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NNadir

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Member since: 2002
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Titanocene Electrocatalysts for Ammonia Synthesis.

One of the most intriguing stories in history - possibly the most Faustian story in science other than that of Robert Oppenheimer - is the tale of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Laureate who developed the Haber-Bosch process for nitrogen fixation to make ammonia. (Bosch was the chemical engineer who was able to design and build the high temperature/high pressure reactors in which the reaction, the reaction of 3 moles of hydrogen gas with one mole of nitrogen gas to make two moles of ammonia.

If you have food on your table, it's because of the Haber-Bosch process, the only real "green revolution" was the one that took place in the 1950's, the industrialization of fertilizers containing ammonium nitrate and ammonium hydrogen phosphates.

Haber was an interesting person because not only did he make food readily available for the masses (for the first time by the way), he also made it possible for the German War machine to fight World War I, since before World War I, all of the world's gunpowder manufacture depended on the importation of salt peter, potassium nitrate, which was mined in Chile. (Ammonia can be oxidized readily to nitrate.) Denying access to salt peter and not food (although food shortages, and not gunpowder shortages were the result) was a primary motivation for the British blockade of Germany. Haber, a fervent German nationalist almost to the point of fascism although he was, in fact, purely descended from Jews, also drove the introduction of gas warfare in the First World War, and after that war, the allies couldn't decide whether to celebrate his Nobel Prize or to try him as a war criminal.

Because of his Jewish heritage, he was expelled from Germany in 1938 and died shortly thereafter in Swiss exile.

The Haber Bosch process is still practiced today, although in most places the dangerous coal that was used to generate hydrogen has been displaced by dangerous natural gas reformation.

The story is ably told in great detail by Vaclav Smil - anyone who wants to know about energy should read the delightfully sarcastic Smil - in his important scientific and engineering book, Enriching the Earth.

(Smil is at his most amusing when he makes fun of the anti-nuke idiot Amory Lovins.)

The Haber-Bosch process is still being practiced today, albeit more efficiently, with profound environmental consequences, but is highly energy intensive, consuming something in the neighborhood of 3% of the world's energy. Were it abandoned, we would require about half of the world's current population to starve to death as a result.

Because the reaction requires such extreme conditions, it would be nice to have a milder reaction to make ammonia, and I came across a possible one in a recent issue of ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, this paper: Electrochemical Ammonia Synthesis Mediated by Titanocene Dichloride in Aqueous Electrolytes under Ambient Conditions (ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering 2017 5 (11), 9662-9666)

Some excerpts from the introduction:

Renewable energy production and supply rates are rising worldwide as serious attempts to combat greenhouse gas emissions caused by the depletion of fossil fuels are pursued to mitigate catastrophic climate change; concomitantly, relevant research and development are actively being explored.1 Renewable energy requires energy carriers or storage systems because of regional and temporal variabilities. Recently, the use of ammonia (17.6 wt % H2) as a renewable-energy carrier has drawn considerable research interest in terms of storing and converting renewable energy, the so-called “power-to-gas technology”.2 As a hydrogen reservoir containing 17.6 wt % H2, ammonia is a noncarbon fuel that releases only water and nitrogen during combustion. Ammonia has a higher energy density per volume (NH3 HHV: 13.6 GJ·m−3) than that of hydrogen and is much easier to store and transport than hydrogen3,4 because it is liquid below 10 bar at room temperature. Furthermore, more than 150 million tons per year of ammonia are currently consumed globally;5 thus, infrastructure to support ammonia based technologies...


I don't agree with very much of what's been written here, particularly the idea of ammonia fuel, but no matter. What is important is the conditions under the reaction takes place at ambient conditions. Some comments by the authors:

Transition metals with strong reducing abilities for nitrogen are located in groups 4−6 of the periodic table, and the ammonia yield decreases in moving from the left to right in each row (e.g., Ti > V > Cr; Zr > Nb > Mo). Among them, Ti exhibits high activity for nitrogen.18 Judicious choice of coordinating ligand in these catalysts can lead to enhanced capacity of the metal to bind to nitrogen, thereby affecting the activity the metal toward nitrogen. These ligands include cyclopentadienyl,20 acetylacetonates,21 and phosphine complexes. 19 Bayer and Schurig studied the chemical synthesis of ammonia using titanium compounds such as titanocene dichloride (Cp2TiCl2), cyclopentadienyltitanium(IV) trichloride (Cp2TiCl3), zirconocene dichloride (Cp2ZnCl2), and titanium tetrachloride (TiCl4), as well as various alkali and alkaline earth metals (Li, Na, K, Mg, Ca, La, Cs, and Na).


