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+1. It´s sad that people don´t realize it.
Peter_XX, FYI, By year 2000, VW-Brazil had a local offer of the high volume small car Gol (Brazillian design, market leader) with a version of their EA-111 4-cyl 1.0L 16V engine, ,with VVT at intake, turbocharged (@1,4 kg/cm2), controlled by a Bosch Motronic M3.8.3 ECU. Was not a huge success. Was not cheap. Demanded more care taking, and finer maintenance, and so lost value quicker than a comparable 2.0L NA engine. Was said to be economical when run lightly, but not when the car was driven as the ones with a bigger (2.0L) engine. translate (with google) from Portuguese (Brazilian):
EP, FTA: "All mechanical switch-over processes are executed within one-half camshaft revolution; they last between 13 and 36 milliseconds, depending on engine speed." IMO, we can consider it as an immediate switch-on of 100% more cylinders. But this is not what is difficult. Just before the event, the engine is running at a certain state delivering the needed torque with only 2 cylinders at a higher load, from a higher MAP derived from bigger opening of the throttle body. Just after the activation of those 2 extra cylinders, all the cylinders would have to face a different MAP, to adjust load to achieve nearly the same level of torque as before to avoid the jump like a rabbit effect Peter_XX was cautioning. Achieving this level of control over a V8 was already difficult and gave bad reputation to the technique long ago, and would be even tougher at an I4 (2:2) than to a V8 (2:6). Lets hope that harnessing current ECUs higher throughput budget, VW engineers can smooth torque output when switching operating modes. ECU could a achieve it by coordinating actuation in multiple fronts: throttle, spark timing, and, may be, avoiding fueling the newly activated cylinders for the first cycle(s) while the pressure at the "plumbing" adjusts for the new situation.
This is good news. I see no reason for mumbling. Transforming waste streams into something useful, cleaning the environment, while saving new oil and cash is exactly what is desired. sugar->ethanol-> Look for Braskem (at Triunfo, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil) where it´s already a reality. Braskem's new 200,000 tonne/year green polyethylene plant located in Triunfo (in the state of Rio Grande do Sul) is expected to start in September [2010]. The facility will consume about 500 million liters/year of ethanol initially purchased from other regions.
PeterXX, There´s no need to be harsh on people as you did with Thomas. This is neither an SAE or DEER conference nor some kind of beauty context. Here, we´re just exchanging ideas. Be assured I almost always appreciate your comments. Let´s make more friends than enemies. ExDemo, IMO, the two different fuel injection methods (PFI and DI) allow them a kind of control of the fuel mixture and temperature in chamber that would be very difficult otherwise. You might want to read the thesis behind PPC (Lund University´s Partially Premixed Combustion). (Some tests where done with a GM 2.0L 4cyl block). (, PFI injected fuel will be homogeneous while DI could be stratified. A greater control of reactivity; peak temperature and NOx formation; combustion stability might be achieved. There is another point not mentioned here about the relation of the demanded dynamic range from the injectors and it´s metering and atomizing abilities. Some companies even try using two (PFI) injector per cylinder just to keep atomization and metering precise over the whole load range. ( Fiat´s "Multi-Air" is a clever design that promises higher control than VVT and VVL at an acceptable cost, while "Multi-Jet" is related to control of combustion event(s) on a CI (diesel) engine. Related, but not exactly the same. As a last thought, for the price premium VW charges for Audi labeled vehicles, there is no problem over designing them with all those degrees of freedom as a platform to test in the real world the upper bound of what can be expected from it, even if some of this won´t be ever mass produced. Remember the double-boosted 1.4L supercharged and turbocharged ?
This could be a route to go ... to hydrocarbons and chemical feedstocks. Sure. It fits the "Artificial Leaf" agenda as a substitute to nature´s "Calvin cycle" ( Would be even better if coupled to something like Nocera´s catalyst (
Harvey, it´s "an underground coal gasification (UCG) process" not exactly a conversion to NG. Even though some energy is wasted underground as heat, it allows recovering part of the energy that otherwise would be left there. From Underground coal gasification converts coal to gas while still in the coal seam (in-situ). Gas is produced and extracted through wells drilled into the unmined coal–seam. Injection wells are used to supply the oxidants (air, oxygen, or steam) to ignite and fuel the underground combustion process. Separate production wells are used to bring the product gas to surface.[5][7] The high pressure combustion is conducted at temperature of 700–900 °C (1290–1650 °F), but it may reach up to 1,500 °C (2,730 °F).[2][5] The process decomposes coal and generates carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen (ḥ), carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4). In addition, small quantities of various contaminants including sulfur oxides (SOx), mono-nitrogen oxides (NOx), and hydrogen sulfide(H2S).[5] As the coal face burns and the immediate area is depleted, the oxidants injected are controlled by the operator.[2]
Why are you all so sure that Rossi´s E-Cat experiment is a fraud or not ? Any new developments ?
