From Old Scotland: Cobalt from Sea Water

FWIW, I was chasing after the “Fusion of Nickel and H2” topic and wondered “How much Nickel is there?”. If we start consuming it all, will that be a problem? Turns out to be a somewhat uninteresting “No. Nickel is one of the most abundant elements on earth or in the crust”. Much more than copper, so if we turn some nickel into copper “it’s a feature”…

But along the way I found that the USA is almost entirely dependent on non-US sources for Cobalt. Much of it from an unstable part of Africa that has now had the mines pretty much commit to being under contract to China.

Cobalt Mines

Cobalt Mines

Original Image

As Cobalt is important for everything from “Nickel” batteries to catalysts to the magnets used in some high tech things, it is considered a “strategic mineral”. Not having any seems like a bit of “an issue”…

So I started looking for “alternative sources” and stumbled on this article from long long ago. About as old as I am. Starting from work done in 1953 and progressing forward to about 1969:

http://aslo.org/lo/toc/vol_14/issue_5/0798.pdf

CONCENTRATION OF COBALT AND ZINC FROM SEAWATER USING
5,7-DIBROMO-8–HYDROXYQUINOLINE ( BROMO-OXINE ) SUPPORTED
ON AN ANION EXCHANGE RESIN

Carritt ( 1953) put forward an ingenious idea for concentrating trace metals from seawater using dithizone supported on a cellulose acetate column. He also demonstrated (Carritt 1964) that this reagent could serve the same purpose if supported on an anion exchange resin. Volumes (1-5 liters) of seawater containing either zinc-65 or cobalt-60 passed down a column ( DeAcidite FF + dithizone) were observed by me to be completely stripped of their cobalt and zinc content; but, when they were eluted with hydrochloric acid, the recovery of the adsorbed metals was incomplete (recovery of cobalt was 60% and of zinc 40%). It was thought that the retention of cobhydrochloric acid to destroy the cobalt-dithizone complex completely. The recovery of zinc was probably low due to readsorption of the zinc (as its zinc-chloro complex) onto the anion exchange resin. Work done on the concentration of trace metals from seawater using bromo-oxine ( Riley and Topping 1969) had indicated that the cocrystallized trace metals could be released from the organic complex by washing with dilute acid. In view of this, an investigation into the possible use of bromo-oxine in the way described by Carritt ( 1964) was initiated.

EXPERIMENTAL

Preparation of resin column

The resin chosen for this work was the anion exchange resin, DeAcidite FF ( Cl-). A sample of the resin was washed with water and dried using acetone. It was then shaken with a solution of bromo-oxine in acetone ( 0.4%) for 30 min, dried, and a suspension of resin in water poured into an ion exchange column ( 8 x 0.5 cm), After settling, it was washed with three 50-ml portions of distilled water.

Investigation of cobalt and zinc adsorbed from seawater onto the resin column

Samples ( 1 and 5 liters) of filtered seawater (0.5 Jo) at its natural pH were equilibrated with several ,Gi of either carrier-free zinc-65 or carrier-free cobalt-60 and allowed to flow down individual resin columns. Retention of the ions was estimated by examining the eluate for activity; both cobalt and zinc were completely retained by the resin from both the 1 and 5 liter samples of seawater.

Elution of the adsorbed elements

Each column was washed with two 20- ml portions of distilled water to remove residual seawater. Dilute hydrochloric acid (0.2 N) was then passed down each column and the eluate monitored for radioactivity. Both cobalt and zinc were released from the resin column, a volume of 100 ml being necessary for complete removal of the cobalt but only 60% of the original zinc. On repeating the elution using 100 ml of 0.2 N sulfuric acid, the recovery of zinc was increased from 60% to 75%.

