How the Le Mans hydrogen racer is shaping up

Futuristic race car with its gull wing doors open.

Enlarge / GreenGT’s prototype hydrogen-powered racer. (credit: Dhananjay Khadilkar)

Around 400 meters from the buzz of the paddock during this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans stood a tent with two racing cars and a mobile fueling station. Every now and then, people wearing blue T-shirts bearing the logo of “Mission H24” would walk by the cars to attend meetings in a motor home sitting next to the tent.

One of those people was François Granet of the Franco-Swiss company GreenGT. He appeared particularly thrilled because, on the eve of the start of this year’s race, the ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest), which organizes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, announced a new category of race cars at the Le Mans event for 2025: hydrogen-electric prototypes. The company’s forerunners were stationed in that tent.

Creating a category

GreenGT is developing the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain for these cars, which will be designed around a chassis built by Oreca and Red Bull Technologies. “In partnership with ACO, we are helping define the sporting and technical regulations for the new category,” Granet said.

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#cars, #hydrogen, #le-mans, #racing, #renewable-power, #science

Massive mine truck and a Baja off-road racer both find use for fuel cells

A Komatsu 930E mining truck at an Anglo American mine

Enlarge / Anglo American and First Mode, among others, are converting a Komatsu 930E truck like this one to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells and batteries rather than diesel engines. (credit: Anglo American)

At first glance, an open-pit platinum mine in South Africa and the Baja 1000 off-road race don’t have much in common other than an excess of dust. But both are going to be test sites for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, chosen by a company called First Mode, in order to stress-test the technology.

“We’ve been finding the not-low-hanging fruit problems in decarbonization, and those are the hard-to-operate places. Your environment is harsh, it’s dusty, it’s thermally driven to an extreme,” said Chris Voorhees, president of First Mode.

“While it might seem counterintuitive, there’s interesting crossovers with the Baja part. Getting the fuel cells to operate in an environment where your boundary conditions aren’t as controlled is, for us, essential at being able to map the technology to some of these applications that are mobile, big, dirty, and operating in places that it actually took us a while to get the internal combustion engine to do a really good job,” Voorhees explained.

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#anglo-american, #cars, #fcev, #first-mode, #fuel-cell-electric-vehicle, #hydrogen, #hydrogen-fuel-cell, #mining-truck, #off-road-racing, #scuderia-cameron-glickenhaus

Hydrogen lobbyist quits, slams oil companies’ “false claims” about blue hydrogen

Nozzle for pumping hydrogen.

A hydrogen filling station. (credit: Peter Gercke/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The head of a hydrogen lobbying group has stepped down amid concerns that blue hydrogen made from natural gas would serve as a “lock-in” for fossil fuels.

Oil and gas companies in recent years have been touting the purported advantages of hydrogen made from natural gas. Supporters admit that blue hydrogen is not zero carbon, but they argue that its use would help build demand and infrastructure while costs for green hydrogen, which is made from renewable power, are brought down. 

At issue, though, is whether blue hydrogen is truly low carbon, as its boosters suggest. According to a recent study, blue hydrogen may be worse for the climate than coal. The low-carbon claims about blue hydrogen hinge on the fact that carbon dioxide needs to be captured at every step, from the steam reformation process that makes the gas from methane to the natural gas generators that provide heat and power for the reactions. Not every step is perfect, and between 10–40 percent of the carbon dioxide can evade capture depending on the system.

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#blue-hydrogen, #climate-change, #hydrogen, #natural-gas, #policy

Resistance to Vaccines in the Southern States

Readers offer personal glimpses of life in the South. Also: Senators who tested positive for Covid; Afghanistan’s lesson; hydrogen and the climate.

#afghanistan-war-2001, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #energy-department, #global-warming, #hydrogen, #southern-states-us, #united-states-politics-and-government, #vaccination-and-immunization

How a Laser Fusion Experiment Unleashed an Energetic Burst of Optimism

Even scientists who were skeptical of work at the National Ignition Facility called the results a success.

