There is the minor matter of what to do with the approximately 207 lb
of calcium hydroxide left from making each 100 lb of acetylene. 100
lbs of gasoline is about 15 gallons, one fill at the pump. At one
fill per week, you'd have about 5 tons of white alkaline goo after a
year of operation. Perhaps one could treat the goo with HCL to make
calcium chloride and sell it to the highway departments in snow states
to rust out people's cars......thus getting support from the
I like the sentence "In short-although I don't have all the answers yet-I've
come a long way in a few months". Since the article was written 26 years
ago I guess he got his answers about the practicality of this.
I used to live in St. Paul Mn. which at one time was a great railroad
town. There were several railroad repair shops in town. Every so often
I'd hear somebody say that they were going down to the railroad shop to
get some carbide slag to paint their concrete wall or floor with. The
railroads used a lot of acetylene and made their own.
After the calcium hydroxide absorbed CO 2 from the air it helped seal
the concrete, probably not as well as preparations made for that
purpose but the price was right.
It didn't take most people long to learn to wear rubber gloves working
with the stuff to keep the skin from being eaten off their hands.
It appears there are plenty of uses for calcium hydroxide although I am
thinking there is also no shortage of the stuff either. Did the stationary
acetylene generators have a poor safety record or did they fall from use due
to more convenient acetylene in a cylinder?
About a year ago I curious about acetylene manufacture. It turns out
that a whole lot of places still use acetylene generators. especially
large users. And of course the folks who bottle it. Surprisingly to me
it turns out that comercially sold acetylene is still produced with
calcium carbide even though other methods are used.
The Germans used this system when fuel-starved during WWII.
It gave rise to all sorts of 'run your car on water` rumors back then.
As to its being 'green`, the CO2 and energy costs of Calcium Carbide
production negates any overall benefit.
Aside from the fun of tinkering, whats the point?
Oh, this has to be the WORST alternative energy idea I've heard! And,
plenty. What does he do about parking his car in the middle of a
lot on a hot day in August? Can you say "Boom?" At least he isn't
bunch of Acetylene gas bottles in the trunk! Some welder did this here
15 years ago, and blew his black Camaro to BITS! They found little
pieces of it
in people's rain gutters for a half mile radius. It blew several houses
For a really promising alternative energy soulution, check out Butanol.
Just look it up on Google, and a bunch of new web sites have popped up.
A guy ran a late 1980's Buick across the country on the stuff, and he has an
economical process to make the stuff from not only corn, but corn stalks and
other ag. waste! It can be piped through the petroleum pipelines, and
98% of the energy content of gasoline per gallon, but burns cleanly like the
alcohol it is. Looks very promising. The only remaining hurdle is to
the process to a level that could fuel millions of cars a day. That
will take a LOT of ag.
waste, so there would need to be a whole infrastructure to collect that
I'm keeping an eye on this one!
Hydrocarbons are a near ideal fuel. The energy density and "hazard
density" are extremely low. Calcium carbide, like ethanol, carries a lot
of dead weight. Hydrocarbon fuel-air mixes are explosive, but not anything
like acetylene. Heard those tales of garbage bags inflated from a welding
Consider boron metal instead of carbide. Zero emissions: you capture the
exhaust and regenerate it at home with electricity. The fuel is dense and
not too hazardous to store, so unlike gasoline, you could stockpile large
quantities at home to improve distribution efficiency. The big problem is
a practical engine.
Since calcium carbide is produced by an electric furnace, it takes a
LOT of energy to produce. It would be a lot more efficient just to
take that electricity and run it into a battery to run an electric
motor than to take the efficiency hit of a thermal engine. An old book
I got from gutenburg.org on acetylene gives costs back then. It would
take a pretty inefficient motor to stay below the 1 bar limit on
compressing acetylene, too. Then there's the whole idea of hauling
around compressed flammable(and explosive) gasses in vehicles. Energy
density just isn't there, same problem exists with hydrogen-fueled
Some friends of mine did this about 40 years ago. They blew out windows
Actually, if you don't run fuel cells, then a Stirling engine makes a
to convert heat to mechanical power. It isn't very responsive in terms of
rapid acceleration, so a hybrid would be the way to go.
The Philips company has made Stirling cycle engines to run city busses.
Getting that kind of power out has many complications, and usually uses
helium at very high pressures as the working gas. Non trivial sealing
issues as a result.
Making a Stirling that runs is trivial, comapratively, to getting one
to run at or near the peak of efficiency.