MIT: Five Grand Thermal Challenges to Decarbonise the Global Economy

UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening meeting with Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation during his visit to London earlier today. Picture: Russell Watkins/DFID
UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening meeting with Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation during his visit to London earlier today. Picture: Russell Watkins/DFID, source Wikimedia

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

What would it take to make renewable energy viable, and reduce emissions from industrial processes?

MIT professors Asegun HenryRavi Prasher & Arun Majumdar had a series of meetings with Bill Gates in 2018. The result of those meetings is a recently published paper which describes five thermal challenges which must be overcome, to curb industrial CO2 emissions and make renewable energy a viable solution to the world’s energy needs.

MIT’s Asegun Henry on “Grand Thermal Challenges” to Save Humanity From Extinction Due to Climate Change 

TOPICS:Climate ChangeEnergyGlobal WarmingMIT

By JENNIFER CHU, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY AUGUST 16, 2020

Q: What are the five thermal energy challenges you outline in your paper?

A: The first challenge is developing thermal storage systems for the power grid, electric vehicles, and buildings. Take the power grid: There is an international race going on to develop a grid storage system to store excess electricity from renewables so you can use it at a later time. …

The second challenge is decarbonizing industrial processes, which contribute 15 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. The big actors here are cement, steel, aluminum, and hydrogen. …

The third challenge is solving the cooling problem. Air conditioners and refrigerators have chemicals in them that are very harmful to the environment, 2,000 times more harmful than carbon dioxide on a molar basis. …

The fourth challenge is long-distance transmission of heat. We transmit electricity because it can be transmitted with low loss, and it’s cheap. The question is, can we transmit heat like we transmit electricity? …

The last challenge is variable conductance building envelopes. There are some demonstrations that show it is physically possible to create a thermal material, or a device that will change its conductance, so that when it’s hot, it can block heat from getting through a wall, but when you want it to, you could change its conductance to let the heat in or out. …

Read more: https://scitechdaily.com/mits-asegun-henry-on-grand-thermal-challenges-to-save-humanity-from-extinction-due-to-climate-change/

The abstract of the paper;

Comment
Published: 

Five thermal energy grand challenges for decarbonization

Asegun HenryRavi Prasher & Arun Majumdar 

Nature Energy (2020)

Roughly 90% of the world’s energy use today involves generation or manipulation of heat over a wide range of temperatures. Here, we note five key applications of research in thermal energy that could help make significant progress towards mitigating climate change at the necessary scale and urgency.

Read more (paywalled): https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-020-0675-9

Sadly the MIT paper is paywalled, but in my opinion this pretty much seems to confirm the findings of a team of Google engineers in 2016, and pretty much everyone else who genuinely attempts to calculate the exact cost of our glorious green revolution, rather than simply cheerleading punishing carbon taxes and leaving the implementation details to the engineers.

Deployment of current generation green technology is a waste of money.

137 thoughts on “MIT: Five Grand Thermal Challenges to Decarbonise the Global Economy

  1. Only five grand challenges to conquer? Any single one of them would be enough to render the chance for success 50/50 at best if time is of the essence.

  2. Agreed.
    The technology is fiction. And not even close to being science fiction.
    Except for number 4:

    The fourth challenge is long-distance transmission of heat. We transmit electricity because it can be transmitted with low loss, and it’s cheap. The question is, can we transmit heat like we transmit electricity?

    There must be a way to use then transmissibility of electricity to provide heat somewhere else…

    • Use the heat to make steam, use the steam to run a turbine that drives a generator. Fluids other than water with a lower boiling point could be used to recover lower temperature heat.

    • M, the issue is efficiency. Typical thermal power plant efficiency is about 33%. Then there are transmission and distribution losses, which average around 5%. Overall, call it 30% end to end, since the conversion back to heat is nearly 100% efficient.

      He’s hoping for some way to get a lot more than ~ 30% of the heat to the far end … seems possible.

      w.

      • Baseload combined cycle plants run in the range of 45-60% efficiency, before transmission and distribution losses. Of course, a CCGT can be easily scaled and built very close to the users, cutting transmission losses.

      • W, about true for Rankin cycle thermodynamics ( the best is superhot pressurized steam Nicol alloy tubes, so called HELO plants reaching up to 45%, see essay Clean Coal in ebook Blowing Smoke for details. But a simple factory built double cycle Nat Gas CCGT does an easy 61% net thermal efficiency.

        • Water at critical temperature is ~380C. It has a specific gravity of 0.32kg/litre. The boundary between liquid and gas has disappeared, meaning no joules are required to make liquid into steam. Unfortunately it is indeed a universal solvent with overdrive. It dissolves gold, tantalum, tungsten, platinum group metals and everything else and drops it out of solution when the temperature drops and or pressure drops below ~35(?)MPa. Welcome to the formation of mineral deposits.

      • Possible, sure, if there’s no deadline to complete the solution. Take five hundred years if you need to.

    • Since WE only produce 3% of the CO2 annually, What difference would us reducing CO2 by that per cent make? The vast majority WE caan’t control.

    • “The question is, can we transmit heat like we transmit electricity?” When you really think about it, the answer is a clear and resounding yes and it is being done in practical (but limited) fashion today, as it was over 130 years ago.

      Two methods of accomplishing this: one is piped steam, the other is piped hot water.

      Here in the US, the prime example of piped steam is NYC which has over 100 miles of installed steam pipe, some sections dating back to 1882 (ref: https://www.amny.com/news/nyc-steam-system-1-20146953/ ). As this article notes:
      “Steam serves more than 1,500 buildings, including the Empire State building, The United Nations, Rockefeller Center and multiple museums and hospitals. It is used for several functions, including heating, cooling, cooking and sterilizing.”

      Other nations offer prime examples of widespread piped hot water systems in large cities, under the generic name of “district heating” (ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_heating#Size_of_systems ). Chief among these are Iceland, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands.

      The Wikipedia article on “district heating” has this interesting tidbit:
      “In 1890, the first wells were drilled to access a hot water resource outside of Boise, Idaho. In 1892, after routing the water to homes and businesses in the area via a wooden pipeline, the first geothermal district heating system was created.”

