Liquid nitrogen economy
A liquid nitrogen economy is a hypothetical proposal for a future
economyin which the primary form of energy storage and transport is liquid nitrogen. It is proposed as an alternative to liquid hydrogenin some transport modes and as a means of locally storing energy captured from renewable sources. An analysis of this concept provides insight into the physical limits of all energy conversion schemes.
Currently, most road vehicles are powered by
internal combustion engines burning fossil fuel. If transportation is to be sustainable over the long term, the fuel must be replaced by something else produced by renewable energy. The replacement should not be thought of as an energy source; it is a means of transferring and concentrating energy, a "currency" or energy carrier.
Liquid nitrogen is generated by
cryogenicor Stirling enginecoolers that liquefy the main component of air, nitrogen(N2). The cooler can be powered by renewable-generated electricity or through direct mechanical work from hydro or wind turbines.
Liquid nitrogen is distributed and stored in insulated containers. The insulation reduces heat flow into the stored nitrogen. Heat from the surrounding environment boils the liquid. Reducing inflowing heat reduces the loss of liquid nitrogen in storage. The requirements of storage prevent the use of pipelines as a means of transport. Since long-distance pipelines would be costly due to the insulation requirements, it would be costly to use distant energy sources for production of liquid nitrogen. Petroleum reserves are typically a vast distance from consumption but can be transferred at ambient temperatures.
Liquid nitrogen consumption is in essence production in reverse. The
Stirling engineor cryogenic heat engine offers a way to power vehicles and a means to generate electricity. Liquid nitrogen can also serve as a direct coolant for refrigerators, electrical equipment and air conditioningunits. The consumption of liquid nitrogen is in effect boiling and returning the nitrogento the atmosphere.
The approach has been criticized on the following grounds, which can also be seen as the engineering challenges that must be overcome.
Cost of production
Liquid nitrogen production is an energy-intensive process. Currently practical refrigeration plants producing a few tons/day of liquid nitrogen operate at about 50% of Carnot efficiency [J. Franz, C. A. Ordonez, A. Carlos, "Cryogenic Heat Engines Made Using Electrocaloric Capacitors", American Physical Society, Texas Section Fall Meeting, October 4-6, 2001 Fort Worth, Texas Meeting ID: TSF01, abstract #EC.009, 10/2001.] .
Energy density of liquid nitrogen
Any process that relies on a phase-change of a substance will have much lower energy densities than processes involving a chemical reaction in a substance, which in turn have lower energy densities than nuclear reactions. Liquid nitrogen as an energy store has a low energy density. Liquid hydrocarbon fuels by comparison have a high energy density. A high energy density makes the logistics of transport and storage more convenient. Convenience is an important factor in consumer acceptance. The convenient storage of petroleum fuels combined with its low cost has led to an unrivaled success. In addition, a petroleum fuel is a primary energy source, not just an energy storage and transport medium.
The energy density — derived from nitrogen's isobaric heat of vaporization and specific heat in gaseous state — that can be realised from liquid nitrogen at atmospheric pressure and zero degrees Celsius ambient temperature is about 97 watt-hours per kilogram (W-hr/kg). This compares with about 3,000 W-hr/kg for a gasoline combustion engine running at 28% thermal efficiency, 30 times the density of liquid nitrogen used at the Carnot efficiency C. Knowlen, A.T. Mattick, A.P. Bruckner and A. Hertzberg, [http://www.aa.washington.edu/AERP/cryocar/Papers/sae98.pdf "High Efficiency Conversion Systems for Liquid Nitrogen Automobiles"] , Society of Automotive Engineers Inc, 1988.] .
For an isothermal expansion engine to have a range comparable to an internal combustion engine, a convert|350|l|USgal|0|adj=on onboard storage vessel is required . Add to that the fact the container would need to be insulated. A practical volume, but a noticeable increase over the typical convert|50|l|USgal|0|adj=on gasoline tank. The addition of more complex power cycles would reduce this requirement and help enable frost free operation. However, no commercially practical instances of liquid nitrogen use for vehicle propulsion exist.
Unlike internal combustion engines, using a cryogenic fuel requires heat exchangers to warm and cool the working fluid. In a humid environment, frost formation will prevent heat flow and thus represents an engineering challenge. To prevent frost build up, multiple working fluids can be used. This adds topping cycles to ensure the heat exchanger does not fall below freezing. Additional heat exchangers, weight, complexity, efficiency loss, and expense, would be required to enable frost free operation .
