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posted by martyb on Wednesday May 17, @07:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the growing-interest dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

The production of one of the key raw materials for fertilizer, ammonia (NH3) or nitrogen oxide (NOx), is a very energy-intensive process that is responsible for about 2% of all global CO2 emissions. However, it is hardly possible any longer to cut the energy consumption via current production processes since the theoretically minimal feasible energy consumption has already been more or less reached.

So the Indian PhD candidate [Bhaskar S.] Patil sought alternative methods to produce ammonia and nitrogen oxides for his PhD research, building two types of reactor, the Gliding Arc (GA) reactor and the Dielectric Barrier Discharge (DBD) reactor. In his experiments the GA reactor in particular appeared to be the most suited to producing nitrogen oxides. In this reactor, under atmospheric pressure, a plasma-front (a kind of mini lightning bolt) glides between two diverging metal surfaces, starting with a small opening (2 mm) to a width of 5 centimeters. This expansion causes the plasma to cool to room temperature. During the trajectory of the 'lightning', the nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (O2) molecules react in the immediate vicinity of the lightning front to nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2).

Patil optimized this reactor and at a volume of 6 liters per minute managed to achieve an energy consumption level of 2.8 MJ/mole, quite an improvement on the commercially developed methods that use approximately 0.5 MJ/mole. With the theoretical minimum of Patil's reactor, however, being that much lower (0.1 MJ/mole), in the long term this plasma technique could be an energy-efficient alternative to the current energy-devouring ammonia and nitrate production. An added benefit is that Patil's method requires no extra raw materials and production can be generated on a small scale using renewable energy, making his technique ideally suited for application in remote areas that have no access to power grids, such as parts of Africa, for instance.

[...] Apart from use at remote farms, this technique can also be used to stimulate the growth of plants in greenhouses and to store sustainable energy in liquid fuels.

The PhD research of Patil was financially supported by the EU MAPSYN consortium.


Original Submission

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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @07:26PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @07:26PM (#511316)

    Weaponize nitrogen in the air! DEATH to AMERICA. Allaluhu Akbarri! Lah lah lah lah lah lah lah!1Q!!

    Die all infidel scum!

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday May 17, @07:28PM (11 children)

    by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 17, @07:28PM (#511318) Journal

    I produce fertilizer when I pee. It's free. Also, I can do other things while my body processes water and waste to produce it, so it's better than free.

    Can I get a grant?

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.
    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Wednesday May 17, @07:30PM (4 children)

      by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday May 17, @07:30PM (#511321) Journal

      How many megaton per day do you pee? :P

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @07:49PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @07:49PM (#511330)

        Gigaton when I mix coffee and prune juice.

      • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday May 17, @08:26PM (2 children)

        by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 17, @08:26PM (#511356) Journal

        I'd say about one, but I wind up drinking half of it again because "it's sterile, and I like the taste."

        --
        Washington DC delenda est.
        • (Score: 2) by Bot on Thursday May 18, @07:03AM

          by Bot (3902) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 18, @07:03AM (#511573)

          My reasoning would be like: "If my body flushes it, there is probably a good reason not to introduce it back". But, whatever works for you peebag :)

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @12:32PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @12:32PM (#511660)

          While that is true (it's filtered for pathogens), it's full of salts.
          Drinking salt water for any amount of time will screw you up.

          The ship that delivered the A-bomb to Tinian was sunk on its return trip.
          No one was keeping track of it and the hundreds of survivors were left in the water for days in extreme heat (and in shark-infested waters).

          Some couldn't stand the thirst any more and drank seawater. [google.com]
          That didn't go well.
          First they went nuts then their other bodily systems shut down.

          In a survival situation, you can recycle your pee with great efficiency using a solar-powered distillery. [google.com]

          -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @08:49PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @08:49PM (#511378)

      The way we think of human waste as "waste" is, in a word, wasteful.

      For starters, Toilets Don't Need To Use Water [counterpunch.org]
      Composting our "waste" and recycling it as fertilizer is a solution that many have found.

      Composting Toilets Have Been Viable For Decades (They Cut Household Water Usage By 40 percent) [googleusercontent.com] (orig) [alternet.org]

      -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @06:48AM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @06:48AM (#511567)

        Can someone explain how this would work in my apartment block?

        • (Score: 2) by kazzie on Thursday May 18, @07:23AM

          by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 18, @07:23AM (#511579)

          I'd tell you, but you'd just say my explanation was a pile of shit.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @10:49AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @10:49AM (#511627)

          A Guide to Composting Toilets [motherearthliving.com]

          A composting toilet has a place to sit, a composting chamber, and a drying tray. Most models combine all three elements in a single enclosure, although some models have separate seating, with the composting chamber installed in the basement or under the house. In either case, the drying tray is positioned under the composting chamber, and some sort of removable finishing drawer is supplied to carry off the finished product.