CONCLUSIONS

This preliminary investigation has demonstrated the use of the reagent bromooxine, supported on a resin column, as an effective method for concentrating trace amounts of cobalt and zinc from seawater. Using a small volume of dilute sulfuric acid, it is possible to elute all of the cobalt and 75% of the zinc off the column. This column, when suitably washed with distilled water, can be reused for further concentration steps. This method has the added advantage that the seawater does not have to be specially treated prior to the concentration stage.
stage.

G. TOPPING
Department of Civil Engineering,
University of Strathclyde,
Glasgow, Scotland.

REFERENCES

CARRITT, D. E. 1953. Separation and concentration of trace metals from natural waters.
Anal. Chem., 25: 1927-1928.
-a 1964. Marine geochemistry : Some guesses and gadgets. R.I., Grad. Sch. Oceanogr., Narragansett Mar. Lab., Occas. Publ. 3(1965), p. 203-211.

RILEY, J. P., AND G. TOPPING. 1969. The use of 5,7-dibromo-Shydroxyquinoline for the concentration of certain trace elements from sea water. Anal. Chim. Acta, 44: 234-236.

Maybe with a bit of work this could be made simpler and even cheaper; but just as it stands the meaning is clear:

We can get all the cobalt we ever want from sea water, in a simple and clear way. All that changes is the cost (and that will not be very high given that the resin is reusable and “acid leaching” is a typical step in ore processing anyway). There are not a lot of added costs in this system.

G. Topping: I salute you for a Job Well Done!

Looks like one more (or two more if you include Zinc) “running out” scares can hit the dust bin of paranoid Malthusians…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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15 Responses to From Old Scotland: Cobalt from Sea Water

  1. Pascvaks says:

    I hope the EPA doesn’t have anything to say about this. We need to keep a lid on this or someone is going to tell the quacks. (SarcOff)

  2. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. Glad to see you looking into the nickel/hydrogen fusion possibility! I think that there may very well be something to it — and suspect that it may be based on a device I first saw reported back in 2003.
    http://www.rexresearch.com/eccles/1eccles.htm#telegr

    Of course this is all speculation until Rossi, et al, come out with public statements. What I think may be happening is that the original 2003 device accidental tapped in to the nickel/hydrogen fusion process. With a stainless steel container (which would have nickel oxide on its surface) and a current flow to produce hydrogen, the Eccles setup is similar to the Rossi design. If Rossi verifies that potassium or potassium carbonate is the “secret catalyst” then that would all come together and make sense.

  3. gallopingcamel says:

    When the Fleishman & Pons thing was going on I was pulling for those guys although highly dubious about their claims.

    I feel the same way about these Italians. Please let it be true! However, my physics professor told me that element 26 (Iron) has the highest binding energy of all elements. Fusion that raises the atomic number of elements to the right of Iron should be endo-thermic.

    After a little digging I found out that my physics professor had neglected to tell me that it is Ni62 rather than Fe56 that has the highest binding energy per nucleon.

    Nevertheless, my understanding is that adding another proton to create Cu63 should be endo-thermic.

    I was wondering why the Italian researchers claim that only picograms of the Nickel react but it makes sense when one realises that natural Nickel only contains a tiny percentage of Ni62.

    Darn those Italians for making me think! Now I have to get precise mass measurements for Ni62, Cu63 and H1 and then do a little arithmetic.

    Holy cow! Someone already did that:
    http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=mass+%28Ni-62%29+%2Bmass+%28H-1%29+-+mass+%28Cu-63%29

    Wow! The reaction loses 0.0066 Daltons out of 62.9362 Daltons. In other words, about 0.01% of the reaction mass is converted into energy!

    A few back of the envelope calculations and…….voila!

    One gram of Ni62 can release as much energy as burning 10 tonnes of coal.