#california, #energy-and-power, #fusion-nuclear-reaction, #hydrogen, #laser-light-amplification-by-stimulated-emission-of-radiation, #lawrence-livermore-laboratory, #national-ignition-facility, #nuclear-weapons, #research

“Blue” hydrogen pushed by gas companies harms climate more than coal, study says

A Hyundai Nexo patrol car at a hydrogen filling station in Lower Saxony, Germany.

Enlarge / A Hyundai Nexo patrol car at a hydrogen filling station in Lower Saxony, Germany. (credit: Friso Gentsch/picture alliance)

Gas companies and utilities are in a pickle. Their entire business model relies on the extraction, transport, and combustion of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases known to humankind. With many countries aiming to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, these companies face an uncertain future. 

One solution they’ve proposed is slipping hydrogen into their distribution lines, either partially or fully replacing natural gas, so that people can burn it to heat their homes or generate electricity. When produced using solar and wind power, hydrogen is a zero-carbon fuel, and while refitting natural gas infrastructure would be expensive, it would give gas-only utilities a reason to exist.

The problem is that producing so-called “green” hydrogen is expensive and will remain so for a decade or more, according to forecasts.

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#blue-hydrogen, #carbon-capture, #climate-change, #hydrogen, #natural-gas, #science

The hydrogen economy is about to get weird

Image of a blue light rail vehicle.

Enlarge / A Coradia iLint hydrogen fuel-cell powered prototype railway train, manufactured by Alstom SA, travels in Salzgitter, Germany. (credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images)

If you were paying attention at the start of this century, you might remember the phrase “hydrogen economy,” which was shorthand for George W. Bush’s single, abortive attempt to take climate change seriously. At the time, hydrogen was supposed to be a fuel for vehicular transport, an idea that still hasn’t really caught on.

But hydrogen appears to be enjoying a revival of sorts, appearing in the climate plans of nations like the UK and Netherlands. The US government is investing in research on ways to produce hydrogen more cheaply. Are there reasons to think hydrogen power might be for real this time?

A new report by research service BloombergNEF suggests that hydrogen is set for growth—but not in transport. And the growth has some aspects that don’t actually make sense given the current economics.

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#energy, #green, #hydrogen, #renewable-energy, #science

Planes, trains, but not automobiles—why GM is developing fuel cells

Using hydrogen in some of these applications probably makes more sense than building out a network of hydrogen filling stations for passenger cars.

Enlarge / Using hydrogen in some of these applications probably makes more sense than building out a network of hydrogen filling stations for passenger cars. (credit: Scharfsinn86/Getty Images)

In just the last week, General Motors signed agreements with not one but two companies to develop applications for its Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell systems. At first glance, that might seem a little surprising, since last week we also saw Honda discontinue its hydrogen fuel cell-powered version of the Clarity. That move was just the latest bit of support for the hypothesis that hydrogen power might join Betamax and the Zune in the history books.

In fact, the history books are where you’ll find GM’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, the 1966 Electrovan. And in recent years we’ve seen some fuel cell EVs developed by GM for military applications. But neither of these new deals involves making a hydrogen-powered car.

Instead, last Tuesday the automaker announced it would work with Wabtec—which has already developed a battery-electric locomotive—to engineer freight locomotives powered by GM’s fuel cells and batteries. Then, on Thursday, GM revealed it was working with Liebherr-Aerospace to develop aerospace applications (like auxiliary power generation) for fuel cells. Intrigued, I spoke to Charlie Freese, GM’s executive director for Global Hydrotec and the man in charge of GM’s fuel cell program. Why does the company still think the lightest gas only has room to expand?

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#airplanes, #cars, #fcev, #general-motors, #gm, #h2, #hydrogen, #hydrogen-fuel-cell, #hydrotec, #trains, #trucks

Here’s why Toyota converted this Corolla to hydrogen and went racing

In late May, a special Toyota Corolla entered the track at Fuji Speedway in Japan to take part in a 24-hour race. Unlike the other cars in the race, this one was hydrogen-powered. But it didn’t use a fuel cell like the Mirai sedan; instead, this car’s three-cylinder engine was converted to burn the gas instead of burning gas(oline). The driver line-up for the car showed why. Among the racers listed was a “Morizo,” better known to the world as Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Company’s president.

No pressure, then.

