Science and Technology Links 5/18 – “Smells like…” Edition


Oscar Gordon

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget.

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18 Responses

  1. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Your ColonDrone will soon be ready.

    This is the worst Fantastic Voyage reboot yet.Report

  2. Avatar aaron david says:

    Where have all the insects gone?

    (Also, RIP Chris Cornell)Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to aaron david says:

      I had to listen to Outshined this morning (first Soundgarden song I ever heard).

      ETA: the insect bit is more than a little scary. They are annoying, but damn critical.Report

  3. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    I’m not sure which is more distasteful for most people – the smell of ammonia, or the smell of gasoline.

    Mr. T can hardly change a litter box without gagging, and kind of likes the smell of gasoline.
    I’m not fond of the smell of cat pee, but it doesn’t bother me much either – I find filling the gas tank to be the more nasty smelling chore of the two.

    Also I notice it’s described as scaled for installation at or near fuel stations – so you wouldn’t be filling your car with ammonia.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to dragonfrog says:

      Personally, I’ll take ammonia over diesel over gasoline (I kinda like the smell of diesel, and I’ve lived with cats, ammonia only bugs me if I know that cat is mad at me, and the smell is coming from my pillow).Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Because I always mix it up myself, is the main thing talked about in the article ammonia – gas at 1 atm room temp, liquid at 9-10 atm room temp – or ammonium, liquid at 1 atm room temp?Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Kolohe says:

          I think the membrane works on gaseous ammonia. Transporting NH3 is still probably a lot less complicated or energy intensive than cryogenic hydrogen.Report

          • Anhydrous ammonia is seriously toxic stuff. Easier than cryogenic hydrogen, but more complicated than gasoline or diesel. IIRC, standard procedure for any accident involving more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous — call it 1,750 gallons in liquid form — is to evacuate everyone within a one-mile radius. How many typical 3,500 gallon fuel tracks headed for local gas stations roll over or get hit in the US every day?Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

              Perhaps NH4 would be a better way to transport it…

              Unless there is an easy way to get NH3 out of the water it is so often dissolved in?

              Alternatively, if this works for NH3, I imagine it would also work for CH4.Report

            • Avatar George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

              Anhydrous ammonia is also used to make crystal meth.

              A better solution would combine hydrogen with carbon from coal to make dimethyl ether, which can then be reacted with a zeolite catalyst to make octane (C8H18). Octane can be run in gasoline engines and the byproducts are water vapor and CO2, but the CO2 is consumed by strawberry plants to make strawberries.

              Would you rather have a trunk full of cheap strawberries in a Dodge Hellcat burning 100 octane racing fuel, or a neighborhood filled with gap-tooth acne-faced meth heads?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to George Turner says:

                If only gasoline engines burned with perfect efficiency, instead of suffering incomplete combustion and kicking out nitrogen and sulfur pollutants.

                Even a crappy hydrogen fuel cell still only exhausts water vapor.Report

            • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Michael Cain says:

              Anhydrous ammonia is also a widely used farm fertilizer – it’s injected directly into humid soil, where it’s captured by the water already present there.

              So there’s already a lot of anhydrous ammonia transport by truck going on, but we don’t seem to hear a lot of instances of transportation disasters from the stuff.Report

              • Hard to make a straight up comparison. On the one hand, the US consumes more than an order of magnitude more petroleum than ammonia. Most of the ammonia is consumed in rural areas. Much of the rural transport is done in 1,000 gallon trailer-mounted tanks which roll over often despite being limited to 25 mph but are below the big evacuation size and out in the countryside where, as you note, there’s typically considerable water to which leaks can bind relatively harmlessly. OTOH, if ammonia-based energy transport were to replace petroleum, more than 10x as much stuff has to move, be transported in larger vehicles, and most importantly, be moved into urban/suburban areas.

                It’s easy to overlook just how easy it is to store/handle medium-length hydrocarbon chains.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

                In a gasoline tanker spill, the benzene we add to gasoline makes the spill over a hundred times more toxic than the leaded gasoline it replaced.

                Gasoline can contain up to 1.3% benzene, which is 13,000,000 parts per billion. The EPA’s benzene limit for drinking water is 5 ppb. So one gallon of unleaded gasoline in 2,600,000 gallons of drinking water (4 Olympic sized swimming pools) renders the water unsafe.

                Prior to the phase out, leaded gasoline contained 1.1 grams per gallon of lead, or 291,000 ppb. The EPA’s lead limit for drinking water is 15 ppb. So a gallon of leaded gasoline would only render 19,000 gallons of water unsafe. It would take 34 gallons of leaded gasoline in to render an Olympic size pool unsafe due to lead content.

                So in a spill, modern unleaded gasoline is 134 times as toxic as leaded gasoline, which was banned for being toxic.

                So don’t wreck a tanker truck!Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to George Turner says:

                Benzene in fuel that is not spilled but burned in an engine as intended, burns up and is no longer benzene. Lead remains lead.

                So, I guess there’s a crossover rate for which kind of fuel is safer to use overall – a rate of fuel loss to spillage of 1/134 of total production.

                More than that, and you want leaded fuel (but you really want to figure out why you’re spilling so much of the stuff, and fix that). Less than that, and you want unleaded.Report

  4. Avatar Zac Black says:

    Initial reports indicate that Mr. Ailes was killed when his sail barge encountered unexpected difficulties near the sarlacc pit in the Dune Sea. We will be updating this story as more information becomes available.Report

  5. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    RE: Fuzzy Black Matter.

    Always good to read how I’m still large, able to influence things, and enigmatic.Report