  4. cementafriend says:

    Cobalt is a by-product of electrolytic zinc refining. When I visited a works many moons ago, I think they were producing about 3000tpa in a plant production of about 200000 tpa zinc and they could not sell all the product because of the low demand. I have a feling that they no longer produce Cobalt because it is too expensive and sell it in a lead residue.
    Extracting Cobalt or any other metal from sea water is chemical engineering. The authors of your reference should have consulted chemical engineering journals. It it is poor science when researchers just refer to their own limited field of expertise. So called climate scientists are guilty of that. Heat transfer is a chemical engineering subject. Hoyt Hottel who was Prof. of Chemical Engineering at MIT did a vast amount of research on radiant heat transfer in furnaces and heat exchangers with combustion gases (CO2, H2O, O2 &N2). The work has been ignored by all those who say they are studying the atmosphere and climate including Lindzen. These people like to believe in their own misintrepration of the Stefan-Boltzman equation rather than actual measured results.

  5. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. I remember that you have posted multiple times on the possibility of using seawater as a mineral source. I was especially impressed by your analysis of uranium extraction. Is anyone using resin based extraction in conjunction with seawater desalinization?

    It would seem to me that if minerals from seawater is a marginally economic procedure with normal concentrations, that the much stronger concentration of minerals in the waste stream from a desalinization plant might be profitable. Combine mineral extraction with the energy reduction system that recovers pressurization energy http://www.energyrecovery.com/index.cfm/0/0/32-How-It-Works.html and there might be some money in it.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley:

    OR, perhaps, just perhaps, some elements REALLY want to reach a “magic number”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_number_(physics)

    and Potassium, at Atomic Number 19, would really like to be at atomic number 20. While Nickle is already at atomic number 28, but has a variable number of neutrons; so perhaps one of the slightly heavier forms is “more magic” and so the proton gets in (with a potential beta+ decay to a neutron http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_decay#.CE.B2.2B_decay )

    If THAT is the case, their would be all sorts of “interesting things” found just near elements with a Magic Number; or especially near those that are “double magic”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_number_(physics)#Double_magic

    Nuclei which have neutron number and proton (atomic) numbers each equal to one of the magic numbers are called “double magic”, and are especially stable against decay. Examples of double magic isotopes include helium-4 (4He), oxygen-16 (16O), calcium-40 (40Ca), calcium-48 (48Ca), nickel-48 (48Ni) and lead-208 (208Pb). Tin-100 (100Sn) and tin-132 (132Sn) are doubly magic isotopes of tin that are unstable; however they represent endpoints beyond which stability drops off rapidly. It is no accident that helium-4 (4He) is among the most abundant (and stable) nuclei in the universe[1] and that lead-208 (208Pb) is the heaviest stable nuclide.

    Both calcium-48 (48Ca) and nickel-48 (48Ni) are double magic because calcium-48 has 20 protons and 28 neutrons while nickel-48 has 28 protons and 20 neutrons. Calcium-48 is very neutron-rich for such a light element, but is made stable by being double magic. Similarly, nickel-48, discovered in 1999, is the most proton-rich isotope known beyond helium-3.

    In December 2006 hassium-270 (270Hs), with 108 protons and 162 neutrons, was discovered by an international team of scientists led by the Technical University of Munich having the unusually long half-life of 22 seconds. Hassium-270 evidently forms part of an island of stability, and may even be double magic.

    At least, that’s my theory… “Smith’s Double Magic Theory” has a nice ring to it ;-)

    It would imply that He3 could also be “cold fused” (perhaps in a metal lattice that was loose enough to trap both a He and H nucleus at the same time…) and suggest looking “near calcium” for things just one shy of “double magic”… so with atomic number 20 one ought to look at Oh, Gee, atomic number 19 – Potassium….

    And one ought to look at Cobalt as it is 59Co27 with 32 neutrons and could go to 60Ni28 with 32 neutrons after a proton absorption and Beta+ emission …

    which might make it nice to know how much cobalt you could get… which leads to here…

    But until someone tries it, it’s just “numerology” based on multiples of 4 particle masses…

    The thing I haven’t puzzled out is why Ni is going to copper. It has to be the neutron count, and Ni has several stable isotopes (58, 60, 61, 62, 64) but only 58 and 60 are more than single digit percents in nature and IIRC they claimed more than single digit increase in Copper (but as a percent one must ask “percent of what”? so that 3.6% of 62Ni is a candidate I suppose). Still, I’m not seeing a magic number calling out to me here… then again, it may simply be that my nucleonics is too primitive to see some odd stability island that a more experienced hand would know.

