Biorock sea water mineral accretion technology
June 6, 2008 at 5:57 am #575
I’d very much like research to be conducted on sea water mineral accretion technology pioneered by Wolf Hibertz http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/research/1281641.html
that was originally meant for low cost housing for developing countries. Unfortunately Wolf has passed away and his colleagues are now concentrating on coral conservation but I have been in contact with these guys and they are interested in continuing to develop his technology for housing. I’m also very interested in dome technology and told the current holders of mineral accretion technology that I’m happy to fund a small scale mineral accretion dome pilot study. Once they get back to me on details I hope to get that running this year. I think it is obvious that there are many advantages to using this approach and considering it was meant for low cost housing it could considerably lower the cost of construction for any future project.
Now I also have a designer architect Eugene Tsui who for various reasons, would be perfect for what we are doing. Not only because his design are very similar to some aspects of Wolf’s work but also because he is already working on something similar to what we want http://www.tdrinc.com/nexus.html
I’ve contacted Eugene Tsui and he is interested to work on a smaller floating city project and will actually lower his design/working costs just to make sure his work becomes reality.
BTW the below may also be of interest.
SimonJune 6, 2008 at 10:27 am #3039
Some early errors made people think it was very cost effective, but the real numbers are not good.
From the seaseading book:
Professor Wolf Hilbertz came up with the fascinating idea to create a material by submerging an electrified wire mesh in seawater. Minerals are drawn out of the water by the current, and a cement-like substance is slowly grown by accretion. Eric Lee [Lee] has done a very complete analysis of the use of seacrete as a marine construction material.
The number of 4.2 lbs / kWhr (1.9 kg/kWhr) cited for seacrete energy requirements in places like [Savage1992], if correct, would make it quite efficient. Unfortunately, this figure has two serious flaws. First, it is based on a single experiment [Hilbertz1979]. Second, it is off by a factor of 42 due to a computation error, as Eric Lee has demonstrated. Rather than integrating power over time to get energy, the power used was taken as the energy. The process took 42 hours, hence the error. In fact, at maximum theoretical efficiency the rate is only 1 kg/kWh, and practical efficiences are much less than this. Hilbertz’s published experiment produced only 0.046 kg/kWhr. At this rate, the energy alone costs well over an order of magnitude more than just buying cement.
There are additional problems. The major power loss is resistive heating of the forming seacrete. This is because the electricity has to get from the mesh through the seacrete to the seawater, and the seacrete is not a very good conductor. So of course the thicker the seacrete gets, the worse these losses will be. If you want to make structural walls for a sea colony, this is a definite problem. You can reduce resistance using a 3d wire mesh, but such meshes drastically increase the cost.
Because you are trying to replace such a cheap material (ferrocement), it doesn’t take much to make seament uneconomical. In fact, there are some ways in which the ocean is the worst place to use seament. Its a place where energy is expensive and transportation is cheap. Using seacrete instead of importing cement is choosing to use energy instead of transportation – a poor tradeoff.
Marc Piolenc has suggested one interesting way of making seament worthwhile. You could set up a structure and some renewable energy scavenger in a remote place, then leave it for years to do its work. Even though the process is inefficent, you can replace efficiency with time if your source of energy is the kind which keeps on producing.
However attractive the idea of turning seawater into cement, seacrete appears to be a poor choice as a construction material. In practice, it is probably easier to use boring concrete and steel to build economical marine structures.June 6, 2008 at 10:28 am #3040
We need to have a prominent link put up somewhere obvious to let people know that the “biorock” idea has already been discarded at this site because claims about how cheap and effective it is have already been debunked.June 6, 2008 at 12:03 pm #3048
If we could search the whole site, forums, blog, wiki, book, everything, that would help. With Patri working at Google we really should have search …June 6, 2008 at 4:04 pm #3057
I think I’ve read that concrete production is very carbon intensive (big carbon footprint). Would seacrete still be not economical using renewable energy and having to pay the carbon costs of cement production?
Note: “Biorock” is a trademarked term for the use of marine accretion in coral reef building and augumentation. “ “A METHOD OF ENHANCING THE GROWTH OF AQUATIC ORGANISMS, AND STRUCTURES CREATED THEREBY.” Pretty interesting stuff. Dr Tom Goreau (co-inventor with Hilbert) seems to control this technology now.June 6, 2008 at 6:03 pm #3064
It would work to reinforce and protect a metallic mesh or wire truss structure, but growing solid, thick walled structures is not pratical according to the Stanford research paper cited in the Seastead book. When the conductor is coated with a thin film of accretion, the conductivity goes way down, sharply curtailing the accretion.
These materials could be accretion coated: http://www.cellularmaterials.com/references.aspJune 6, 2008 at 11:05 pm #3070
“Carbon Costs” are largely fictional and arbitrary. They are a product of emotional regulation, bread and circuses.June 6, 2008 at 11:58 pm #3072
Agreed. With Patri’s arm in a sling, some other person that does Drupal needs to step in. I’m a programmer, but I don’t know squat about Drupal.June 7, 2008 at 12:42 am #3073
This carbon footprint stuff is going to come up again and again. It generally devolves into my experts say “this” and somebody else says that their experts say “that”. Rarely does anybody talk about actual scientific papers. Whenever I try to dig into this topic, I keep slamming into a brick wall — most of the published papers are in journals that charge a great deal to read them. Furthermore, most of the papers that are published are research summaries that do not include the raw data and programs used to analyze the data.
The best I have been able to do on the global climate change front is a site called ClimateAudit.Org. The owner of that site — Steve McIntyre — has recently published a summary of talk he recently gave at Ohio State University. This talk summarizes some legitimate concerns about the science of “climate science”. The talk is in an 11MB .pdf file at ohio.pdf. While 45 pages long, it actually quite readable. Alas, this paper is not published in a peer-reviewed journal (which is one of the reasons why I can actually read it! Sigh.)