“The reason for competing in a 24-hour endurance race is that simply lasting three or five hours is not enough. You have to have done the preparation to last for 24 hours,” Toyoda said in the weeks before the race. There’s no doubt about it—completing a 24-hour race is no easy thing, and the crucible of racing will often reveal problems that engineers don’t encounter on the test bench.

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#akio-toyoda, #cars, #endurance-racing, #hydrogen, #hydrogen-car, #hydrogen-internal-combustion, #racing, #toyota, #toyota-corolla

Volvo and Daimler bet on hydrogen truck boom this decade

Volvo and Daimler bet on hydrogen truck boom this decade

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Hydrogen-powered heavy trucks capable of driving long distances are likely to reach a tipping point toward the end of the decade, according to the heads of the world’s two biggest truck makers.

Martin Daum, chair of industry leader Daimler Truck, told the Financial Times that, while diesel trucks would dominate sales for the next three to four years, hydrogen would take off as fuel between 2027 and 2030 before going “steeply up.”

Martin Lundstedt, chief executive of Volvo Group, which has just bought into a hydrogen joint venture with Daimler, said that, after fuel-cell production started in 2025, there would be a “much steeper ramp-up” toward the end of the decade.

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#cars, #daimler, #fuel-cells, #hydrogen, #volvo

Toyota is entering a hydrogen-powered Corolla in a 24-hour race

A grid of racing cars at a track in Japan

Enlarge / From May 21 to 23, Toyota will enter the Super Taikyu Series with a hydrogen-powered Corolla race car. (credit: Toyota)

For some, the allure of hydrogen-powered vehicles is hard to resist. Proponents point first to long recharging times for lithium-ion batteries and then to the speed with which pressurized hydrogen can be pumped into a car as reasons that battery-electric vehicles are doomed to failure among drivers conditioned by decades of fast refueling stops at gas stations. Mostly, those hydrogen-powered cars use fuel cells to generate electricity that powers an electric motor. But internal combustion engines can burn hydrogen, too, emitting just water as exhaust.

In 2006, BMW experimented with the Hydrogen 7, a V12-powered 7 Series sedan that could run on either gasoline or hydrogen. It wasn’t a huge success; BMW made 100 Hydrogen 7s, and when tested by the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, they proved to be extremely clean in terms of tailpipe emissions. But hydrogen has a much lower energy density than gasoline, so the hydrogen-powered 7s were extremely inefficient, averaging just 4.7 mpg (50 L/100 km).

As a result, I thought the entire idea of hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines in cars was dead and buried—until this morning, when I spotted an announcement from Toyota. The Japanese automaker will enter the pro-am endurance racing Super Taikyu Series with a hydrogen-powered Corolla race car, starting with a 24-hour race at Fuji, May 21 to 23.

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#cars, #endurance-racing, #hydrogen, #hydrogen-engine, #internal-combustion-engine, #toyota, #toyota-corolla

What’s fueling hydrogen tech?

Hydrogen — the magical gas that Jules Verne predicted in 1874 would one day be used as fuel — has long struggled to get the attention it deserves. Discovered 400 years ago, its trajectory has seen it mostly mired in obscurity, punctuated by a few explosive moments, but never really fulfilling its potential.

Now in 2021, the world may be ready for hydrogen.

This gas is capturing the attention of governments and private sector players, fueled by new tech, global green energy legislation, post-pandemic “green recovery” schemes and the growing consensus that action must be taken to combat climate change.

Joan Ogden, professor emeritus at UC Davis, started researching hydrogen in 1985 — at the time considered “pretty fringy, crazy stuff”. She’s seen industries and governments inquisitively poke at hydrogen over the years, then move on. This new, more intense focus feels different, she said.

The funding activity in France is one illustration of what is happening throughout Europe and beyond. “Back in 2018, the hydrogen strategy in France was €100 million — a joke,” Sabrine Skiker, the EU policy manager for land transport at Hydrogen Europe, said in an interview with TechCrunch. “I mean, a joke compared to what we have now. Now we have a strategy that foresees €7.2 billion.”

