Email of the Day, Renewable Energy Idea

Subject: New Type of Renewable Energy


Message: Hello, my name is Brian F. Though I’m an English teacher, I have always had a passion for chemistry.  In the last year, I have begun to develop a new type of renewable energy.  I’d like to ask you if you’ve heard of this idea or if you know much about it.

My project focuses on the phenomenon of water expanding when it freezes. My project uses a machine which converts the force of freezing water into electrical energy. At night, the water in the machine freezes (as in Nebraska we are blessed with many a freezing night) the expansion of ice forces a separate liquid with a lower freezing point into a thin cylinder which pushes out a rack (straight gear) which rotates a gear attached to a generator. When the water thaws during the day, the system returns to it start point to repeat the process the next night.

What do you think? Is this an idea worth pursuing?

Thank you for your help,

Brian F.

George’s Thoughts

First off, we need recognize that Brian represents about 80% of those who are excited about Alternative Energy, and those who believe that Government should fund all research possible with ideas like this one and more. (not that he does!)

A simple google search will allow even an English Teacher to find the basic formulas for computing horsepower, we learn that forces in the billions of pounds may not constitute a source of energy, there is another factor we need consider, and that is to  measure velocity or speed. When we make an appraisal of the energy potential, there is little need to inventory all the losses as a first estimate.

The simple formula for calculating linear horsepower is FxV over 33000, F is force in pounds, V is velocity in Feet per minute.

Considering that there’s about 9% expansion rate when water turns to ice, we might easily recognize that not only do we have a single event per day, but the velocity is going to be mighty slow, fact is the Turtle is going to look like he’s on fire in comparison.

Maybe there’s another way to study the energy potential by doing a comparison. Maybe we calculate the number of revolutions a small generator must make to produce one KW of electrial energy. If we measure the diameter of the piston, and the number RPMs, perhaps we can multiply that piston diameter by the number of RPMs to give us an idea of how big our piston would need be to deliver an equivalent amount of energy in one cycle.. sure we can argue that ice is different, but we need build the machine that can handle the forces, and one that is economical to build, what would that look like?

So here’s where readers chime in, perhaps you’ll explain the gear box? no need to correct my English here, I know it sucks 🙂  Scroll down to comments…. no doubt this is an idea most Washington State voters would fund!

Imagine recharging your EV just by leaving it outside to freeze at night.. I bet someone is writing a grant proposal to study it!


OK right here is an addition to this post.. If you go down and read the comments, I think they are thought provoking.. ONLY after I read them did I think of the following!

If we take Brian’s idea, visualize  a water heater tank with one end cut off, and a piston of sorts shoved up against 40 gallons of water.

With this said, let’s look at a change in temperature from let’s say 40F to 10F, we will make ice with that swing, and there will be a force applied to the piston.

If we use the volume of water, and calculate the energy necessary to raise that volume of water 30F, won’t we have the equivalent of the energy into our system, and if we expect to get more than that out, won’t we have a so called over unity device?

From this calculation, we might add losses, and expect less out if we make use of any energy produced.    





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44 Responses to Email of the Day, Renewable Energy Idea

  1. Bill Knighton says:

    At least they have the concept of harnessing a phase change.

    • George B. says:

      Perhaps a more practical idea is to allow the water to evaporate..see if it condenses somewhere….. perhaps let it run down hill from there and thru a water wheel?

  2. SW Lee says:

    Hi George, evaporating water take a great amount of energy too.

    how about harvesting energy from plant growth? we have a very fast growing bamboo plant in Asia that can grow maybe 2 to 3 inch a day for a period of time until the plant reach a certain height.

    in this way, we can have constant energy throughout the day and night assuming we have a bamboo farm large enough. it would be good if someone do more research on this.

    • George B. says:

      We do a similiar thing here, many of us have ‘wood lots’. We manage them and take the larger trees, we cut and split the wood, and stack it to air dry for a year or longer. We then burn this wood in an EPA approved modern wood stove. The Red and Gang Green amongst us think it is an evil source of energy.

      As per the evaporation of water, you are right, there is a lot of energy involved, and we need give thanks to the sun for making hydro viable. At the heart of the process is the comsumption of huge, nearly incomprehendable amounts of energy, and only because man measures all against his short days here can he so readily deceive himself and call if free. Just the effort to collect ‘free’ energy is expensive, and we watch as our government here in the State of Washington grants Foreigners subsidies, and endentures tax payers and rate payers with the care of machines that will not live up to their promise. We are now ‘on the hook’ to pay wind power producers NOT to make energy, and of course, the RED and Gang Green are likely OK with that, they are too busy watching to see what their leaders will promise next.

