Magnesium: Alternative Power Source

Apr 23, 2010 by John Messina weblog
A small amount of magnesium ribbon burns in a flame with a satisfying white heat.

(PhysOrg.com) -- There is enough magnesium to meet the world's energy needs for the next 300,000 years, says Dr. Takashi Yabe of the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Magnesium is abundant in the world; however the production of is neither cheap or clean. There are various ways of extracting magnesium, ranging from an electrolytic process to high temperature method called the Pidgeon process.

Dr. Yabe has devised a high temperature solution by concentrating solar collectors and a solar-pump laser to reach a temperature of 3,700 degrees centigrade. This high heat method is used to burn magnesium oxide extracted from seawater. The solar-pumped laser is necessary to help obtain this high temperature because concentrated solar alone would not be enough to generate 3,700 degrees C.

Engineers at MagPower have developed a metal-air cell that uses water and ambient air to react with a magnesium anode, to generate electricity. A magnesium based version of the lithium-ion rechargeable cell has been created by Dr. Doron Aurbach at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

Magnesium + Oxygen + Water + Salt + Additive = Direct Current Credit: MagPower Systems, Inc

The MAFC (magnesium-air ) has the electrolyte versatility of using a common saline (salt) solution or ocean water. The performance capabilities of the MAFC can be enhanced through the addition of MagPower’s hydrogen inhibitors.

According to MagPower Systems, by using hydrogen inhibitors the MAFC has increased , lower cell resistance, and the reduction or elimination of pressure and/or volume increase due to hydrogen gassing resulting in smaller metal-air fuel cells, and batteries.

Magnesium is highly reactive and stores a lot of energy. Researchers are now devising ways to extract energy from magnesium in a more controlled method.

Explore further: Team improves solar-cell efficiency

More information: www.magpowersystems.com/

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User comments : 28

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El_Nose
5 / 5 (6) Apr 23, 2010
and the thing is awesome until the tank ruptures or someone gets the salinity wrong and then you have a massive bomb.

But I like the thinking outside of the box. Its a great idea actually.. with just as many issues as hydrogen so why not.
GaryB
5 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2010
Energy density chart:
http://www.energy...atts.htm

They don't say, but even the best magnesium battery, Magnesium hydride with Ni catalyst, is still 1/5 the energy density of gasoline. Still, the best magnesium battery is 10x the density of lithium batteries.
Scalziand
5 / 5 (4) Apr 23, 2010
At least magnesium is easier to store than hydrogen.
Also, it'd be awesome if magnesium became as cheap and widespread as aluminum is now.
Giablo
3 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2010
I wonder if this is taking into account if we make it and its cheap people will use more of it, and the increasing needs of society's still coming to use many of the items we do in first world nations ie. computers,cell phones, 2 cars per family......either way I like the prospect of it being abundent, just hope we dont mistakingly miss some random side effect.
Alizee
Apr 23, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
pauljpease
4.4 / 5 (7) Apr 23, 2010
This article is terrible. "Magnesium is abundant in the world; however the production of magnesium is either cheap or clean." EITHER cheap or clean? I'm sure they meant NEITHER cheap nor clean. Doesn't sound very promising. Then they go on to provide random details about a variety of possible ways of using magnesium. I especially enjoy the one about using sunlight to power a laser to burn magnesium oxide. I'm sure they didn't mean it. Wouldn't it just be cheaper to use the solar power directly?

On a related topic (alternative energy), has anybody come up with a way of using solar power (in the form of photons, heat or solar electricity) to drive the formation of methane from carbon dioxide and water? I've seen a few articles on this. Most attempts involve biological organisms. If you could invent a cheap catalyst for this reaction you'd have a very convenient natural gas generator. You could store solar power to release on demand, and use the existing gas distribution technology.
Renier
3 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2010
Should read neither. On the face of it the process described does not sound cheap either.
otto1923
3 / 5 (3) Apr 23, 2010
At least magnesium is easier to store than hydrogen.
Also, it'd be awesome if magnesium became as cheap and widespread as aluminum is now.
Speaking of aluminum, how about thermite as an energy source? Yeah I know the stuff takes lots of energy to refine... at present.
otto1923
Apr 23, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Scientifica
2.5 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2010
Okay...let's say they make a power plant that burns magnesium...and it catches fire. Damn, is that ever going to be a bright fire at night!
thermodynamics
5 / 5 (6) Apr 24, 2010
It is a reflection on science journalism these days that we see articles like this. If you go to the chemistry book you will find the the energy required to form magnesium metal is greater than you will get out of it when you burn it. The only reason that fossil fuels are available is that they stored sunlight over a billion years or so to make the deposits. There is nothing like that for magnesium. Instead, it has to be manufactured in an energy intensive process. No gain in energy at all, just a loss.
Husky
4.8 / 5 (6) Apr 24, 2010
yeh, the title and intro is suggestive in the sense that it describes magnesium as an abundant mineable ore that can be directly burnt like oil
Newbeak
5 / 5 (6) Apr 24, 2010
I like the Swiss concept of converting zinc oxide to metallic zinc as a way of storing solar power.The resulting pure zinc is safe to store and transport to where power is required.Combine the zinc with hot water,and you get pure H2 for fuel cells,or it can be used in zinc air batteries.
See: http://www.physor...749.html
Shootist
1.3 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2010
I like the Swiss concept of converting zinc oxide to metallic zinc as a way of storing solar power.The resulting pure zinc is safe to store and transport to where power is required.Combine the zinc with hot water,and you get pure H2 for fuel cells,or it can be used in zinc air batteries.
See: http://www.physor...749.html


How much energy was used to refine the Zinc? What is the carbon footprint? How long will it take to "pay" that energy back?

