Hydrogen Energy: History, Applications, and Future Developments

A Brief History Of The Discovery Of Hydrogen 

The release of combustible gas during the interaction of metals and acids was observed as early as the 16th century. That is, during the formation of chemistry as a science. The famous English scientist Henry Cavendish had studied the substance since 1766, and gave it the name “combustible air”. When burned, this gas produced water. Unfortunately, the scientist’s adherence to the theory of phlogiston (the theory that suggested the existence of a fire-type element in materials) prevented him from coming to the correct conclusions.

Henry Cavendish (1731 – 1810)
Henry Cavendish (1731 – 1810) Source: https://www.butterflyfields.com/henry-cavendish-contributions-in-science/

In 1783 the French chemist and naturalist A. Lavoisier, together with the engineer J. Meunier, and with the help of special gas meters carried out the synthesis of water, and then its analysis by means of decomposition of water vapor with hot iron. Thus, scientists were able to come to the correct conclusions, and dismantle the phlogiston theory. They found that “combustible air” is not only a part of water but can also be obtained from it. In 1787, Lavoisier put forward the assumption that the gas under study is a simple substance and, accordingly, belongs to the number of primary chemical elements. He named it hydrogene (from the Greek words hydor – water + gennao – I give birth), that is, “giving birth to water”.

Antoine-Laurent
Antoine-Laurent
de Lavoisier (1743 – 1794). Source: https://educalingo.com/en/dic-en/lavoisier

A Little About The Properties Of Hydrogen 

In a free state and under normal conditions, hydrogen is a gas, and is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Hydrogen has almost 14.5 times mass less than air. It usually exists in combination with other elements, such as oxygen in water, carbon in methane, and organic compounds. Because hydrogen is chemically extremely active, it is rarely present as an unbound element. Read More

Vertical Pumps: What Are They, Where Are They Used and How To Design Them?

Introduction

Vertical pump designs are similar to conventional pumps, with some unique differences in their applications.  Pumps use centrifugal force to convert mechanical energy into kinetic energy and increase the pressure of the liquid. Vertical pumps move liquids in the vertical direction upwards through a pipe. All pumps pressurize liquids, which are mostly incompressible. Unlike compressible gases, it is impossible to compress liquids, therefore the volumetric flow rate can not be reduced. Therefore liquids are transported by pumping and the inlet volume flow rate is equal to the exit volume flow rate.

Vertical centrifugal pumps are simply designed machines, and have similarities to their horizontal counterparts. A casing called a volute contains an impeller mounted perpendicularly on an upright (vertical) rotating shaft. The electric drive motor uses its mechanical energy to turn the pump impeller with blades, and imparts kinetic energy to the liquid as it begins to rotate. These pumps can be single stage or multistage with several in-line stages mounted in series.

The centrifugal force through the impeller rotor causes the liquid and any particulates within the liquid to move radially outward, away from the impeller center of rotation at high tangential velocity. The swirling flow at the exit of the impeller is then channeled into a diffusion system which can be a volute or collector, which diffuses the high velocity flow and converts the velocity into high pressure. In vertical pumps, the high exit pressure enables the liquid to be pumped to high vertical locations. Thus the pump exit pressure force is utilized to lift the liquid to high levels, and usually at high residual pressure even at the pipe discharge.

Applications of Vertical Pumps

An “in line” vertical pump is illustrated in Figure 1 (Reference 1), where the flow enters horizontally and exits horizontally and can be mounted such that the center line of the inlet and discharge pipes are in line with each other.  This is a centrifugal pump with a tangential scroll at the inlet that redirects the flow by 90 degrees and distributes it circumferentially and in the axial direction into the impeller eye. The discharge is a simple volute that collects the tangential flow from the impeller exit, and redirects it into the radial direction.

in line Pump - Figure 1
An “in line” Vertical Pump. Source

Figure 2 shows a vertical pump that has a vertical intake that directs the flow straight into the eye of the pump rotor. At the impeller exit, the tangential flow is collected by a volute and diffused in an exit cone. An elbow after the exit cone redirects the flow into the vertical direction to lift the liquid to the desired altitude. (Reference 2). Read More

Modeling a Ground Source Heat Pump

Ground source heat pumps (GSHP) are one of the fastest growing applications of renewable energy in the world, with annual increase of 10% in about 30 countries over the past 15 years.  Its main advantage is that it uses normal ground or ground water temperatures to provide heating, cooling and domestic hot water for residential and commercial buildings. GSHP’s are proving to be one of the most reliable and cost-effective heating/cooling systems that are currently available on the market and have the potential of becoming the heating system of choice to many future consumers, because of its capacity for providing a variety of services such as heat generation, hot water, humidity control, and air cooling. Additionally,  they have the potential to reduce primary energy consumption, and subsequently provide lower carbon emissions, as well as operate more quietly and have a longer life span than traditional HVAC systems. The costs associated with GSHP systems are gradually decreasing every year due to successive technological improvements, which makes them more appealing to new consumers.