      So for piped steam or piped hot water:
      — pipes are analogous to electrical wires,
      — fluid temperature is analogous to voltage,
      — mass flow rate is analogous to electrical current, and
      — transmitted usable thermal power is analogous to transmitted usable electrical power.

      Sure, we need much, much better thermal insulation to extend such piped heat systems from a hundred or so miles extent to a thousand or so miles extent, but that’s just a matter of engineering. And consider that mankind has no issues at all with making natural gas pipelines and oil pipelines that pump large amounts of fluids over thousands of miles of length, similar in distance to the largest transmission lengths of today’s electrical grids.

      • Are you talking about building hundreds of miles of pipelines? Don’t you read the news? Somehow, and I don’t know how, the warmunists will find some reason to oppose that – regardless of what’s running through the pipes.

    • High pressure(>3000psig, hi temperature>300F). It just skips the step of converting back and forth between steam and electricity. That said, it’s probably limited to 10’s of miles due to heat losses.

      which highlights the need for modular, small small, self-contained nuclear reactors for a low density power grid.

    • Yes, it’s called a heat pump. No, you don’t transmit the heat, you transmit the electricity to concentrate local heat.

    • The oceans and atmosphere do heat transmission on a vast scale. Gulf Stream spares Old Blighty a Canadian-style winter.

  3. Transmit heat like electricity.

    Plasma could do it, but then that’s a pretty tough nut to crack, ain’t it?

    • As soon as we master plasma, we’ll have power “too cheap to meter” from fusion generators, right?

  4. Sad to say, MIT is deep into climate change. The president, an electrical engineer, has all the heft of a gender studies solon when he pontificates about climate change. To ‘save humanity from extinction’ due to climate change? I’d expect that sort of silliness from the NYT.

    And, just supposing, what if there is no point to decarbonization? What if any danger from CO2 is exaggerated, if it isn’t out and out invented?

    It doesn’t much matter if Harvard or Barnard are all in on the climate turkey.

    But MIT? That’s a bummer.

    Thank God for Richard Lindzen.

    • I attended M.I.T. as a graduate student 1959-61. The professors are Massachusetts liberals, plain and simple. Back then their economics professors were claiming the Soviet Union was going to surpass the United States economically. That type of liberal garbage thinking there has never changed. With respect to the effects of CO2 emissions, we are doing future generations a big favor by burning coal. The earth has been carbon deficient ever since the meteor which killed the dinosaurs also ignited the forests and buried the result, giving us much of the coal we have today. A recent study on the age of coal deposits clearly showed that many of them date to 65 million years ago.

      The increased CO2 is increasing farming productivity. That will become even more important as the coming ice age, brought on by the Milankovitch cycles, reduces the amount of land available for crops due to the shortened growing seasons away from the equator, plus the colder oceans absorbing atmospheric CO2, as they did during previous ice ages.

      • A friend of mine, met him through our vintage car club, is a well-to-do retired engineer and MIT graduate. He’s the nicest, most generous guy you’ll ever meet, but suffers from the worst case of TDS I’ve yet encountered.

    • It’s really just an ask for money (funds-a call to action). “Concluding remarks It seems inconceivable that we can achieve deep decarbonization without technological breakthroughs in thermal science and engineering. Yet, thermal science and engineering has not received as much attention from the research community and funding organizations. Here, we have highlighted five unique challenges in this realm, which, if addressed adequately, can each potentially produce gigatonne-scale reductions in GHG emissions. Given that
      energy and climate is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century, we hope this will serve as an intellectual appeal and a call to action for the broader research and development community.”

  5. It is a shame that solar and wind are being held out to be the saviour of electricity generation, and just need a wee bit of storage to pull it through the lull when the wind doesn’t blow for a week, or a 1500 mile circular low pressure slowly transits an entire sub continent and dims the solar PV output to next to useless, especially in winter. This is a mistake that cannot be corrected because the premise is wrong, that wind and solar have a big part to play in future electricity generation. If anything, it is a complete and utter failure, with low density power per sq mile of installed capacity, and then it is junk asynchronous electricity with not even a plan to recycle the garbage at its end of life, which is relatively short at about 20 years and then it is landfill. What a waste, with rolling blackouts where it is implemented too much.

    At least burning/gasifying garbage or wood waste is spinning reserve base load electricity and on that merit alone, is a much more valuable product being base load electricity supply for as long as you have fuel. Whether you agree or disagree with burning garbage and wood waste is total different argument. It is only a small component of the energy mix, and the waste has to be dealt with anyway. I don’t advocate biofuel as any type of large type permanent solution, especially if it is to ‘lock’ up carbon, because it doesn’t; it is just temporary as long as it is locked up which is short term in the scheme of things. It is part of the terrestrial carbon cycle and is short term manipulation of a small part of the carbon budget for the good Earth.

    The long term solution is nuclear and it will win the day, because there is really not any other choice in the long term. It is the most dense of electricity supplies, or if you wanted a lot of steam to process the oil sands, a hybrid operation would make the most sense generating electricity and steam for oil sands production. Western Canada has a lot of oil/gas to offer North America for its energy security (and the world) for a fairly long time, and moving to a nuclear solution would solve a lot of problems with one fell swoop. We really need to promote advanced and nuclear electricity for the solution to long term energy security. With cheap electricity, you can manufacture any carbon product we need, and by that metric, we will always be a carbon based economy, whether it be efficiently sourced fossil fuels for the next 100 years, or synthetic fuels manufactured from cheap abundant electricity for 1000 years. There is probably nothing better coming down the pipeline than electricity.

    • I find it amazing how any intelligent group of engineers can talk about 5 Grand Challenges concerning Energy and the Future and not recognize that fission-driven nuclear power MUST sit a the center of any effort to decarbonize.

    • I will believe that I am listening to serious people when they premise the decarbonization discussion on nuclear.

      • I will believe that I am listening to serious people when they can prove that increasing atmospheric CO2 is a serious problem (it is not, it is hugely beneficial), and is primarily driven by fossil fuel combustion (it is not, it’s mostly driven by natural causes).

