Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Pressure Generator Array

Building upon my Pressure Engines post, I've come up with another idea.

Power generation stations, be they coal-fired, nuclear, or hydro-powered, use massive electric generators (or, maybe more accurately: alternators) to create electricity from rotary movement. Coal and nuclear plant use the pressure from steam to turn the generators, while hydroelectric plants use gravity and flowing water to do the same. These generators are each probably the size of my living room... Well, maybe my F-150 truck, but they're big, to say the least. Each power plant also has multiple generators because there is a limit to their efficiency.

But, it again comes down to harnessing pressure in order to perform work. In this case, it is pressure that causes a turbine to turn, which then causes the generator/alternator to produce electricity via inductance.

Now, in the Pressure Engines post, I introduced the concept of replacing combustion with another source of pressure, like a chemical reaction that produces a gas. For the sake of argument, let's just consider Baking Soda and Vinegar, because every kid has probably made a volcano.

For chemistry geeks, the reaction is as follows:

C2H4O2 + NaHCO3 --> NaC2H3O2 + ( H2CO3 --> H2O + CO2 )

Disclaimer: I won two academic awards in high school for chemistry, and was even referred to as the aforementioned "Chemistry Geek", but the subject in itself was never anything that I found terribly exciting.

The reaction produces Sodium Acetate and Carbonic Acid, which decomposes into water and Carbon Dioxide. The CO2 is what we're interested in, because when confined to a space, will build up pressure. Note: What I don't know as I write this is if the resulting pressure will halt the decomposition of the Carbonic Acid until the pressure is released, but all of this information is just to set up my main idea, so it's not really important.

What's all of this got to do with generators? I can't possibly turn a megawatt generator with Baking Soda and Vinegar.

That's true. But, I can surely turn a smaller generator, maybe one that only outputs 1 Watt, with a small volume of pressurized gas. I'm thinking about something that might be 1 or 2 cubic inches. Maybe about the size of a 486 CPU fan. Tiny sucker.

Let's assume that each of these mini generators are sealed units. What I'm wondering [proposing] is if they can be daisy-chained so that the fluid (gas) output of one unit can feed the input of another unit. In this way, the pressurized gas generated in a reaction chamber must flow through all of the mini generators in order to exhaust.

Diagram of a Pressure Generator Array

Let's suppose that one unit is 2 cubic inches. That means that you can get 200+ kW out of the same volume as my F-150. Could 200,000+ daisy-chained mini generators truly be fed from a single small reaction chamber?

I'm going to guess that the answer is 'probably not', but fluid mechanics is not my forte. My bigger point is that instead of trying to solve an energy generation problem using a single device, that maybe it will be easier to use thousands of smaller devices instead.

This concept could also apply to other current "Green" energy production methods. For instance, why have one giant windmill (costing millions of dollars each) when you can use thousands of small windmills (I'm guessing that the total cost would probably be less due to mass production)?