The authors state:

in this study, experiments were conducted into the chemical and electrochemical synthesis of ammonia in the 0 to −2 V applied voltage range using various organic solvents with Li electrolytes and the Cp2TiCl2 catalyst, which has a high nitrogen-activation capacity. Furthermore, the ammonia synthesis rates and faradaic e_ciencies were compared in terms of the applied voltage. In addition, the rate-limiting step in the proposed ammonia-synthesis mechanism using Cp2TiCl2 was examined by density functional theory (DFT) calculations


There's a lot of discussion of the experiments conducted but what is relevant here is the conclusion:

We theoretically and experimentally demonstrated that chemical and electrochemical ammonia synthesis in Li-based aqueous electrolytes containing Cp2TiCl2 is feasible using various solvents including water, methanol, and THF. In the theoretical study, DFT calculations reveal that the nitrogenreduction reaction in a Li-based aqueous electrolyte containing the Cp2TiCl2 catalyst prefers to occur via the Cp2TiClN2 intermediate due to its relatively low _G, rather than the Cp2TiN2N2 intermediate. According to the DFT calculations, the activation barrier for the electrochemical ammoniasynthesis reaction is about 0.7 eV, which is lower than the Tafel-type reaction barrier (*H + *NHx _ *NHx+1, 1 eV) of most transition metal catalysts in the literature.28−30 Hence, the DFT results in this study suggest that Cp2TiCl2 significantly lowers the activation barrier for the protonation


Good news, if true and scalable, since it makes it simpler to utilize the only truly sustainable form of carbon free energy, nuclear energy, to displace the role of dangerous natural gas in this important, if problematic, industrial chemistry. (THF can be obtained from corn cobs, and methanol is accessible by the direct hydrogenation of carbon dioxide and, indeed, the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide.)

Have a nice afternoon.

Ancient German Forest Being Razed for Coal Mines.

As Germany hosts green summit, an energy firm is razing a nearby forest

From CNN:

This week, the German city of Bonn is the venue for hundreds of diplomats who are busy hammering out a road map to save the planet from climate change.

The country would seem an ideal host, with its sterling reputation for driving an ambitious green agenda centered around "energiewende," or transition to renewable energy.

Yet less than an hour's drive away from the COP23 summit lies an example of Germany's dirty environmental secret: A 12-thousand-year-old forest that has been almost completely consumed by the country's ravenous addiction to coal power.

Germany's biggest electricity provider, RWE, runs the vast open-pit mine that encroaches on Hambach Forest. Giant steel excavators grind away at the 33-square mile hole, leaving a scar on the green landscape but producing 40 million metric tons of coal annually.

Every year since 1978, the mine has been allowed to fell a section of forest to access the lignite, or "brown coal," beneath. As a result, the Hambach woodland has now shrunk to less than 10% of its original size, according to estimates by RWE and environmental activists...

...Almost 40% of Germany's electricity comes from coal-powered plants -- nearly a quarter from brown coal -- making it Europe's biggest polluter, spewing out more than 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions from the European Union, according to Eurostat.
"We need lignite. Lignite is not subsidized and we have a good supply in Germany. It makes us less dependent on imported natural gas, oil or other fossil fuels," Guido Steffen, a representative for RWE, told CNN.



Don't worry, be happy.

I'm sure that some of that coal will be used to make steel for wind turbines and redundant dangerous natural gas plants.

(If the wind industry were to become a significant forom of energy- it never has been, it isn't, and it won't be - it would require a huge scale up of the steel and aluminum industries.)

Have a nice day.

Formation of Hydroxyapatite on the Surface of Portland Cement in the Built Environment.

This week, in California, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a lecture by the Materials Science Engineer/Orthopedic Surgeon/Professor Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D, a child of the inner city schools who grew up to study Chemical Engineering at Princeton, and to attend Harvard Medical School while simultaneously obtaining a Ph.D at MIT in biochemical engineering.