I would prefer that any discussion on the topic of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) focus on the actual science papers that either support or detract from the AGW hypothesis rather than lightly researched articles written by the more popular media. If you are going to refer to a paper, please read the paper beforehand.June 7, 2008 at 2:53 am #3075
Well given the technology has advanced and it is meant to be used with solar I’ve sought a reply to the said paper by the holders of the technology. I’m open to whatever way the chips fall.
Regardless I’ve approached them to do a test project so I suppose I’ll put those claims to the test.June 7, 2008 at 3:47 am #3076
Got a short quick reply from the holders.
As I thought this is based on old research and unless you are using and have a full understanding of the technology you will come up with poor results. So setting up with a power source and and some electrodes won’t replicate the current technology or results. Having said that more reseach is needed which I intend to explore regardless.June 7, 2008 at 2:39 pm #3092
My post was not about AGW. I did skim through McIntyre’s presentation. I really didn’t find it relevant to existing policy and money. He may have a point or not. I’m not very interested in that discussion anymore. That’s not my personal focus in the same way that the issues surrounding collapsing fish stocks aren’t, but open ocean aquaculture (OOA) is.
Carbon trade, taxing, credits, etc. are the new reality. It doesn’t really matter how we got here, we’re here. When I speak of carbon costs, I’m not speaking about environmental degradation in warm fuzzy philosophical sense. I’m speaking about dollars and cents as in Chicago Climate Exchange, Montreal Climate Exchange, Asian Carbon Trade Exchange, European Climate Exchange, etc. Real money changing hands, not science. An opportunities therein.
Specifically about concrete, what I mean is the cost, in dollars, will soon incorporate the carbon emmissions offset costs.
This is probably a good subject for a thread under industry. The basic concept is you build a renewable energy plant, like a wave, wind, or current generating plant, you sell the power at market costs and then you sell the carbon credits for more cash. There is already a pretty well developed market in voluntary credits and the world market will go crazy when the US joins in. And the US will join in, not because of concern for the environment, but because the economic opportunities are too great to ignore.
thebastidge, I doubt that traders on the aforementioned exchanges think that carbon trade is fictional. It may be a bit arbitrary right now. These are the wild west days of carbon trade. I’d bet a Corona that they also don’t care if they are “a product of emotional regulation, bread and circuses”. Neither should TSI.June 7, 2008 at 3:24 pm #3094
Regarding the money to be made in carbon credit trading, I am sure you are right. I certainly hope it doesn’t go too far down that road before the world wises up, but who knows?
June 7, 2008 at 5:05 pm #3078
- On the other hand brother, I’d be happy to buy you a Corona but in exchange, make mine a Guinness. Corona is an ecologically unsound product, as it largely consists of Budweiser filtered through exploited Mexican workers, who have been taken in by the Evil American “Beer” Industry’s lies and marketing propaganda.
An integrated system using OTEC may be able to supply most of the needs of an ocean colony along with exportable products. An OTEC system using the open cycle vacuum boiler system, http://www.ocees.com/index-3.html , yields electricity, fresh water, concentrated brine and trace element solution, and nutrient rich cold sea water for cooling.
Precious metals can be extracted form the brine concentrate by passing it through a series of zeolite filters, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeolite , and electroplating them from the concentrated solutions. Magnesium is then extracted from the brine and formed into cellular metal truss structures, http://www.cellularmaterials.com/coredesigns.asp , and accretion coated for very high strength and corrosion resistance using the remaining concentrated brine which is an enriched solution of the salt used in accretion. some of the magnesium structure is consumed in during the accretion process, but magnesium yielded the best results in the Stanford accretion tests.
The cold water from the OTEC can be used for refrigeration, air conditioning, and then mariculture. The open water kelp farming experients of Wheeler North relied on pumping up deep water for nutrients, http://www.oceansatlas.org/servlet/CDSServlet?status=ND0zMTk5JjY9ZW4mMzM9KiYzNz1rb3M~ . OTEC supplies this as a byproduct. Adding chelated iron to the nutrient rich deep sea water can stimulate plankton growth, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_fertilization , to sequester CO2 (for those who are into the greenhouse gas thing) and develop a food chain local to the colony.June 7, 2008 at 9:40 pm #3105
Sundiver: In your message you said
I think I’ve read that concrete production is very carbon intensive (big carbon footprint).
In your follow up post you said:
My post was not about AGW. …
Sorry, but carbon footprint is all about AGW.
In thebastidge’s reply, he said
“Carbon Costs” are largely fictional and arbitrary. They are a product of emotional regulation, bread and circuses.
which is frankly an unattributed opinion.
When AGW comes up, I will still encourage people to attribute their sources.
The cost of raw materials (e.g. concrete) may or may not include the cost of carbon offsets. Not all countries are going to sign onto the program. Seasteads can be built in the US, Europe, or in 3rd world nations. If the cost of concrete becomes too great in so called 1st world nations, production can be “off-shored” to 3rd world nations. This is the reality of carbon offset trading.
Concrete is typically made in large rotary kilns which are usually fired by natural gas. I had an opportunity to tour one in Southern California when I was a teenager in the 1970′s. They are huge — 100′s of meters long. They devour lots of natural gas. They produce enormous amounts on concrete. Even after all of this energy consumption, concrete is still relatively cheap.
Moving onto the original question, “is seacrete cost effective against concrete with carbon offsets added in?” I think the answer is that seacrete is so energy inefficient, that concrete with carbon offset costs added in will still be significantly cheaper than seacrete. Of course if the carbon offset costs are onerous, I could wind up being wrong.
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