    Or it may be related to some of the physics ideas in this article:

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/01/multi-kilowatt-nickel-hydrogen-cold.html

    that are not familiar to me.

    At any rate, it’s an interesting theory…

    Per Combined with Fresh Water:

    The typical R.O. system only recovers about 10% of the water. You’d have an easier time just solar evaporating it, taking the crystallized NaCl for table salt / softener use; and the supernatant is very concentrated.

    But typically folks don’t combine such operations unless there is already a market. Why? Don’t ask why…

    @Galloping Camel:

    Iron has the highest binding energy for the typical periodic chart, but it is not the ISOTOPE with the highest binding energy.

    Naturally occurring nickel is composed of 5 stable isotopes; 58Ni, 60Ni, 61Ni, 62Ni and 64Ni with 58Ni being the most abundant (68.077% natural abundance). 62Ni is the “most stable” nuclide of all the existing elements, with binding energy greater than both 56Fe, often incorrectly cited as “most stable”, and 58Fe. 18 radioisotopes have been characterised with the most stable being 59Ni with a half-life of 76,000 years, 63Ni with a half-life of 100.1 years, and 56Ni with a half-life of 6.077 days. All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lives that are less than 60 hours and the majority of these have half-lives that are less than 30 seconds. This element also has 1 meta state.

    It’s just that 62Ni is not all that common in nature at 3.6% so unless you start talking isotopes, it’s that large mass of Iron where things are more stable than the “natural most abundant” isotope of Ni.

    Yeah, down in the weeds details… BUT your teacher was not wrong that for the typical stuff common in nature, it’s the common iron isotope, but it’s also true that for a small fraction of the nickel, it’s the nickel…

    At any rate, you must look at individual counts of protons and neutrons to know actual stabilities… This chart being an interesting one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Table_isotopes_en.svg

    Back at this article:

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/01/multi-kilowatt-nickel-hydrogen-cold.html

    it has a chart of the actual energy released for each of the proposed isotopic changes. At that level of granularity, it’s not just the proton count that matters, it’s both the protons and the neutrons. So any given proton count (nickel vs copper) doesn’t matter unless you know the neutron count (total binding energy of N+P) that goes with it.

    @Cementafriend:

    The citation chain starts from about 50 years ago… I suspect there was not a lot of Chem-E from sea water then. At any rate, the cross training between Chemists and Chemical Engineers is quite high, and for all I know the guy might well have BEEN a Chem. E. in practice. Back then they were not so keen on making fine distinctions… My high school chemistry teacher had been a chemist for U.S. Steel, for example. I don’t think he was doing pure chemical research for US Steel…

    Note that it puts him / her in the Engineering department:

    G. TOPPING
    Department of Civil Engineering,

    So while I “take your point” in general, I’d “cut them some slack” on the issue of purity of field. Heck, I could easily see ME thinking “I bet THIS goo would work” and knocking together a test rig and saying “Hey, it does! Cool. Guess I’ll publish it so others will know too.”

    http://www.onemine.org/search/index.cfm?fullText=mineral%20extraction%20%20from%20sea%20%20water&start=10

    finds about 974 total articles for “mineral extraction from sea water” and most of them are dated much more recently than the above (and many will not have to do with cobalt) so it’s not like you can just go open your “Chemical Engineering From Sea Water” text to the “Cobalt” chapter (and there will have been much LESS in the ’50s – ’60s).

    So I’m still giving them their Kudos. They deserve it.

  7. gallopingcamel says:

    My BS detector was still overloaded when I woke up this morning. Is that “Wolfram” link a hoax?

