Diary

Re: Johns Hopkins Engineering Goes All In

I know the comments section is closed for RedHot entries, but I have a special qualification for commenting here.  I received my Ph.D. in Chemistry at Johns Hopkins in 1994.  While I was looking for gainful employment, and waiting for the erstwhile wife to graduate with her Ph.D. in Biochemistry (same department, really), I did a short post-doc for Gerald Meyer (profiled in the pamphlet Kowalski linked) in 1995.  I spent that time synthesizing some of those photosensitizing molecules that he mentions in the Terawatt Challenge pamphlet, earning secondary authorship in a peer-reviewed paper (see:  “An Acetylacetonate-Based Semiconductor-Sensitizer Linkage”, Heimer, T.; D’Arcangelis, S. T.; Farzad, F., Stipkala, J.M; Meyer, G. J. Inorg. Chem. 1996, 35, 5319-5324.   It’s an excellent read.  I highly recommend it.  I built those molecules, did I mention that?)

I still think that brand of photovoltaic technologies has great potential, and it already works to a certain degree, but it is slow in coming, and for good reasons, which I won’t go into here.  Very few people are at the forefront such completely new technology.  Not to mention the fact that this tech ain’t easy.  Jerry Meyer has been singing the same tune since before 1994.  I can’t tell you how much further that his research has progressed.  I haven’t been keeping tabs on his, and others’ work.  I’m sure they are inching along, even though the government is throwing money at the problem (which it has been doing by the way since 1994).  But the classic “throwing money at a problem works here, because the real problems are understanding the chemistry and physics better, and money really never helps that. 

So don’t let the Terawatt pamphet fool you.  It’s a completely rosy picture of stuff that has been going on at Hopkins for many years now.   No fault on Jerry, he’s got an uphill battle on physical law and practicality to fight.  

Two orders of magnitude are what’s required of windmills (not the one claimed by the pamphlet) in order to double what we have now.   Plus the construction, the copper, the maintenance (especially the ravages on Nature on maritime construction),

Besides, any engineer can build a windmill.  ET used wind power to “phone home” for God’s sake.  Any moron can claim that they need to be built.  Except for the fact that wind power doesn’t produce nearly enough electricity to be worth the effort in building and maintenance costs, windmills are just fine.  I mena it’s good for some things.  They use mehcanical windmills all over Texas to pump water out of the ground for the cattle.  Or they used to, anyway.  It works, it’s just not going to be enough.

Nuclear power WOULD be enough.  Even the pamphlet describes nuclear power as the source of 21% of the electricity we currently use.  That’s a big chunk!  An order of magnitude change there would feed this nation more than 100% of the electricity it needs.    Possibly even enough to charge up those stupid electric cars everyone claims we should have.  Too bad the battery tech isn’t even close yet.