The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance forecasts public and private sectors will invest €430 billion in hydrogen in the continent by 2030 in a massive push to meet emissions targets. Globally, the hydrogen generation industry is expected to grow to $201 billion by 2025 from $130 billion in 2020 at a CAGR of 9.2%, according to research from Markets and Markets published this year. This growth is expected to lead to advancements across multiple sectors including transportation, petroleum refining, steel manufacturing and fertilizer production. There are 228 large-scale hydrogen projects in various stages of development today — mostly in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Hydrogen breakdown

When the word “hydrogen” is uttered today, the average non-insider’s mind likely gravitates toward transportation — cars, buses, maybe trains or 18-wheelers, all powered by the gas.

But hydrogen is and does a lot of things, and a better understanding of its other roles — and challenges within those roles — is necessary to its success in transportation.

Hydrogen is already being heavily used in petroleum refineries and by manufacturers of steel, chemicals, ammonia fertilizers and biofuels. It’s also blended into natural gas for delivery through pipelines.

Hydrogen is not an energy source, but an energy carrier — one with exceptional long-duration energy storage capabilities, which makes it a complement to weather-dependent energies like solar and wind. Storage is critical to the growth of renewable energy, and greater use of hydrogen in renewable energy storage can drive the cost of both down.

However, 95% of hydrogen produced is derived from fossil fuels — mostly through a process called steam methane reforming (SMR). Little of it is produced via electrolysis, which uses electricity to split hydrogen and oxygen. Even less is created from renewable energy. Thus, not all hydrogen is created equal. Grey hydrogen is made from fossil fuels with emissions, and blue hydrogen is made from non-renewable sources whose carbon emissions are captured and sequestered or transformed. Green hydrogen is made from renewable energy. 

Where the action is

The global fuel cell vehicle market is hit or miss. There are about 10,000 FCVs in the U.S., with most of them in California — and sales are stalling. Only 937 FCVs were sold in the entire country in 2020, less than half the number sold in 2019. California has 44 hydrogen refueling stations and about as many in the works, but a lack of refueling infrastructure outside of the state isn’t helping American adoption.

#automotive, #bill-gates, #ec-food-climate-and-sustainability, #ec-mobility-hardware, #hydrogen, #hydrogen-fuel-cell, #sergey-brin, #tc, #transportation

How to Clean Up Steel? Bacteria, Hydrogen and a Lot of Cash.

With climate concerns growing, steel companies face an inevitable crunch. ArcelorMittal sees solutions, but the costs are likely to run into tens of billions of dollars in Europe alone.

#arcelormittal-sa, #carbon-caps-and-emissions-trading-programs, #carbon-dioxide, #europe, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #hydrogen, #steel-and-iron

Car groups throw spanner in works of EU’s hydrogen drive

The lettering "BMW i - Hydrogen Next" can be seen on the front of a BMW X5 equipped with a hydrogen drive. The car is equipped with two 700 bar tanks for a total of 6 kg of hydrogen.

Enlarge / The lettering “BMW i – Hydrogen Next” can be seen on the front of a BMW X5 equipped with a hydrogen drive. The car is equipped with two 700 bar tanks for a total of 6 kg of hydrogen. (credit: picture alliance | Getty Images)

Europe’s two biggest industrial and economic powers are laying billions on the table in an attempt to take on China in developing a “green” hydrogen sector to replace fossil fuels—but the continent’s top motor groups are wary of going along for the ride.

“You won’t see any hydrogen usage in cars,” said Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess.

The idea of a big market for vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells is “very optimistic,” according to Diess, who has overseen a €35 billion push into electric cars. “Not even in 10 years,” he told the Financial Times, “because the physics behind it are so unreasonable.”

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#cars, #hydrogen

The City Where Cars Are Not Welcome

As automakers promise to get rid of internal combustion engines, Heidelberg is trying to get rid of autos.