Kelly, They are extending the tool set of synthetic biology in a way to allow an easier way to "download a program" to command the "living cell machinery" to produce the proteins, enzymes and chemicals they intend. We´re used to stored program computers ('Von Neumann architecture'), and we use CAD/CAM tools to create instructions to command computer programed (CNC) automated tools. DNA is a code made from quaternary digits (base4), grouped in words of 3 digits (the mentioned codons), hence 64 (4^3) possibilities, not all used, some in duplicity, etc. Nature recognizes the importance of the basic blue-print and has it "mirrored" in a "raid-1 like" setup. When needed DNA is duplicated the same way we are used to "REBUILDING" a mirrored disk array from each the original individual disks (half). When the code from DNA is needed, it´s partially "unzipped" and transcripted in RNA "mirroring" some region. The RNA is then used as a program in the synthesis of the chemicals using standard cell machinery (ribosomes, ..., If you find it interesting may be you'll like to search for get a look at Douglas Hofstadter´s book Methematical Temas - 'The genetic code: Arbitrary?' ( , I think IEEE802.x has still not opened sessions on this for the moment. ;-)
EP, Amyris develops a synthetic biology approach and is linked to Jay Keasling (, a researcher whose previous work includes the successful development of artemisinin, a anti-malaria drug, made in a similar way. There are presentations and panels on this from "The Berkeley Labs" ( on Youtube, and there is a new lab JBEI, you might be interested about. They propose making high quality and value chemicals, diesel, jet-fuel, etc. "easily" from farnesene, while using sugars in a similar way to yeast, with the added benefit of using less energy to "dry" the farnesene (as compared to ethanol). Those first industrial POCs are being located in partner´s proven low cost biomass/sugar plants already in use to minimize cost and risk. They are producing valuable zero-sulfur diesel when it´s increasingly difficult to reach the S50 blend which is being adopted in Brazil now. (We´re late to adopt a mitigated equivalent to Euro V - Proconve P7 - because low sulfur diesel was not available. Delayed upgrading to refineries to remove sulfur ...) No word on the process efficiency or cost, AFAIK. HarveyD, Please try to get knowledge on what you so often state, cause most of the time you´re wrong and, knowingly or not, repeating FUD! Sure there has to be limits to use land, water, etc. So what ? It is good news. One more milestone in developing and testing each of the possible pathways in BTL, that solves some real problems, and defining which ones are valuable to be scaled. Even if BTL might not be scalable to all the world (or american) needs, it is still valuable. Anyway, a big part of the demand will be shifted to other primary sources through electrification over time. Aviation and long distance traveling will still use liquid fuels for a long time, oil derived or synthetic, as they are the most convenient carriers of energy for those applications.
Are there any hard data on cost and process efficiency ? (How much of the energy is retained in the diesel from the original sugar?)
You're welcome. I'm glad to help whenever I can. Regards.
ronwagn, Yes we do have a program with incentives to use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for vehicles in Brasil. CNG is called GNV "Gas Natural Veicular" at the service stations here. People adopting it benefit from lower annual taxes, and lower recurring fuel costs. Those who drive a lot and use a lot of fuel find it more economical with a very reasonable ROI. Most of the Taxis (cabs) in the metropolitan areas or Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo use CNG. While there are factory made vehicles already prepared for CNG use, most notably FIAT's Siena Tetra-fuel, most are adapted over regular alcohol or flex-fuel vehicles. Factory models and some adaptations use modern electronically controlled port injection, but most old adapted ones use some row throttle body mixers, a less precise and effective setup (both in consumption and emissions). Not everyone stands the added burden of the CNG tanks (weight and space), leaks, special inspections, etc. Those who use do it for economy like it. There are announcements of VW/MANN dual-fuel buses diesel+CNG for Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area. (Green washing for the 2016 Olympic games or real ?). Bosch has been developing locally the underlying technologies delivering the ability to adapt regular diesel cycle buses with CNG displacing part of the required energy (not all). Buses would have nearly the same specs as original diesel ones, displaces a large amount of diesel whenever CNG is available, reduces emissions when using CNG with less a lot less soot and SOx, can be sold to markets where CNG is not available when substituted (as they still work solely on diesel when needed). There are parallel experiments with ethanol+additive (SCANIA) diesel substitution in Sao Paulo, as well as synthetic diesel derived from sugar cane (Amyris, Gevo,...). SJC, whe have Gasoline (really E18..E25 mix here); Ethanol (HE100-hydrous ethanol at 100%, 95%C2H5OH + ~5%water); and CNG/GNV. Methanol is not dispensed in service stations cause it requires special care for it's human toxicity. Regular Flex vehicles are designed to use any combination of our gas (E18..E25) mixed in any proportion to HE100 our ethanol. Most will tolerate E0 from Argentina, or other neighbors. Methanol is not used by the regular public (for the same old toxicity issue), but is used for some quarter-mile-like competitions where people make all kind of "monster" adaptations extracting up to some 800-1000HP from some 2.0L four bangers... Methanol cooling ability is very useful in these extreme situations.