        The entire climate-and-energy scam is based on several proven falsehoods, any one of which should have ended this debate decades ago.

        THE CATASTROPHIC ANTHROPOGENIC GLOBAL WARMING AND THE HUMANMADE CLIMATE CHANGE CRISES ARE PROVED FALSE
        thsresearch.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/the-catastrophic-anthropogenic-global-warming-cagw-and-the-humanmade-climate-change-crises-are-proved-false.pdf

    • “At least burning/gasifying garbage or wood waste is spinning reserve base load electricity and on that merit alone, is a much more valuable product being base load electricity supply for as long as you have fuel.”

      Right on- but here in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts- woody biomass is hated and declared to be “worse than coal”.

    • It’s amazing that they can dream up these fantasy solutions. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could transfer energy automatically from one place to another, like a Star Trek transporter? Yeah, that’s science fiction and they seem to think such things are possible. Wow.

      We have made huge advances in electronics and data processing, according largely to Moore’s Law, but this rate of improvements does not apply to energy storage, which has been limited by actually chemistry and energy density, unless you want to pretend you can actually harness antimatter.

      • We can hold antimatter (positrons) from big accelerators in magnetic confinement. It’s just dangerous as hell at any significant quantity for energy generation if the containment fails. And it takes a hell of a lot more input power to make antimatter than you get back.

  6. I m astounded that these MIT folks assuem that renewable energy is the solution to anything – wind and solar are 16th century technologies that are NOT made reliable by simply finding a storage medium, cheap or not. Haven’t these jokers ever heard of Gen 4 nuclear power in the form of small
    modular molten salt reactors? Bill Gates has conributed lots of money on one particular design.

    • In May
      “In the latest effort to revive the United States’s flagging nuclear industry, the Department of Energy (DOE) aims to select and help build two new prototype nuclear reactors within 7 years, the agency announced last week. ”

      When there are 10 producing at grid scale, 10 more under construction, 10 more in planning with financing, and 100 more in line — that will be proof of concept.
      Until then “There is no joy in Mudville.”

  7. Their study begs the question – why do it at all? There is no evidence that human CO2 emissions are harmful. Actually there is more evidence that they are helpful as most plants grow best with more CO2, and require less water. Trillions of dollars are being wasted on green fantasies that could be used to actually improve people’s lives.

  8. “ The last challenge is variable conductance building envelopes. There are some demonstrations that show it is physically possible to create a thermal material, or a device that will change its conductance, so that when it’s hot, it can block heat from getting through a wall, but when you want it to, you could change its conductance to let the heat in or out. ”

    This one is solved. It is an ingenious invention called a window, which has the amazing property that it can be either opened or closed.

      • Openings plus whole house fans. Where I live it is sometimes possible to make a useful difference just by opening everything possible (windows in three rooms, patio door in another) — if there is enough useful breeze. However, even with a large floor fan running all night, when the outside air is still, the inside temperature stays much hotter than the outside. Same problem in reverse when the outside winter temperature is nice enough that it would be helpful to get it inside.

        A properly designed fan, exiting into the space above the ceilings, then out through vents, could solve the problem.

        • Aren’t these “whole house fans” called “attic fans”? That’s how ours is used! Pull out heat into the attic when the house is too hot and pull in heat from the attic when it is too cold.

          • An attic fan is a fan that is placed in the attic itself, either in the gable, or sometimes on the roof. It draws cool air into the attic.
            A whole house fan is placed in the ceiling of the house and exhausts air from the house into the attic.
            Two different things.

        • Some people in dry climates still use evaporative coolers to cool their homes and businesses. Also known as swamp coolers. These double as whole-house fans.

    • I like to call them outside awareness panels which it sounds like these MIT bigwigs need to get out and about in more often.

    • I believe Bill has fancy automated ones in his Medina, WA house.
      ~~ open – – close – – change color — show videos — stop light & IR — toast bread

    • Buildings have insulation and ventilation to block heat and let it in or out as is their objective. They are looking for something along the lines of feathers on a chicken, but probably made of nano-materials…..

    • Fitted with external shutters a window can be turned into a wall. The French (can’t speak for anyone else) use shutters and windows very efficiently to keep cool in summer. Open windows and shutters early in morning to cool house. Once outside temperature starts climbing and the sun is higher, close the shutters on sun facing side of the house and windows. On old stone built houses this keeps the interior relatively cool. It can cope with heatwaves of several days without the need for airconditioning. At night and in winter keep the shutters closed to stop expensive heat radiating out; although we use curtains as well as shutters.

      You can tell houses owned by British expats in France, and presumably elsewhere in the world, they are the ones who never close the shutters except when they are on holiday.

  9. Why don’t we just mandate that all electrical generation come from desktop fusion using water as the reactive medium?

    — Average green politician that got a “D” in Rocks for Jocks, which was their only science class.

  10. “2,000 times more harmful than carbon dioxide on a molar basis.”

    they really had to twist to get there….wonder how long it took them to figure out a way to make it sound worse

    • I think we could end the “carbon” problem overnight. Instead of calling CO2 “carbon,” let’s call it “carbon dioxide,” also known as the fundamental building block of life.

      • Scissor:
        Maybe the problem they (eco-theologists) really want to solve is depopulating the planet of the carbon-based lifeforms that walk on two legs. The MIT group and their ilk are just looking the
        other way while begging for funding.
        Short of some really magical thinking there is no way renewables scale to support a 21st century
        economy or its current popualtion.
        And thanks for the Sci-hub link!

  11. The way some people think that the way things are done nowadays are ill founded and backward – they do not have mechanical engineering degrees as I do. they think that things are done deliberately wrong just to keep them oppressed or something, hilarious.

  12. Title of the Post: MIT: Five Grand Thermal Challenges to Decarbonise the Global Economy

    Here we go again: Taking carbon and CO2 and turning them upside down, making them pollutants instead of necessary components of life on this rock we live on. And War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.

    The solar panel was invented back in 1954 (I looked it up) — 66 years ago. Damn things are a year older than I am. If we still can’t get wind and solar to work after all this time, it’s because they are poor, low density energy sources among other things (like intermittency.) Do any of those brilliant MIT light bulbs know anything about energy density? Does Bill Gates?

