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A potential future use of hydrogen in the future: superconductors

A potential future use of hydrogen in the future: superconductors

After researching the subject a little, it appears that scientists have known for quite some time now that _solid_ hydrogen (ie, metallic) is an excellent and, more importantly, practical superconductor (short recall: a supraconductor material is a material which can transport current with an electric resistance of 0). The problem is making that solid hydrogen in the first place...

Some superconductors already exist; the problem is that the materials exhibiting superconductivity only do so at very low temperatures (a few kelvins; recall: 0°C, ie 32°F, is 273.15K). The largest scale application of superconductors on Earth today is the LHC: all 27 km of the main ring are surrounded by superconductors cooled down using liquid helium. But solid hydrogen has the potential to remain superconductive at room temperature!

Work is ongoing in this field, and a recent work by Carnegie Mellon has proven the feasibility -- to some degree. By combining sodium with hydrogen at very high pressure and temperateure they could briefly create a molecular structure with superconductivity properties.

Links: https://carnegiescienceDOTedu/node/2066 and https://enDOTwikipediaDOTorg/wiki/Superconductivity

DTsea | 10 août 2016

Solid hydrogen only exists at super high pressure. At ambient comditions hydrogen only can exist as a gas.

fgaliegue | 10 août 2016

@DTsea I know; but high pressures are not as much as near 0 kelvin temperatures!

fgaliegue | 10 août 2016

I meant, "not as a much as near a problem as"

science-isbetter | 10 août 2016

@fgaliegue. We've known about "high temperature" superconductors for some time. A compound of calcium barium mercury copper oxide is a superconductor at 133K (-220 F). Hardly near 0 kelvin. Other, perhaps less exotic superconducting compounds/alloys exist and reach critical (superconducting) temperature at liquid nitrogen temperatures.

No, this is not a screed against hydrogen, nor any comment about the scientific research at Carnegie Mellon...but since the topic started in response to hydrogen fuel cell thread, I thought it best to correct the record. In short, superconductivity is not, at present, a practical use for hydrogen.

fgaliegue | 10 août 2016

@science-isbetter read the summary: solid hydrogen is superconductive at _room_ temperature...

science-isbetter | 10 août 2016

@fgaliegue
I take your point. Your summary says, "solid hydrogen has the potential to remain superconductive at room temperature."

In the first article (https://carnegiescience DOT edu/node/2066) there is talk about 300,000 to 400,000 atmospheres. There are some implications of superconductivity but not tested for (and not observed, yet). I have no comment about whether superconductivity could exist at room temperature at these or any other pressures.

Yes, you did say, "has the potential."

However, my response was, "In short, superconductivity is not, at present, a practical use for hydrogen."

The second article (en DOT wikipedia DOT org/wiki/Superconductivity) makes no reference to hydrogen (except for hydrogen sulfide) but reports observations of high temperature superconductivity at 133-138 K. Except for a link to another article about room temperature superconductivity, I didn't see anything particularly relevant. If you wanted to educate the public about superconductivity, I agree with the relevance of the article.

DTsea | 10 août 2016

133 Kelvin= -140 C!!!!

finman100 | 10 août 2016

What's the temp on Mars? Maybe...

Remnant | 10 août 2016

@ fgaliegue (August 10, 2016)

<< By combining sodium with hydrogen at very high pressure and [temperature] they could briefly create a molecular structure with superconductivity properties. >>

All right, good news for superconductivity!

Yet, does anyone have a project, or a fantasy, containing likely uses of superconductivity in a BEV?

DTsea | 10 août 2016

Mars gets as warm as +25C (300 Kelvin).

carlk | 10 août 2016

High temperature superconductor has been a hot research topic since last century and will remain a hot research topic into the next one.

fgaliegue | 10 août 2016

@Remnant it can be extremely useful for power transfer, since the loss of current over superconductors is zero. This is why superconductors are used in the LHC magnets (they generate magnetic fields up to 7.7 teslas; this does not seem much, but in fact it is a lot). As to BEVs, it can help to prevent losses due to electric resistance in motors, for instance.