    This time I went to IUPAC (J.R. de Laeter et al., 2003):
    http://www.iupac.org/publications/pac/pdf/2003/pdf/7506×0683.pdf

    The figures came out slightly different:
    H1 = 1.0078250
    Ni62 = 61.9283484
    Cu63 = 62.9296007

    “Lost” mass from Ni + H fusion = 0.065727 Daltons

    I would expect the lost mass to show up as ~ 6 MeV photons. This is quite lively radiation, requiring about 8 inches of concrete to attenuate it by a factor of 10 (tenth value layer). For comparison, gamma radiation from Cobalt 60 decay has energy in the 1 MeV range.

    Reasonable personnel protection for a Nickel Hydrogen reactor would consist of at least 3 such layers = two feet of concrete. More concrete would be needed for a large reactor.

    In the Bologna videos I saw nothing that looked like radiation shielding so I must conclude that there is no Ni62 + H1 reaction taking place.

    What am I missing?

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    @Gallopingcamel:

    You’ve got a variety of “daltons” units floating about. The WA site gives 0.0066 as your first comment noted, now you’ve got 0.066 (so it looks to me like somewhere we have a missing decimal point slip…)

    From:

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/01/multi-kilowatt-nickel-hydrogen-cold.html

    (same link as above)

    They put the mass difference in the 104 – 170 ppm range for the different nuclear conversion steps, so you might use that as a ‘cross check’. ( 10^2 / 10^6 = 10 ^-4 of 62 is 0.0062 so closer to that W.A. number…)

    They then go on to say:

    The mechanism proposed by Focardi – Rossi, verified by mass spectroscopy data, which predicts transmutation of a nickel nucleus to an unstable copper nucleus (isotope), remains in principle valid. The difference is that inside the unstable copper nucleus, produced from the fusion of a hydrogen mini-atom with a nickel nucleus, is trapped the mini-atom electron (β-), which in my opinion undergoes in-situ annihilation, with the predicted (Focardi-Rossi) decay β+ of the new copper nucleus.

    The β+ and β- annihilation (interaction of matter and anti-matter) would lead to the emission of a high energy photon, γ, (Einstein) from the nucleus of the now stable copper isotope and a neutrin to conserve the lepton number. However, based on the principle of conservation of momentum, as a result of the backlash of this nucleus, the photon energy γ is divided into kinetic energy of this nucleus of large mass (heat) and a photon of low frequency.

    So I think it is the attribution of all the energy into the photon that is “at issue” as a chunk of it ends up as a hot atom…

    At any rate, before getting all wound around that Fast Gamma I’d double check the energy, read that article (and maybe look it up in the original Italian for a more precise meaning) and think about what it has to say.

    This isn’t Physics 101 ….

  9. gallopingcamel says:

    Chiefio you did it again! I am obsessively running around the Internet trying to understand this Nickel-Hydrogen fusion thing. Here is a link that does what I did but in greater depth:
    http://www.journal-of-nuclear-physics.com/?p=211

    As Jacques Dufour shows, the energy release from the reactions should range from ~5 MeV to ~10 MeV. In his Table 2, he says the Ni62 + H1 reaction yields 6.12 MeV.

    This gives me a warm feeling as his figure agrees with my “back of the envelope” calculation. I am not going to check the rest of his numbers as I suspect he is using a computer program that is far superior to my blunt pencil.

    Dufour does mention shielding but he clearly lacks experience in radiation safety or he would realize how dangerous gammas in this energy range are.

    There is a huge problem here. When lively gamma rays interact with matter the reactions are complex. There will be some pair production. Not enough energy available to produce neutrons or protons but more than enough for electrons. For every electron pair created you can deduct 1.02 MeV from the energy that will eventually show up as heat.

    If you want to use 6 MeV gammas to boil water you first have to convert the gammas into heat and that is no small task given the highly penetrating nature of gamma rays.

    If I had to vote right now on the Rossi reactor I would have to press the SCAM button even though I would love to see the physics establishment turned upside down.