    Stop trying to fight physics. You can’t make a low density energy source into an acceptable and usable energy source by pouring money down a rathole trying to overcome the problems with the energy source’s physical nature.

    I commend Bill Gates for putting some of his wealth into developing 4th gen nuclear power — He might be on the right track with that IF (big IF) he can get it to work. I believe I recall reading that the energy density of nuclear fuels is at the top of the energy density list — they probably leave wind and solar far, far behind in the dust.

    We are all doomed if the Green New Deal becomes law sometime in the years ahead. Stupidity will do that.
    Excuse my rant…I feel better now.

    • “You can’t make a low density energy source into an acceptable and usable energy source by pouring money down a rathole trying to overcome the problems with the energy source’s physical nature. ”

      But you can make a lot of rats rich by doing so.

    • CD,
      the first recorded mention of a steam engine was by Hero of Alexandria in the 1st Century AD. It then
      took almost 1500 years before the first commercial steam engine and another 100 years before Watt and co made it efficient enough to be widely useful. So 66 years for the development of solar cells is nothing. And certainly they work extremely well if you find the right application like growing opium
      (https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/05/16/cheap-solar-panels-boost-the-afghan-poppy-crop)

      • How much work was done by anyone on steam engines during that 1500 years?

        I love how the only way people can justify their faith in renewable energy is by inventing ever more fanciful, bad analogies.

      • Izaak:

        Didn’t the old steam engines run on wood or coal? I may be wrong here, but I think wood and coal are more energy dense than sunshine or the wind.

        • CD,
          Energy density has nothing to do with the practicality of an energy source unless you
          are trying to making something mobile. And once an energy source has been converted
          to electricity or some other form of energy the original energy density is irrelevant.

          There is more than enough solar energy hitting the earth every day to supply all of the world’s
          energy needs for the next billion years or so. Capturing that power and storing it is hard and there is as yet no ideal solution. But there is no reason to think it is impossible.

          • Izaak Walton August 17, 2020 at 7:20 pm

            CD,
            Energy density has nothing to do with the practicality of an energy source unless you are trying to making something mobile.

            Not on my planet. I have plenty of room at my place for my high-energy-density fossil fuel fired generator to give me kilowatts when the grid goes down. No way I could run my shop and my house on solar even if I covered every square foot with solar panels. Energy density is absolutely important in lots of situations. Just the purchase of the huge amounts of land needed for solar and wind farms distorts the economics, especially in small or densely populated countries where all land is expensive.

            w.

          • Willis is correct Izaak.

            The amount of land area, solar panels and other resources needed to condense or concentrate sunshine and convert it for practical use here in a 21st century world is inanely massive, and it is exactly for the reason you stated. Sunshine is thinly spread out all over the world.

            If you know of a practical way to collect sunshine from huge land areas and condense or concentrate it without massive numbers of solar panels, let us here it. I remember one study that said billions — yes billions — of solar panels would be needed just to displace all the energy the USA gets from fossil fuels and nuclear power, and the panels would have to be replaced EVERY 20 YEARS. The raw materials which would have to be mined for tens of billions of panels makes fossil fuel extraction look positively green in comparison. And the vast majority of solar panels installed in the USA are not manufactured here, they are made in China, Germany and elsewhere.

            As Willis said, the economics of such a massive project makes solar way beyond practical. Izaak, are you sure you have a good understanding of the concept of energy density? Energy density has EVERYTHING to do with an energy source’s practicality.

          • CD,
            I am not trying to deny that there are a lot of issues with solar power. Oil is an amazing fuel source which has resulted in amazing benefits for the world over the last 120 years or so. But it is a finite resource and sooner or later in the next 100 years or so it will run out. Have a look at “sustainability without the hot air” (https://www.withouthotair.com/ )
            which shows clearly that the only long term viable energy source that we know how to use is solar. Sooner or later we are going to have to transition to solar power and figure out how to do so.

          • Izaak Walton August 17, 2020 at 11:43 pm

            Have a look at “sustainability without the hot air” (https://www.withouthotair.com/ ) which shows clearly that the only long term viable energy source that we know how to use is solar.

            Izaak, allow me to let you in on a secret. It’s called “nuclear power”, and at present, it is the only long term viable energy source that we know how to use. Unlike solar, which requires fossil backup because it is unreliable, nuclear power is 24/7 despatchable power.

            Gotta say … the fact you’ve never heard of nuclear is kind of concerning …

            The folks over at http://www.withhotair say that we have enough uranium to power the world for 1,000,000 years, so they obviously think it is a long term viable energy source … so I’m not clear why you think solar is the only answer.

            w.

          • Willis,
            Withthehotair says that nuclear power is sustainable only if we figure out a way
            to extract it efficiently from sea water and use breeder reactor technology. Neither of which have been demonstrated at scale. And which is estimated to take about the
            same area per person as solar power.

            Nuclear power would be a better option than renewables. But no one knows how to
            scale it up to power the entire world and no-one (apart from perhaps the military) has any reliable idea about how much uranium can be economically extracted.

            The only source of energy that we know how to exploit using today’s technology and that can power the world for the next 1000 years is solar power. If we include energy sources that might work then uranium from seawater and fusion come into the mix.

          • Izaak, here’s what they say:

            Once-through reactors, using uranium from the ground

            A once-through one-gigawatt nuclear power station uses 162 tons per year of uranium. So the known mineable resources of uranium, shared between 6 billion people, would last for 1000 years if we produced nuclear power at a rate of 0.55 kWh per day per person. This sustainable rate is the output of just 136 nuclear power stations, and is half of today’s nuclear power production. It’s very possible this is an underestimate of uranium’s potential, since, as there is not yet a uranium shortage, there is no incentive for
            exploration and little uranium exploration has been undertaken since the 1980s; so maybe more mineable uranium will be discovered. Indeed, one paper published in 1980 estimated that the low-grade uranium resource is more than 1000 times greater than the 27 million tons we just assumed.

