Global Warming / Fuel / Food SOLUTION.

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by kwhilborn, Apr 16, 2007.

  1. kwhilborn Banned Banned

    Quick apology for the Zillionth and one thread on Global Warming.

    A thread was launched in Chemistry about Co2 removal, and READ ONLY provided what I thought to be an excellent idea, that deserves to be heard in a environmental forum. His idea was that Algae was a good idea for removing co2, and I'm kinda arguing his point.

    I am NOT DEBATING WHETHER OR NOT GLOBAL WARMING IS A CRISIS, as there is OTHER (FOOD/FUEL) very applicable reasons to engage in this form of Farming.


    Algae currently provides over 70% of the worlds oxygen, it is simple to grow and essentially only needs latch on points in order to thrive in the oceans.

    with simple anchor points we could establish floats. I am thinking baseball size plastic floats with 2 ten foot connecting wires (or substitute). We then connect these wires in an ever expanding framework regarding shipping lanes etc. Probably to maximum sizes of 100 miles by 100 miles. Warning beacons could broadcast from the borders.

    The main reason corn is considered a better choice for energy, is the lack of seaweed farms available.

    These farms would all convert co2 into oxygen, and they could be routinely towed to shore and harvested for food AND Fuel (forget global warming for a second.)

    Every industry producing Co2 should be required to add to these structures in amounts at least equal to their co2 output.

    Aside from hundreds of thousands (eventual goal) of square miles of oxygen farms, we would also have crop values in the form of

    Food/Fuel/Paper/Clothing/fertilizer/increased fish population,

    - The real estate value of the oceans is NILL.
    - Construction costs per square mile would be negligable.
    - Oxygen farms could help prevent or slow down Global warming (IF IT IS A THREAT, I AM NOT SAYING THAT IT IS).
    - CO2 sequestration would not be necessary
    - Fish populations would improve.
    - Possible uses as Hurricane inhibitor ???? (not thought out, idea is insulating problem areas of the ocean against sunlight, might hinder hurricane build-up. This is crazy that I'd even include this idea as it is "woo-woo", please go easy if quoting about this.)
    - Shipping lanes are mostly established and lighthouse type frequency emitters could warn ships, not that they'd sink if they collided with one, but...
    - It is a semi-NATURAL solution
    - The farms could be towed to shore for harvesting in whichever country we choose, for food. For agricultural aid, a navy ship could tow a few farms to whichever countries need the aid.
    -the farms could be towed to shore for harvesting in whichever country we choose for OIL. The main drawback for Algae as use for fuel is the lack of harvesting available. Corn however is already being grown and is a more viable option at this time.
    - The SEAWEED pulp could be used in production of paper.
    - The SEAWEED could be used to make clothes.
    - voters would get a bang for their buck.

    - Why should we pay for clean air for every other country? although crop values could offset this argument.
    - Possible disruptions of natural ecosystems under the ocean.i,e, whales trying to surface,etc. The "wires" used should be easily detached so they do not form a net.
    - The low impact it would have as a pilot project. It would take years to develope structures capable of removing significant amounts of co2. We would litterally need hundreds of Farms say 100 miles by 100 miles
    each. before we could start "breathing easy"
    -possible hindrance to shipping lanes

    It seems viable, I am sure as technology ensues we will have more efficient scientific methods of reducing our co2 outputs, and sequestration, but the seaweed solution seems like a logical start.

    Save the world, grow food, remove co2 from the air, remove co2 from the air, and remove co2 from the air.

    ??? Any thoughts, and please look at the OTHER benefits before ANY tyraids about GLOBAL WARMING. Our oceans are the logical choice for farming foods/fuel/clothing, etc in our growing world.
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  3. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    That kind of assumes there isn't any plant life in the oceans now, but there is.
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  5. kwhilborn Banned Banned

    Yes, but seaweed is limited in growth to shallower areas, I am talking about creating artificial shallow areas in the middle of the oceans. I am talking about areas so deep that the sunlight cannot reach bottom, and also a form of growing that could be easily moved and harvested.
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  7. swivel Sci-Fi Author Valued Senior Member

    I think that's a pretty good idea. As a sea-captain I have seen many artificial habitats in the deep ocean created by man-made detritus. A floating crate, sheet of plywood, or ship's container quickly becomes a habitat like you are describing.

