### Author Topic: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!  (Read 5738 times)

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#### raspberrypi

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##### Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« on: January 07, 2017, 09:34:28 pm »
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/company-unlocks-secret-to-making-plastic-out-of-air/

This company claims to be able to make plastic "Out of thin air". In fact the chair the news anchor was sitting in was made from thin air! So this company is going to solve global warming. Thank god I was getting worried. We just need to make alot of chairs though.

Heres how it works: They suck air through a little pipe and turn the CO2 into plastic: Which has the general formula CH2; two hydrogens for every carbon. Plastic is like long chains of gasoline molecules, thats why it burns with the yellow sooty flame. Where do they get the hydrogen? Well that would come from water vapor in the thin air H2O. Here what they are claiming:

- Air -(+Energy)-> Plastic
H2O + CO2 -> CH2 + O2 (Notice this formula is backwards, that's because this is the formula for combustion) Can it be done back wards? Yes but you need to put all the energy back into the system that was released from burning plus some to form polymers.

-How much air would they need to make 10kg of plastic to make a chair?
There is currently 400 ppm of CO2 in the air. And for water vapor that varies: "The percentage water vapor in surface air varies from 0.01% at -42 °C (-44 °F)[16] to 4.24% when the dew point is 30 °C (86 °F).[17]" So we could say 2%. Not much, but better then 400ppm. So the minimum amount of air required is to get the CO2 since we will already have met our water requirement. Air weight: 22.4 liters of nitrogen weighs 28 grams; 0.8 liters weighs (0.8/22.4) X 28 grams = 1 gram (almost exactly) and 0.2 liters of oxygen weighs (0.2/22.4) X 32 = 0.286 grams, therefore a liter of air weighs about 1.286 grams. So that pipe would have to suck up 321,500,000 Liters of air to get 10kg of CO2. Of this only about 1/3 that is Carbon so we have to suck up three times that much air. So we are up to 964,500,000 liters!
So now that we have our carbon we have to liquefy and store it. This will require a HUGE amount of energy. So already it’s not viable. But the hardest part will be getting the oxygen separated from the CO2. CO2 is burnt carbon meaning it’s a molecule that takes energy to break it apart, unlike a methane molecule that makes energy when you break it apart. It would take 393.5 kJ to break apart one mole of CO2 which is a huge amount of energy for only 44 grams yielding 12 grams of carbon. Why not just get a lump of coal? If the plastic factory gets its electricity from coal or natural gas that energy is going to make more CO2 not less. Splitting the water molecule is going to have to go through the same process. So good job CBS news for not falling for the bullshit that a high school chemistry course could prove wrong.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2017, 09:37:46 pm by raspberrypi »
I'm legally blind so sometimes I ask obvious questions, but its because I can't see well.

#### Richard Crowley

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2017, 09:58:26 pm »
Well, it looks like they can get a lot more "raw material" out of polluted air than pure air.  So they would have to set up shop in the middle of the most polluted cities on earth.  Curiously, they are all in the middle-east and far-east or Africa.
According to:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/05/13/the-most-polluted-city-in-the-world-isnt-beijing-or-delhi/?utm_term=.7fcf2834a861
The top 10 Cities by PM2.5 pollution
• Zabol, Iran
• Gwalior, India
• Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia
• Patna, India
• Raipur, India
• Bamenda, Cameroon
• Xingtai, China
• Baoding, China

OTOH, that same article tells about literally compressing and "canning" pure Canadian air and selling it in China and India.
And I thought I had seen everything.

#### IanB

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2017, 10:07:55 pm »
It's hardly worth extracting CO2 from the air when there is so much waste CO2 from combustion processes that people are trying to capture and store or find other uses for.

But apart from that, the first rule of engineering is economics. Is this project financially viable? So many people come up with hair brained schemes without first doing the most basic of economic evaluations.
I'm not an EE--what am I doing here?

#### SeanB

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2017, 02:18:53 pm »
OTOH, that same article tells about literally compressing and "canning" pure Canadian air and selling it in China and India.
And I thought I had seen everything.

OTOH I do remember a radio comedy from when I was younger, where one of the episodes had the canning of thousands of cans, and selling it as pure Battersea air to expats world wide.

#### slicendice

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2017, 02:37:14 pm »
Maybe the real purpose of this experiment is to get rid of all the pollution and in the process also try to find good use of all the raw material they gather from the filtered air?

Maybe a cheaper method though, would be to build water pipes and plant some trees to get rid of the CO2?

