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Tethered Blimps for Hydrogen Storage

Hydrogen tanks in the sky
  (+3, -6)
(+3, -6)
  [vote for,

This is an adaption of the Solar/ Hydrogen Airship idea linked below.

One of the problems of developing the hydrogen economy is the difficulty and expense of safely storing large quantities of pressurised hydrogen.

So the idea is to simply use a tethered airship as your storage tank.

H2 production takes place on the ground by the method of your choice. The H2 then floats of its own volition up a long tube to the storage tank in the sky. When required, it is pumped back down the tube to be used in fuel cells, pressurised to fill cars, or burnt in motors, as desired.

The balloon and the transport tubes should be dual-walled, with the outer layer filled with helium. This provides a non-flammable buffer between the hydrogen and the outside air.

If this fails, and the balloon should somehow ignite anyway, at least it will be a low-pressure burn rather than an explosion, and safely away from people and property, with most of the heat dissipating up into the sky.

As a secondary benefit, the blimp could provide a platform to support wind turbines, telescopes, microwave repeater stations, and a refuelling stop for passing non-tethered blimps.

Feel free to shoot holes in this idea now. But not the blimp itself :-)

BunsenHoneydew, Feb 28 2004

Solar/H2 Blimp http://www.halfbake...20H2_2fHe_20Airship
Previously, on HB Blues.. [BunsenHoneydew, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Hydrogen Didn’t Cause Hindenburg Fire http://www.seas.ucl.../releases/blimp.htm
...UCLA Engineer, Former NASA Researcher Find [Detly, Oct 04 2004, last modified Mar 12 2005]


       Isn't the real problem to solve cheap, on-demand extraction from either water or gasoline or ethanol, i.e. existing stored forms?
theircompetitor, Feb 28 2004

       [UnaBubba} All good points. I suppose "blimp" is a bit of an exaggeration - it'd really just have to be a sac. No need for structural rigidity, as it doesnt have to steer itself anywhere.   

       [tc] Yep, I guess that's also the problem. Fuel cells are pretty efficient and reliable, but expensive to make. Coming down in price though. Biological cracking looks promising.   

       As a general principle, each form of energy should be used where it is most efficient, with as few transformations as possible. Transformations become economic when you have a surplus of one form and another form is storeable for later use. I don't think of H2 as some kind of magical panacea for all our energy needs, but it'll have its place.   

       Personally I think flywheels are under-rated as a storage device.   

       I don't think you can really consider water an existing energy store. It's the H2 which stores the energy you feed into the water to crack it. There's not much potential energy in the water to start with, unlike ethanol and other hydrocarbons. Sorry, just nitpicking now.
BunsenHoneydew, Feb 28 2004

       //there's not much potential energy in water//   

       unless you consider a dam
theircompetitor, Feb 28 2004

       Fishbones for creating a leaking storage container. What [UnaBubba] said... Hydrogen molecules will just come through the bag.
zigness, Feb 28 2004

       There is already work being done store hydrogen gas in carbon fiber sponges similar to storing acetylene gas in asbestos sponges with acetone. It's much safer, and you can store large volumes of gas at a relatively low pressure.
Hrothgar, Feb 28 2004

       You stole my rebuttal Hrothgar!
Arduen, Feb 28 2004

       Being a low pressure storage system means it would take hundreds of blimps to hold the same amount as a single large storage tank.
duroncrush, Feb 28 2004

       Humanbean, what you say about the potential burning rate does not agree with newsreels of the Hindenberg burning.
KiwiJohn, Feb 29 2004

       <off topic> We had a technician (Big John) who amongst other things was responsible for recharging banks of lead-acid batteries in the lab once a week. I guess he watched too many Clint Eastwood westerns, because he was constantly chewing on a cheroot. Anyway one time he must have leaned too close to these batteries while they were being recharged, and lost most of his facial hair (including a rather fine mustache) in the resultant explosion. He ended up having to retire a couple of years early after removing four of his fingers in an unrelated benchsaw incident. /<off topic>
suctionpad, Feb 29 2004

       Slow burning of the canopy eh? Hmmmm, maybe something in that but if the hydrogen had exploded as suggested surely all the canopy would have been blown off in an instant?
KiwiJohn, Feb 29 2004

       See link for info on Hindenberg.
Detly, Mar 01 2004

       Interesting conflicts, the link blames the highly inflamable envelope dope and states hydrogen burns with a colourless flame yet the photograph with it shows about 50% of the envelope still intact while a hughe fireball rises above the stern of the airship.   

       I can only conclude that the picture is a fake, in fact as I have never actually met anyone who saw the incident I can only conclude that the entire incident was staged in a Hollywood studio to galvanise public opinion against Nazi Germany and to protect the fledging Boeing airliner industry against the superior technology of the teutonic lighter than air craft.
KiwiJohn, Mar 01 2004

       [humanbean] When you captured the gas from a recharging lead acid battery there was more than just hydrogen in your trash bag. There was a near perfect 2-1 ratio hydrogen and oxygen. That's why you got such a nice bang out of it.
scad mientist, Mar 01 2004

       [KiwiJohn] Here's a thought that occured to me. Isn't a lot of film slightly sensitive to inrared light? What if to the human eye the fireball was invisible, but it showed up in the pictures? Just a random thought. I have no knowlege about the type of film used back then (or now for that matter).   

       Added after reading Detly's link: well, I guess the eyewitness acounts eliminate the need for this explanation...
scad mientist, Mar 01 2004

       I like this idea because it would be cheap and effective as long as you could put up with windstorms. (+)
elvatoedwardo, May 12 2004

       i have read a well researched work of fiction about the hindenberg it seems that hydrogen was used because the US government refused to allow Helium to be traded.
engineer1, May 13 2004

       I've seen video of H2 fueled cars on fire. What usually happens is that the heat raises the gas pressure until the safety valve pops - then the H2 comes out the valve and makes a pretty torch for all of 7-8 seconds. After that, there's nothing left to burn except the car's structure. Think about that next time you see a gasoline fueled car burn to nothing on the side of the road... or next time you watch CHiPs.
strange606, Jul 14 2006

       Probably better off having these blimps underwater instead of in the sky, more pressure, less space, less risk of explosion.
greyfiend, Jul 14 2006

       I like the idea...but for another reason. You just made your storage tank portable. It can be moved to whereever the demand is as needed. Perhaps you don't need shipping. The "tank" is self shipping.   

       Nice. [+]
ShawnBob, Apr 17 2010

       Oh the hydrogen!
pashute, Dec 04 2012


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