    I just wonder what sort of scale you would need to make a noticeable difference, and whether or not something that size would withstand ocean storms. Flotsam survives because it is small and not anchored down. In order to keep your artificial habitats in the deep ocean, they would need to be anchored, which would be difficult to do permanently.

    Definitely something interesting to think about.
  8. kwhilborn Banned Banned

    Yes, I am thinking in terms of moveable floating "habitats", although I'm thinking sea-captains of the future will dread the odd "lost" habitats. I have also just learned that the Japanese have already started such projects, for much the same reasons.
  9. kmguru Staff Member

    How about a simple solution. Instead of cutting down trees to make lawns whose total leaf surface area for photosynthesis is much smaller than tall trees with a lot of braod leaves, let us plant the trees. Those who do not, pay a lawn tax including millions of golf courses?

    Build more nuclear power plants to get rid of the thermal plants and spend the money for hot fusion to phase out the nuclear plants in 50 years. One does not even have to get rid of the generator sets.

    The entire Namibia desert is empty...put a lot of solar power generators....
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    To get the tonnage required for those applications, you'd probably have to fertilize.

    And treat with poisons to kill grazers.

    Winds and waves get pretty serious.

    You might have better luck raising salt water algae in the many ocean side deserts, in large artificial ponds fed from the ocean.
  11. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    Trees aren't the answer because they grow and eventually die releasing the CO2 they've caught. It takes a long time, of course, but the eventual net gain is zero. You can compare them to a warehouse where you send in CO2 through the front door and start taking it out the back 60 or 80 years later at exactly the same rate it goes in the front.

    Your other two suggestions are quite good! I still strongly maintain that the only real solution to meet our energy needs is nuclear. I'm aware that many people are still distrustful of it but there have been some serious advances in design made since the last plant was built in the US. And France, for example, gets nearly 80% of it's power from nuclear plants - and without ANY problems at all.
  12. Mosheh Thezion Registered Senior Member


  13. kmguru Staff Member

    I think, you missed the time element in to your claculation. Say, in a life time, the tree takes in 100 Billion mols of CO2 and releases 100 Billion mols of O2. Are you saying that the tree at the time of death farts another 100 Billion mols of CO2 while dying?

    That is some tree!

    Photosynthesis uses energy of light to make the sugar called glucose. A general equation for photosynthesis is:

    6 CO2(gas) + 12 H2O(liquid) + photons → C6H12O6(aqueous) + 6 O2(gas) + 6 H2O(liquid)
    carbon dioxide + water + light energy → glucose + oxygen + water
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Uranium is a non-renewable resource. And France, like the rest of us, has a large and growing problem of security, waste storage, and decommissioning, that it has little idea how to solve.

    One of the oddly overlooked possibilities is solar heat engine power - Stirling cycle modifications usually, but basically simple. A few square miles of Arizona desert could power the US right now. The concentration on photovoltaics is difficult to understand, in the context of large scale power production to replace, say, coal.
  15. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    No, not at all. I realize that the tree makes a considerable contribution in the CO2/O2 exchange through photosynthesis while living. I'm simply addressing the point that what it stores structurally is eventually re-released and not permanately removed from the cycle.

    But keep in mind that the majority of our oxygen supply comes from aquatic vegative life - around 80% - and of the remaining 20%, well over half of that comes from grasses. So, in the end, trees contribute less than 10% - not very significant by comparision.
  16. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    That's not totally accurate if you consider the contribution that could be made if the restriction on breeder reactors was lifted. And I also believe that fusion will come on-line in the next 50-70 years. The amount of waste generated by fission during that time could be dealt with, especially if decent funding was applied to the problem. In the past 5 decades even calling the amount spent on research for that trivial would almost be an overstatement. It's all been spent on developing storage techniques.

    I believe your math may be a bit too consertivate - it would probably take considerably more than a "few square miles."
  17. kmguru Staff Member

    If you are right, you have a point here. I googled but could not find the mass balance on trees that is how much is out there and what they produce. If they are pretty much insignificant, why the tree huggers have their panties in knotts?