  3. George B. says:

    As I attempt to ponder what reality really is.. I think about man’s efforts to establish the beginning of time. I close my eyes and see a skit play out. It’s Al Gore, he’s lecturing his usual audiance, the cocksure, and our children. He goes to the curtain, he whips it back to reveal the out of doors and a setting sun. He straightens his robe, then points his staff skyward and exclaims. “This is our Sun boys and girls, and we must take good care of it!

    In therory, there are no straight lines, and a man who travels across the bounds of universe will eventually arive back where he started. It all makes me wonder if these are just efforts to make man feel more significant than he is? It’s likely he’ll never set foot on the soils just next door, yet alone travel beyond the bits and specs we see with today’s looking glass.

    But what annoys me most are those so cocksure they understand the planet… from the countless bacteria, on up, they calim to know what came first, the chicken or the egg. They know the whole, but of course they can’t be bothered to take the moment to tell you how a single cancer cell works, and offer a cure. Perhaps it’s work for those who are below their lofty place?

    • Quinn Farnes says:

      I admire Brian’s thinking, because it shows that he IS thinking. But just because something is possible doesn’t mean that it is feasible. Growing up within earshot of barking seals in southern California, and spending most of my school-aged summers either in or on or under the water, I’ve always been fascinated by the thought of wave power. Your anchor gets stuck in the sand and you don’t have a winch to break it free. No problem. Just shorten up on the anchor rode and when you’re directly over the anchor, pull it tight and snub the anchor rode to the bow chock and let Mama O do the heavy lifting. Along comes a swell, lifting the boat and one of two things happens. Either the anchor pops out of the sand with no fuss (99% of the time) or it doesn’t and it’s time to figure out Plan B.

      A 100 ton fishing boat anchored 1/4 mile off the beach bobs on the swells while its crew catches a few winks before heading for the barn. Every 25 seconds along comes one of those majestic greasy looking 10 foot Pacific swells which lifts the 100 ton vessel 10 feet, then lowers it 10 feet.

      Power = Work/Time, or (Force x Distance)/Time

      So the 100 ton (200,000 lbs) vessel being lifted 10′ every 25 seconds (0.41 minutes) represents 2 million foot-pounds of force exerted on the vessel every 25 seconds. One horsepower is 33,000 ft-lbs/minute, so 2×10^6/33,000 = 61 ft-lbs of force every 25 seconds.

      61 ft-lbs / 0.41 minute = 148 horsepower for each lift, and 148 horsepower each time the vessel returns to its original level with respect to the bottom.

      So there’s _potentially_ 148 horsepower available for harvest in an area the size of a medium sized squid boat. So the energy is available. The question is how to turn that potential into reality. There’s the rub.


      • George B. says:

        Quinn here’s the challenge:

        In the minds eye, we’ll quickly see the gear works of a typical rewind starter on a lawn mower, we just attach the rope to the anchor chain or dead man. Tune it, and pass the energy to our dynamo and flywheel. Over 50KW at anchor. All the technology necessary to deploy the idea since before 1920.

        Perhaps there’s a houseboat in the works? I bet your idea would get funding.. Maybe your write a grant proposal, it’s likely been granted before, but who keeps track? I bet you couldn’t put all the Grants that look exaclty alike for hydrogen production in the same semi tractor trailer!

  4. Bill Knighton says:

    We are extremely fortunate to live in a year where the price of panels has dropped to less than a dollar per watt. They are flat, have no moving parts, are made of sand,aluminum and energy and basically have no wear parts. They are even crystalline-think futuristic scifi. I wish my car engine had these properties. It’s all about storage from here on.

  5. Elden says:

    We’ll know when a technology has arrived, it will be more economical, not taxpayer subsidized, and the free market will bring it to us. All too often the science is polluted with political correctness and bigotry from the greenies. Unfortunately politcal influence is too often one sided and peddled by teachers to impressionable students.

    The internal combustion engine is a near miracle device. It has helped humanity and raised our standard of living immensely. The scare tactics of “peak oil” and “AGW” need to be replaced by real scientific discussion instead of us all tilting at windmills. We could be doing a lot more with methane, both in the ICE and to sythesize liquid fuels. It’s time to tap domestic energy reserves; when the time is right for new technology to replace the ICE, it will be brought to us via capatilism. We likely have a renewable and essentially inexhaustible supply of methane.