carlk | 10 août 2016

@fgaliegue

Those you mentioned are low temperature superconductors that need to be cooled to helium-4 superfluid temperature (1.9K). They can not be used in BEV or anything like that. People have been searching for decades to find "high temperature" superconductors that can operate at liquid nitrogen temperature (77K, -196C), still not usable in BEV though, but no practical material has been found so far. The handful materials that have been fabricated will lose the superconducting property when high current is passed which defeats the purpose. As for room temperature superconductor, the type that is needed for BEV application, it will remain at best a pipe dream for a long long time.

rdcollaborative | 10 août 2016

@carlk
You said "he handful materials that have been fabricated will lose the superconducting property when high current is passed which defeats the purpose"
There are already high temperature super conductors being used for power transmission.
Did you try to google, for instance, 'high temperature super conductors power transmission'?

fgaliegue | 10 août 2016

@carlk again, I _know_, damnit.

But the article from Carnegie Mellon proves that advances are in progress so that more usable superconductors are available in the futire.

Read the article again.

carlk | 10 août 2016

@bob.naughtan

I stand corrected. Haven't been checking this area for a while. However these are still experimental and more importantly still cryogenic cooled cables. They are useless as motor windings in a BEV.

bob.naughtyn | 10 août 2016

@carlk
Superconducting motors are not useless in a BEV, they just don't make economic sense. Electric motors are so efficient, and powerful enough already, that the minor benefit outweighs the cost.
However, electric superconducting motors are useful elsewhere.
http://www.powermag.com/superconductor-motor-for-navy-passes-full-power-...
http://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=949

Remnant | 11 août 2016

@ bob.naughtyn (August 10, 2016)

<< Superconducting motors are not useless in a BEV, they just don't make economic sense. Electric motors are so efficient, and powerful enough already, that the minor benefit outweighs the cost. >>

If there are advantages of lower size and weight for 1000 hp motors, why don't they also exist for 100 or 300 hp motors?

bob.naughtyn | 11 août 2016

@Remnant
Because superconducting motors require liquid nitrogen and all the paraphernalia which goes with it. It is not worth it in cost or complexity for a small motor.

Remnant | 11 août 2016

@ bob.naughtyn (August 11, 2016)

<< Because superconducting motors require liquid nitrogen and all the paraphernalia which goes with it. >>

Apparently, not an insurmountable problem, though not ready for production at this time.

Check:

http://global-sei.com/technology/tr/bn75/pdf/75-11.pdf

bob.naughtyn | 11 août 2016

@Remnant
Thanks for the link.
The paper was, in my opinion, terrible. It made several claims of efficiency and economy but didn't provide a single piece of data on efficiency or economy. To me it looks like a failed experiment so embarrassing that they chose to not provide any relevant numbers. They did provide several irrelevant numbers though.
An electric motor often runs in the mid to high 90s efficiency eg: 95-97%. That leaves very little room for improvement. The authors in this paper did not even specify the efficiency of their motor, which is the whole point in a car superconductor motor.

DTsea | 11 août 2016

I am with bob n on this one.... cable losses in the car are trivial-

Red Sage ca us | 11 août 2016
brando | 14 août 2016

Even Rocket Scientists can't figure out how to use H2 as a fuel.
OK, this really is an oversimplification for details read;

https://en.wikipediaDOTorg/wiki/Liquid_rocket_propellant

mknower | 15 août 2016

@brando
Not only have they figured it out, but multiple rockets use it
http://www.nasa DOT gov/topics/technology/hydrogen/hydrogen_fuel_of_choice.html

dansplans | 15 août 2016

"A potential future use of hydrogen in the future:"

Yogi Berra Lives!

Remnant | 15 août 2016

@ brando (August 14, 2016)

<< Even Rocket Scientists can't figure out how to use H2 as a fuel. >>

Aside from @sarah.connor's clarification above, the hydrogen used in superconductivity is only a component of the superconducting material, not a fuel.

brando | 15 août 2016

Sorry for my poor communication skills. To recap
"Rocket Scientists ... figure out how to use H2 as a fuel.
OK, this really is an oversimplification for details read"

After a little reading, here are some interesting thoughts from "rocket scientists"

driven toward LOX/LH2. LOX doesn't actually appear that difficult to handle; it's the LH2 that kills you.