#austin-tex, #automobiles, #batteries, #bicycles-and-bicycling, #bloomberg-michael-r, #buses, #c40-cities-climate-leadership-group, #copenhagen-denmark, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #energy-and-power, #energy-efficiency, #europe, #ford-motor-co, #fuel-emissions-transportation, #general-motors, #germany, #heidelberg-germany, #hydrogen, #international-council-on-clean-transportation, #jaguar-land-rover, #mercedes-benz, #oslo-norway, #portland-ore, #real-estate-commercial, #reckitt-benckiser, #roads-and-traffic, #rotterdam-netherlands, #sap-ag, #stockholm-sweden, #transit-systems, #united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change, #university-of-heidelberg, #wurzner-eckart

Sergey Brin’s airship aims to use world’s biggest mobile hydrogen fuel cell

Sergey Brin’s secretive airship company LTA Research and Exploration is planning to power a huge disaster relief airship with an equally record-breaking hydrogen fuel cell.

A job listing from the company, which is based in Mountain View, California and Akron, Ohio, reveals that LTA wants to configure a 1.5-megawatt hydrogen propulsion system for an airship to deliver humanitarian aid and revolutionize transportation. While there are no specs tied to the job listing, such a system would likely be powerful enough to cross oceans. Although airships travel much slower than jet planes, they can potentially land or deliver goods almost anywhere.

Hydrogen fuel cells are an attractive solution for electric aviation because they are lighter and potentially cheaper than lithium-ion batteries. However, the largest hydrogen fuel cell to fly to date is a 0.25-megawatt system (250 kilowatts) in ZeroAvia’s small passenger plane last September. LTA’s first crewed prototype airship, called Pathfinder 1, will be powered by batteries when it takes to the air, possibly this year. FAA records show that the Pathfinder 1 has 12 electric motors and would be able to carry 14 people. 

That makes it about the same size as the only passenger airship operating today, the Zeppelin NT, which conducts sightseeing tours in Germany and Switzerland. The Pathfinder 1 also uses some Zeppelin components in its passenger gondola. 

LTA Research and Exploration airship patent

Image Credits: LTA Patent US 2019/0112023 A1

Since the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, most airships, including LTA’s, have used non-flammable helium as a lifting gas. But using hydrogen for fuel still makes sense, according to Professor Dr. Josef Kallo of the German Aerospace Center, which is developing its own 1.5 MW fuel cell to power a 60-seater regional electric aircraft. 

“Where we could go something like 125 miles with batteries, we should be able to go nearly 1,000 miles using hydrogen,” Kallo said. “And airships are even more perfect for the efficiency of fuel cells.”

Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce water and electricity, but are traditionally heavy and complex. Putting one in an aircraft adds extra complications such as safely transporting the liquid hydrogen in fuel tanks, storing the water produced and dealing with a lot of waste heat.

LTA’s first fuel cell will be a 0.75 MW system, built by a third party and retrofitted into one of its existing prototypes, according to the job listing. That is unlikely to happen this year, however. A planned Pathfinder 3 airship, which will run on batteries, still has not been registered with the FAA.

LTA Research and Exploration airship patent

Image Credits: LTA Research Patent US 2019/0112023 A1

“Functionality wise, there is no showstopper to using a hydrogen fuel cell,” Kallo said. “The challenge is to find someone who can afford not to look at the business case, because I don’t think it works out from an economic perspective. Maybe Sergey Brin can afford to do that.”

Brin is currently the ninth richest person in the world, with a net worth of over $86 billion. LTA’s website says the initial use case for its aircraft will be “humanitarian disaster response and relief efforts, especially in remote areas that cannot be easily accessed by plane and boat due to limited or destroyed infrastructure.” Ultimately, it intends to create a family of zero emissions aircraft for global cargo and passenger travel.

LTA has already started its charitable work, producing more than 3 million face masks for first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic, and donating nearly $3 million last year to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

LTA is likely to operate closely with Brin’s nonprofit disaster relief force, Global Support and Development (GSD), which is based just a few miles from LTA’s Mountain View hangars. GSD has deployed medics and ex-military personnel to numerous natural disasters over the past five years. It prides itself on its ability to arrive before traditional NGOs, on occasion even using Brin’s own superyacht. Tax records show that Brin is by far the largest funder of GSD, giving it at least $7.5 million in 2019. 

#google, #hydrogen, #lta-research-and-exploration, #sergey-brin, #tc, #transportation

The Gospel of Hydrogen Power

Mike Strizki powers his house and cars with hydrogen he home-brews. He is using his retirement to evangelize for the planet-saving advantages of hydrogen batteries.