            Sounds like long term to me … and in any case, looking out a thousand years is madness. In 100 years the odds are great that the power source will not be anything we’re using today. After all, we haven’t used the same main energy source for more than a century in a while …

            w.

          • Willis,
            the average American uses 250 kWhr/day so supplying 0.055 kWhr/day per person
            from nuclear power just isn’t going to cut it. And in 100 years the laws of physics
            won’t have changed and so the possible energy sources are still going to be the same
            as today. Expecting a new energy source to turn up is like expecting magic is going to
            arrive in time to save you.

          • “And in 100 years the laws of physic won’t have changed”

            How true that is.

            Wind and solar will still be totally unreliable

            Battery storage will still be minimal.

            CO2 still won’t cause and warming.

            “But there is no reason to think it is impossible.”

            Keep up the fantasy, based on lack of understanding of physics.

          • “Energy density has nothing to do with the practicality of an energy source “

            ROFLMAO !!

            Comic relief !

          • Given that a large proportion of what is claimed to be “global warming” is the UHI effect, how much “global warming” will be added by covering millions of acres of land with black PV panels? Given that the efficiency of PV panels drops considerably when covered by a thin layer of dust, dew, pollen or winter snow/frost (to say nothing of bird droppings), how many times a day do they need to be cleaned? And by how many people? And with what? How many PV panels will be rendered useless by the average summer hailstorm? So many questions, so few answers..

          • “Energy density has nothing to do with the practicality of an energy source”

            Whatever your degree is in, it has nothing to do with engineering, does it.

            The lower the density of your energy source, the larger you have to make your power plant in order to collect it.

            If you think that the size of your power plant has nothing to do with practicality, then no wonder you are a global warming alarmist.

          • Izaak, running out is much closer to 500 years from now, rather than 100.
            You are arguing that we need to make ourselves poorer, so that our distant ancestors won’t have to face the pain of becoming poorer in the time.
            Stupid argument. The end result is still having our distant ancestors be poor, the difference is the lifestyle of those who live in the meantime.
            Wealthy under ours, poor under yours.

            Regardless, let the future solve the future’s problems, using technology that we probably haven’t even dreamed of yet.

          • We don’t have large scale uranium mining from water or breeder reactors because the first isn’t needed and the second is fought tooth and nail by greenies.

            Even if neither turns out to be workable, we still have 10’s of thousands of years worth of uranium in land based mines.

          • Izaak, would you please specify why it’s impossible to build lots of nuclear power plants,
            yet covering millions of acres with wind and solar is no big deal?

            Nuclear waste can be re-processed, France has been doing it for decades.

          • Izaak Walton August 18, 2020 at 1:11 am

            Willis,
            the average American uses 250 kWhr/day so supplying 0.055 kWhr/day per person from nuclear power just isn’t going to cut it.

            That’s calculated over 1,600 years. From your paper, the amount of minable uranium on the planet is enough to provide 330 kWh/capita/day until the year 2180 using current technology. And if you include ocean uranium that goes up to 4,200 kWh/capita/day … works for me

            And in 100 years the laws of physics won’t have changed and so the possible energy sources are still going to be the same as today. Expecting a new energy source to turn up is like expecting magic is going to arrive in time to save you.

            The fact that the laws of physics won’t change has been true forever … and despite that, in the last few hundred years we’ve gone from wood to coal to oil to nuclear power. So claiming that there will be no shift in our power source because “physics” is easily historically disproven.

            Next, recoverable reserves of any element is determined by technology. That’s why the proven oil reserves haven’t fallen despite use. Twenty years ago natural gas proven reserves were tiny. Now they’re giant, despite ongoing use of gas.

            And that doesn’t even count the huge reserves of methane hydrates, which are estimated to contain more energy than the world’s reserves of gas, oil, and coal combined.

            So yes, Izaak, in the next century we are very likely to be using methane hydrate or thorium reactors or some other currently unused fuel in our energy mix, despite “physics”.

            w.

          • Willis,
            I am bemused by your apparent belief in the power of technology to solve all the world’s problems except that of building a better battery. Can you explain why you think mining the sea floor for methyl hyrdates is likely to be both practical and produce a energy return >2 sooner than building a bigger and better energy storage system for solar power?

          • Izaak Walton said:

            Willis,
            I am bemused by your apparent belief in the power of technology to solve all the world’s problems except that of building a better battery.

            Mmm … a couple things in that regard.

            First, the only part of an automobile that didn’t change at all from 1920 to 2020 is the automobile battery. From beginning to end it’s been the same lead-acid battery. The dashboard changed, the electrics became electronics, the metals used became much stronger and resistant … but from beginning to end it’s been the same lead-acid battery. Absolutely identical technology.

            So your idea, that batteries are just like all the rest of technology, advancing in leaps and bounds, able to be pushed into new forms and combinations … sorry, not true. Edison was hired to build a better battery. He tried literally hundreds and hundreds of possibilities … and came back to lead-acid.

            So that’s one problem. Then there’s the money question. The battery doesn’t just have to work. It has to work well enough to succeed in the marketplace.

            Then there’s the materials question … Elon Musk’s cars use cobalt. You have to move something like 50,000 tons of cobalt ore to get enough cobalt for each car. You planning to mine that using electric bulldozers?

            Then there’s the safety issue. We’ve seen it in the burning of electric cars. California is building a 730 MWh battery in Moss Landing. It will hold the energy of about six hundred TONNES of TNT. That’s about three times the energy of the explosion that just destroyed downtown Beirut.

            So … do I think we’ll build a better battery? Sure … but if the past is any guide, unlike many other technologies, improvements will be slow and incremental.

            However, you haven’t grasped the nettle. The size of a battery that can power even a small city for a day is beyond comprehension. So batteries plus renewables won’t work. You get a week in the winter with little wind or snow and people will start freezing. There’s an excellent article on this here.

            Finally, why? Why should we invest millions in unreliable, intermittent power supplies plus hugely expensive batteries when we have proven, tested, reliable fossil fuel power that will last us for a hundred years, to be followed by fusion or methane hydrates or some other RELIABLE 24/7 power. And even if it did work, which it doesn’t, why should we make ourselves uncomfortable so that the infinitely richer people of the year 2020 have it easier?

