Rust Power

Preface.  This is yet another article with an energy generation idea that will probably never work out and become commercial.  But it gives hope and dreams to ordinary people who think what a cool idea, and who will never check in ten years to see if it happened.  It’s soothing to think that scientists are constantly coming up with Something. No need to worry about peak oil and other existential threats.

Now jump forward 100 years to after peak oil, which began sometime, let’s say, between 2020 and 2030. After the population has declined about 90%, the survivors will be 80-90% farmers in 2120.  Are they going to have the energy or know-how to run high-tech depositors of 10-nanometer thick iron? 

Or take this press release, Rice device channels heat into light, where engineers propose to use carbon nanotube film to create a device to recycle waste heat from industry and solar cells.

Really?  After a hard day of farming and trying to find wood and chop it to cook dinner and heat their home, the farmers are going create nanolayers and nanotubes?

Many are calling the time after peak oil “The Great Simplification”, so whatever proposals are made need to be low-tech. It’s only the unfathomably large abundance of cheap oil that’s allowed this mirage to appear and an extra 6 billion people to be born.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


David Grossman. July 30, 2019.  Could Rust Be a New Source of Renewable Energy? Using kinetic energy, it’s got the potential to be more efficient than solar panels. Popular Mechanics.

It’s been known for a long time that combining metals and salt water conducts electricity quite well.

This has spurred the idea of research into whether the kinetic energy of moving salt water could be transformed into electricity. At its best, this electrokinetic effect can generate electricity with around 30 percent efficiency, much higher than solar panels.

It occurred to scientists at Caltech and Northwestern that a really cheap and abundant metal to try would be iron rust. But not just any rust.  Rusty metal at the junkyard has too thick and uneven a layer to use

The rust required needs to be an extremely thin evenly spread film made in a laboratory using a very high tech process called physical vapor deposition which creates films a just 10 nanometers thick, thousands of times thinner than a human hair.

But don’t think you’ll be driving a boat anytime soon that magically moves across the salty ocean. A more practical application, if this passive electrical energy can ever be made to work, is for buoys floating in the ocean, or perhaps tidal energy.

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2 Responses to Rust Power

  1. Cynic says:

    The real headline for most of these implausible ideas should be:

    ‘Scientists Seek New Funding So They Don’t Have To Work At Amazon.’

    One gig to another…..

  2. jupiviv says:

    The impossible all-time highs in the SP500 tech sector is indubitably tied up with STEM journalism as PR and marketing hype. I wonder if the people who write articles like this ever contemplate the harmful real world effects this kind of “journalism” might have, whether the aggressively optimistic headlines and repetition of corporate PR inadvertently worsens an already frayed public trust in the media.