    Although I am a physicist and electrical engineer, I got a real chuckle out of Douglas Adams:

    “It startled him even more when just after he was awarded the Galactic Institute’s Prize for Extreme Cleverness he got lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable physicists who had finally realized that the one thing they really couldn’t stand was a smart-ass. “

  10. Chuckles says:

    @gc, Amen to that couldn’t agree more.

    E.M. I suspect Cobalt is one of those things that is potentially produced all over the place as a secondary/by-product, but there’s no market, so it gets dumped.
    Bit like the hysterical shrieking about ‘rare earths’ a while back.

    ‘Last weeks toxic waste is this weeks valuable resource’ –

    c.f. from gardening, ‘A weed is a beautiful flower growing in the wrong place’

  11. Jason Calley says:

    An article worth reading: NASA Chief Scientist at Langley says there may be something to Rossi and his device.
    http://pesn.com/2011/05/31/9501837_Cold-Fusion_Number-1_Claims_NASA_Chief/
    Chief says that it may be a confirmation of “Wisdom Larsen Theory.” Rossi responds that it is something different from Wisdom Larsen.

  12. gallopingcamel says:

    Jason Calley,
    Thanks for that link. I was especially interested in Rossi’s responses in relation to the “Widom Larsen” theory.

    Rossi says there is gamma radiation and that traces of copper are being produced.

    It is easy to detect gamma rays with inexpensive equipment. The detection of trace amounts of copper in a nickel sample requires a mass spectrometer but every university has dozens of them.

    Thus, either the process is nuclear fusion or Rossi is a scam artist.

  13. Jason Calley says:

    @ gallopingcamel It would be marvelous to see this turn out to be real, to be as advertised. I am still in the “trust but verify” stage.

    Some more good links in this blog: http://freeenergytruth.blogspot.com/

    One of the articles there: http://freeenergytruth.blogspot.com/2011/05/rossi-ecatalyzer-peer-review-problem.html
    reminds me ever so strongly of the problem that sceptics have when trying to get a fair hearing among “climate scientists.”

    IF and yes, that is a big “if”, this turns out to be real, it will be very interesting to see what happens to the CAGW crowd. Suddenly, CO2 emissions solve themselves and with cheap enough energy you can even afford to suck CO2 out of the air (yeah, I know, a viable solution for a problem that does not exist). Still, I predict that even if totally free, non-poluting energy were to be developed, the CAGW folks would not approve of it. In my opinion, stopping a danger to humanity was never their real motivator; controling humanity was their motivation.

    Just my opinion, but let us watch to see what happens.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley:

    The folks trying to make a distinction between a “mini-atom” and a “heavy surface plasmon polariton” just sound silly to me. I don’t really care if the electron and positron got really close to each other due to a quantum flux event or a “plasmon polariton” snuggle… Put in hydrogen and Ni, get out copper… fussion by some means happened…

    I suspect the article is correct that it’s a kind of butt cover by definitional game….

    At any rate, if the Rossi claims are as stated, it will be trivial to test. Put in pure Ni, run, test for Cu. Yes / no. Put in H2 for a “long time”. Measure total H2. Less? Yes / no. Put dectector inside shielding. Gama? Yes / no…

    So if October is their DDD (Drop Dead Date), I can wait for that…

    Frankly, given my limited understanding of quantum events, I can’t see how you could NOT have a sporadic capture event.

    As I understand it, the shape of a P orbital is such that the electron has a probablity of being found ANYWHERE on each side of the nucleus, that is sort of a “bow tie” shaped blob out each side. It might be several million miles away (at very low probability… it only drops to zero at infinity) or it might be up close in that P orbital shape. HOWEVER, the probablity also drops to zero at the plane of the nucleus.

    So….

