Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Supercritical water to save planet?

Hey guys,
I recently saw a program that detailed a water treatment plant in Cork, Ireland (run by a company called Supercritical fluids which you may look up) that was using this amazing property of water to treat sludge water and generate energy.

Bear with me here.  Essentially with sufficient pressures (about 30,000 PSI) and high enough temperatures (about 700 F) water enters a 4th state beyond gas/liquid/solid.  That state, of course, is called supercritical.  What it does is break down all organic compounds (human waste & pharmaceuticals) giving 99.99% pure water and 99.99% pure phosphorus (+ some CO2) in the output stream.  This alone is very important.  There is a huge clean water shortage coming in the near future and many places are struggling to remove the massive amount of pharmaceuticals from water now (giving rise to fish born with both sexual organs, for instance).

However, the really exciting thing is they are also powering 500,000 homes with 100% clean energy as well!  All these compounds in supercritical water break their chemical bonds (which holds large potential energy).  This nets a sizable exothermic reaction (meaning heat is released) in the form of super heated steam, which then functions as power plants normally do.  Nuclear and coal plants generate steam to turn turbines which generates electric power.

Very exciting stuff!

41 comments:

  1. Here I was thinking the 4th state of matter was plasma.

    Have you read up on anything regarding "heavy" water. I've heard some random stuff about it here and there and it seems pretty interesting, especially because it can rarely occur in nature.

    Apart from filling the need for freshwater we have, do you think there are any other practical applications for this specific water?

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  2. Interesting! I'll be keeping up with this. Followed!

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  3. about freaking time someone is doing this

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  4. Wow you really know your stuff. Awesome post.

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  5. That's really cool... doesn't exactly sound energy efficient though :P

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  6. terce, plasma is another state of matter. I think in my post I said 'a' 4th state, not 'the' 4th state, but if I did, I apologize :p It's just an expression because matter is generally thought of to exist in only 3 states when there are others )

    Travis I'm going to assume you are being sarcastic :p

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  7. oh, and thanks for all the comments guys, it's good to know some people are interested!

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  8. Combine this with Sheen technology you can power an entire city

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  9. How cost effective is this? I'm not an engineer, so I don't know what it takes to produce the pressure/temperature mix...but I imagine the Japan situation already has people scrambling for a new form of power plant.

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  10. from what I understand it's extremely cost effective, and it makes a lot of sense. If you think about it with extremely conservative estimates, 0.5 million homes being powered- the amount of energy required to get several cubic meters of water to 30k PSI and 700F is much MUCH lower than the output :)

    exact monetary numbers are not available to me but there are several plants doing this worldwide now. A google search will bring up the company.

    as for other applications, well supercritical fluids in general are used for a number of industrial processes and many (if not all? not positive on that one) have a supercritical state. CO2 is actually the cheapest and easiest to use because the conditions required to get it supercritical are lower than that of water, however, the advantage of using a water treatment plant is having the water readily available :)

    as for heavy water, haven't looked much into it. Might give it a shot a bit later on and make a post about it

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  11. Very good read. And I'm wondering about the water shortage, could this be used on salt water to break it down to make it into clean water. Because it's not like this blue marble is short on any salt water!

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  12. Interesting article, hope it all goes as planned :D

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  13. good question, but I believe the answer is no. salt is not an organic compound. it doesn't separate out anything, it breaks it down into water, CO2 and phosphorus. Salt would stay mixed, I believe, or end up with a very basic (and thus bad) solution like NaOH, and/or toxic chlorine gas which you'd have to deal with

    thanks for the comment )

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  14. Man your really smart, a great read.

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  15. Definitely following your posts man

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  16. Awesome text! Definitely following. This is interesting. All them animals, man, they're gonna suffer some day because of us humans. Mark my words.

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  17. This is a genuinely interesting post, I live in Dublin so will be keeping an eye on this.

    Keep up the good work

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  18. wow that's crazy! perhaps we will have the civilization that runs off water, but also creates water in 50 years. sick!

    also come check out my moustache blog

    epicmoustacheblog.blogspot.com

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  19. That's fucking incredible.

    Knowing the way America is though, we'll probably find some excuse not to do it so our corporations can keep making money.

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  20. 4th state? I never heard that

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  21. This is great! you must check 100 Miles of Mirrors if you like ecology.

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  22. Well if that technology can be further improved it sounds like a good thing, we need some lights at the end of the tunnel like this.
    followed!

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  23. Very interesting. Hopefully this doesn't get swept away like so many other possible solutions.

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  24. Do you have additional information? I am curious what volume is required by the system to output enough energy to power 1/2 million houses.

    This is a very important invention, I just hope that the owner is more interested in the application of their creation rather than how much money it can net them.

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  25. Nice, haven't heard of that yet, looks like a good alternative to nuclear power plants :)

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  26. these are the kinds of things that uphold my faith in the human race. I'm glad somebody finally did something ingenious/innovative

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  27. if supercritical water is cost effective, it could be a good answer to our power needs

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  28. Hmm, interesting read; I'll be sure to look into the subject some more!

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  29. Austin it was 1 cubic meter (or 2, not absolutely sure if 1 or 2) per 60 seconds. The water has to be kept in that state for 60 seconds to ensure complete breakdown of organics. Not bad at all )

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  30. Never heard of this before, thanks for bringing it to my attention. Very exciting

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  31. Wow, i need to look into this more.

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  32. you'd be amazed at how many break through ideas/inventions like this are made all the time.
    produce energy and clean water? sounds amazing, but it will never become mainstream. none of these things will.
    it's all about money.

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  33. wow cool post man! following you!;)

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  34. It's nice to hear of us using an energy source that we can't run out of finally.

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  35. I've heard about supercritical things before, but I can't remember where.. Regardless, it's always good to see some people are thinking forward to other energy sources, rather than coal.

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