Fascination with Shiny Pennies

I do love freshly minted coins, especially pennies … copper is so pretty before it tarnishes. That’s why we lacquer coat things to preserve something closer to the original brightness, but even then it pales in comparison to freshly produced copper.

I guess then it shouldn’t be such a surprise that seemingly new ideas enjoy focus, as if they were truly answers to key issues. I read today that atmospheric aerosols have moved from the shiny penny status to an outright ban once technically savvy people took a closer look. But, to those who don’t know, don’t care, or perhaps don’t understand … the idea seemed wonderful.

Hydrogen seems to have some level of shiny penny status, at least for a while and until people start to pencil out the real costs, and once people realize the NOx implications that I have covered in prior blogs. The blog today is about ammonia … another shiny penny.

The modern world is well aware of ammonia and uses it in commercial refrigeration, so when people think about alternatives to HCFCs it certainly is a candidate. The latest idea I saw in MIT Research would have you believe it is a cheap source of hydrogen.

Does anyone ever look at basic stoichiometry before they make such claims. Ammonia is NH3 which means it has three atoms of hydrogen for every atom of nitrogen, but nitrogen has an atomic weight of 14 so it is 14 times heavier. That means ammonia only yields about 3/14 of its weight to hydrogen, and that assumes 100% conversion just a bit better than 20%. Therefore, your starting price for hydrogen is five times the cost of ammonia used as a fuel, and then you have to pay for the production of it along with that fuel cell mentioned in the article.

Why didn’t anyone talk about these details in that article? Because it is a shiny penny.

Shiny pennies result in wasting billions of dollars … maybe we never thought about them that way.

We should …

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