Here is a photograph of Dr. Laurencin receiving the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from his friend, Barack Obama, who he mentioned during his talk while speaking volumes in omission of the mention of the orange idiot:



(I also had the great privilege of speaking alone briefly to Dr. Laurentin, and even had the opportunity of telling him about my son, who is studying materials science engineering, whereupon the great man gave me his card and told me to be sure to have my son look him up when applying to graduate school...swoon...something that is several years off.)

Anyway.

Dr. Laurentin is an advocate, given his unique polymathic expertise of "convergent science" whereby physicians, chemists, physicists, mathematicians and engineers work together to solve important problems.

Dr. Laurentin's lecture concerned his development of stem cells supported in biopolymers and or synthetic matrices in order to grow new bone where it has been lost by trauma or disease - his discoveries are now commercially available to patients - as well as his current efforts to grow new connective tissue, tendons and ligaments in damaged knees and shoulders, thereby reducing the need for artificial (and somewhat problematic) implants. His long term goal, which he discussed at some length is develop a means by which people might regrow limbs and organs that they have lost, again, either to trauma or disease.

A remarkable man.

From a materials science perspective, part of his discussion involved the chemistry of hydroxyapatite, a calcium hydroxyphosphate mineral which in slightly modified form represents the bulk of bones and teeth.

Here is one structure of hydroxyapatite:



The lecture, particularly with the reference to convergent science reminded me of a paper I stumbled across recently on the protection and restoration of portland cement by use of biologically deposited hydroxyapatite surfaces, this one: Biogenic Hydroxyapatite: A New Material for the Preservation and Restoration of the Built Environment (Ronald J. Turner, Joanna C. Renshaw, and Andrea Hamilton, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2017, 9 (37), pp 31401–31410)

(By the way, the abstract of the paper refers to the use of hydroxyapatite as a "waste form" for so called "nuclear waste," and before someone points it out, I'd like to state that I oppose the "disposal" of so called "nuclear waste" on the grounds that every single constituent of used nuclear fuel is extremely valuable and worthy of use for things that no other materials can do as well.)

Anyway. As mentioned in the abstract, portland cement is the single most produced material in the world, and its manufacture is responsible for a huge releases of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide. Because of the acidification of the planetary atmosphere and hydrosphere by the aforementioned carbon dioxide as well as the dangerous fossil fuel wastes sulfur dioxide, sulfur trioxide, sulfuric acid, nitrogen dioxide and nitric acid, portland cement has a tendency to degrade significantly, requiring its replacement.

This paper proposes to prevent or slow this degradation via the deposition on cement surfaces a thin layer or coating of hydroxyapatide, as it less susceptible to acid degradation than the mixed calcium carbonate and silicate comprising Portland cement.

An excerpt from the introductory text of the paper.:

Hydroxyapatite (HAP) is a calcium phosphate mineral with the general chemical formula Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2.1 HAP is an example of a bioceramic,2 a novel class of materials with potential applications such as bone implants3 and drug delivery.4 Hydroxyapatite coatings have been used to reinforce bone cements, enhancing load-bearing capacity5 and promoting proliferation and differentiation of human osteoblast-like cells.6,7 In addition, there is an emerging interest in the use of hydroxyapatite coatings for the consolidation and preservation of marble and limestone buildings and sculptures.8−12

Cement and concrete have been commonly used building materials throughout the 20th century, and there is significant interest in repairing concrete structures to reduce the amount of cement consumed worldwide. Cement is also used as an encapsulant for radioactive waste storage, which links with research on the use of hydroxyapatites for the remediation of radionuclide13,14 and heavy metal15 contaminants from the environment.

The crystal structure of naturally occurring HAP is too complex to be accurately mimicked by synthetic crystalline apatites and the use of synthetic apatites has been observed to result in poor adhesion and low mechanical strength in the field of dental treatments...

...Hydroxyapatite produced through the direct actions of a living organism (termed biogenic hydroxyapatite) may offer a solution to these limitations via intrinsic properties such as reduced solubility and comparable particle size to natural hydroxyapatites. 16−18

Here, we identify and describe a new method for deposition of a biogenic hydroxyapatite onto the surface of OPC using the Gram negative bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens.


The authors utilize a common bacteria growth medium, LB (Lysogeny) Broth in a phosphate buffer to form the hydroxyapatite layer in an in situ bioreactor that utilizes free calcium from the cement to reform as the apatite layer.

