounds below the gross weight, I'm good to go. Even if I carry 25 pounds in some sort of bag, a flight suit, and a parachute, I'm still good to go. With this, Morgado claims that I can travel 100 miles at an altitude of 5,000 feet and (elsewhere in the article) a speed of 62 m.p.h. Interestingly, elsewhere in the article, Allan quotes 45 pounds for the engine weight. There's no indication of the nature of the flight controls, but I assume that it's some combination of body position and thrust vectoring. Let's see what we can figure out. The basics of straight and level, unaccelerated flight are: thrust=drag and lift=weight. Using the usual numbers for Cd, and the other pertinent factors, the drag force can be calculated as about 259 Nt or about 58 pounds. Lift will be, of course, the 230 pounds or so of me plus engine plus fuel plus accessories and baggage. Since there are no wings to produce lift, all of the forces will be supplied by the engine. This number will be the vector sum of 230 pounds of lift and 58 pounds of thrust, or $\sqrt {{230}^{2}+{58}^{2}}=237$ pounds. And thrust (force, that is) times speed is equal to power so we're looking at (calculation and unit conversions available on request) about 38 horsepower. It's unimaginable to me that someone would actually climb to 5,000 feet in this rig, at least to commute. But let's say I climb to 1,500 feet to clear buildings, etc. I'd use about 470,000 joules to do so (calculations available upon request). I'll assume that the MYT engine has an efficiency of 30% at full power (generous) so I'd need 1,410,000 joules of thermal energy from burning fuel. This is about 0.01 gallons so I'll neglect it. Next, 38 horsepower is 28,300 joules per second or about 102 million joules/hour. Again, assuming we burn fuel and provide thrust at 30% efficiency, this means we'd burn fuel to attain 102 million/0.3 or 340 million joules of heat energy. It appears that the engine runs on kerosene (diesel fuel) whose heat of combustion is about 142 million joules per gallon. So we're burning 340/142 or 2.4 gallons per hour. Note that this is actually slightly LESS than claimed by Morgado, a tendency toward conservative claims that's rarely seen in the world of promoting breakthrough inventions. I'll use my number. Thus, the 1.5 gallons will last about 37.5 minutes and provide an empty tank range of 37.5 miles (we're traveling at a mile per minute). I don't know about Mr. Allan or Mr. Morgado, but I don't want to burn my last ounce of fuel and then parachute to the ground, so I'd probably limit my range to 30 miles or so. But, all that said, it's still not out of the realm of practicality. And there's sufficient capacity to add another several gallons of fuel. Many other claims of uses for the engine design are made, up to and including "flying cargo ships," I'd encourage the reader to take a look. I don't know if the engine actually works, what its durability and reliability are, what problems might arise in such a configuration, etc. but I don't think that Sterling Allan is wholly out in left field on this one. I'm going to stay tuned. Update: To GRLCowan and others, yes, I know I owe an update on sequestration via carbonate minerals. It's being worked on (honest) but I'm having to learn and relearn a LOT. Update 2: While I can't find photos or sketches showing the configuration of the Angel Flight Pack, and Allan talks on occasion in discussing the MYT engine of "turbines," I speculate that the MYT engine is driving a ducted fan in the Angel Flight Pack consideration. Such a thrust producer may operate at an efficiency of something like 75% to 80%, so the 2.4 gallons per hour I mentioned should be divided by 0.75 or 0.8 to yield 3.2 gallons per hour to 3.0 gallons per hour, right at the number claimed by Morgado. Thus, the empty tank range is likely 30 miles or so (without installing additional fuel capacity) and I'd hold it to 25 miles. The breakthrough characteristic is the ability to burn a lot of fuel in a short time in a small overall volume and consequent low weight. This characteristic would increase in value as the engine increases in size. I'm tentatively (assuming the considerations I mentioned above, such as durability, reliability, etc. are favorable) a fan of the engine. Update 3: Here is an extensive article and lots of informed commentary on the MYT engine and earlier examples of the "swing piston" design. It's pretty clear that, at best, there are many problems to be overcome - in particular, heat dissipation and sealing. Whether the MYT engine can be successfully produced and brought to market is questionable at best. That said, IF a power plant with the characteristics claimed by Morgado can be produced, I'd contend that the "Angel Flight Pack" is possible. ## Thursday, October 17, 2013 ### Blog host ethics Certainly there are no laws on the ethics of hosting/publishing a blog and there are all manner of blogs out there. Some thrive on flame wars, insult hurling, etc. and do no moderation. Others are moderated strictly and say so up front. Still others, though, represent that they welcome open dialogue but moderate comments that disagree with the host's