The basic purpose of a GSHP is to transfer heat from the ground (or a body of water) to the inside of a building. The heat pump’s process can be reversed, in which case it will extract heat from the building and release it into the ground. Thus, the ground is the main heat source and sink. During winter, the ground will provide the heat whereas in the summer it will absorb the heat.

A GSHP comes in two basic configurations: ground-coupled (closed-loop) and groundwater (open loop) systems, which are installed horizontally and vertically, or in wells and lakes. The type chosen depends upon various factors such as the soil and rock type at the installation, the heating and cooling load required, the land available as well as the availability of a water well, or the feasibility of creating one. Figure 1 shows the diagrams of these systems.

Two Basic Configurations
Figure 1. Two Basic Configurations of GSHP Systems. SOURCE: [1]
In the ground-coupled system (Figure 1a), a closed loop of pipe, placed either horizontally (1 to 2 m deep) or vertically (50 to 100 m deep), is placed in the ground and a water-antifreeze solution is circulated through the plastic pipes to either collect heat from the ground in the winter or reject heat to the ground in the summer. The open loop system (Figure 1b), runs groundwater or lake water directly in the heat exchanger and then discharges it into another well, stream, lake, or on the ground depending upon local laws. Between the two, ground-coupled (closed loop) GSHP’s are more popular because they are very adaptable.
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Unsteady Flow Simulation in Hydraulic Systems

[:en]An unsteady flow is one where the parameters change with respect to time. In general, any liquid flow is unsteady. But if a hydraulic system is working at constant boundary conditions, then the parameters of the fluid flow change slowly; thus this flow is considered steady. At the same time, if the parameters of the fluid flow oscillate over time relative to some constant value, then it called quasi-steady flow 1.

In practice, most fluid flows are steady or quasi-steady. Examples of the three flows are presented in Figure 1. Steady flow is presented by a simple pipe. The quasi-steady flow is represented by a sharpened edge channel. The unsteady flow is presented by an outflow from a reservoir.

Figure 1 - Different Types of Fluid Flow
Figure 1 – Different Types of Fluid Flow
Different Cases of Unsteady Flow

During operations, hydraulic systems act for long intervals at steady conditions which are called operating modes. Change between two different operating modes occurs over a short time interval (called a transient mode). If any hydraulic system works more than 95% of the time at these operating modes though, why is the unsteady flow is so important? Because the loads depend on time intervals. If the load is less, then the maximum system pressure is higher. Read More

An Introduction to Thermal Management in Electric Propulsion Systems

Reduction in CO2 emissions is driving the development of different electric, turbo-electric and hybrid electric propulsion systems for various applications and industries including space, aviation, automotive and marine. Electric propulsion (EP) is not a new concept, having been studied in parallel with chemical propulsion for many years. EP is a generic name encompassing all the ways of accelerating a propellant using electric power by different possible electric and/or magnetic means. The simplest way to achieve electric propulsion is to replace the heat generated by combustion in conventional chemical engines with electrical heating.

Electric propulsion systems offer several advantages compared to other conventional propulsion systems. It not only helps reduce the environmental emissions but also helps reduce fuel consumption and increases safety levels. Electric propulsion has become a cost effective and sound engineering solutions for many applications. Electric propulsion engines are also more efficient than others. It is proven to be one of the most energy saving technologies as we can use more renewable sources of energy (due to the versatility of electricity generation) instead of non-renewable sources of energy like gasoline. The major limitation of electric propulsion, when compared with conventional propulsion is limited by the available electric power capacity on board, this may be the reason, it is not the default propulsion system.

Electric Propulsion Architectures
Figure 1. Electric Propulsion Architectures. SOURCE: [4]
Generally, electric propulsion architectures vary depending on the application. Figure 1, above, shows the EP architectures for an aviation application. These architectures rely on different electric technologies (batteries, motors, generators, and so on). Typical aircrafts use gas turbine engines as the source of propulsion power, but all electric aircraft systems use batteries as the only source of propulsion power as shown in Figure 1 on the right. The hybrid systems use gas turbine engines for propulsion and to charge batteries which also provide energy for propulsion and accessories during one or more phases of flight as shown in Figure 1 on the left. Read More

Preventing Choke and Surge in a Compressor

Turbo Compressors are used to increase the pressure of a gas, which are required in propulsion systems like a gas turbine, as well as many production processes in the energy sectors, and various other important industries such as the oil and gas, chemical industries, and many more.

