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Running on Air

The PERFECT fuel would be air and France is developing a small car that runs off a tank of compressed air. If that doesn't work, one of the components of air (hydrogen) would be the perfect fuel, except that the molecules are too small to keep in the gas tank. But now this problem may have been solved, and the predicted death of the green, hydrogen-fueled automobile, has undergone a reincarnation.

However, there are many problems with using compressed air to power a vehicle. The most significant is that a reasonably sized tank cannot hold much energy in this form, so it's impossible to predict with any certainty when this vehicle will actually hit the streets.

Some engineers think that compressed air is not a practical power source for vehicles due to the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the quality of energy deteriorates gradually over time. They point out that the AirPod's small tank doesn't hold much more energy than 4 gallons of gasoline. Pneumatic hybrids might be the solution.

So let's move on to Hydrogen fuel, which will help save the environment because its emission is steam. Hydrogen fuel, should be the ultimate in green alternatives to fossil fuels, hasn't delivered on its promise yet because of one enormous stumbling block: storage. Now a team of chemical engineers are planning to build a gas tank out of carbon nanotubes. Engineer Dimitrios Maroudas says, "If this works as we expect, it's perhaps no longer science fiction to hope for a briefcase-sized hydrogen battery to run a bus or car. Hydrogen storage has been a huge problem in the energy field for the past 10 years because no one has been able to demonstrate a truly viable storage medium."

Clearly, the days of understanding what's under the hood of your car are almost over, because it's hard for those of us who aren't scientists to understand what carbon nanotubes ARE, but if this works, we can certainly be thankful for them (Note: Subscribers can still listen to this incredible show).

To learn more, click here, here and here.

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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