Tag Archive: Lithium

Antimatter: The Real Giant Leap

One Small Step for Man, one Giant Leap For Mankind

When Armstrong said those words (except I missed out the ‘a’), it looked like men & women would be walking tall on all sorts of astronomical bodies in a continuation of the Apollo programme.  As we no know, things didn’t quite work out like that though, and the Moon is still the only place we’ve been except our dear Earth – although unmanned and earth-based exploration continues in great leaps and bounds.

CERN Makes Antimatter Last

But although announced with a small fanfare, the news that CERN has made antimatter atoms in the form of anti-hydrogen last for getting on for half a second made me blink twice.  See BBC News item here.

It’s my guess that this is the real “small leap for mankind” that will eventually lead to the real “giant leap”.

We are now talking the Star Trek language that everyone understands;  antimatter, containment fields, annihilation.  Soon we’ll have dilithium crystals and the stock market to sell them in!

Consequences of Antimatter Creation

But seriously, it’s one hell of a leap.  The big puzzle is why matter (and thus ourselves because we are made of it), is here.

Why is there any of it, anyway?

… …  because in every experiment that we’ve done, matter and antimatter cancel each other out!    Exactly!

So the physical laws that we’ve invented or discovered, right back to the Big Bang, all say that we should not be here.  Any of us.

Current physics says that our universe  should only contain the energy from the mutual annihilation of matter & antimatter.  But there is also matter, which is tightly rolled up bits of energy….

Self-evidently, we are here, which means that matter had a slight excess over anti-matter just after the Big Bang.

So I think that somewhere within the physics of our creation of antimatter, lies the answer to the matter/antimatter conundrum, of that I’m sure.

We’ve made a few atoms so far and watched them annihilate with matter on contact.  The next steps will be to make and keep zillions indefinitely until they are needed.  What for?

Starships perhaps?


Now suppose we make these starships.  Our current selves are very destructive, both towards our environment and ourselves.

  • We live on our Earth, us in the West consuming like locusts while those less well off try a rapid catch-up.
  • We have never had a year without a major loss of life through conflict, disease or other disaster.

In short, though we may well have the technology and explorative urge for interstellar travel in the future, our present state of intense animality leaves us unsuited to such endeavours.  It’s unlikely that any expedition would arrive at its destination intact.  They’d self-destruct.  It’s what people do.

We must change ourselves before we can aspire change our location in the universe, or else our present location (the Earth), will be a blackened desert.  Un-departable.

Soka Gakkai

Today is exactly  the 80th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai.

It’s a Buddhist organisation with its philosophy wrapped up in its name of  “Value Creation Society“.

Let us all use three words as tenets, a true mantra for a civilised survival on Earth for generations to come.

When the time arrives for the Earth’s ultimate destruction, if we haven’t made a “Value Creation Society” that would allow our escape, then we are quite simply, stuffed.

So join the millions of Soka Gakkai Buddhists today as they celebrate their inheritance from one man, then another and another.

Makiguchi was his name and he died for his principles in a Japanese gaol in 1944.  He and his disciple Toda were hounded by the animality of the times and only Toda was left at the end of WW2.

From him, and then Ikeda, the Soka Gakkai  owes its existence, and we all need such principles if the magic of antimatter creation and containment is to mean anything in the future.  It’s a truly wonderful thing.

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Humphrey Hawksley and the Chip Fat Conundrum

Humphrey Hawksley in an article on today’s BBC News website has reported the (blindingly obvious, some might say) results of a 25-year American study into the effects of air pollution (specifically vehicle and industrial) on life expectancy.

City air pollution ‘shortens life’

Basically, it’s bad!

I live next to an A-class road, busy with holiday makers on this warm bank holiday day off to the West Country.  I know it’s bad!  They all pass my house.

The article is very well written except for right at the end, where somehow Hawksley has been suckered into a ‘trend’ sort of spiel.  Either that, or some young office bod, equally blinded by the ‘trend’, has amended his copy.

Specifically, it’s the very last paragraphs which go;

Over the next generation, however, it’s expected that pollution, especially that created by dangerous diesel particles, will be cut dramatically.   Standard filters are now being fitted to buses. Bio-fuels and cleaner energy in general, brought about by climate change pressures, will make the air safer.

I’ve emphasised the offending words.  While notionally appearing good, this is far, far, from the case.  Bio-fuels, mostly sold as vegetable oils (a.k.a. chip fat) in this country, are just as particulate polluting as diesel.  They chuck out exactly the same CO2 and the other stuff as well.  To state the obvious, burning them in the same way as diesel fuel will cut life expectancy in the same way.  It’s only the use of filters that improves things.

Furthermore, bio-fuels have been totally discredited as a major fuel source by everyone except George Bush et al since the Bush era.  In simple terms (and ignoring the plus point that it’s a carbon-neutral fuel), there isn’t enough land area on the world to grow enough biomass to power the USA, let alone the rest of the world.  (see my earlier posting, fuel-costs-red-herrings for some further reading and links).  We must be ever-so-careful not to lump all the different ‘green’ technologies into one panacea and state things that are clearly proven to be bollox.