However efficient the insulation on the nitrogen fuel tank, there will inevitably be losses by evaporation to the atmosphere. If a vehicle is stored in a poorly ventilated space, there is some risk that leaking nitrogen depletes the level of oxygen in the air and causes
suffocation. Since nitrogen is a colorless and odourless gas that already makes up 78 % of air, such a change is difficult to detect.
Future energy development
Vegetable oil economy
* [http://www.sequencezero.com/L2N/L2NMap.html Liquid Nitrogen Economy] - Similar overview with diagrams. (License GFDL)
* [http://www.mtsc.unt.edu/CooLN2Car.html LN2 Vehicle 1] - A liquid nitrogen powered car using a Cryogenic Heat Engine at the University of North Texas.
* [http://www.aa.washington.edu/aerp/CRYOCAR/CryoCar.htm LN2 Vehicle 2] - Another liquid nitrogen powered car at the University of Washington.
* [http://www.whispergen.com/ WhisperGen] - Domestic Stirling generators.
* [http://www.coercive.com/cooler.htm Cryogenic Coolers] - Small, rapid, compact cooling.
* [http://www.howstuffworks.com/question133.htm Discussion on LN2 vehicle feasibility at How stuff works]
* [http://kahuna.sdsu.edu/testcenter/testhome/Test/solve/basics/tables/tablesComb/hhv.html Thermodynamic Properties of various fuels] - Tabulated data.
* C. A. Ordonez, M. C. Plummer, R. F. Reidy [http://www.phys.unt.edu/~cordonez/IMECE01.pdf "Cryogenic Heat Engines for Powering Zero Emission Vehicles"] , Proceedings of 2001 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, November 11-16, 2001, New York, NY.
* Kleppe J.A., Schneider R.N., “A Nitrogen Economy”, Winter Meeting ASEE, Honolulu, HI, December, 1974.
* Gordon J. Van Wylan and Richard F. Sontag, "Fundamentals of Classical Thermodynamics SI Version 2nd Ed."
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Liquid nitrogen — (liquid density at the triple point is 0.707 g/mL) is the liquid produced industrially in large quantities by fractional distillation of liquid air and is often referred to by the abbreviation, LN2. It is pure nitrogen, in a liquid state. Liquid… … Wikipedia
Vegetable oil economy — is the potential of vegetable oil to replace fossil fuels in the economy and how it compares to other potential replacements. Vegetable oils are the basis of biodiesel, which can be used like conventional diesel. Some vegetable oil blends are… … Wikipedia
Lithium economy — The lithium economy is a concept analogous to the hydrogen economy, methanol economy, ethanol economy, electron economy, vegetable oil economy, or liquid nitrogen economy but where the energy vector is lithium. Analogous economies are the zinc… … Wikipedia
Methanol economy — The methanol economy is a suggested future economy in which methanol replaces fossil fuels as a means of energy storage, ground transportation fuel, and raw material for synthetic hydrocarbons and their products. It offers an alternative to the… … Wikipedia
Hydrogen economy — The hydrogen economy is a proposed system of delivering energy using hydrogen. The term hydrogen economy was coined by John Bockris during a talk he gave in 1970 at General Motors (GM) Technical Center. Hydrogen advocates promote hydrogen as… … Wikipedia
Stirling engine — Alpha type Stirling engine. There are two cylinders. The expansion cylinder (red) is maintained at a high temperature while the compression cylinder (blue) is cooled. The passage between the two cylinders contains the regenerator … Wikipedia
List of energy resources — These are modes of energy production, energy storage, or energy conservation, listed alphabetically. Note that not all sources are accepted as legitimate or have been proven to be tappable.*Abiogenic petroleum origin *Alcohol fuel *Anaerobic… … Wikipedia
Energy carrier — An energy carrier is a substance or phenomenon that can be used to produce mechanical work or heat or to operate chemical or physical processes (ISO 13600).It is any system or substance that contains energy for conversion as usable energy later… … Wikipedia
Thermal energy storage — District heating accumulation tower from Theiss near Krems an der Donau in Lower Austria with a thermal capacity of 2 GWh Thermal energy storage comprises a number of technologies that store thermal energy in energy storage reservoirs for later… … Wikipedia
Energy crisis — An energy crisis is any great bottleneck (or price rise) in the supply of energy resources to an economy. It usually refers to the shortage of oil and additionally to electricity or other natural resources. An energy crisis may be referred to as… … Wikipedia