          Image search [google.com]

          -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @06:51AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @06:51AM (#511569)

      I detect bullshit.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @07:01AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @07:01AM (#511572)

      Seriously, is there any reason why pee is not repurposed as fertilizer? if you think because ITS GROSS, think again what earth is made of.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by kaszz on Wednesday May 17, @07:28PM

    by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday May 17, @07:28PM (#511319) Journal

    managed to achieve an energy consumption level of 2.8 MJ/mole, quite an improvement on the commercially developed methods that use approximately 0.5 MJ/mole

    How can using more energy be better?
    And how do they go from NO and NO2 into solid fertilizer?

    Anyway.. This could be a use case for excess wind and solar production.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by bob_super on Wednesday May 17, @07:32PM (1 child)

    by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday May 17, @07:32PM (#511322)

    > achieve an energy consumption level of 2.8 MJ/mole, quite an improvement on the commercially developed methods that use
    > approximately 0.5 MJ/mole. With the theoretical minimum of Patil's reactor, however, being that much lower (0.1 MJ/mole),

    Methinks using more energy isn't an improvement. The new lower theoretical value is.

    > making his technique ideally suited for application in remote areas that have no access to power grids, such as parts of Africa, for instance

    O the irony!
    Being a PhD from India, using Africa as an example of a place with underdeveloped corners is ... interesting.

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @08:05PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @08:05PM (#511338)

      Being a PhD from India, using Africa as an example of a place with underdeveloped corners is ... interesting.

      Outsourcing - heading the world off Strip Date:Jul 18, 2003
      Chief, Greg, Smiling man, tribal warrior
      -
      Chief: Say again? Smiling man went where?
      Greg: He heard all about the offshore outsourcing going on in I.T. So he went of to interview some cheaper tech labour.

      Chief: But where did he go? And is he aware that countries that originally had cheap tech labour are losing out to other countries with cheaper techs?
      Greg: He did say something about "heading the world off at the pass."

      Smiling man: Just say it! "Please reboot your machine" and you are hired.
      Tribal warrior (thinking): huh?

      http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20030718

  • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday May 17, @08:05PM

    by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 17, @08:05PM (#511339) Journal

    People struggle to produce NOx? I think Volkswagen has a solution. ;-)

    --
    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @08:26PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @08:26PM (#511355)

    For a while, folks were trying to use plasma to treat diesel exhaust to reduce the NOx emissions. [google.com]
    As the focus went to cleaner fuels and electric vehicles, the funding for NOx research dried up.

    -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

  • (Score: 2) by halcyon1234 on Wednesday May 17, @08:39PM (1 child)

    by halcyon1234 (1082) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 17, @08:39PM (#511363)
    I knew the US had some shitty air, but... (freeze frame, pause for laugh track)
    --
    Original Submission [thedailywtf.com]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @08:52PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @08:52PM (#511381)

      Of course the American air is shitty when we have so many tech workers shitting in the street.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @09:48PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @09:48PM (#511412)

    We used to do just this. It's easy, and there are youtube videos for it. Build a "Jacob's ladder" out of copper pipe, put it in a container, pump air in via one pipe, let the air coming out the other pipe bubble through water, and there you go. That makes nitric acid.

    We ditched it for the Haber process many decades ago.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @10:22PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, @10:22PM (#511427)

      Everything old is millennial again.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @01:56AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @01:56AM (#511497)

      I came to say the same thing about the Haber process. The 5x is theoretical. A quick search on Wikipedia says the Birkeland process would yield 15MWH/Ton of 4% nitric acid. It's been awhile but I'll try it... by weight % that means 15MWH/0.04Ton NO3, at 64g/mol it works out to roughly 92MJ/mol (mega, not kilo). So this might not be better but it does appear to be a giant leap for chemicals from air.
         

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @04:18AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, @04:18AM (#511537)

      The brute-force method wastes a lot of energy.
      You want non-thermal plasma.

      The way to do this efficiently is to have a very tall but very narrow pulse (sub 100nsec) and a low duty cycle (~20usec period).
      The work is done on the leading edge of the pulse and the faster you can shut it off after reaching the peak, the better.

      A purpose-built reaction cell is another good idea.

      -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

      • (Score: 2) by YeaWhatevs on Thursday May 18, @10:34AM

        by YeaWhatevs (5623) on Thursday May 18, @10:34AM (#511625)

        I looked up the paper (no thanks to TFA), and I shows a picture of their custom built reaction chamber and quite a bit of theory and empirical data. Assuming you got the increased efficiency plasma right, we need more experimentation to say it leads to increased efficiency in the overall yield of the chemical reaction. Knowing that N2 is a triple bond that requires a lot of energy to break gives me enough pause to think it might not be that easy.

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