The rest of the paper is rather technical, and probably would not be meaningful for readers here, referring to the structural characterization of the apatite layers by XRD, XRF and FT-IR, as well as a cool discussion of the mechanism of the deposition and the interactions of various constituents of the growth media, phosphate and carbon dioxide.

They remark that what they call "OPC" (Ordinary Portland Cement) is actually a superior material on which to grow biological hydroxyapatite than other more elaborate efforts to do pretty much the same thing.

Pseudomonas and other bacteria are capable of producing nanohydroxyapatite with physico-chemical properties very similar to those of natural bone material.31 Research on the bacterial production of hydroxyapatite has generally required immobilization of the bacteria on a matrix such as sol−gels or alginate beads prior to mineral formation31 and the addition of a specific calcium source to stimulate hydroxyapatite production.32 It is significant that these steps are not necessary when biohydroxyapatite is generated on an OPC substrate material, as shown in this study. OPC has several properties which may have contributed to this. The OPC block provides a fixed substrate for hydroxyapatite deposition, negating the requirement for a sol−gel or similar matrix.

In previous studies, calcium phosphate loading was found to be necessary when generating biohydroxyapatite on polyurethane or titanium,31 and the addition of calcium and phosphorus donors was also necessary when using sol−gel or alginate substrates.32 In the case of OPC, calcium is present in sufficient quantities (Table 1) both on the OPC surface and in the surrounding solution.



Cool, I think.

I wish you a very pleasant Friday.








A Disturbing Documentary on the Piper Alpha Oil Platform Explosion.

Most people who are killed by petroleum are killed by its combustion products, aka air pollution.

As I never tire of telling people - not that they actually care - air pollution deaths are occurring right now at a rate of 7 million people per year, almost all of them related to oil, coal, gas (and yes - dangerous natural gas contributes to air pollution) and "renewable" biomass combustion.

However, oil and gas accidents, generally fires and explosions also kill people.

Everyone on the planet, more or less, is immediately aware of, say, Chernobyl, in 1986, but almost no one can talk about the Piper Alpha explosion in 1988, two years later.

Like, say, the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back, it's gone down the memory hole, because Americans all "need" gasoline for the important things, like say, keeping the grass covering suburban lawns and golf courses, clean and trim.

The Smithsonian Channel has a new series, called "Make It Out Alive."

It's been running in this series a documentary on what happened when the Piper Alpha offshore oil rig exploded owing to the operation of a dangerous natural gas line leading to a compressor. The explosion killed 167 people within a few hours.

The trailer for the documentary is here: Make it out alive

If you have a chance, watch it during one of the reruns of the episode. But don't be too concerned, because, um, we "need" oil and gas, apparently even more than we need water and air.

Don't worry, be happy. Nobody will stop building oil and gas platforms in your life time - your lawn mower is safe.

Here for instance, is information from the Danish Energy Agency, as of 2017, about how to license a new one now:

Danish "Responsible" Oil and Gas Leases

Enjoy the coming work week.

Danish Energy Agency Register of Wind Turbines:

The data can be found, in both Danish and English here: Master Data Register of Wind Turbines by clicking on the link for the Excel Spread Sheet:

Data on operating and decommisioned wind turbines (end of September 2017)

One may use the normal Excel functions to find the mean life time of these pieces of shit, the maximal lifetime, the shortest lifetime (in a few cases zero) and of course, the total energy produced by them. In fact, one can see the total energy produced by them month ot month, and determine how much gas they need to burn in that offshore oil and gas drilling hellhole, Denmark, to make up for the times the wind doesn't blow.

I have done these analyses, in detail, twice and it takes about two to three hours of data manipulation to get it all. One needs to use Excel date functions as well as a number of sorts to really understand how useless and pathetic this infrastructure actually is.

I'm not going to do all of this here; I'm tired of confronting people waving their hands in an oblivious fashion to defend the indefensible, that their pet theory - which they will not give up no matter how much information is thrown at them - hasn't worked, isn't working and won't work. I'll post some earlier details from one of my analyses at the end of this post.