            What is the point of this endlessly dicking around with expensive, unreliable, intermittent power? Don’t you understand that we tried that in California and as a result today as I write this our grid is teetering on the edge of collapse?

            And more to the point, you don’t seem to care in the slightest that NONE of your brilliant ideas work without you putting your damn hands in my wallet and taking out money to subsidize your unworkable green fantasies. And for what?

            Because if you think that powering the planet off of sunbeams and unicorn farts will stop the climate from changing, I have extremely bad news for you …

            w.

          • Then there’s the safety issue. We’ve seen it in the burning of electric cars.

            Can’t state that enough. I’m a firefighter (volunteer) and I can tell you that one of the calls we dread is a wreck with an electric vehicle. Can’t speak for the municipal guys, be we don’t have anywhere near the training to deal with those. Not just the burning, but you make a wrong move trying to extricate someone, you’re fried.

      • The Greeks didn’t need steam engines because they had slaves. It was the growing use of fossil fuels that allowed Britain to end slavery, because it eliminated the need for slaves.

        The left whine about slavery while demanding we eliminate the very fossil fuels that allowed our ancestors to eliminate slavery.

        Make of it what you will.

          • I don’t know if the comment qualified as racist, but Izaak did declare that anyone who complains about illegal immigration is a racist.

          • There are currently exactly two uses of the word “racist” in this thread … both by you, Derg. There is one use of the word “immigration” … you also. Whatever someone supposedly said, it wasn’t here.

            This is why I demand that people QUOTE THE WORDS THEY ARE REFERRING TO, to avoid wasting time like this. I have no clue where or when “Izaac Walton” said what you claim. And since “Izaac Walton” is an alias, when I get there I’ll have no certainty that this “Izaac Walton” is the one who said it.

            So could you please take off your “Racism Control Officer” hat, and put on your science hat? All you are doing is stoking divisiveness, and that gets along far too well without help.

            w.

  13. Sounds like a jar of fleas to me.

    (Russia’s Tsar Ivan Grozny (IV) would punish troublesome Boyars by requiring them to give him a jar of fleas. Their inability to fulfil this impossible task could then be used against them as necessary.)

  14. 5 challenges to overcome with no dates for when or if they can be achieved yet we have to get rid of the current generation technologies now, before there is a replacement.

    Not good planning.

  15. “What would it take to make renewable energy viable … ?”

    A miracle or two would be a good start.

  16. > excess electricity from renewables

    Thinking there’s a leap of logic/physics in there someplace.

  17. “MIT professors Asegun Henry, Ravi Prasher & Arun Majumdar describe five thermal challenges which must be overcome, to curb industrial CO2 emissions” i.e. fossil fuel emissions.

    The other challenge is to explain why we need to curb fossil fuel emissions.

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/12/19/co2responsiveness/

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/05/06/tcre/

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/12/14/climateaction/

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/06/10/a-monte-carlo-simulation-of-the-carbon-cycle/

  18. A straightforward reading of the article leads to the immediate conclusion that none of this will come to pass in this century.

    Please make 538 copies and put one on every Congressman’s chair.

    OK they won’t (can’t) read it, but a few may have staffers with some engineering experience.

    See what contortions I go through to wring a little bit of comfort from this?

    • Politicians would probably take the list as suggested legislation and pass a law saying “Item 1 must be answered by 2025, item 2 must be answered by 2027” with no regard to the reality of if it CAN be done. That seems to be how they generally operate.

  19. Of course, these MIT scientists are city folks, I am sure. Could we beat all of these so-called “thermal” challenges, wind and solar would STILL cause massive ecological damage and ruin quality of life for everyone outside of the cities. I can’t post it, but I’ve taken a skyline view of Boston (MIT’s home), and covered the high rises with wind turbines. If they want “renewables”, let THEM suffer the side effects.

  20. Room Temperature Super Conduction would pretty much do the trick. Thing is we have been waiting decades and more between often slight advances and we still aren’t sure of the basic science.

  21. When is all said and done, you can can choose to ignore reality.
    However, you still get to suffer the consequences of ignoring reality.
    California is currently suffering the consequences of ignoring reality.
    If Death Valley is close to record temperatures that occurred in 1934, then it is
    very clear that CO2 is not the knob on the thermostat that controls temperature, otherwise
    the temperatures would be much higher.
    So implementing policies to elimate CO2 production from all industial processes is not only futile,
    it is foolish.

  22. Assuming is dangerous, and often makes the one assuming a fool. Assuming that we are faced with extinction level danger, or even significant negative outcomes, from human caused “climate change” is a great example of this.

  23. Why are Bill Gates and those three MIT professors complicating things so much?

    I’ll make it all much more simple, with only ONE challenge needing to be met to accomplish all that they want: find a way to circumvent the First Law of Thermodynamics.

    Now, get to it!

  24. Why isn’t there serious research on the direct conversion of the energy released in a nuclear reaction into ELECTRICITY. I know it can be done because some of the detectors used to monitor power for “tilt” and ‘evenness” pof power generation, that were inside the rector worked on this principle. Even if only 30% efficient recovering that and adding that to the electricity generated by a steam turbine give you 65% efficiency. Then add thermal conversion of the heat dumped into the atmosphere, adding another 10 or 20 percent.

    • “Why isn’t there serious research on the direct conversion of the energy released in a nuclear reaction into ELECTRICITY.”

      For nuclear reactions of the fission kind, scientists discovered how to convert nuclear radiation directly into electricity way back in 2008 (see https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13545-nanomaterial-turns-radiation-directly-into-electricity/)

      For nuclear reactions of the fusion kind, scientists and engineers have spent decades and countless dollars trying the find a way to use those types of reactions here on Earth to produce electricity in a PRACTICAL manner.

      This amounts to “serious research”.

      BTW, we can, and do, directly and continuously convert the energy from a large, natural, nuclear fusion reactor—safely located at a distance of 150 million kilometers from Earth—directly into ELECTRICITY via widespread technology know as photovoltaic solar cells. The energy of the Sun’s associated fusion reactions reaches earth in the form of photons which strike the solar cells to directly produce electricity.