I think Stan is referencing Thomas Gold's ( paper "The Deep, Hot Biosphere", or his the book "The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels" AFAIK, its just an hypothesis right now, no one knows if it's really true, and then at what rate, and with what consequences hydrocarbon reservoirs could be replenished. That's a multi-Trillion Dollar question. It deserves to be scientifically investigated and cleared over the years, but I would not bet next generations or humanity's fate on this. I might be wrong, never been fond of betting.
EP, It's all about timing. I still think SJC's point about a tactical "price undermining" of alternative energy sourcing is valid. KSA (and other cheap oil producers) are not stupid, and will make the best business choices in their interest. They won't price oil high enough for long enough to bring about any real disruption of their business. Price has nothing to do with cost here. This business is far away from "perfect competition", and prices won't track marginal cost. Cheap producers have huge margins. Within their huge margins, they (KSA and all of "Big oil") will [probably] settle for a bit less immediate profit to extend the time they have a grip on the energy market, and maximize profit over time. Developing ways of sourcing critical energy needs in usable forms is crucial to avoid possible unsettling events and unrest. It will take time, will have a lot of uncertainty and risks, and won't be profitable for some time. It will pay off in the long run, but won't take of with a go-and-stop signaling. For a more "market driven" change, there is a need for proper regulation creating a reasonable floor to [liquid fuel] prices to introduce predictability against this type of manipulations. Incidentally it would partially solve a budget problem too taxing what creates problems, channeling resources to what solves problems. Regulation can always be changed back if new cheap ways to provide energy are discovered or developed. This is just my view.
oops ... to evaluate IF the process is valuable ...
First let me cross link it to Bacterial enzyme converts carbon monoxide to hydrocarbons, If we look at it from a systems perspective, it´s another way of fixing carbon into hydrocarbons, competing with natural "calvin cycle" pathway used by plants and photosynthesis (first step to sugars, starch, ethanol, ...). This is not the source of primary energy (where the CO comes from?), but a way to transform matter into more useful forms. To evaluate the process is valuable one would have to assess the whole biorefining landscape to compare with other possible pathways, their cost and tradeoffs. This may be an opportunistic approach where otherwise polluting CO waste is converted into useful fuel solving two problems at once, even if not cost effective in other situations.
for instance, just like this: Report: Saudi prince worried over increasing fuel economy standards and technology,
3PeaceSweet, Bosch has been developing a portfolio of diesel-flex solutions (diesel cycle with compression ignition with energy partially supplied by alternate source) in Brazil ( They are presented both with CNG (CNG-diesel bus prototype launches in Rio, and with ethanol (Iveco Trakker bi-fuel ethanol-diesel truck for Brazil, This kind of solution provide ability to substitute oil, with lower emissions, maintaining most of the qualities and efficiency of diesel engines. While costing a bit more (dual tanks, additional port injectors, flex-electronics,...), buses and trucks retain the ability to operate solely on diesel where infrastructure is not available (CNG) or when fuel prices/availability are not favorable (Ethanol), and thus retain resale value. While there is always a bit of greenwashing, this seems to be on the right track. We already have solutions for Otto cycle fuel substitution with sugar cane ethanol, but diesel supplies some 52% of current LDV+HDV terrestrial demand with no displacement. CNG is available in the big cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and ethanol is available (and cheap) in the mills... I´d love to see this coupled with hydraulic or electric hybridization and even higher efficiencies.
While not directly related, there is a very interesting work from Australian National University on a Closed loop thermochemical energy storage system using ammonia ( It uses N2, H2 and NH3 in a closed loop as a chemical storage and carrier of energy.