  6. George B. says:


    MOST here will know frozen water and the ICE you mention are different 🙂

  7. Eldon says:

    interesting idea.

    but note that the energy extracted from such a process would be “pushed”into the system via the difference in temperature at which the water freezes.
    its easy to look at the chart and say you’d get 9% volume increase, but that’s not the whole story. even at reasonable pressures, such as 10,000 psi, ice density starts increasing. i don’t feel like doing the math to figure out what the optimum pressure is, but its somewhere between 2000 bar (29,000 psi) and 10,000 psi.

    if you want to experiment, grab a 20 ton bottle jack from harbor freight, and then try to figure out how to extract 1,600 foot pounds of work from it.
    off the top of my head i’d say you need half a kilogram to fill the cylinder.
    that means you get about 2 kilojoules of work out of it (done by the ice) (i figure 1/2 inch of travel on the 6 inch long cylinder for about 8% expansion)
    You’ll need to move 165 kilojoules of heat out of the water to make half a kilogram of ice. (plus 2 kilojoules of work done)

    so, in theory, only about 1.1% efficiency.

    you’d be better off trying to make a Rankine cycle heat pump from propane or something like r-134A

  8. George B. says:

    deception happens when you start in the middle!

    just measure the volume of water you have in your system, measure the difference in temperature, and then look up the amount of energy it takes to heat that volume of water. This is the power into the system, and you can expect the power out to be this minus losses. What we have is a very small amount of energy, or an incredibly expensive machine that we can never pay off wiht the energy produced.. At least that’s what I see as the student.

  9. George B. says:

    I look at these comments, and wonder if they are all related to the topic under discussion? Especially one of mine! Should we focus back on the work water could do with a state change? Isn’t really power in, minus losses? OR… do we have over unity working for us with the state change?

  10. Elden says:

    It seems to me the another way to figure the limits of how much work can be done is suggested by the “other Eldon” At a given pressure, ice begins to become more dense and therefore less able to do the work of expansion with a phase change. If this was not a fact, then the expansion could lift an infinite weight, creating infinite potential energy. And of course George has rightly pointed out, what cost is a machine/components that can make use of super high pressures. It reminds me of the idea presented years ago to harness the electricity of a lightening bolt, sure the voltage is high but it’s not unlimited and it’s of such short duration as to be of limited commercial value.

    • George B. says:

      Elden, I think this is where we get fooled, the idea that we have a near infinite pressure. I do believe if we look at the total amount of water in our cylinder, calculate the volume, and then figure the amount of heat (energy) required to heat that water from the lowest to the highest temperature in our daily swing, we will then have a fair idea of ‘energy in’, from here, we should assure ourselves that we only need add losses to calculate any return of energy we might get from the machine.

      Brian F. is not stupid! (none of us called him that…. Brian IS typical of so many people who are excited about alternative energy potential, BUT who do not have realistic expectations. It is a VERY dangerous situation, and may cost a lot of lives at some point by diverting resources away from food production or other necessary efforts to feed the third world.

      There are a lot of energy ideas where the cost of the machine and other physical factors will always make the ‘return on investment less than zero. Look at the marvelous machines our ancestors built in the 1800! The hot air machines, and more. these people had all the math, understood the physics, and clearly understood the low return on investment of zero head water works and tidal action.

      People get excited when they start in the middle and forget the ends of the system under consideration. So you harness some tidal action, let’s study the rest of the machine to the point where we make use of this energy, the overall losses and the real energy produced.

      • Richard says:

        Well said

        • Elden says:

          “BUT, who do not have realistic expectations. It is a very dangerous situation..” Exactly. Too often we are not pursing partial solutions to our energy needs because Gang Green declares them imperfect. They have nothing better to offer, of course, and they vote, so as you say millions of innocents may very well suffer.

          • Richard says:

            Again I not against any source of energy but this idea that oil wells fill up. Oh upon what time line and where is your proof believe in some because of hope does not make it true.