#batteries, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #energy-and-power, #hydrogen, #innovation

G.M. Scales Down Nikola Deal

A new agreement, supplying hydrogen fuel cell technology from General Motors, is less sweeping than the strategic partnership outlined in September.

#automobiles, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #general-motors, #hydrogen, #milton-trevor-1981, #nikola-motor-co, #trucks-and-trucking

California Is Trying to Jump-Start the Hydrogen Economy

The fuel could play an important role in fighting climate change, but it has been slow to gain traction because of high costs.

#alternative-and-renewable-energy, #automobile-service-and-charging-stations, #automobiles, #batteries, #buses, #california, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #energy-and-power, #fuel-emissions-transportation, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #hydrogen, #hyundai-motor-co, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #royal-dutch-shell-plc, #toyota-motor-corp

Finally, the First Room-Temperature Superconductor

It conveys electricity in the climate of a crisp fall day, but only under pressures comparable to what you’d find closer to Earth’s core.

#chemistry, #electric-light-and-power, #electronics, #hydrogen, #nature-journal, #physics, #research, #superconductors, #your-feed-science

Nikola stock plunges 26% after fraud claims complicate hydrogen plans

Hand holding hydrogen pump.

Enlarge / A Nel/Nikola refueling pump is shown in a 2019 publicity photo. (credit: Nikola Motor Company)

Shares of hydrogen truck startup Nikola plunged 26 percent on Wednesday after The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was struggling to find partners to build a planned network of hydrogen fueling stations. Nikola’s stock closed at $21.15 on Wednesday, a decline of 57 percent from the $50 peak reached on September 8, the day Nikola announced that GM would design and manufacture its Badger pickup truck.

Shortly after the GM deal was announced, the short-selling firm Hindenburg Research revealed that Nikola founder Trevor Milton wasn’t telling the truth at a 2016 event when he claimed that the Nikola One truck on the stage “fully functions.” Nikola now concedes that the truck never worked and that a promotional video of the truck was made by rolling it down a hill.

Nikola argued that this was old news because Nikola is no longer marketing the Nikola One and has a working prototype of the Nikola Two. But the revelations threw the company into chaos and forced Milton to resign on Sunday.

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#cars, #fcev, #hydrogen, #nikola, #trevor-milton

Nikola admits prototype was rolling downhill in promotional video

A Nikola video shows the Nikola One prototype rolling down a shallow hill in Utah. Nikola now says it never claimed the truck was driving under its own power.

Enlarge / A Nikola video shows the Nikola One prototype rolling down a shallow hill in Utah. Nikola now says it never claimed the truck was driving under its own power. (credit: Nikola)

When Nikola Motor Company founder Trevor Milton unveiled a prototype of the Nikola One truck in December 2016, he portrayed it as fully functional.

“We will have a chain on the seats to prevent people from coming in just for the safety. I don’t want someone to end up doing something and driving this truck off the stage,” Milton said. “This thing fully functions and works, which is really incredible.”

In January 2018, Nikola posted a video to YouTube and other social channels called “Nikola One Electric Semi Truck in Motion.” It showed the Nikola One truck moving rapidly along a two-lane desert highway.

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#cars, #hydrogen, #nikola, #trevor-milton

New Video Shows Largest Hydrogen Bomb Ever Exploded

A Russian nuclear energy agency released formerly classified footage of the Soviet Union’s 1961 Tsar Bomba test.

#classified-information-and-state-secrets, #cold-war-era, #defense-and-military-forces, #hydrogen, #nuclear-weapons, #rosatom, #russia, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #ussr-former-soviet-union, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming, #your-feed-science

Seeking Dark Matter, They Detected Another Mystery

Do signals from beneath an Italian mountain herald a revolution in physics?

#aprile-elena, #dark-matter-astronomy, #gran-sasso-national-laboratory, #grandi-luca, #hydrogen, #italy, #neutrinos, #physics, #research, #space-and-astronomy, #sun, #tritium, #wilczek-frank-a, #xenon-collaboration, #your-feed-science

Fractal flaming hydrogen wiggles through tiny gaps

Lab technician setting fire to a ball with hydrogen blowtorch.