This isn’t to state that bio-fuels are all bad.  No, it’s just the current implementation of using food soya and palm oil monoculture to the detriment of the world’s forests and human food needs.  Using algae, for instance, in tanks covering the hot sunny deserts of America, Asia and Africa, could be a way of generating enough biomass for fuel usage once the problem of getting enough water into the desert is solved.  But that’s another issue.  The current mindset is bio-fuel oil and even batteries! (news this week is that Indian-owned Jaguar are getting >£300m of UK cash to develop an electric performance car- this should help the better off feel greener!)

To check out my thoughts on the unfeasability of batteries as motive power, check out another earlier post of mine, mini-e-an-enviromental-disaster-looms-from-muddled-thinking. In a nutshell, there’s only enough lithium in the Earth’s crust for 35 million cars.  Even with the recent newer ways of using lithium, getting 10 times that number wouldn’t provide enough vehicles to satisfy the current  demands for personal transportation.

The Jaguar and other similar developments show the peculiar macho-power mindset that governs decisions.  Most current, populist, trendy ideas are part of this dead-end mindset.   This is the blockage that must be removed, not people’s creativity.

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Mini E – an Enviromental Disaster Looms from Muddled Thinking

Truly this car is the pits.

Electric Mini Page

-and here’s how..

The engineers seem to have responded with the most short-term planning possible to a demand from the BMW marketing department to make the company look green now that sales of their monster cars are down 40%.  Some “ad” bloke has said “clean electricity, that’s the way forward!” in a similar manner to which electricity was sold in the 60’s.  The engineers have jumped.

Of course, electricity is wonderful, make no mistake.  It’s not for nothing that all the fastest trains in the world are electric-powered.  Even diesel locos are electric powered at the wheels.  Electric motors, like human muscles, generate their greatest torque (turning power) at low speeds.  But that’s not the point.

The point is that this car is made and sold as a replacement for petrol cars.  And there lies the problem.  The engineers have satisfied a marketing question and have not considered the car as part of the whole  environment, that is, the world that we all have to live in.

In fact, economically, it isn’t even a good deal.

Basic specs:

  • It’s a two seater (not four!).  The batteries take up half the car!
  • It weighs one and a half tons!
  • It’s max payload is only 160kg!
  • It takes all night to charge up!
  • It only does 150 miles.
  • They’ve designed it to accelerate like rocket (it’s a commuter car, apparently….wot?  No traffic lights in dreamland?)
  • The spec has no mention of a heater!
  • The battery weighs at least half a tonne.
  • It uses lithium-ion batteries.
  • There is only 35 million tonnes of lithium on our world.
  • About half the battery is lithium, say 250kg – quarter of a tonne.

So if, and it’s a BIG IF, if we managed to get all the lithium in the world and use it all for car batteries, so that we used none for mobile phones and laptops, we could make only 140 million mini-sized cars, for the whole world! (There are currently 28 million cars in the UK alone!)

This is obviously nonsense and fully explains my comment about the car, and it’s designers, and the mentality behind such a plan – as the pits!

But wait!  There’s more!

  • The advertising puff is full of the car’s green credentials and even has wind-turbines in the background!…
  • The average commercial cost for a wind turbine is about £1m per MW of capacity.
  • The mini’s batteries store 35kWh of energy.
  • So a 1MW turbine running for an hour would provide the energy for 28 minis!  That’s 685 minis a day.
  • But 1MW turbines don’t produce 1MW all day.  Far from it!  A third of a day if they’re lucky!  So we need to spend £1m to keep about 200 minis on the road.

More nonsense.

But wait!  There’s more!

  • It’s not just lithium in the batteries….
  • Remember, all the laptops catching fire?  Same lithium-ion batteries, only smaller.
  • Many parts of the batteries are toxic, inflammable or explosive. LiCo Oxide, propylene carbonate, paint-stripper, ether,
  • The electrolyte in the batteries is also extremely toxic and destroys your mucus membranes on contact.
  • This means, if you have a “normal” crash and the battery leaks, before you can be cut from your car you will be blinded by the fumes and suffer damaged lungs for the rest of your life – and that’s without them catching fire. (see safety video here: battery safety video)

So the batteries are dodgy, especially in the motor vehicle context.

But wait! There’s more!

Apart from the environmental cost (huge mines in Chile etc for Lithium, and Bolivia for the huge extra demand for copper in the massive motors), there’s the real money what you’ll have to pay.  How so?

  • On both the Mini E website and elsewhere, Li-ion batteries have a lifetime of at most 3 years.
  • The metal is of course, recycleable, which is good.  It’ll have to be since there’s so little in the Earth’s crust (see above)!!!
  • But 3 years is when most UK buyers get a new car, if they are the type of people that can and do so.
  • This means that the second purchaser is lumbered with the immediate cost of a new battery!
  • And there’s the rub – the cost isn’t mentioned.  Anywhere.  The only similar cars are from AC Propulsion and are rare sports car types, not mass-production models.
  • But I can give you a clue to the cost.  Mobile phone battery ~ £8;  Laptop battery ~£30;  larger ~£3 per Wh.  The Mini E has a 35kWh battery therefore it costs ~£105,000.  Maybe half that as discount for quantity.  This is about right as the old technology (lead, cadmium etc) batteries on cars like the Prius or for normal fork-lift trucks cost tens of thousands of pounds.