  25. “The last challenge is variable conductance building envelopes. There are some demonstrations that show it is physically possible to create a thermal material, or a device that will change its conductance, so that when it’s hot, it can block heat from getting through a wall, but when you want it to, you could change its conductance to let the heat in or out”
    I have 10 of these devices, they are called windows!!

  26. There is an international race going on to develop a grid storage system to store excess electricity from renewables so you can use it at a later time. …
    We get told to listen to the experts but any who insisted on this before pushing renewables would not have kept their position as an expert.

  27. “ There is no physical evidence demonstrating that adding carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing a dangerous greenhouse warming in the atmosphere, thus warming the earth.”
    This is one of the conclusions of the recent paper by William van Wijngaarden and William Happer.
    It is trite to say it is central to the global warming debate.
    It has been made as a statement by realist climate scientists countless times.
    One claim by alarmists is that there are “human fingerprints” which provide direct evidence of such dangerous warming .
    In this regard, Dr. Myles Allen gave a slide presentation to Judge Alsup in the San Francisco v. Chevron litigation.
    One crucial slide was centred on the claim that OLR ( Outgoing Solar Radiation) has declined at the top of the troposphere between 1977 and 1996 based on spectrograph or similar readings by Japanese and NASA satellites.
    If OLR was declining, and less radiation was moving to outer space, that would reflect greater and potentially dangerous warming of the Earth’s surface.
    His Honour, being knowledgeable in physics, noted that the slide did not provide the evidence that Dr. Myles claimed.
    In fairness to Dr.Allen, he later chastised himself for presenting the wrong slide and complimented the Judge on his acuity.
    However is this “fingerprint of human caused warming” as direct evidence correct?
    I have lost a comment on an earlier thread here where reference was given to the Centre ( NOAA ?) which collects month by month records of OLR.
    It was claimed by the commentator that there was no indication of a decline or variance of any significance in the OLR record over the period 1977 to 1996 or later.
    Can anyone firm this up for the record?

    • I will answer my own query-
      NOAA Climate Data Record ( CD-R) of Monthly Outgoing Long Wave Radiation (OLR) Version 2.2.
      I need further investigation to determine if the OLR is increasing or decreasing.
      There is also an NCR daily CD-R.

  28. Engineers know that heat can be transmitted some distance by the use of remarkable devices called pipes a development apparently unknown at MIT. You will find them in building hot water systems in your own house and in some home and industrial heating systems as well. Many Russian cities provide heating services from central electric power generating stations condenser water and so called process heat is similarly provided to some industries.

    I hope this information is of some use to the authors.

  29. I agree that greenhouse gas warms the world. It is just that the ghg is NOT CO2.

    The only greenhouse gas that has a significant effect on climate (climate includes temperature) is water vapor. It helped make the planet warm enough for life as we know it to evolve. Humanity has been causing the water vapor to slowly increase for millennia as a result of increasing irrigation. Irrigation and other water vapor sources began to increase much more rapidly around 1960.

    Water vapor has been accurately measured worldwide only since Jan 1988 when it began being measured as total precipitable water (TPW) by NASA/RSS satellite. One of the reasons the Global Circulation Models are wrong is that they calculate the WV from the temperature instead of using the actual WV measurements which are greater.

    Blaming CO2 for warming is shallow penetration of science/physics. Analysis using data from Quantum Mechanics calculations by Hitran reveals that water vapor increase has caused about 10 times more ground level warming than CO2 increase. The cooling effect of more CO2 in the stratosphere apparently cancels the small contribution to warming of more CO2 at ground level with the result that CO2 has no significant effect on climate.

    WV has been increasing about 1.5% per decade which is MORE THAN IS POSSIBLE from feedback from temperature increase. Most (about 96%) of the WV increase is a result of irrigation increase. All of the human contribution to climate change is a result of increased water vapor. https://watervaporandwarming.blogspot.com

  30. The problem is that the more energy we use, the hotter the planet will get. This is down to basic thermodynamics, heat and entropy. It has got nothing to do with CO2. Renewables won’t help and neither will nuclear.

    For example look at California. The average surface power output due to human energy consumption in California is 0.63 W/m2. This increases the average surface temperature of the entire state by about 0.3 °C compared to pre-industrial times. In LA and the Bay Area it will be even hotter because the power density will be even higher.

    Still, it’s not as bad as Pennsylvania (0.5 °C rise), or England (0.7 °C) or Belgium (1.0 °C).

    If you want a fuller explanation of the physics see
    https://climatescienceinvestigations.blogspot.com/2020/06/14-surface-heating.html
    and
    https://climatescienceinvestigations.blogspot.com/2020/07/28-lateral-thought-1-suburban-heating.html

    But this problem is not going away, because there is no way human energy consumption is going to decrease over time. All automation needs energy. Without automation we will be back in the Middle Ages and no-one is going to vote for that.

    • Slarty, globally human energy use amounts to 0.04 W/m2. ASSUMING that the temperature is a function of the forcing, a very large assumption, that gives us a change in temperature on the order of 0.02°C.

      Assuming that at some point in the distant future we use ten times that energy, that’s a warming of 0.2°C … lost in the noise. If we had no thermometers and the world warmed by 0.2°C, nobody would even know.

      w.

  31. What would it take to make renewable energy viable, and reduce emissions from industrial processes?

    A *****ing miracle.
    Certainly no science or engineering solutions exist.

  32. First grand challenge is to actually PROVE that CO2 at any possible raised atmospheric concentration, is actually harmful in any way to the environment !

    So far, NADA, .. harm exists ONLY in models and alarmism.

    • The bottom line is it is ridiculous to try to solve a problem when there is no evidence the problem actually exists.

      Bill Gates and the MIT professors need to establish that CO2 is actually doing what Alarmists claim it is doing in the Earth’s atmosphere, before deciding if anything needs fixing, or not.

      First things first, Bill. Prove there is a problem before tryng to fix it. Assumptions are not evidence. All you really have are assumptions, Bill, if you are honest about the Human-caused Climate Change situation. There’s not one solid piece of evidence you can point to.

