Can chemical engineers help Santa? (Day 211)

Oh dear, it’s the year 2050 and Santa Claus can no longer cope with delivering presents to nine billion people.

And there’s worse – over prescribing of animal antibiotics means reindeer are no longer immune to the growing menace of ‘reindeer-itis’¹ – causing them to lose their magical power to fly around the world.

Sad reindeer

Let’s hope chemical engineers can help Santa and save Christmas.

Santa needs an alternative energy supply urgently. Is there anyone who can save Christmas with an efficient, powerful, low carbon and renewable source of energy to power Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve?

Of course WE can – CHEMICAL ENGINEERS! And we don’t have just one solution in the pipeline, but many…

Here’s five we’d recommend to Santa for Christmas’ ‘yet to come‘:

1. Fuel from reindeer poo

While the reindeer may be poorly, Santa could always use their power in another way – albeit a smelly one. He could process their poo and collect the gas like Severn Trent Water.

Those reindeer certainly produce more than enough waste, although some of them (especially Rudolph) might be shy unless he’s hidden behind the stable doors.

Further processing would make it clean enough and the right consistency to be injected into the North Pole gas supply.

It’s a neat and elegant example of how chemical engineering can create something from nothing – even the unavoidable waste from Santa’s reindeer.

2. Hydrogen from seawater

Although Santa lives in an icy world, on his doorstep (literally) is an endless supply of energy from seawater.

He could install an ultra-high efficiency hydrogen fuel cell to power an electric motor for his sleigh.

Seawater powered ships and planes already exist, so all he needs is a crash course in how to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) by catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. Simple.

3. Solar power

If Santa wasn’t in a hurry (and he lost a bit of weight), he could convert his sleigh into a solar sleigh.

Last year a record-breaking flight by a solar-powered plane managed to travel nearly 1,000 miles in one go.

By adding some big wings and nearly 12,000 solar cells to drive four propellers and charge the plane’s 400 kg of lithium-ion batteries (for night-time flying), Santa’s sleigh would be able to sail effortlessly through the night sky.

4. Electric batteries charged from geothermal sources

Insiders tell me that Santa has a soft spot for all the frozen parts of the world like Antarctica and Iceland.

So he’ll know that if he chooses an electrically-powered sleigh he can always re-charge it using low-carbon geothermal power sources like they have in Iceland.

I’ve also been told that Santa never gets tired of saying that all of Iceland’s electric power is generated by hydropower and geothermal energy, and about 95 percent of the nation’s heating demand are warmed by geothermal means.

5. Mini nuclear fusion reactor

The top of the range answer for Santa must surely be man’s attempt to mimic the energy created by the sun.

To get the nuclear fusion going, all Santa needs is a magnetic bottle capable of handling the extremely hot temperatures (hundreds of millions of degrees). By containing this reaction, he can release it in a controlled fashion to whizz around the planet in record time, without stopping.

Hopefully, by 2050, Lockheed Martin will have cracked their technology that uses deuterium fuel extracted from the sea.

I’ll be blogging throughout the holidays with a review of some of my most popular blogs of 2014. If you want to see me in the flesh, I’ll be posting a special video message tomorrow.

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¹ Don’t worry everyone. We’ve just invented ‘reindeer-itis’, but all reindeer need a suitable diet, minimal stress and a preventative health plan to keep in tip-top conditon.

One thought on “Can chemical engineers help Santa? (Day 211)

  1. I think the fusion idea has got the best potential and with some Santa magic ought to be able to really get that sleigh going.

    Presumably he has already made use of the pan-dimensional technology that makes the TARDIS larger on the inside than the outside so that he can get all of the presents onto the sleigh. It would be interesting to see what solutions the chemical engineers of Gallifrey would offer.

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