    Looks like cutting down the trees would not make much differece though I saw in the Planet Earth documentary showing tall trees and saying 80% of the oxygen comes from these trees. Who to believe.

    Assuming trees are insignificat and we are producing a lot of CO2, should not the marine planktons get bigger and bigger? And if we can genetically modify them to boost their lung size (the cells) to take on more...we should be in a good shape!

  18. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    Yes, there's a fair amount of disagreement over the numbers. There's NO doubt that trees make a contribution, but exactly how much is up in the air. (No pun intended.)

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    And incidentally, though I'm not a "tree hugger" I do have a great appreciation for trees. My home is surrounded by them - six acres of them on my own property, too.

    The aquatic life we're talking about are plants, they don't have lungs. But we certainly could do some things to increase their growth/reproduction rate through genetic engineering. Just don't forget, as I mentioned to Billy T, that most types of algae can double (and in the specific case of the one I linked him to, quadruple) their mass in just a matter of mere hours! That's already pretty impressive!!!

    The three factors that limit their growth are, of course, amount of CO2 dissolved in the water, sunshine and chemical nutrients. And the first is THE big limiter. CO2, like all gasses, dissolves quicker and in greater quantities in colder water. And plant growth does better in warmer water. But even in the warmer water it can be enhanced considerably by just a small amount of agitation or direct aeration.

    The blue-green algae have all the nutrients they can possibly use. There's plenty of phosphate salts in sea water, a fair amount of nitrogen salts PLUS the fact that they can fix their own nitrogen just like legumes (peas, clover, etc.) do. All they really need is sunlight and more dissolved CO2.
  19. kmguru Staff Member

    If we pump and diffuse CO2 to seawater from seacost plants, would that hurt the marine life while improving algae groth...may be surface diffusion?
  20. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    No, it wouldn't be harmful in any way, provided there's enough mixing action going on.

    I need to point out that there have been fish kills as a result of what's called "algal blooms." But in those cases it wasn't due to a direct increase in dissolved CO2 but rather a depletion of dissolved oxygen at night when none was being produced by the algae. In the setting you're describing, that could easily be avoided by proper timing of harvesting.
  21. Communist Hamster Cricetulus griseus leninus Valued Senior Member

    This seems like a good idea, but so did introducing cane toads into Australia. I'm wondering if we know enough about ocean ecosystems to be sure whether this won't have huge adverse effects (or at least effects comparable to unchecked global warming)?.

    Might it be possible that our algae farms become too successful and remove too much CO2 from the atmosphere, cooling Earth (below natural levels) instead? Attempts to remove the algae farms may be hard because people could grow dependent on them for food.

    Also, what food products can be made from reprocessed algae?
  22. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Yeah, a back of the envelope calculation, assuming average total power demand in the US (gas, oil, coal, electrical, everything) rises to about 4 terawatts by the time this thing is on line, we'd need at least 3000 square miles, or a patch of desert with dependably clear skies about 50 X 60 miles, to meet it.

    Cutting efficiency in half and doubling the area to cover downtime, night demand, etc, and adding an arbitrary overhead of 25%, we'd need a patch of desert (or several totaling to) 400 miles on a side, completely devoted to power accumulation reflectors etc.

    That sounds big. But it replaces every dam, every filling station, most of the coal infrastructure, pollution, and mining damage, every nuke, the whole shebang. If people supplant this with their own stations, for independence or economy, and if a few conservation principles are actually applied, less than that.
    We can't handle the waste we've already made. And all these plants have to be decommissioned yet, eventually. Betting on fusion to bail this out is like planning to win the lottery to finance one's retirement. It could happen.
  23. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Not quite true, but I have not done the numbers to see how much of Arizona would be required.

    There is a fundamental problem with making electricity from solar thermal engine.
    The efficiency, E, in conversion of heat to any form of high quality energy, like electricity is limited by the Carnot equation:

    E = (Th -Tc)/Th where Th is the temperature of hot input to the engine and Tc is the cold temperature available. BTW, the Sterling engine can be Carnot limited, one of the few that can do that well, but it is rarely as cost effective as other cycles, so seldom used.