What is the carbon foot print of a 1 gigawatt fission plant? Less than the carbon footprint of magnesium batteries, I tell you what.
Newbeak
4.3 / 5 (3) Apr 24, 2010
Shootist:
If you went to the link I posted,you would know they are aiming for 60% efficiency,and are now at 30% efficiency with their experiment solar reactors.Don't forget they are harnessing SOLAR energy,which basically has a zero carbon footprint.I can envision this being done on a large scale in the sunny U.S. southwest.Once a commercially feasible design is developed,they could be built in a few years.
In contrast,the lead time for your fission plant is 10-15 years.It costs 6-10 billion for a new fission facility,and building enough of them in time to make a difference in global warming is probably not possible.Decommissioning your fission plants would cost billions more.It has been estimated that 5 % of humanity's carbon footprint comes from the concrete industry (for your nuke plant), both from energy use and the carbon dioxide (CO2) byproduct from the production of cement, one of concrete's principal components (http://www.scienc...000.htm)
Newbeak
5 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2010
Shootist: Sorry,something happened to that last link.Try this:http://www.scienc...1000.htm
Sirussinder
Apr 24, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Newbeak
3 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2010
What BS article, it will never work.

That's what they said about heavier than air flight ten years before Kitty Hawk.( http://ipbiz.blog...ir.html)
If it works,it will provide a way to store solar energy in portable form.
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 24, 2010
What BS article, it will never work.

The links I post don't work,for some reason....
Indeed, eight years before Orville and Wilbur Wright took their home-built flyer to the sandy dunes of Kitty Hawk, cranked up the engine, and took off into the history books, Lord Kelvin, the President of the Royal Society of England made a forceful declaration. "Heavier than air flying machines are impossible," said this very powerful man of science....Rumor has it Lord Kelvin was slightly in error.
Newbeak
5 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2010
At least magnesium is easier to store than hydrogen.
Also, it'd be awesome if magnesium became as cheap and widespread as aluminum is now.
Speaking of aluminum, how about thermite as an energy source? Yeah I know the stuff takes lots of energy to refine... at present.

It makes a good rocket fuel.It's what powers the solid boosters on the Shuttle.
KhanneaSuntzu
5 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2010
Oh sweet baby jebus

PURIFIED MAGNESIUM IS AN ENERGY CARRIER - IT IS NOT AN ENERGY SOUCE.

"Alternative Power Source" == nonsense. You cant 'win' energy from magnesium. Purifying it can make it acxt as a (hopelessly inefficient) energy storage medium.

barakn
5 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2010
... Lord Kelvin, the President of the Royal Society of England made a forceful declaration. "Heavier than air flying machines are impossible," said this very powerful man of science....Rumor has it Lord Kelvin was slightly in error.

Makes you wonder if he thought birds were less dense than air, or if he thought of birds at all.
Newbeak
5 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2010
... Lord Kelvin, the President of the Royal Society of England made a forceful declaration. "Heavier than air flying machines are impossible," said this very powerful man of science....Rumor has it Lord Kelvin was slightly in error.

Makes you wonder if he thought birds were less dense than air, or if he thought of birds at all.

Very good point;it hadn't occurred to me.Maybe he was thinking flapping wing flight was impossible for humans to duplicate..
dirk_bruere
not rated yet Apr 25, 2010
There is not enough Li mined in the world, or in reserves, to make batteries for every car that currently exists. The future of battery tech cannot be Li based.
ormondotvos
not rated yet Apr 26, 2010
Duh. The article is about energy density in batteries. Hydrogen has no range. Lithium has little more. 10x would make electric cars work.
blue7053
not rated yet Apr 26, 2010
i'm not excited about some of these moronic ideas. What I do like is reading about a new every few days. Sometimes hours. The thing that I'm looking for is density. I 'think' that will come from nanotechnology. I suspect that the answer is at a level of information currently lacking. Nano tech hasn't been here very long and we are already at the quantum level in computers, tunneling electrons, and we're seeing lots of surprises.
CaptJohn
1 / 5 (2) Apr 26, 2010
Talk to any HAZMAT firefighter and they will make it perfectly clear how easy Magnesium fires are to extinguish (Hint:NOT)and computer hackers WILL find a way to cause a mishap. Then consider The French Montgofier Brothers flew before Lord Kelvin was even born and The Meastro designed a kite long before that, no telling how long The Nippon Empires had kites for children.
CaptJohn
3 / 5 (2) Apr 26, 2010
...then there's the CHEAP quick solution for light. Take 6 pennies & 6 nickels-they act as the dissimilar metals in our battery. Between each coin is placed a small piece of paper (Junk-mail Flyer will do) soak the paper in brine (Sea water) which is Electrolyte! Secure with rubber-band. Then wire a small LED. Ta-Dah! Flashlight. Cost?
Feldagast
1 / 5 (1) Apr 26, 2010
tried the 6 penny 6 nickle thing, only got .25 volts.
CaptJohn
1 / 5 (1) Apr 26, 2010
I stipulated a (SMALL) LED not light bulb. The LED requires much less current.
CaptJohn
1 / 5 (3) Apr 26, 2010
...furthermore, congradulations! (you got power, but like inventing the Transistor, you like Texas Instruments would NEED to sell your concept to The Japanese to make it functional.) But, in your Capacity-Voltage Demand testing, check small LED vs Light-bulb...you'll see. Then, IF output is not matched add more change (in same order). If that still doesn't work Talk to some "I.T." guy.