    The electron can exist anywhere on BOTH sides, but never can exist at the crossing plane…. That means at some point in time it must “go away” and reapear on the other side… Various theories exist as to where it goes ( including a variety of different dimensions….) so it seems quite reasonable to me that it might just “go away” but a momentary absorption into the proton with subsequent re-emission on the “other side”… (or just be “infinitely close” to the proton without “absorption”… angels and pins…)

    As long as that combo is “small enough” it could slip into a bigger nucleus… At that level everything is “odds and quanta” so with a non-zero odds “it could happen”…

    Per sucking CO2 out of the air with “cheap enough” energy… one could always just use trees and bamboo…

    As I’ve shown in prior postings, such plants completely suck all CO2 out of the air column over them inside one year (often well inside one year) and a modest forest would scrub all human produced CO2 in less than one human lifetime (i.e. 100% of the planet is all you need, not the whole thing, so plenty of room for growing food too….)

    We don’t need some exotic tech to suck CO2 from the air. Bamboo, eucalyptus and cottonwood are just fine. (Algae does it 10 x faster; but they are SO fast that they are always CO2 limited and you end up needing to pump the air to get the CO2 to them fast enough… Oh, wait, you would need to pump the air in a mechanical scrubber too ;-)

  15. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. “it seems quite reasonable to me that it might just “go away” but a momentary absorption into the proton with subsequent re-emission on the “other side”… ”

    Well, in fact, one of the more common ways for an isotope to decay is through electron capture, usually a K or L shell electron. Either spontaneously or triggered by an appropriate values photon, the electron “drops” down into the nucleus and combines with a proton to create a neutron and a neutrino. Wiki has a good article on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electron_capture
    I can’t resist quoting part, it has so many interesting and surprising loose ends poking at my curiosity. —

    Begin quote:

    Note that it is one of the initial atom’s own electrons that is captured, not a new, incoming electron, as might be suggested by the way the above reactions are written. Radioactive isotopes that decay by pure electron capture can, in theory, be inhibited from radioactive decay if they are fully ionized (“stripped” is sometimes used to describe such ions). It is hypothesized that such elements, if formed by the r-process in exploding supernovae, are ejected fully ionized and so do not undergo radioactive decay as long as they do not encounter electrons in outer space. Anomalies in elemental distributions are thought to be partly a result of this effect on electron capture.

    Chemical bonds can also affect the rate of electron capture to a small degree (in general, less than 1%) depending on the proximity of electrons to the nucleus. For example in 7Be, a difference of 0.9% has been observed between half-lives in metallic and insulating environments.[6] This relatively large effect is due to the fact that beryllium is a small atom whose valence electrons are close to the nucleus.

    Around the elements in the middle of the periodic table, isotopes that are lighter than stable isotopes of the same element tend to decay through electron capture, while isotopes heavier than the stable ones decay by electron emission.

    :End quote.

    Darned interesting stuff — I just wished I had a better background on nuclear physics to appreciate it better!

    I think you may be right about the obfuscation coming from NASA. Sounds like cold fusion to me, no matter how they try to re-describe it! I am reminded of the man who posited that Shakespeare did not write the famous plays, but that they “were written by someone else with the same name.” Realistically though, if this does turn out to be real, the technique will not stay secret for long and patent rights will not be able to keep this under control. If China — or Bolivia, or who ever wished to use this, they will. The temptation of such low cost energy will be way too much and will overcome any patent concerns. I have no doubt that current international law on patent rights already has a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for any idea which a major sovereign nation really, really, really wants to use. I seem to remember that India already manufactures certain drugs without honoring patent rights by claiming that their need is simple too great.

    “Per sucking CO2 out of the air with “cheap enough” energy… one could always just use trees and bamboo…”

    Yes, absolutely — but try telling that to a confirmed CAGW proponent. I’ve tried telling ’em. The common response is “Well, yeah, you can remove it with plants, but not fast enough to make a difference. You don’t understand just HOW MUCH CO2 we have dumped into the atmosphere! If you would just educate yourself, you would find that…etc.”

    Grrrrrr…. grinding of teeth. No one does math apparently.

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