However the figures for the month of September, 2017 are illustrative. In the entire nation of Denmark in the month of September, 831,779,994 kWh of electricity. Note that unlike the big lie sold repeatedly by the so called "renewable energy" industry a kiloWatt-hour is a unit of energy and not a unit of peak power. To convert it to the SI unit of energy, the Joule, we need to multiply a kilowatt hour by 3,600,000 to obtain 2.99 petajoules (peta = 10^15). A day has 86400 seconds in it and there are 30 days in September, equaling, therefore September lasts for 2,592,000 seconds.

Thus the average continuous power for the whole damned offshore oil and gas drilling hellhole of the nation of Denmark amounts to 1155 MW.

Each of the single reactors at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in California, due be closed in a few years because stupid people hate it and don't give a shit about climate change at all, or about air pollution deaths - or any of the other things on which nuclear energy is, by far the most successful technology ever at ameliorating - produce 1100 MW of power continuously. In August of 2017, the last entry on the EIA data Excel page reporting performance of US nuclear plants, the two reactors produced 1,682,881 megawatt hours of electricity, translating, as above to 6.58 petajoules, or 203% as much energy as all the wind turbines in the entire nation of that offshore oil and gas drilling hellhole, Denmark.

The entire nuclear power plant sits on 900 acres, not a whole fucking country along with a huge portion of the North Sea. It doesn't grind up birds and bats and it operates continuously whether or not there are gas plants nearby. All of the energy produced by the reactors is produced in two relatively small buildings which only take up a small portion of the 900 acres.

The Diablo Canyon reactors could easily operate way beyond the time that it is being forced to close (2025) owing to appeals to ignorance, selective attention, superstition and scientific illiteracy, but the decision has been made to kill people by closing them, and there's nothing I or probably anyone else can do about it. They came on line in 1986. Even so when fear and ignorance forces them to close, they will have operated for 39 years. Again, there is no technical reason they couldn't be operated longer, but never underestimate the power of stupidity to squander highly successful engineering on trivial obsessions.

Here was the results of my more extensive analysis of the Danish pieces of wind turbine shit back in 2015:

The Danes – and we will see that despite all the hoopla that has surrounded their wind program their actual energy production from wind energy is very small, even compared to wind capacity in other countries like the United States, Germany and China – keep an exhaustive and very detailed database of every single wind turbine they built in the period between the 1978 and the present day.[29] If one downloads the Excel file available in the link for reference 29 one can show that the Danes, as of the end of March 2015, have built and operated 8,002 wind turbines of all sizes. Of these, 2727, or 34.1% of them have been decommissioned. Of those that were decommissioned, the mean lifetime was 16.94 years (16 years and 310 days). Twenty-one of the decommissioned wind turbines operated less than two years, two never operated at all, and 103 operated for less than 10 years. Among decommissioned turbines, the one that lasted the longest did so for 34 years and 210 days. Among all 2727 decommissioned wind turbines, 6 lasted more than 30 years.

Of the 5,275 turbines still operating there are 13 that lasted longer than 34 years and 210 days, the longest having operated (as of March 31, 2015) for 36 years and 303 days. The mean age of operating Danish wind turbines is 15.25 years, 15 years and 92 days.

In March of 2015, the entire Danish wind industry produced 1,137,405,953 kWh (or 1.13 TWh) of electricity, which is the equivalent of 4.0967 petajoules (0.0041 exajoules). Thus for the 31 days of March 2015, the average continuous power output of the 5,275 operating wind turbines was 1529 MW. Since the rated (peak) capacity of the wind turbines operating in March of 2015 was 4096 MW, it follows that the capacity utilization of wind turbines in Denmark was 31.2%.


Sustaining the Wind, Part I

Have a nice weekend, and try not to notice that the average concentration of carbon dioxide in the planetary atmosphere was 404.17 ppm in the week beginning of October 29, 2017, 22.42 ppm higher than it was in the same week in 2007, as reported at the Mauna Loa observatory. (Accessed 11/10/2017).

By the way, according to the report by the Frankfurt School/UNEP/Bloomberg report, we've been squandering about a trillion dollars every ten years on the useless and land wasting wind industry, with the result that carbon dioxide concentrations are rising at an average of roughly 2.2 ppm per year, the highest rate ever observed since observations have been made.

Again, have a nice weekend.

Um, are you saying that Fukushima will cause 35 million deaths?

What, exactly, does this mean?

About air pollution, you say fukushima is two day of air pollution. But according to your own paper, fukushima is as well 1/4 of the deaths that nuclear avoid in the world every year.