point of view. In my opinion, this is or should be in violation of what I'd consider to be a "blog publisher code of ethics." The case in point involved a blog to which I linked from mine up until yesterday. It's published by Mark Chu-Carroll ("MarkCC") who publishes "Good Math Bad Math." This blog covers quite a few things that are of interest to me, among which are computer science, math and physics crackpottery, (lately) probability, and others. MarkCC also discusses recipes, music, and other eclectica. But MarkCC will also delve into social issues and clearly comes from an extremely liberal viewpoint. That's all well and good and I certainly respect his right to hold, promote, and publish his point of view, though I frequently disagree. Yesterday, MarkCC published a post entitled "It's easy not to harass women." And while I agreed with some of what he wrote and with some of the comments, I hold a contrary point of view on a few of the things. In particular, it's my opinion that the legal, legislative and administrative machinery make it all too easy for opportunists to hold employers, institutions, etc. hostage with the threat of lawsuits over things that may rightly be considered offensive or not even that. Careers, families, etc. are ruined in response to perceived slights using a regulatory schema that rightly seeks to protect (most commonly but certainly not exclusively) women from reprehensible conduct such as the "casting couch," offer of career advancement or employment in return for sexual favors, and other such clearly actionable conduct. This happens despite the fact that no harassment or sexual innuendo was intended. I do not speak hypothetically. And, frankly, unwelcome sexual innuendo should be handled without lawsuits and without destroying people. And, let there be no doubt, this is neither to condone such behavior nor to suggest that there are no behaviors that merit the full legal arsenal. On MarkCC's site, I left several comments. None were vulgar, extreme, or confrontational. None were of an ad hominem nature. But, after the first couple of comments and literally in the middle of discussion threads, my comments disappeared without notice or explanation. In fact, a reply to one my purged comments was left so that the subsequent comment was replying to a comment that was no longer there. Now, can MarkCC do this? Obviously, since he did, he can. Should he be able to? Absolutely and unequivocally, yes. Do I think it's ethical or right? I do not. My respect for Mark has declined precipitously. Am I writing this in "revenge?" Heavens no, I doubt that MarkCC will ever know that I wrote it and I doubt that his commenters and readers will ever see it, his readership is much larger than mine. But I did want to "get it on the table" and assure my readership that, if it's not spam and it doesn't make a threat, all comments at my site will stay. Even if they insult me personally (which some have). ## Sunday, September 29, 2013 ### Farewell to The Oil Drum  Graphic credit: TheOilDrum.com For those interested in a holistic understanding of our energy predicament from an educated and technically savvy point of view, there are a variety of sources of data (BP supplies two of them, the U.S. Energy Information Agency, EIA, is another), there are many blogs devoted almost entirely to energy (some are linked in the blog roll to the right of this post), and many more that touch on the topic. But occupying a unique place among those who study energy and especially fossil fuels was The Oil Drum. The last post in this amazing resource was made on September 22, 2013, and the site is now an archive of the incredibly deep, varied, and informed discussion that has comprised the site's content since April, 2005. It will be a valuable resource for years to come. The Oil Drum's demise has been described by its editors as being due to "a dwindling number of contributors" and high costs (both in terms of time and money). Unsurprisingly, those who believe in the fairy tale that the free market can create an infinite supply of a finite resource trumpeted this development as indicative of the capitulation of the "peak oil fanatics" to the technological and financial developments that will always and inevitably overcome resource scarcity. Without getting into a deep discussion of what "peak oil" really means, suffice it to say that it predicts a plateau and then a decline in the rate (yes, rate) at which oil can be extracted as we exhaust the easiest and cheapest sources first and then the progressively more difficult and expensive sources. All this transpires in the face of increasing world wide demand and massive growth in demand from developing nations. The free market "true believers" (and I lean in this direction but am willing to be flexible in the face of data) believe that price will solve all problems of both source and rate. The chart below indicates otherwise (data from the BP site linked above). While oil prices have multiplied ten-fold since 1976 (albeit in nominal$, but see below), production has risen by a bit under 30% in the face of ever growing demand in the developing nations, especially China.

