New geothermal heat extraction process to deliver clean power generation (w/ Video)

Jul 16, 2009
PNNL's introduction of a metal-organic heat carrier, or MOHC, in the biphasic fluid may help improve thermodynamic efficiency of the heat recovery process. This image represents the molecular makeup of one of several MOHCs.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new method for capturing significantly more heat from low-temperature geothermal resources holds promise for generating virtually pollution-free electrical energy. Scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will determine if their innovative approach can safely and economically extract and convert heat from vast untapped geothermal resources.

The goal is to enable power generation from low-temperature geothermal resources at an economical cost. In addition to being a source without any , geothermal is also a steady and dependable source of power.

"By the end of the calendar year, we plan to have a functioning bench-top prototype generating electricity," predicts PNNL Laboratory Fellow Pete McGrail. "If successful, enhanced geothermal systems like this could become an important energy source." A technical and economic analysis conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that enhanced geothermal systems could provide 10 percent of the nation's overall electrical generating capacity by 2050.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

PNNL's conversion system will take advantage of the rapid expansion and contraction capabilities of a new liquid developed by PNNL researchers called biphasic fluid. When exposed to heat brought to the surface from water circulating in moderately hot, underground rock, the thermal-cycling of the biphasic fluid will power a turbine to generate electricity.

To aid in efficiency, scientists have added nanostructured metal-organic heat carriers, or MOHCs, which boost the capacity to near that of a conventional steam cycle. McGrail cited PNNL's nanotechnology and molecular engineering expertise as an important factor in the development, noting that the advancement was an outgrowth of research already underway at the lab.

"Some novel research on nanomaterials used to capture carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels actually led us to this discovery," said McGrail. "Scientific breakthroughs can come from some very unintuitive connections."

Source: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (news : web)

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User comments : 16

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Lord_jag
3 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2009
My only fear is what happens if this fluid leaks out from an earthquake or landslide or user supidity.

Hopefully it wont cause environmental havoc.
defunctdiety
3 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2009
My only fear is what happens if this fluid leaks out from an earthquake or landslide or user supidity.


I may be mistaken here, but I think the fluid is essentially inside of a hydraulic type piston/pump which would be housed in a room, probably an underground room, but the point is not directly in soil.
DozerIAm
2 / 5 (4) Jul 16, 2009
I gotta go with Lord Jag here - the gasoline additive MTBE wasn't expected to come in direct contact with soil but it does, and when it does so it poisons ground water. Point being, we should probably look into the potential environmental risks from this "biphasic fluid" (a Star Trek sounding term if ever there was one).

http://www.junksc...tbe.html
defunctdiety
3 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2009
Point being, we should probably look into the potential environmental risks from this "biphasic fluid"


I didn't say we don't need to be aware of it's properties in the environment. Just that the risk of contamination is hopefully very low.
Sean_W
3.1 / 5 (10) Jul 16, 2009
Even if it is not toxic, and it probably isn't, you will never convince most people that it is safe. It has "nano" in the name which translates as "evil" for most people. Might as well go all the way and call it "genetically modified nano Nazi poison radiation particles"
Dig
4 / 5 (4) Jul 16, 2009
Even if it is not toxic, and it probably isn't, you will never convince most people that it is safe. It has "nano" in the name which translates as "evil" for most people. Might as well go all the way and call it "genetically modified nano Nazi poison radiation particles"


Since when did you have to convince anyone? Just don't tell them. With enough money, you can do anything.

Case in point: Monsanto has genetically modified russet potatoes so they excrete a poison that kills a certain bug. Russet potatoes are McDonald's number one used potato. So everytime people eat fries at McD's, they could be eating fries made from potatoes that are registered with the EPA as a pesticide. They are called NewLeaf potatoes.

So, all they have to do is convince the FDA like Monsanto has done, to not be forced to label their product with what is really in it.

We should be very concerned about the affects of anything that could even remotely get into the environment. And even MORE concerned about all the things we don't know about.
LuckyBrandon
1 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2009
sean-DUDE, that was fkn HILARIOUS
Bob_B
3 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2009
I guess all those I-pod Nano sales were just a weird nano-chromatic random event!

luke67m
1 / 5 (2) Jul 17, 2009
My biggest fear is what will happen if we don't replace fossil fuels?
It seems all you are not discussing the real problem : is better fossil fuels that are actually and massively destroing our environment or is better this sistem that will sometimes (incidents always happens) create problems?
I think this is a great discovery.
And I hope this scientists will continue with their project.
We absolutely need to replace fossil fuels with better energy sources.
If this system will be able to create a really good energy sources, the next real problem will be to force oil company to leave oil money and adopt this (and other) system.
All the other problem are irrelevant...
Birger
2 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2009
Since geothermal power depends on relatively lukewarm water (compared to other power sources) the maximum energy conversion from heat to electricity will still be low, despite MOHCs -unless the tests at Iceland with very deep geothermal boreholes succeed.
An ideal solution is to convert a minor part of the energy to electricity, and use the rest of the heat for central heating in nearby cities and towns. That way, you should be able to use 80-90%. The limiting factor will be the cost for the pipelines pumping hot water to nearby towns.
By the way, will the MOHCs be used for a Stirling-type engine, or a turbine?
mongander
3 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2009
Even if it is not toxic, and it probably isn't, you will never convince most people that it is safe. It has "nano" in the name which translates as "evil" for most people. Might as well go all the way and call it "genetically modified nano Nazi poison radiation particles"
That's why Jello changed their popular pudding name from nano to banana.
Lord_jag
not rated yet Jul 17, 2009
I'm not saying it IS toxic. I just want to know if it is before I put it in close proximty to the groundwater that I drink.

If it's proven non-toxic or biodegrades in soil, all is good. If not, I don't want it.
zbarlici
not rated yet Jul 19, 2009
perhaps they should change the fluid name as the term "bi" implies other things as well. It might put some ppl off the idea :)
ryuuguu
not rated yet Jul 19, 2009

As well as Geothermal this could probably be used for other low grad heat sources, like waste from nuclear, coal and other heat turbine stations.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2009
If it gets people to stop building all those stupid windmills, I'll be happy. I wonder if this has an application in refrigeration and air conditioning as well?
defunctdiety
not rated yet Jul 20, 2009
I wonder if this has an application in refrigeration and air conditioning as well?


Or to anyone with a water-block cpu heatsink >:D