I have no idea what you mean, but whatever it is, it represents the most spectacular misreading of this paper I've ever seen.

Before I address this bourgeois "negawatt" horse shit put out by that detestable fool Amory Lovins, I need to point out a few things.

First of all it is not my paper. It is a paper co-written by one of the most important climate scientists there is, Jim Hansen. It's not some crap put out by a scientifically illiterate newspaper journalist at the Guardian, it's um, a scientific paper published in one of the world's most important Environmental journals on the planet.

OK?

Your statement that:

"The truth is we don't really know what impact our nuclear wastes will have within the next 200,000 years.


...can only be represented as a statement showing that you lack basic knowledge of chemistry and physics, very basic knowledge.

Who is we?


How many scientific papers have you read to make such an incredible wrong statement? I've been reading on the chemistry and physics of actinides and fission products for 30 years. A crude estimate of the amount of time that I spend in scientific academic libraries would amount, estimating about 10 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, 30 years, would put it at about 15,000 hours of my life, in libraries reading pure science. Carbonite reports regularly that I have more than 600,000 files in my computer, the vast majority of which are PDF's from the primary scientific literature, or photoscans of monographs and papers that are from the primary scientific literature.

You seem to have spent less than 20 minutes contemplating an issue that involves the lives of every damned living thing on this planet, and then come here to lecture me about some fucking suburban garden that you claim will have plutonium in it 1500 years from now, with absolutely no evidence, no statement of mechanism about how this will happen to some putative bourgeois child centuries in the future.

Do you know how many children will die today from air pollution? And let's be clear on something, OK, these won't be children who reside in some bourgeois suburban garden. They will be poor children, desperately impoverished children.

In what kind of moral universe must one exist to value the life of some imagined child 1500 years from now over the 19,000 people who have died since yesterday from air pollution? And let's be clear on something, according the World Health Organization, 1.7 million of the 7 million people who die each year from air pollution will be children, mostly poor children.

While you were typing about plutonium in a suburban garden 1500 years from now, if you spent two minutes typing, that means six children died from air pollution.

Lovins' negawatt crowd have so much contempt for human poverty that they might as well be Republicans.

Sometime ago, referencing about 50 papers not from some asshole scientifically illiterate reporter from the Guardian, but the primary scientific literature, I wrote about the ethics of energy, arguing not that we needed to yank energy from those who do not have it, but that we needed to effectively double the per capita planetary average continuous power for the average human being from 2500 Watts (compared to about 10,000 watts for the average American to something on the order of 5,000 watts, in order to provide for the impoverished, and do so in a clean and sustainable way.

Current Energy Demand; Ethical Energy Demand; Depleted Uranium and the Centuries to Come

Here are some comments I made on that detestable fool Amory Lovins, in that post:

...In 1976, which – if I have the math right – was 3 years after 1973, the energy mystic Amory Lovins published a paper in the social science journal Foreign Affairs, “Energy Strategy, The Road Not Taken?”[3] that suggested that by the use of conservation and so called “renewable energy” all of the world’s energy problems could be solved. The thin red sliver on the 2011 pie chart, identified as “other” – solar, wind, etc, – obviates the grotesque failure of so called “renewable energy” to become a meaningful source of energy in the worldwide energy equation, despite consuming vast resources and vast sums of money, this on a planet that could ill afford such sums. As for conservation, in 2011 we were using 147% of the dangerous petroleum we used in 1973, 286% of the dangerous natural gas we used in 1973, and 252% of the dangerous coal we used in 1973. The rise in average figures of per capita energy consumption, as well as total energy consumed worldwide, show that energy conservation as an energy strategy has not worked either.

The reason that energy conservation as an energy strategy has failed is obvious, even divorced from population growth. According to the 2013 UN Millennium Goals Report[4], as shown in the following graphic from it, the percentage of the Chinese population that lived on less than $1.25 (US) per day fell from 60% of the population in 1990 to 16% in 2005 and further to 12% in 2010. From our knowledge of history, we would be fair to assume that the situation in China was even worse in 1976 than it was in 1990...