      That goes for all the other Alarmists, too. You could prove me wrong by providing a solid piece of evidence, but you won’t, because you can’t, because there is no such solid evidence.

      That’s the state of Climate Science today.

  33. The third challenge is solving the cooling problem. Air conditioners and refrigerators have chemicals in them that are very harmful to the environment, 2,000 times more harmful than carbon dioxide on a molar basis. …

    This is the Global Warming Potential nonsense from the IPCC.

  34. I like the second challenge decarbonising industrial processes that generate CO2, where cement and steel is cited as the worst offenders, but completely missing the irony that wind turbines need the most cement and steel of all.

  35. Bill Gates … NIA – never invented anything.

    . purchased DOS, on-sold it to IBM
    . ripped off Lotus 1-2-3
    . ripped off Wordperfect
    . ripped off Apple Lisa interface to create a vile little shell of an operating system called windows

    • Correct! He’s a business man.And,judging by his latest video ,(check out realclimate science.com),he’s now either a raging Malthusian or completely off his rocker.Wait a minute.That’s the same thing!

  36. The last challenge is variable conductance building envelopes. There are some demonstrations that show it is physically possible to create a thermal material, or a device that will change its conductance, so that when it’s hot, it can block heat from getting through a wall, but when you want it to, you could change its conductance to let the heat in or out.“. Well it just so happens that this problem has already been solved. The material is a rigid transparent silicon-based substance, which can be used in fairly thin sheets. A single sheet is sufficient in some circumstances, but some situations may need two or even three sheets with the specification of the gap between them being very important. But the really clever part of this invention is that it is movable, with the movement usually controlled by a hinge, though other mechanisms can be used. The material can be produced at very reasonable prices. It’s called “glass”, and when it is set up with the special mechanism it’s called “window”. There’s another variation with slightly different features called “door”.

    • Mike Jonas,

      In fairness, the challenge is specifically stated to be “variable conductance” of building envelopes, easily seen be referring to thermal conductance through walls and ceilings.

      Thermal conductance refers to heat flow through material substances (solids, liquids, gases, plasmas).

      The opening and closing of windows (even double pane windows) is overwhelming one of enabling or preventing, respectively, CONVECTIVE heat flow. For air anywhere near STP and at reasonable breeze velocity (say, above 1 fps), convection heat flow is one to two orders of magnitude higher than conduction heat flow, for a given delta-T. This is the fundamental reason that HVAC system have to use “air movers” (aka fans), instead of relying on just the thermal conductance of the air inside a building, to establish more-or-less uniform temperatures throughout air spaces.

      This issue of a building’s conductance is challenging only in the context of large buildings (i.e., large surface area) where the issue of convective heat exchange between inside air/outside has already been eliminated or minimized . . . the term “sealed office skyscraper” comes to mind.

  37. They missed the most important and fundamental challenge of all…. providing assured and affordable energy on demand, in the quantity required, when needed, by all who need it.

  38. Here’s another take on the paper:

    How would you write a paper that says “wind and solar are not viable” without speaking against the powers that be on wind and solar?

    Write about what it would take to enable wind and solar to overcome their limitations.
    ie: time of production, storage, reducing power demands,

    The fourth challenge is kind of silly since we do that already with electricity. We alter energy in the form of heat to electricity, transmit it efficiently, and convert it back to heat (or mechanical energy) at the point of use. On second thought, maybe just make some diamond crystal heat pipes with ideal insulation.

  39. The last challenge is variable conductance building envelopes. There are some demonstrations that show it is physically possible to create a thermal material, or a device that will change its conductance, so that when it’s hot, it can block heat from getting through a wall, but when you want it to, you could change its conductance to let the heat in or out. …

    Already exists. Windows with sun and thermal blocking blinds like Duettes. When it’s cold and sunny outside, and the building is too cool, you open the blind letting the sun in. When it’s hot and sunny outside, and the building is too warm you close the blind and run the a/c. When it’s cool outside, like at night, and the building is too warm you open the windows. This has been done for centuries but it would be easy to automate now.

  40. There goes that darn Eric Worrall again with his insistence on bringing considerations of physical reality into discussions of energy systems. Let’s be frank here and admit that this man has no sense of tact, and habitually disregards any notions of courtesy whenever he enters a discussion. This is the sort of man who goes around telling six year-olds that there is no Santa. If I were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I wouldn’t date him.

  41. “Save Humanity From Extinction Due to Climate Change”…

    Well, there’s your problem right there – make a bunch of stupid assumptions about something that isn’t a problem and isn’t caused by Man, come up with stupid answers. I’m sure whatever they propose to “save” us will be with other people’s money, not their own…

    And as Mencken said, the urge to save humanity is almost always a false-front for the urge to rule it. For leftists you can remove the “almost”.

  42. IT WOULD BE HELPFUL IF SOME OF YOU WOULD VET THIS new connection of dots:
    Weakened earth magnetic field = less ocean mixing|movement = less CO2 absorbed = more natural CO2 in air

    A search will find results for these five lines:
    Over the last 200 years, the magnetic field [of Earth] has lost around 9% of its strength (ESA)
    Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) has weakened by 15-20% in 200 years. (UCM)
    CO2 levels rise when Atlantic Circulation is weak and fall when it’s strong. (EOS)
    CO2 levels in the air have increased over 40% since 1880 (climatechangenews) [from 0.000291 to 0.000414]
    Natural CO2 is 95% of overall

    There’s also atmospheric stilling right along with ocean slowing.
    And NOAA pointed out the covid shutdown didn’t make a dent in CO2 levels at Mauna Loa Observatory

    Some scientific papers try to address the link between magnetic field and water movement.

    Scientists see this but remain confused. They continue to blame all that extra natural CO2 in the atmosphere on humans, as they know they must, to not be cancelled.
    [quote]
    The oceans as a whole have a large capacity for absorbing CO2, but ocean mixing is too slow to have spread this additional CO2 deep into the ocean. As a result, ocean waters deeper than 500 meters (about 1,600 feet) have a large but still unrealized absorption capacity, said Scripps geochemist Ralph Keeling.

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