Enlarge / Lab technician setting fire to a ball with hydrogen blowtorch. (credit: JohnAlexandr | Getty Images)

Hydrogen is not your friend. This was the first lesson I learned when I sent a PhD student off to study hydrogen reactions on a surface. Hydrogen is explosive over a huge range of concentrations, making even the tiniest leak an invitation to study the joys of high-velocity stainless steel, with an added bonus of third-degree burns. I’ve now learned that the situation is actually worse than I thought, because hydrogen is also able to burn in very confined spaces as well.

Fire needs three things: fuel, oxygen, and heat. If you have a well-mixed fuel-oxygen combination, the first two aren’t going to be a problem, so you just need to add heat. When ignition is sparked off, the fuel and oxygen are quickly exhausted locally, so a front of combustion will expand outward from the ignition point, consuming the fuel and oxygen as it goes. For that expansion to take place, the heat generated from combustion must be transferred outward with the flame front, otherwise the gas will not be hot enough to ignite.

In a large space, this is not a problem, because gases don’t take much energy to heat up. In a confined space, though, the walls start to play a role. Energy will go into heating the walls, but the wall temperature may never get above the ignition temperature of the gas. So, if the walls are close enough, a spark will not result in a propagating flame front; instead, the flame dies locally. For hydrogen, though, the story turns out to be a bit more complicated.

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#combustion-physics, #hydrogen, #science

New material releases hydrogen from water at near-perfect efficiency

Image of the setting Sun.

Enlarge (credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

Solar energy is currently dominated by photovoltaic devices, which have ridden massive economies of scale to price dominance. But these devices are not necessarily the best choice in all circumstances. Unless battery technology improves, it’s quite expensive to add significant storage to solar production. And there are types of transportation—long-distance rail, air—where batteries aren’t a great solution. These limitations have made researchers maintain interest in alternate ways of using solar energy.

One alternative option is to use the energy to produce a portable fuel, like a hydrocarbon or hydrogen itself. This is possible to do with the electrons produced by photovoltaic systems, but the added steps can reduce efficiency. However, systems that convert sunlight more directly to fuel have suffered from even worse efficiencies.

But a Japanese group has decided to tackle this efficiency problem. The team started with a material that’s not great—it only absorbs in the UV—but is well understood. And the researchers figured out how to optimize it so that its efficiency at splitting water to release hydrogen runs right up against the theoretical maximum. While it’s not going to be useful on its own, it may point the way toward how to develop better materials.

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#energy, #green, #hydrogen, #materials-science, #renewable-energy, #science, #solar-power

Hydrogen as Fuel? An Italian Pasta Factory Shows How It Could Work

A producer of orecchiette and paccheri is using the potentially clean energy source in a trial.

#alternative-and-renewable-energy, #corporate-social-responsibility, #factories-and-manufacturing, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #hydrogen, #italy, #orogiallo-pasta-co, #pasta, #snam-spa

Researchers engineer photosynthetic bacteria to produce hydrogen

Image of strings of small green cells

Enlarge (credit: State of Oklahoma)

The price of photovoltaic power has plunged, making it competitive with fossil fuel-powered electrical generation. But there is still a range of applications, like ships and aircraft, where electrical power doesn’t help much. And storing the electricity produced by solar power so that it can be used at night remains an unsolved problem. For those reasons, there’s been continued interest in converting solar power to a fuel that can be stored, either through the use of electricity generated by photovoltaics or by using light to directly power fuel generation.

There’s obviously a means of generating fuel through light that’s been in use for roughly 3 billion years: photosynthesis. But photosynthesis requires a large and complex suite of proteins that’s hard to maintain outside of cells. And inside of cells, the products of photosynthesis are quickly put to use to help the cells grow. So, engineering a version of photosynthesis that might be useful for fuel production has been challenging.

Earlier this week, however, researchers from the University of Kiel described how they’ve rearranged some photosynthetic proteins to make bacteria that emit hydrogen when exposed to light.

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#biochemistry, #bioengineering, #biofuels, #biology, #cyanobacteria, #hydrogen, #photosynthesis, #renewable-energy, #science