#### retrolefty

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2017, 07:07:27 pm »
OTOH, that same article tells about literally compressing and "canning" pure Canadian air and selling it in China and India.
And I thought I had seen everything.

OTOH I do remember a radio comedy from when I was younger, where one of the episodes had the canning of thousands of cans, and selling it as pure Battersea air to expats world wide.

And I recall a Sci Fi short story where there was a up-scale market created selling rare canned 'polluted air' so that rich people could smell the polluted air that they so miss after having solved air pollution.

While also reminds me of a short story of after having acquired immortality the country found it's economy go bankrupt due to all the lifetime subscriptions stopped working as a business model.

#### JimRemington

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2017, 07:13:39 pm »
Quote
Weird story subject, considering that pension plans are already causing economic havoc.

#### retrolefty

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2017, 07:19:41 pm »
Quote
Weird story subject, considering that pension plans are already causing economic havoc.

It does raise an interesting question. Would achieving immortality mean one could never 'retire' and be expected to support themselves forever?  I guess mostly it means before we could solve immortality there would be many other problems to solve first before it would only destroy humanity. Immortality by itself is only really useful for space exploration I guess, even if going the speed of light.

#### Simon

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2017, 07:27:46 pm »
The crap people will beleive is amazing. with the clickbait culture any story is not thoroughly examined, only it's click bait-ability is examined.

#### calexanian

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2017, 07:22:15 pm »
Like said above in china this might work. You just condense the burnt garbage right out of the air! hahahaha. Snake oil alive and well.
Charles Alexanian
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#### Halcyon

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2017, 07:59:42 pm »
Speaking of condensing garbage, I wonder how many Batterisers/Batteroo's you would need to make one aluminium can?

#### Dubbie

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2017, 01:12:32 am »
This is just another project like the solar roads. Completely technically possible. Also completely commercially unsustainable.

Uninformed folks get all hung up on the first part, arguing how "it really does work!" And that commercial viability is just details to be easily worked out.

#### Sceptre

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2017, 04:57:32 am »
It's hardly worth extracting CO2 from the air when there is so much waste CO2 from combustion processes that people are trying to capture and store or find other uses for.
Per the linked article:  "Carbon emissions are captured from farms, landfills, and energy facilities..."
Clue:  'farms, landfills...'  Newlight isn't just cracking CO2 and H2O - they're collecting methane, and combining it with CO2 to make a polymer.  That's why they're certified cradle-to-grave carbon-negative.
Quote
But apart from that, the first rule of engineering is economics. Is this project financially viable? So many people come up with hair brained schemes without first doing the most basic of economic evaluations.
KI Furniture, Dell, IKEA, Sprint, and Vinmar International are customers.  Newlight may not be viable long-term, but it's hardly a pipe dream.  http://www.newlight.com/aircarbon/

#### slicendice

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2017, 06:11:58 am »
Per the linked article:  "Carbon emissions are captured from farms, landfills, and energy facilities..."
Clue:  'farms, landfills...'  Newlight isn't just cracking CO2 and H2O - they're collecting methane, and combining it with CO2 to make a polymer.  That's why they're certified cradle-to-grave carbon-negative.
Quote

+1 on that . Nothing new really, and it's a good way to get rid of all the gases.

#### SeanB

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2017, 04:01:13 pm »
So, basically Fischer Troph process, just with an insanely poor feedstock gas. You can make urea from air and water, but you really have to remember air is 78% nitrogen, and after oxygen the rest of the gas concentrations is so low it is not a worry. Now, if you are using methane and such, you really need a large source that is constant, large volume and will be reliable in supply, like a gas field. A garbage dump is really going to be low volume, irrespective of size, and using CO2 from a fossil fuel burning power plant is a short step to insanity, those pesky laws of thermodynamics, and no catalyst is going to magically make the separation of CO2 back into C and O2 work without putting in more energy that what the reaction released in the first place.

Law of entropy, it always gets worse, and you never can break even.

#### slicendice

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2017, 08:30:45 pm »
So, basically Fischer Troph process, just with an insanely poor feedstock gas. You can make urea from air and water, but you really have to remember air is 78% nitrogen, and after oxygen the rest of the gas concentrations is so low it is not a worry. Now, if you are using methane and such, you really need a large source that is constant, large volume and will be reliable in supply, like a gas field. A garbage dump is really going to be low volume, irrespective of size, and using CO2 from a fossil fuel burning power plant is a short step to insanity, those pesky laws of thermodynamics, and no catalyst is going to magically make the separation of CO2 back into C and O2 work without putting in more energy that what the reaction released in the first place.