I must correct myself. Even though the use of Nitrogenase and it's ability as a catalyst to react N2 and H2 to form NH3 (to avoid Haber-Bosch) is not new, this intended use similar to Fischer-Tropsch is indeed something else. While it's not clear exactly how it could be harnessed right now it opens up many possibilities both with synthetic biology and eventually with "plain" chemistry using what could be learned here. There are some other interesting related links following , as well as searching for Nitrogenase or Nitrogen_fixation.
EP, I´ll point to you that the concept is not really new, those guys are understanding and perfecting what nature and the agricultural sector has been doing for many years. The energy balance as well as cost advantage of Brazilian sugar-cane derived ethanol relies heavily on BFN - Biological Fixation of Nitrogen. There are symbiotic microorganisms that "capture" nitrogen and enrich the plant [and the soil?] thus demanding less nitrogen fertilization, often derived from natural gas in a Haber-Bosch process. This was developed by EMBRAPA the national research center for agricultural technology, and is known to everybody. Many years ago when they were perfecting this and it was "news", the word was that it brought cost some 30% down, and for those EROI-fanatics, it also cleaned the fossil fuel usage in the energy balance sheet. I see no reason US would not foster adoption of secure, sustainable, and environment friendly ways to nitrogen fertilize soil and biomass cultures with a bit of research. Anyway, depending on how they perfect this, reducing nitrogen compounds is nearly as good as carbon compounds in fixing energy in chemical form. A bit explosive, but if handled adequately might be another excellent tool. I have great hopes on this biochemical avenue.
Nick, As I wrote, I'm no expert, and will not pose as one. Information I gathered over time always pointed to methanol as being a lot more hazardous to human beings. I've seen many times careless people "pumping" gasoline with their lungs using hoses as straws and they kept alive for a long time. (Don't take it as scientific evidence, nor as endorsement to those stupid practices). I was told by a navy guy that methanol was previously used as torpedo propellant by US NAVY (and then by ours). They had manuals recommending extreme care, including skin exposure (in line with what is written at the CDC site). Tiny amounts in touch with a cut or a wound would be enough to intoxicate leading to blindness and possibly death. Now and then we hear of an accident here in Brazil were some ignorant guy was dead for using a vessel to drink something previously cleaned with methanol. Trace amounts only leading to big consequences. Once we had a big controversy here (Brazil) when we used a bit of methanol mixed to the gasoline. We are used to ethanol for a long time as cane and sugar has been a big industry for centuries, but not with methanol. Safety regulations for workers in fuel service stations would have demanded training and the use of gloves, etc. No way one could make the clerks (or the rest of the public, btw) use gloves given the high temperature we get here. It was difficult making people understand that even though "álcool" (ethanol) was secure, similar looking methanol-alcohol was not, and demanded great care. Methanol is still not allowed in planes/flight. Not even tiny methanol-water fuel cells used to recharge/extend notebook or smartphone battery "range". There were companies developing similar ethanol-water setups to avoid those usage limitations. The point is that while the economics are ok, and that methanol is not a wide scale hazardous material to the environment, it is poisonous and hazardous to human beings, even more than gasoline, or at least in more acute ways. While it can be safely handled by care-taking informed people for industrial uses, it brings some risks to the general population from potential (and probable) misuse. I don't feel comfortable proposing an alternative energy carrier that bring that kind of externalities to the general public. While better than energy-starve, it's not really desirable. Most of what can be done with methanol could be done with less hazardous ethanol or methane/NG/SNG with a bit more of effort. What happens if you drink 100ml of gasoline?I guess it won't make any good. If the guy was not forced by savage mobsters, or in a strange accident, he should get psychiatric help! But note that gasoline, diesel or ethanol are not even listed in the CDC's - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) - "The Emergency Response Safety and Health Database" at, while methanol, ethylene-glycol, etc. are. Methanol is classified in the "Systemic Agents". Just to have it clear, they're not talking of the whole environment here, but about humans. Could it be overstated ? Maybe, but neither I'm not in a position to refute, nor I have any credible input to do so.
SJC, Please take a second look at methanol's toxicity. Paraphrasing myself (from ): (I’m no expert, but methanol does, indeed, seam to bring a health hazard which may turn out a big problem. It is absorbed from skin, lung, etc. and if drunk “It is toxic: drinking 10 ml will cause blindness, and as little as 100 ml will cause death”. Is kind of scary for general usage. In industry, with assured proper care, it’s ok. )