  11. Richard says:

    Wow, look at what we have here. Ideas to get energy from a small amount of energy. If we removed the subsides from oil, coal, nuclear energy and then solar would become cost effective but our energy cost would be a lot higher. We would not be paying all taxes which would be a good thing. They take our taxes then take their share and then give it back to us in the form of a subsides but not to us but to companies that are making good money to start with. (Sorry I’m against subsides.) We pay taxes and they go round and round and get spent on crazy project like the utah solar project. They make prices fake.
    As for oil coming out of the mantle please tell me how does organic material gets there in the first place. It’s very hot in the mantle and organic material doesn’t stay get created from the mantle. It is created on the surface and then gets covered and processed at high pressure and heat. It does not come in contact with the mantle. Also please show me one well that filled up on it’s own! If that were so we would not be buying energy from other countries. I found one web site on this idea and no where do i find any other information. Texas had one of the larges oil wells in the country and it’s empty why is it not filling up. Pretty pictures does not make it so. So where are the peer review scientific papers explaining this.? I can’t find them. Oh yea is a government conspiracy.
    I understand that many people don’t have a physics or math degree but the small amount of energy from freezing water is small, very small and you have to wait overnight for it to freeze. We use 375 million gallons per day (2002) of gasoline a day in the USA. With out taking in to account inefficiencies that’s about 51,750,000,000,000 btu’s per day and I’m only talking about gasoline. 94 quads of energy usage in 2009 or 94,000,000,000,000,000 btu’s just for the US. Let’s look at it from different point of view. We all know what a Kilowatt is. When using coal to produce electricity if I were to run a 100w bulb 24hrs a day for a year at the power plant it would take 714lbs of coal do the math for the energy we use. How many kilowatts do most people use. Average usage of electricity per year is 18,000 kwh and that amounts to 180,000 pounds of coal per year. I can’t dig that and then subsides must dig the coal, right.
    So try to get the amount of energy from ice freezing do that math and you won’t get much.

    • George B. says:

      If you were to hold a discussion along these lines with the right left person, you’d get the agrument that all we need to do is discover the energy intensifier, …..and we need fully fund that effort. At the heart of the proposed effort will be a few magnets, or perhaps moon beams focused on a pot of fairy dust.

    • Elden says:

      Well there is methane floating around in outer space, so it’s not just from organic sources. Do a google search using Calcium carbonate, ferric oxide, and water forming methane.
      As for one well filling up on it’s own, google Eugene Island 330
      I believe we are buying oil from other countries for foolish political reasons.

      • Richard says:

        So do you realize how many atoms per cubic meter is out there. I’m talking about high heat and temperature. Oh you give me a other idea but i was talking about oil coming out of the mantle. Again show me the peer review papers. Next will you tell me that magnets produce energy?

        • Richard says:

          Also please show me proof and useable energy from these sources you are talking about.

        • Elden says:

          It’s not a quantitative argument re methane in the universe. I’m simply stating that methane isn’t strictly organic, and there is evidence that methane, and even propane and butane may be synthesized from inorganic precursors at the upper mantle. Here’s one research article.

          You may be interested in doing some research on the Fischer -Tropsche process, and our reserves of methane in the quadrillions of cubic feet, not including methane hydrate on the ocean floors. I have no opinion regarding the abiotic deep hot oil theory as I think the jury is still out, but I think methane is at least partly inorganically derived, and lets face it, it’s just not than hard to synthesize relatively short chain alkanes for the ICE.
          And I’ve said nothing about magnets.

          • Bill Knighton says:

            Organic is popularly used as something that originated from life. But it’s technical
            meaning is a chemical that contains carbon.

          • Elden says:

            Yes Bill, my point is “peak oil” and “fossil fuels” are essentially scare tactics to influence people to back the green movement. If there is no AGW, and I’m not a believer, and there’s plenty of hydrocarbons, what’s so terribly wrong with the ICE? Yes I know it’s not perfect, but what have we got that is better? If Brian’s phase change machine was economically feasable, I’d support it!

          • Richard says:

            Again the claim that there are hydrocarbons are coming up from the mantle. I have not seen any peer reviewed papers on this. You have sent me an article that makes a claim but does not any proof. Any energy that may exist deep in the earth. My question then how would you get to it, how fast is the process. There is a lot of claims but there is no proof. How can I believe something without evidence. Somehow conversation changed about hydrocarbons filling up oil wells to methane trapped in calcium. This may be true because the crust of the earth is pushed under other crust and contains water and other things. I thought the you were talking about oil wells refilling and that’s what i’m taking to task. The site you gave me wasn’t talking about hydrocarbons coming from the mantle but coming from the crust of the earth. They are two completely different places. Please decide what you are going to talking about. What is coming from the mantle or what is happening to the crust of the earth. An example would be as the Pacific plate going under California Plate it is carrying organic material under that plate and when it get heated some of it is carried upward. The original article say that hydrocarbons were coming from the mantle and that is not happening. So what are you talking about the mantle or the crust of the earth we can get into a conversation about the two but i wish you would stick to one then if you which you could change subject. I said and I’ll stand behind what i said that no organic material in form oil and coal do not come from the mantle not even does the methane that you talk about come from the mantle. thank you for your comments but i would like to give me proof that organic comes from the mantle in the form of oil and coal. I would prefer a peer reviewed paper. Thank you.