    The other half of the problem is that some of the energy absorbed by the solar collector (surely in concentrated sunlight if trying to get Th >> Tc) will be reradiated back via the same optical path that let it strike the collector. The net energy collected is thus only a small fraction of the incident energy when Th >> Tc because the re-radiation goes as the fourth power of Th. (absolute temperature scale)

    The fact that the re-radiation is in the far IR and the incident sunlight is visible and near IR opens the possibility of inserting a selective filter in the optical path. (I.e. one that transmits the sunlight to the collector, but reflects the escaping IR back to the collector.) This wavelength selective filter is very expensive per square meter. If placed in more concentrated flux (near to the collector) it gets very hot and radiates also; however, this is not the worst problem with placing it near the collector (to keep its area affordable). A sudden local shower (possible even if the sun is fully shining on the system) will crack it.

    This selective filter approach to solving the fundamental conflict between Carnot and T^4 radiation loses has been explored several times, always with disappointing results and now essentially well understood as too expensive and impractical.

    About 40 years ago, I invented, and patented in US, a new solution to the problem. I do not now have convenient the patent number, but have posted it here several times. The title of my patent is "Mass flow solar energy absorber" or something quite like that. I almost had the had the idea sold to Shell* for big bucks. Their scientists liked the idea a lot. (In one application disclosed in the patent, its high temperature drove the reversible chemical reaction 4SO3 <---> 4SO2 + 2O2 in a closed system. Thus, at night the SO2 was re-oxidized to SO3 so the other troublesome part of solar energy [storage] was also solved.)

    I wrote two closely related papers and published them in Applied Optics, but they do not disclose the basic idea, as they patent was still unprocessed. If anyone read both, they might be able to invent the idea also as they discus radiative transfer internal to a tube with walls having an axial temperature gradient.

    The basic idea of my invention was that the "absorber" is just the open end hole inside two concentric tubes on the axis of the system. Sunlight enters this hole and is reflected** many times deeper into the straight tubes by a mirror coating on the larger radius of the inner tube surface. (Near the entrance this tube is glass so at each reflection the sunlight passes twice thru the thickness of the inner tube's wall. - Note IR can not "mirror" back out as the sunlight does "going in" as it will not pass thru the glass.)

    The cool "working fluid" (perhaps SO3 to be dissociated) flows in the annulus between the two tubes. It also enters at the end where the sunlight does. As both the sunlight and the working fluid travel away from the entrance, the energy not reflected deeper into the concentric tubes is heating the working fluid. Thus, far from the entrance the working fluid is very hot and the concentrated sunlight has been fully absorbed. The interior of the tube, FAR FROM THE ENTRANCE, is filled with intense IR radiation. (The inner tube's glass walls "grade into quartz" to support the temperature. Because of the circular geometer and lack of significant pressure differential and the high strength of nearly "red hot" quartz, a very desirable Th and be achieved and controlled by the flow rate of the working fluid to be constant, even with the natural variation in the intensity of the sunlight. The outer tube can be of any matter and is well insulated externally.) The farther you go along the coaxial tubes from the entrance, the hotter it gets until all the sunlight has been absorbed, but for economical reasons the deep end of the tube terminates in a more conventional absorber. This keeps the total length shorter and reduces both the cost and the thermal losses thru the insulation on the outside of the outer tube.

    One of the Applied Optics papers describes mathematically the deposition of the sunlight on the way down the tube. The other describes the re-radiation escaping. (Only a very small fraction can escape directly with no reflection and that not traveling directly back towards the entrance will be reabsorbed in the inter tube's walls.)

    Although the patent has long since expired, I still think someday the world may use my invention for clean safe solar power. It, and it alone, can economically achieve the high Th needed for good conversion efficiency and yet avoid the normal re-radiation losses associated with high Th.
    *Shell's legal department forced their scientists to stop even exchanging letters with me. - I fell victim to the "not invented here" syndrome, which often causes big companies to not consider inventions from the outside. Back then, energy was very cheap and Shell had lots of oil it wanted to sell - was not very interested in solar energy. I have a knack for being able to see years ahead, correctly, but I was way too far head of the times.

    **Ironically, a mirror can achieve 100% absorption and very low re-radiation loses as my Applied Optics papers proved.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 18, 2007

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