Such compressors are highly specific to the working fluid used (gas) and the specific operating conditions of the processes for which they are designed. This makes them very expensive. Thus, such turbo compressors should be designed and operate with high level of care and accuracy to avoid any failure and to extract the best performance possible from the machine.

Axial Compressor and Centrifugal Compressor in AxSTREAM
Figure 1 (A) Axial Compressor (B) Centrifugal Compressor in AxSTREAM®

Turbo Compressor Characteristic Curves

The characteristic curves of any turbo compressor define the operating zone for the compressor at different speed lines and is limited by the two phenomenon called choke and surge. These two opposing constraints can be seen in Figure 2.

Choke conditions occurs when a compressor operates at the maximum mass flow rate. Maximum flow happens as the Mach number reaches to unity at some part of the compressor, i.e. as it reaches sonic velocity, the flow is said to be choked. In other words, the maximum volume flow rate in compressor passage is limited by limited size of the throat region.  Generally, this calculation is important for applications where high molecular weight fluids are involved in the compression process.

Surge is the characteristic behavior of a turbo compressor at low flow rate conditions where a complete breakdown of steady flow occurs. Due to a surge, the outlet pressure of the compressor is reduced drastically, and results in flow reversal from discharge to suction. It is an undesirable phenomenon that can create high vibrations, damage the rotor bearings, rotor seals, compressor driver and affect the entire cycle operation.

Compressor Performance Curve
Figure 2 Compressor Performance Curve

Preventing Choke and Surge Conditions

Both choke conditions and surge conditions are undesirable for optimal operation of a turbo compressor.  Each condition must be considered during design to ensure these conditions are prevented. Read More

Optimization of the Closed Supercritical CO2 Brayton Cycle with the Detailed Simulation of Heat Exchangers

Recently scientists and engineers have turned their attention again to carbon dioxide as a working fluid to increase the efficiency of the Brayton cycle. But why has this become such a focus all of a sudden?

The first reason is the economical benefit. The higher the efficiency of the cycle is, the less fuel must be burned to obtain the same power generation. Additionally, the smaller the amount of fuel burned, the fewer emission. Therefore, the increase in efficiency also positively affects the environmental situation. Also, by lowering the temperature of the discharged gases, it is possible to install additional equipment to clean exhaust gases further reducing pollution.

So how does all of this come together? Figure 1 demonstrates a Supercritical CO2 power cycle with heating by flue gases modeled in AxCYCLE™. This installation is designed to utilize waste heat after some kind of technological process. The thermal potential of the exhaust gases is quite high (temperature 800° C). Therefore, at the exit from the technological installation, a Supercritical CO2 cycle was added to generate electrical energy. It should be noted: if the thermal potential of waste gases is much lower, HRSG can be used. More information on HRSG here: https://blog.softinway.com/en/introduction-to-heat-recovery-steam-generated-hrsg-technology/

Any cycle of a power turbine installation should consist of at least 4 elements : 2 elements for changing the pressure of the working fluid (turbine and compressor) and 2 elements for changing the temperature of the body (heater and cooler). The cycle demonstrated in Figure 1 has an additional regenerator, which makes it possible to use a part of the heat of the stream after the turbine (which should be removed in the cooler) to heat the stream after the compressor. Thus, part of the heat is returned to the cycle. This increases the efficiency of the cycle, but it requires the introduction of an additional heat exchanger.

The heat exchangers used in the sCO2 cycle are of three basic types: heaters, recuperators, and coolers. Typical closed Brayton cycles using sCO2 as the working fluid require a high degree of heat recuperation.

Supercritical CO2 Power Cycle with Heating by Flue Gases
Figure 1 – Supercritical CO2 Power Cycle with Heating by Flue Gases

Having examined this scheme and examined the process in detail, we can draw the following conclusions about the advantages of this cycle which is demonstrated in Figure 2: Read More

Role of AxSTREAM® in Radial Turbine Design

[:en]Radial turbines are quite popular for turbochargers and micro-gas turbines. They can also be found in compact power sources like in auxiliary power units of aircrafts. In short, they are suitable in power generation applications where expansion ratios are high and mass flow rates are relatively small. In a radial turbine, the flow enters radially and exits either axially or radially depending on whether it is an inflow or outflow type radial turbine. The most commonly used type of radial turbine is a radial-inflow turbine, in which the working fluid flows from a larger radius to a smaller radius. A centripetal turbine is very similar in appearance to the centrifugal compressor, but the flow direction is reverse. Figure 1 shows the radial-inflow turbine on the left and radial-outflow turbine on the right.