  12. George B. says:

    Richard, I’ll be the last to tell you magnets produce energy 🙂 So will most who make regular visits here.

    • Elden says:

      Richard, I’m glad you are skeptical, doesn’t bother me a bit. Perhaps I can recommend a book, Black Gold Stranglehold by Jerome Corsii.
      Actually there is no proof that coal, oil and methane come from strictly organic materials. No scientific study that I’m aware of has replicated crude oil formation from organic material. Often what passes for good science are some opinions supported by limited evidences.

      • Bill Knighton says:

        You might at least take coal off that list. There are deposits where a continuum exists that ranges from swamp on top to peat in the middle, getting darker and more compressed until it is coal on the bottom.

        • Elden says:

          “petroleum and black coal are not fossil residues that have worked their way down from the surface of the earth……This widelyheld view of their biogenic origin is, in my view, mistaken….the Earth’s massive reserves of hydrocarbons are abiogenic…
          Deep Hot Biosphere, pg 209 author Thomas Gold

          • bill knighton says:

            This page shows the range from peat to coal. You can see bits of plant structure in the lignite. One of the images shows layering even within the hand sized sample Some layers have plant shaped bits but in others it’s just unstructured coal.

          • bill knighton says:


            This is interesting. Micro paleontology in oil exploration. Though large fossils are too pulverized, micro fossils exist intact and are used to target correct well depth. They exist in the same layers as the oil.

          • Richard says:

            Why do you think this book has all of the answers. There is not peer review paper published anywhere. Bill knighton has given you a couple of web site to show you how things work have you looked at them? There is so much to read and understand about how hydrocarbons have formed over the ages and then you quote one book and have no peer reviewed papers show show as evidence. So despite the scientific evidence that shows the book is wrong. You continue to say that there is no proof. Look at links bill had posted.

          • George B. says:

            Doc, you may be about 10 years ahead of popular thinking. Dr. Corsi has a book out, I’m not sure how well it’s referenced, but he certainly agrees with you. to think it’s all from the big kill when the big rock fell on us, well…. I think that’s a little to simplistic of an answer.

      • Richard says:

        please tell me that you are real with your claim that science has no proof where coal and oil and natural gas come from!!. I think that you are a troll saying this because geologists have know these answers for a long time. Waiting to hear from you.

  13. Bill Knighton says:

    I was just saying about organic because the term was being used imprecisely.
    If we are going to use hydrocarbons we should use them wisely just in case people in the future fail to invent mr. Fusion desktop machines. It would be nice if they had oil for all the things we depend on it for. Yet, the standard seems to be use as much as you possibly can and ridicule anyone who does different. Not particularly anyone in this thread but in the us we are kept from efficient cars both by the government and by popular culture. The same is true for homes. Borrow for as much as you possibly can.
    I just hope we are at peak government and we run out of it so the future can be free.

    • Richard says:

      sorry about being slow to answer. Yes i agree with you completely I was commenting on the story that hydrocarbons come out of the mantle. I did use the term organic, instead of hydrocarbon, my bad. What i meant my organic was hydrocarbons. In the molten heat in the earth no hydrocarbons come from it. Yes we can site a web site but it does not make it true. To make it true one much have evidence. That we do not have. Science has show where it comes from especially coal from the tree trunks and by fern imprints in it. Saying that oil or hydrocarbons come from the molten part of the earth to me is impossible. So i say so but can’t prove. One who make a claim needs to prove it. Hence i asked for per review papers but you will not find any because there is only believe but no proof.

  14. Bill Knighton says:

    What about Woody lignite? It’s coal where the structure of peat, wood or other plant fibers is still present in the shape and texture of the coal.

    • Richard says:

      Hi Bill, I got the replies mix up and was tying to reply to elden and i did it to you. I know that the evidence you gave is the correct answer. I don’t understand why he is stuck quoting a book when there is no peer review anything about this book by thomas gold.

      Thanks for the links

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