Look to history to inform your answer. Goddard and the V2 used LOX with gasoline and alcohol/water, respectively. The Titan 1 used LOX/RP1. For the Titan II, they modified the LR-87 engine into the hypergolic-fueled LR-87-5 so their ICBM could be stored with room-temperature fuel. So the decision was based on storage, not performance, and the engineering challenges were similar enough to modify a LOX/RP-1 engine rather than design something new. From this we can see that R&D and fabrication of a hypergolic engine is on par with that for LOX/RP-1 engines, which is about as cheap as liquid fueled rockets get. Hypergolic fuels are super expensive, but if your launcher has a short development cycle and limited R&D budget and you plan on a small number of launches, hypergolic wins. Actually, LOX/Kerosene wins, but that's not your question.

If you have 30 years and billions of $ to iterate your design, then LOX/LH2 wins. The proof is the Delta IV and its RS-68. If decades of engineering experience pointed to a hypergolic booster as getting payloads up more cheaply (per kg of payload to orbit), ULA would be putting money into hypergolic, or pushing the government to fund a new development effort.

I have a bias. I hate LOX/LH2 systems. LH2 is simply evil. It seeps through "cracks" in welds which any other material would consider perfectly impermeable. Hot hydrogen makes metal BLISTER. It's so cold that the foam insulation on the shuttle tanks had to be foamed with helium; foaming with air leads to the air condensing and the foam collapsing. I feel that if the shuttle program had had fewer delays due to tracking tiny hydrogen leaks, they may have been more willing to address real concerns like the SRB O-rings. I consider it an engineering miracle that they have managed to "tame" LH2 and launch the Delta IV's on schedule. Considering they are building on SSME technology, it's a miracle about 45 years in the making. Also, note that ULA only uses the Delta IV when it can't fit the payload onto a LOX/RP-1 fueled Titan, and the Delta is planned for phase-out once they get a LOX/Methane booster working.

And that's why LOX/RP-1 has regained popularity, especially in boosters. The lower ISP doesn't hurt performance nearly as badly as it does in an upper stage. Sure, it's "1950's technology", but as such it has 70 years of engineering refinement and leads to a $/kg of payload much lower than for competing LH2 systems.

https://space.stackexchangeDOTcom/questions/10025/which-is-overall-more-...

and here a SpaceX related comment

Musk probably said "No LH2" at the initial blank-sheet design meetings. Musk/SpaceX have demonstrated a philosophy of simple, robust design. They want to minimize surprises and control costs to maintain a fast tempo for development, testing, and operations. H2 is anathema to that philosophy. It requires special materials and processes. LH2 imposed untold headaches & delays on the STS. For example, the ET insulation had to be foamed with helium; if foamed with air or N2, the foaming gas would liquefy and foam collapse. Welds that are impermeable to any other fuel leak H2. Ad nauseum

and from NASA

http://history.nasaDOTgov/SP-4404/app-a4.htm

...From these six general considerations of fuels, it can be seen that hydrogen's properties represented the extremes in both desirable and undesirable characteristics and offered a fitting challenge to those interested in exploring the potential of new fuels.

The possible and the practical may intersect, sometimes not.
May just be good reasons H2 (Liquid H2 known as LH2) is not often used. i.e. RP1 is used by most everyone and both use LOX (Liquid Oxygen).

If you still think H2 is the fuel of the future, then you clearly understand why a couple of the world's largest auto companies are building Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars. And Elon Must must be an idiot for trying to build battery cars.

brando | 15 août 2016

Wonder why blockquote failed?
html tags only work on OP and not with Replies?

Most of the above is cut and paste AND NOT my original content. See Links to find original content. Perhaps my poorly written snarky comments are obvious.

brando | 15 août 2016

https://en.wikipediaDOTorg/wiki/Liquid_rocket_propellant

Also mentions Hydrogen, of course. Good summary of rocket propellants.

Brian H | 18 août 2016

@brando;
blockquote is just one of many tags listed that don't actually work.

brando | 18 août 2016

@Brian_H

THANK YOU strong is one html tag that works