MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: Can Household Rubbish+H2SO4 work as an Accumulator

Date: Tue Jun 17 14:49:02 2003
Posted By: Tony Gaglierd, Assistant Professor , Natural Science and Engineering Technology
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 1055510519.En

Richard You Asked “Can Household Rubbish+H2SO4 work as an Accumulator.” 

The question is based upon the viability of degrading landfill waste using 
dilute sulfuric acid whilst at the same time using the mix as a buffer in 
the storage of electricity on the National Grid when consumption is low. A 
subsidiary question would be concerning the usefulness of resulting gases, 
liquids and sludge.

Knowing the variability of household rubbish, the design problems of an 
efficient storage battery, the potential chemistry problems and variables 
one would face, I think the idea is not a practical or efficient way to 
produce or store electricity. A secondary issue would be dealing 
processing and disposal of the sludge, which in itself would be a problem 
and consume energy.

A possible alternative to your suggested process would be to extract the 
methane produced by decaying material in a landfill and use it as a source 
of hydrogen in a fuel cell. 

A fuel cell converts energy directly, without combustion, by combining 
hydrogen and oxygen electrochemically to produce water, electricity, and 

It is very much like a battery that can be recharged while you are drawing 
power from it. Instead of recharging using electricity, however, a fuel 
cell uses hydrogen and oxygen.
Fuelled with pure hydrogen, they produce no pollutant emissions. A fuel 
cell system, which includes a “fuel reformer”, can utilize the hydrogen 
from any hydrocarbon fuel - from natural gas to methanol, and even 
gasoline. Even if fuelled with natural gas as a source of hydrogen, 
emissions are negligible: 0.45 ppm NOx, 2 ppm CO, 4 ppm HC, which are 
orders of magnitude below those for conventional combustion generating 
Principle of operation of a typical fuel cell: 
·	When hydrogen is fed into a fuel cell a catalyst on the anode 
converts hydrogen gas into negatively charged electrons (e-) and 
positively charged ions (H+). 
·	The hydrogen ions (H+) migrate through the electrolyte to the 
cathode where they combine with oxygen and the electrons (e-) to produce 

 Fuel cells are ideal for power generation, either connected to the 
electric grid to provide supplemental power and backup assurance for 
critical areas, or installed as a grid-independent generator for on-site 
service in areas that are inaccessible by power lines. Since fuel cells 
operate silently, they reduce noise pollution as well as air pollution and 
the waste heat from a fuel cell can be used to provide hot water or space 
heating. They are highly efficient and low maintenance.
 Here are a couple of links on information on fuel cells. 	

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