Radial-inflow turbine on the left; Radial-outflow turbine on the right
Figure 1: Radial-inflow turbine on the left; Radial-outflow turbine on the right

Nowadays, the popularity of radial-outflow turbines, in which the flow moves in the opposite direction (from the center to the periphery), is growing. With recent advancement in waste heat recovery applications, there has been a renewed interest in this type of turbines. These radial-outflow turbines are most commonly used in applications based on organic Rankine cycles (ORC).

The radial-outflow turbine design was first invented by the Ljungström brothers in 1912, however it was rarely used for a number of reasons. One of which was related to the decrease of turbine-specific work due to the increase of the peripheral velocity from inlet to outlet while expanding the vapor. Another reason was the usage of steam as a working fluid. It is known from thermodynamics that the expansion of steam is characterized by high enthalpy drops, high volumetric flows and high volumetric ratios. Thus, a significant number of stages are needed to convert the enthalpy drop of the fluid into mechanical energy.

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Tidal Energy

[:en]If you’re looking for clean, free energy… a song comes to mind.

Tide after tide.
If you flow I will catch – I’ll be waiting.
Tide after tide.

With no particular link to Cyndi Lauper, waves just want to have fun so let’s allow them to do so while catching their drift as a potential energy source using tidal turbines.

Introduction:

Wave energy is a form of hydropower used to convert energy obtained from tides into mechanical and/or electrical power. Wave energy is produced when electricity generators are placed on the surface of the ocean. The energy provided is most often used in desalination plants, power plants and water pumps. Energy output is determined by wave height, wave speed, wavelength, and water density.

sea wave during storm
Figure 1 Ocean Waves

How are Tides Generated:

Tidal forces are periodic variations in gravitational attraction exerted by celestial bodies. It is these forces that are responsible for the currents in the world’s oceans. A local, strong attraction on a part of the ocean allied with moving celestial bodies and the rotation of the Earth leads this bulging part of water to meet the adjacent shallower waters of the shoreline which creates the tides.

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[:en]The Pros and Cons of Wind Energy[:cn]Pros and Cons of Wind Energy[:]

[:en]Who knew passing wind would be so exhilarating?

Last month we discussed a few basic aspects of wind as a source of clean energy. We showed what wind was, how it forms and where it goes.  Then after going on a tangent about the history of turbines, we showed where on the Earth we could recover the highest amount of wind energy and how this potential changes with altitude. Today’s post offer the pros and cons of wind energy while touching upon several topics discussed in the previous post before diving into the optimal where and when.

Getting into the “What”

With an established worldwide potential of more than 400 TW (20 times more than what the entire human population needs) and a clean, renewable source wind is definitely attractive to the current and future generations. In terms of harvesting it, over 99% percent of wind farms in the USA are located in rural areas with 71% of them in low-income counties. Indeed, the more land is available (and the fewer buildings), the higher the possibility and interest to transform this kinetic energy into mechanical work and then most likely electricity.

Where one would see sporadic turbines on the side of the highway, these stand-alone equipment have begun to turn into actual modules (farms) that can work as an overall unit instead of individual ones. This strategy of creating a network of turbines follows the philosophy of “the Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts”. What this translates into is that by having 20 (arbitrary number) wind turbines working together to determine the best orientation, pitch, etc. of their blades in such a way that it least negatively impacts the downstream units we can produce more energy than if each of them were live-optimized individually (some interesting A.I. work is going into this). This means that the overall system is more efficient at converting energy and therefore it is more cost effective to provide bulk power to the electrical grid. This is similar to the concept in the post on solar energy comparing PV panels and CSP. Read the full post here. 

In terms of power production per wind turbine, the utility-scale ones range from about 100 kW to several MW for the land-based units (Offshore wind turbines are typically larger and produce more power – getting ahead of myself here but check out the figure below for wind potential in Western Europe that clearly showcases coast vs. non-coast data). On the low-power end of the spectrum, we find some below 100 kW for some non-utility applications like powering homes, telecommunications dishes, water pumping, etc. Solar power (PV) is generally regarded as the first choice for homeowners looking to become energy producers themselves, but wind turbines make an excellent alternative in some situations. It would take a wind turbine of about 10 kilowatts and $40,000 to $70,000 to become a net electricity producer. Investments like this typically break even after 10 to 20 years.

Wind potential in Western Europe
Figure 8 Wind potential in Western Europe – https://globalwindatlas.info/

Onto the “Where”

One of the elements of wind formation we covered in the last post here was a different in pressure (and therefore temperature). This simplification works rather well at the macro-scale, but as we zoom in closer to the surface we can see that wind flow speeds and patterns vary quite significantly based on more than just the general location of Earth. On top of the altitude we already discussed, factors like vegetation, presence of high-rise buildings or bodies of water come into play.

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