...By the way, it ought to weigh on the moral imagination…that figure…less than $1.25 a day…less than $500 per year…for all a human being’s needs…food, shelter, transportation, child care, education, health, care for the elderly…

...Seen from this perspective, Lovins’ writings are all marked by myopic bourgeois provincialism. The huge flaw in his 1976 conceit, and his conceits forever thereafter, was that for him, people living in the United States, and maybe Western Europe, represented the only human life that mattered. Chinese and Indians, for two examples, may as well have not existed if one reads his 1976 fantasy; he blithely assumed that they would agree to remain unimaginably impoverished while Americans pursued hydrogen HYPErcars[5] in every suburban garage and solar heated molten salt tanks[6] in every suburban backyard. Apparently, from his high perch in the überrich suburb of Aspen – Snowmass, Colorado – where he lives today in a super-efficient McMansion, he continues to issue rhetoric equally oblivious to the status of the larger fraction of humanity, this while collecting “consulting fees” from companies that among other things, mine and refine oil sands[7]. Consideration of the two to three billion people defined by the IEA today as living in “energy poverty”[8] – 1.3 billion of whom lack access to electricity for any purpose, never mind for the purpose of charging up their swell Tesla electric cars, and/or the 38% percent of human beings on this planet who lack access to what the IEA calls “clean cooking facilities” – is definitely not in the purview of a person who writes books with awful titles like, um, “Winning the Oil Endgame.[9]”


Lovins, a sometime consultant for dangerous fossil fuel companies, is a horrible human being, not just horrible, but ignorant as sin.

Right now, on this planet, John, there are 1.3 billion people who lack electricity. Just last week in Germany, I watched a BBC documentary about one village, out of the tens of thousands of such villages, where there are no improved sanitary facilities.

It's this one: Sue Perkins explores the Ganges, Part I

Apparently you believe that the world can be saved by making sure that none of the women described in that documentary ever have a fucking toilet bowl, because you're um, negawatting with Amory.

You know what?

This sort of thing, this obliviousness, this ignorance, this contempt, just makes me angry. Very angry. I'm tired of the twisted horseshit put out by people who wish to be regarded as reasonable who apparently have no idea of what reason, in particular, moral reasoning is. Today, 19,000 people will die, unnecessarily, because of anti-nuke nonsense.

I'm too old to be angry all the time; what is being done to future generations - and believe me what we are doing to future generations with climate change and with the depletion of resources to build useless crap like wind turbines is far worse than make believe plutonium in a putative garden 15 millennia from now - is criminal.

It breaks my heart that I will be leaving this planet shortly while the fight against ignorance has failed.

But rather than contemplate this stuff any more, I'll just continue to read science and hand off as much as possible to my son the engineering student and then die.

Before I die though, since I hope to live a little longer to discuss these things with my son - not too long, just a little longer - I really need to use the "ignore" button here to avoid the worst of the idiot anti-nuke rhetoric on this website.

It's time to use it again. Good luck with that electric car/wind turbine/solar cell bourgeois obliviousness, John.

When I encounter anti-nukes, pretending to be reasonable, there's always a kind of Trumpian transparency to it.

Have a nice life.

When was the last time a thought or a prayer stopped a bullet?

When was the last time a thought or a prayer brought back a child - or anyone else - blown away by a bullet?

They roll out "thoughts and prayers" it seems like once or twice a month.

What, exactly, does it do?

Someone bought my wife a gift subscription to Cosmopolitan magazine.

It's been coming here for a couple of years. We have no idea who sent this subscription. We've been married for more than three decades, with all that implies.

My wife keeps the copies lying around the house because my son is an Art student and occasionally cuts the pages up for absurdist collages.

One issue came yesterday, and after a long time of not looking inside, I finally did so.

There doesn't seem to be a table of contents in the magazine. It's all ads about meretricious beauty products. I believe I did encounter one article which was insipid "relationship advice," oh, and an article about the perfect, um, Cosmopolitan "man"

(It ain't me.)

There was a brief comment by a woman who spent her first date with a guy having sex all day, only to decide he wasn't for her, because, um, he sent for take out food and didn't order any for her.

You wonder how a complete idiot like Trump could actually be in the House where Lincoln, Grant, Obama and the two Roosevelts lived, and then you see something like this magazine, and you sort of, kind of, after a fashion, in a way, possibly, understand.

Materials Science Based on Biological Mimicry.