So do you want to buy a second-hand car and immediately fork out at least 25 grand for the privelige of driving it for 3 years?

What’s the answer?

For mass transport, we need transport en-masse using old technologies like trams, trains etc (all electric, notice!)

For personal transport, we need the air-powered car or something similar.

  • It uses a lightweight alloy engine powered by air, which can be “supercharged” by preheating using external combustion of a small amount of fuel.  This heats the vehicle in winter also.
  • It consumes ~20p of standard electricity to compress the air!
  • It uses 2litres of petrol
  • Range is ~130miles
  • 3,4,5,6 seats!
  • Weighs about half a tonne!

In short, it uses conventional technology and materials in a novel way.

This is totally different to all battery and hydrogen powered cars which use new, untried (and dangerous) techology in a conventional way! (They’re even thinking of liquid sodium…gad.)

So we must totally ignore the blinkered plans from one-dimensional thinkers sat in the design offices of the major car companies.  Barack Obama has said as much today. Obama vows aid for car industry.   He said;

“As part of our economic recovery package what you will see coming out of my administration right at the centre is a strong set of financial regulations which banks, ratings agencies, mortgage brokers, a whole bunch of folks (will) start having to be much more accountable and behave much more responsibly.”

The “folks” he refers to, are the big three car makers, GM, Ford and Chrysler.

Personally I think the big three chiefs who had that embarrassing encounter in congress, should pop straight over to Guy Negre and beg for a licence to make a $100 million factory to make his cars.  Remember, they are losing $5billion a month anyway – what have they to lose?

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The Air Powered Car – Better than Batteries

Finally it’s starting to dawn on a few people that battery powered cars are not the way out of our low-carbon energy conundrum.

Bolivia holds key to electric car future.  In this piece, the BBC note that Lithium, the 3rd element in the periodic table, a major power source for everyone’s laptops and mobile phones, is actually a finite resource as well!  

Within 10 years, lithium supplies will be hard to find….

So for transport, batteries are out because of the costs of materials and recycling, biofuels are out because we have to eat, nuclear is out because it’s too heavy and er..well, yes quite, hydrogen is too fanciful.

But as I’ve said several times in these pages, Guy Negre already has a clear concept of a clean and practical transport power source.  Like all other solutions it’s dependant on another source, in this case electricty, just like battery cars.  But the motive power is his highly efficient (because of the knuckled con-rod) and clean compressed air engine!

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The future is bright!  The future is air powered!
Now to the real world…   In these credit crunching slumping times, the survivors in retail are those shops that actually have a product to sell at the exact time a potential customer wants to buy it! The world’s car makers are having a hard time, especially the big US ones who continue to make huge montrosities that no-one wants to buy!
Their resistance to change, given the dynamic and creative nature of the US economy and people, is staggering!  Why don’t they change?  
Guy Negre is showing the way forward with his concept of local factories making the vehicles suitable for a local market, but using his efficient low pollution power source.  It would not be a big change for them to follow suite.  After all, Dagenham in the UK is a US owned and run factory of Ford’s.  If they had 20 little Ford factories it would be the same as one big one….  They’d at least make a profit!

Whatever happens or how we do it, the realities of inadequate resources to power transport for the global masses must be faced.  The Air Powered Car is a good solution.  It’s primary energy source is electricity, which can be made in a multitude of ways and can be best stored using the potential energy of water, pumped up a hill for controlled release through generators, to take account of diurnal and other fluctuations in demand.  This is old, known technology that can be implemented now!  The UK has had a facility like this at Dinorwig for years…  This pumped storage system, even though it’s smallish and unique (with all the problems that that entails), paid for itself within 10 years.  Stuff like this must be done on a global scale….

For example, the United States, huge, sunny, mountainous, large coastline and deserts.  It also has the largest demand for transport and fuel…

The US is so fortunate!  It has a bounteous resource in sunshine, wind and tides – more than enough to make as much electricty as they’ll ever need.  There’s no need to keep digging coal in Pennsylvania or drill for oil in Alaska or the Gulf of Mexico.  They just need to open their eyes, use the energy of the sun and pump water up the Rockies!  Air powered engines can easily use this energy.

Air powered engines aren’t new (they power torpedoes for instance), but Guy Negre’s patented engine has been developed almost solely by himself for a decade now, against huge industry opposition.  The internal combustion engine (ICE) has been around for just over a century.  Now who would (or could) have imagined the changes in engines and transport that have happened after looking at Benz’s first, very, very expensive car?  

That’s the kind of conservative pessimism we have to overcome.

That’s the kind of potential we’ve got with the air-powered car!

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