Update: Dan took me to task in a comment for only showing nominal crude price. I've added an inflation adjusted price using CPI-U data. The inflation adjusted price has risen 116% while production has risen 30%.

Learned discussion by knowledgeable experts at The Oil Drum of the technical, economic, and political aspects of energy availability (not at all limited to crude oil) will be sorely missed. While the thoughts and writings of many of the regular contributors to The Oil Drum can be found elsewhere (and links to many of their blogs and web sites are available at the final post of The Oil Drum) and the articles and comments archived for use, the lively discussions are irreplaceable.

Farewell to the site and to its participants!

## Saturday, September 21, 2013

### Looking into the CT200H mileage trends

What with work and family, sometimes I don't have as much time as I'd like to devote to authoring posts. And some of them take a significant amount of time. In this case, I've made a couple of posts regarding the the possibility of sequestering CO2 from power plants in carbonate rocks, pavers, bricks, etc. I still owe my audience an analysis of this process in terms of energetics and economics. Those are taking some time.

In the mean time, I want to take a look at some of the data from my records of mileage in the Lexus CT200h that's my daily driver. To the left is a plot of the mileage at each fill-up since my acquisition of the car. It raises some questions.

Of course, the very low and very high numbers are related to the profile of driving done during the applicable tank. The lowest, for example, involved climbing into the mountains above Los Angeles for an outing with my son.

But I noted a trend, beginning at the end of the third quarter of 2012 and extending to the end of the first quarter of 2013, of declining mileage. I took the vehicle in for scheduled service in mid-March and told the service crew about the declining fuel economy. When they returned the car, they said they'd checked all applicable parameters in the fuel delivery system, the engine control unit, etc. and found no anomalies and adjusted nothing. But the mileage increased noticeably and is still appearing to be on that upward trend.

Now, to the best of my ability, I always drive in the same way (much to the frustration of my passengers - those who will still ride with me anyway - and the vehicles that share that road with me). And, to the extent possible, I try to always purchase gasoline from the same station. Assuming that it's not related to my route or driving techniques, what could explain it?

One possibility is "winter blend" vs. "summer blend" gasoline. In summer, particularly in California, refiners must use gasoline blends with lower vapor pressure to minimize vaporization due to warmer temperatures (and more driving). In winter, refiners add butane to blends because it's cheaper (thereby partially explaining winter's lower gas prices) and the higher vapor pressure of butane containing blends isn't as harmful due to the lower temperatures and lesser total vehicle miles driven. And butane has a lower specific energy content, thus possibly explaining my reduced fuel economy.

Is there such an annual "signal" in my fuel economy data? I've got 90 data points, and so ran a Fast Fourier Transform of the data. Such a process is used to transform data from the "time domain" (as in a time series) to the frequency domain (showing periodic components in the data). If the winter/summer blend switch, which happens annually, is a significant part of the fuel economy changes I've noted, my theory is that such periodicity should appear in the frequency domain. If you squint, you can even convince yourself that it's there - lower in winter and higher in summer.

Alas, there's no such peak apparent in the Fourier Transform. It's back to the drawing board. I can't imagine that the dealer fixed  or adjusted something and didn't charge me for it!

## Saturday, September 07, 2013

### Can we use the carbonate "rocks" from carbon sequestration?

 Photo credit: Construction Consulting and Testing
In my previous post, I discussed the launch of a pilot plant by a group of entities with the goal of sequestering COin manufactured carbonates that would subsequently be used in construction. These uses may include bricks, aggregates, pavers, etc. Of course, even were the CO2 not used, it's better to have it in an inert mineral material than contributing to radiative forcing in the atmosphere. I suppose that any unsold inventory could simply be dumped. But what about a market?

The claim I mentioned in the previous post was that 50 plants could sequester a gigatonne of CO2. The veracity of the claim aside, what would this mean? For a start, how much rock is represented by converting a gigatonne of carbon dioxide to calcium carbonate (CO2 + CaO  CaCO3), or possibly magnesium carbonate (CO2 + MgO → MgCO3)?  As an aside, it should be noted that these are EXTREMELY simplistic versions of the actual production reactions. A paper giving technical details is available here. Anyway, the molar weight of COis 44 grams, the molar weight of CaCOis 100 grams. Thus, converting a gigatonne of carbon dioxide would produce (100/44)*1 billion tonnes, or 2.27 gigatonnes. The same calculation for MgCOyields 1.92 gigatonnes. Let's call it 2 gigatonnes. Of course, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to convert this to cement (!) so what's the demand for bricks and aggregate worldwide?

What is typically thought of when "brick" is mentioned is the iconic red clay brick. These are usually formed by an extrusion process of pulverized clay materials mixed with water. The most common result is a brick of length 4", height 2 1/4", and depth of 4" weighing 2.7 kg. A similar volume of calcium carbonate weighs 3.20 kg, and of magnesium carbonate, 3.49 kg.  A gigatonne is 1000 kilograms, so 2 gigatonnes is 2 trillion ($2*10^{12}$) kg. I'll use 3.3 kg to determine that 606 billion bricks could be manufactured. The best information I was able to find says that around "seven to nine billion" bricks per year are used.

OK, can't use it all in brick, what about aggregate? This site estimates that demand for construction aggregate worldwide is on the order of 26 gigatonnes. Clearly, this is where the manufactured carbonates are best used. And, it would seem, there is sufficient demand. In fact, working backward, 26 gigatonnes of calcium carbonate aggregate would absorb 13 gigatonnes of CO2, about 40% of our annual emission. And, one would assume, as emissions rise with a growing developing nations economy, so would aggregate demand. If it works, I like it!

There are two further considerations: energetics and economics. After all, if the energy required to manufacture the carbonates is excessive, particularly if it involves fossil fuel energy, there's a problem. And if the cost is too high, it won't matter about demand because it won't be purchased (unless, of course, carbon is taxed or credited in such a way as to balance the price).

I may or may not be able to get a handle on the economics but I should be able to nail down the energetics. I'll do that in my next post.