Law of entropy, it always gets worse, and you never can break even.

Are you saying cows and such are not a reliable Methane source? Think again.

Do you still think it's pointless to collect Methane an CO2 gases and make use of it?

#### SeanB

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2017, 08:44:08 pm »
Concentrated, easy to harvest and a source that does not have massive variation in local flow rate in any time period shorter than a week. Hard to attach hoses to the rear of cows and still have them mobile, while you can drill a hole in the ground to a large gas pocket, or pipe together a good number of local deposits and then run it to a central plant. You probably could run one off a city garbage pile, just by taking the material and coking it in large furnaces to drive off the volatiles, and get useful raw materials out of the pile while you are at it.

That however will take a large older dumping site, a large investment and a lot of digging out of older stuff, plus likely bringing in stockpiles of old rubber tyres as extra feedstock and as well having on site buffers for slow days and when you cannot dig out the pile or process material. This kind of plant is really inefficient in small sizes, so you need it to be quite big, and you need the ancillary plant like a LOX plant, some sort of remains handling to remove the ferrous waste, copper and recover the ashes and reclaim the precious metals and rare earths that will be there in the waste ash in extractable quantities.

#### slicendice

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2017, 10:24:46 pm »

#### raspberrypi

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2017, 08:14:50 am »
It's hardly worth extracting CO2 from the air when there is so much waste CO2 from combustion processes that people are trying to capture and store or find other uses for.
Per the linked article:  "Carbon emissions are captured from farms, landfills, and energy facilities..."
Clue:  'farms, landfills...'  Newlight isn't just cracking CO2 and H2O - they're collecting methane, and combining it with CO2 to make a polymer.  That's why they're certified cradle-to-grave carbon-negative.
Quote
But apart from that, the first rule of engineering is economics. Is this project financially viable? So many people come up with hair brained schemes without first doing the most basic of economic evaluations.
KI Furniture, Dell, IKEA, Sprint, and Vinmar International are customers.  Newlight may not be viable long-term, but it's hardly a pipe dream.  http://www.newlight.com/aircarbon/

Your still missing the point. Even with those gasses how do you collect any useable amount? You cant plug tubes into a cows ass. The biogas that comes out of landfills in not exactly high pressure natural gas, its a mixture with all kinds of gasses; mainly water. CO2 takes a MASSIVE amount of energy to make into carbon. As far as "Cracking" goes, it only works in one direction, it takes long CH2 chains like C10H22 and breaks them into smaller chains, not longer. You can't crack CO2. Natural gas off a pipe line is very high pressure and dense. 1000X's more dense then the slight flow off a landfill. Plus you are going to have it contaminated with sulfer compounds from other anarobic bacteria. CO2 as a carbon source is probably the worst source you could think of. You would have to liquefy it then heat it under very high pressures to disassociate the CO2. You would basically need to turn it into a plasma or react the Carbon with Florine to keep it from rejoining with the oxygen. Then you have to replace the florine with hydrogen another backwards reaction requiring lots of energy. You are using HUGE amount of energy and hazardous chemical at very high temps and pressures. The safety precautions would cost alot of the budget. There is a reason we make plastic from oil  and not CO2, or carbonate rocks. All of this is negated if your electricity comes from petroleum which 80% of the US is.
I'm legally blind so sometimes I ask obvious questions, but its because I can't see well.

#### SeanB

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2017, 09:11:25 am »
Another strike against landfill gas is that it also contains trace amounts of furniture polish and other silicon compounds. Now, while silicon and carbon are chemically similar, there is a massive difference in the chemical products. SiO2 is a nice solid abrasive, while CO2 is a gas. CH4 is a gas, while SiH4 is a nasty product that turns into SiO2 again, and almost every silicon compound will turn into it as well eventually. Not good to have what is essentially a really good grinding powder in a chemical plant, wearing out valves, piping and especially pumps and seals. In this respect it is probably worse than running an Ammonia plant, as there at least you do not wear out parts just from flow, except over long periods.

#### slicendice

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2017, 11:27:56 am »
Plant trees and let them take care of CO2, problem solved!