Last week, while on a long trip, I set out to read a very nice monograph by a very exciting scientist, Michel Barsoum, of Drexel University, a world leader in the development of "MAX Phases," a class of materials that exhibit properties of both metals and ceramics, making them potentially of great technological importance. I've been collecting and reading papers about this set of materials because of their potential use as refractory materials that can withstand neutron bombardment.

Here's Barsoum's book:

MAX Phases: Properties of Machinable Ternary Carbides and Nitrides



The MAX phases are known for their highly ordered layered structure, with the "A" element, members of groups 13 and 14, elements like aluminum, silicon, gallium, germanium, indium and tin, generally being a planar layer sandwiched between "M" (metal) octahedral cages surrounding "X" atoms, carbon or nitrogen.

To wit:



In the introductory chapter, I came across this text,

The second powerful idea to emerge in the last couple of decades in the materials science community is that of biomimetics, wherein Nature’s splendid designs that had evolved over millions of years would be imitated. For example, abalone shell (Figure 1.4b), mainly comprising a brittle calcium carbonate, is quite tough. This toughness arises from a submicrometer polymer film that lies between the calcium carbonate layers. The microstructural similarities between the fractured surfaces of abalone shell, for example, and those of the MAX phases are noteworthy (Figure 1.4). The layering in abalone, however, is on a much coarser scale. Another fundamental distinction is that Nature optimized the properties of abalone for room-temperature use. Heating an abalone shell to a couple of hundred degrees destroys the polymer and thereby its toughness. Wood is another example, where, again, there is a marked resemblance to the MAX phases (see e.g. Figure 9.24b). Since 1996, when our first paper on Ti3SiC2 was published, the MAX-phase community has embarked on an ambitious program of synthesizing and characterizing as many of the MAX phases as possible...


I had not thought of MAX phases as being reminiscent of abalone shells, but then again, I never thought about the structure of abalone shells at all, and having never actually held one in my hand - the species has nearly been rendered extinct by over fishing off the California coast - I never thought much about Abalone in any way.

But the thought struck me, and I wanted to tell my son - who is studying materials science engineering - about it, but I forgot to mention it when pointing out the recent issue of Chemical Reviews, one of my favorite journals for describing topics I know nothing about, this issue: Chemical Reviews, Vol. 117, Iss. 20

It's an issue about exploiting the information contained in the structure of biomaterials as inspiration for materials that are not biological at all, but have some of the wonderful properties that biomaterials possess, and they are remarkable materials. I mean, think about it, how amazing, really is, um, wood?

One paper I'm working my way through - since it involves some chemistry with which I was very involved when I was a kid - is this one: Biointerface Structural Effects on the Properties and Applications of Bioinspired Peptide-Based Nanomaterials (Tiffany R. Walsh*† and Marc R. Knecht*‡ Chem. Rev., 2017, 117 (20), pp 12641–12704)

This paper is happily open sourced, anyone can read it without a subscription or a trip to a good scientific library, and so I won't quote much of it here, except this bit from the opening paragraph which has, well, a kind of Karma attached to it:

There are many exquisite examples of biologically derived nanomaterials, where nature fabricates such structures for three key reasons: (1) protection against predation, (2) bioremediation, and (3) structural support. While such materials are fascinating, the typical chemical composition of these structures has little application in current technologies. For instance, mollusks generate a complex nacre structure in a brick and mortar arrangement where CaCO3 platelets are arranged in a biomolecule matrix, with this composite providing substantially increased fracture strength and fracture toughness compared to geological monolithic CaCO3;1 however, such materials do not possess inherent properties that facilitate their adaptation for technological advancement.


Reference 1 (after the CaCO3) is this one: (1) Meyers, M. A.; Lin, A. Y. M.; Chen, P. Y.; Muyco, J. Mechanical Strength of Abalone Nacre: Role of the Soft Organic Layer. J. Mech. Behav. Biomed. Mater. 2008, 1, 76−85.

Abalone, Abalone...

Karma man, Karma.

Seriously this points to an issue we should think about: When we make plants and animal extinct (as we've pushed abalone to the edge) we lose more than their intrinsic aesthetic beauty; we lose the information they contain, information assembled over billions of years by evolution.

Nevertheless we're engaged in a mass extinction event right now, another theft from all future generations by this generation.

As smart as we think we are, we are a race of damned fools.

Have a nice day tomorrow, on "hump day."

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