For landfills, just let them be and focus on other renewable energy sources/ways to recycle as much as possible before it becomes some landfill. Problem solved

For energy optimizations, collect all heat generated as byproduct somewhere and use that heat for things that needs heat. Use gases that are under pressure and it's a byproduct to cool things down that needs to be cooled down. Use whatever renewable energy source that is energy efficient as a way to get electricity. Problem solved

#### Sceptre

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2017, 05:08:06 am »
It's hardly worth extracting CO2 from the air when there is so much waste CO2 from combustion processes that people are trying to capture and store or find other uses for.
Per the linked article:  "Carbon emissions are captured from farms, landfills, and energy facilities..."
Clue:  'farms, landfills...'  Newlight isn't just cracking CO2 and H2O - they're collecting methane, and combining it with CO2 to make a polymer.  That's why they're certified cradle-to-grave carbon-negative.
Quote
But apart from that, the first rule of engineering is economics. Is this project financially viable? So many people come up with hair brained schemes without first doing the most basic of economic evaluations.
KI Furniture, Dell, IKEA, Sprint, and Vinmar International are customers.  Newlight may not be viable long-term, but it's hardly a pipe dream.  http://www.newlight.com/aircarbon/

Your [sic] still missing the point.
OK, let's review:
First, you dredge up a 2 1/2 year old article, misstate Newlight's process, then proceed to attack the straw man you created.

Second, you wonder:
Quote
Even with those gasses how do you collect any useable amount? You cant plug tubes into a cows ass.
If you had done an iota of research, you would know that Newlight gets its methane from a dairy farm's covered manure pit.

Third, you continue to rant on and on about infeasibility, despite the fact that Newlight has been producing about 2 million pounds of PHA per year (and selling it to customers who have manufactured and sold end-user products from it).

So no, I don't think I'm the one that's missing the point.

Note to others:  I'm not making any claims regarding Newlight's product quality, cost competitiveness, ability to scale, or future prospects.  Only that they appear to be making some amount of marketable plastic from captured methane.

#### slicendice

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #22 on: January 12, 2017, 07:59:54 am »
The best and most successful companies in the world look a bit further than just how deep their pocket is right now. They consider renewability and have long term goals (essentially to continue business forever). Drilling holes in the ground and collecting fossil fuel will not last forever and as we have already witnessed, it ends up in territory war and other conflicts in the long run.

I'm sure Newlight makes some profits out of all this or they would be bankrupt already.

#### raspberrypi

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2017, 10:27:54 am »
It's hardly worth extracting CO2 from the air when there is so much waste CO2 from combustion processes that people are trying to capture and store or find other uses for.
Per the linked article:  "Carbon emissions are captured from farms, landfills, and energy facilities..."
Clue:  'farms, landfills...'  Newlight isn't just cracking CO2 and H2O - they're collecting methane, and combining it with CO2 to make a polymer.  That's why they're certified cradle-to-grave carbon-negative.
Quote
But apart from that, the first rule of engineering is economics. Is this project financially viable? So many people come up with hair brained schemes without first doing the most basic of economic evaluations.
KI Furniture, Dell, IKEA, Sprint, and Vinmar International are customers.  Newlight may not be viable long-term, but it's hardly a pipe dream.  http://www.newlight.com/aircarbon/

Your [sic] still missing the point.
OK, let's review:
First, you dredge up a 2 1/2 year old article, misstate Newlight's process, then proceed to attack the straw man you created.

Second, you wonder:
Quote
Even with those gasses how do you collect any useable amount? You cant plug tubes into a cows ass.
If you had done an iota of research, you would know that Newlight gets its methane from a dairy farm's covered manure pit.

Third, you continue to rant on and on about infeasibility, despite the fact that Newlight has been producing about 2 million pounds of PHA per year (and selling it to customers who have manufactured and sold end-user products from it).

So no, I don't think I'm the one that's missing the point.

Note to others:  I'm not making any claims regarding Newlight's product quality, cost competitiveness, ability to scale, or future prospects.  Only that they appear to be making some amount of marketable plastic from captured methane.

What I'm saying is that the math doesn't add up. They claimed to make plastic from air, CO2 in their sales pitch. Not a straw man, I'm attacking the idea they are presenting to the general public, who will go off just what they see in the news story. Plus they showed that little pipe as their feed source. I'm just adding the details they conveniently left out. Also what % of their plastic comes from the manure pit? 1% 99%? I guess you could call that a straw man, but they leave the public to assume these things for a reason.
I'm legally blind so sometimes I ask obvious questions, but its because I can't see well.

#### slicendice

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##### Re: Plastic from thin air is BULLSHIT!
« Reply #24 on: January 12, 2017, 11:51:44 am »

Smf