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I am looking for a (at least somewhat) plausible organic matter, which is able to store massive amounts of energy. After reading up on biobatteries and so on, I am aware that I would need something very similar, but much more powerful.

Criteria:

  • Does not need to exist or even be possible
  • But needs to be at least somewhat plausible, with a sound (sounding :) ) explanation
  • Energy storage capability should something in the range of terajoules to petajoules per cubic decimeter
  • Origin is extraterrestrial, but similar (for explanation purposes) to something on earth.
  • It can be explained, why this is not a massive bomb :) (the old problem, I wonder if it can even be solved)
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    $\begingroup$ Energy storage is usually defined in Joules, not Watts (which are joules/sec): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. And as an FYI it looks like you're looking for something that stores trillions of times more energy than say, organic fats or gasoline, which seems... extraordinarily unlikely. $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Jul 2 '15 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ Edited question to a more meaningful unit, feel free to clarify or rollback if this was unintended. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Jul 3 '15 at 0:29
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    $\begingroup$ Are you dead set on it being an organic matter? From the answers, it looks like the energy densities you are looking for is on the nuclear/antimatter scale, not the chemical scale. I am unaware of any use of "organic" to describe anything like that (organic usually implies chemical energy storage) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 3 '15 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ For comparison, alcohol, which is an organic compound, stores around 23MJ per cubic decimeter. $\endgroup$ – slebetman Jul 3 '15 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ I'am awake again! The matter is intended to be excreted by a lifeform, but it can be anything really which can be a byproduct of a metabolism $\endgroup$ – openend Jul 3 '15 at 7:38
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Make yourself up a batch of anti-carbon and you've reached your terajoules per cubic centimeter energy density requirements. Anti-carbon makes it technically an organic material. Anti-matter reactions are the only thing that will get you the energy density requirements stated in your question. Wikipedia says the following:

one gram of antimatter annihilating with one gram of matter produces 180 terajoules, the equivalent of 42.96 kilotons of TNT

The power requirements to create antimatter are incredibly high. It's estimated that to create 250 grams would require 2.5 billion years of Earth's entire energy production. Antimatter ain't cheap. Most stories include copious amounts of handwavium to create enough antimatter to be useful.

If your power requirements are much much lower, say in the 100Kjoule to megajoule range then you can use regular gasoline.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for antimatter, although containment would be extremely difficult. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Jul 3 '15 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ Since this is alien organic matter... is it too hard to imagine an alien biology that contains the antimatter and controls its release? $\endgroup$ – NPSF3000 Jul 4 '15 at 8:49
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Cubane

Cubane

Cubane is an organic molecule in the shape of cube. It is highly energetic, high energy density, and has been on the military's wish list for use in both explosives and rocket fuel for decades.

If you replace the hydrogens with $NO_2$ you get Octanitrocubane (ONC) which includes enough oxygen to fully combust all of the carbons in the following reaction:

$$ C_8 \left( NO_2 \right)_8 \rightarrow 8CO_2 + 4N_2$$

Which would make it an excellent choice in both the roles the military wants it for (propellants and explosives).

$$\begin{array}{|c|c|c|c|} \hline \text{Compound} & \text{Density (} \frac{g}{cm^3}\text{)} & \text{Detonation Velocity (km/s)} & \text{Detonation Pressure (kbar)} \\\hline \text{TNT} & 1.6 & 7.0 & 190 \\\hline \text{RDX} & 1.8 & 8.8 & 338 \\\hline \text{HMX} & 1.9 & 9.1 & 290 \\\hline \text{HNB} & 2.0 & 9.4 & 406 \\\hline \text{CL-20} & 2.0 & 9.4 & 420 \\\hline \text{ONC} & 2.1 & 10.1 & 500 \\\hline \end{array} $$

Putting this another way, it gives detonation pressures about 20% better than the next best chemical explosives.

The downside is it falls about 1,000,000x short on the amount of energy stored per unit mass. You just won't find that much energy by rearranging chemical bonds. Also Cubane is not very stable and tends to self-detonate so it's very hazardous to play with.

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  • $\begingroup$ How does FOOF compare? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 5 '15 at 4:10
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure you can use a straight comparison. ONC is complete with both oxidizer and fuel. FOOF just counts as oxidizer. ONC is in a local minima energy point. It takes something to trigger the reaction. FOOF reacts spontaneously with anything not as strongly oxidizing as FOOF is. I love the link you posted on FOOF a couple of weeks ago. If you could safely use FOOF, it would be an excellent oxidizer for a liquid fueled rocket. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Jul 5 '15 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ I thougt it contains energy on its own and the pieces react with anything around it. Or maybe FOOF+x would be like gunpowder, nitrate+carbon, not just nitrate by itself. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 5 '15 at 5:03
  • $\begingroup$ True, but that is true for every compound. Or more precisely, the compound has a binding energy. The new compound has a different binding energy. If the reactants bind more energy than the products, the reaction is endothermic (requires energy to make it happen). If the reverse is true, the reaction is exothermic and releases energy. Converting $FOOF \rightarrow F_2 + O_2$ probably releases heat. But FOOF combined with fuel, releases much more heat. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Jul 5 '15 at 5:06
  • $\begingroup$ Now I'm curious as to how azidoazide azide measures up. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Dec 3 '15 at 20:17
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Suppose that "cold fusion" is possible.

Handwave: look at, for example, Seth Lloyd's talk on quantum mechanics in living material, especially how the chloroplasts route energy to the active clorophyl with far better efficiency than would be normal, but the complex implements a quantum search protocol or something like that.

Look at catalasis in general. Lots of that in videos from SLAC (fuel cell and battery research) including an interesting talk on the role of metal atoms in biological molecules such as chlorophyl and hemoglobin.

Look at how smell uses electric bond resonance frequency.

Now...

Cold fusion would require a proton to be placed in a specific energy level in a specific quantum state. Photosynthesis generates protons that move around, and the antennas use careful quantum states.

So, such a molecular nanomachine could be built to do cold fusion in an organelle or small bacteria.

Problem is, the energy released probably destroys the system and everything in a small radius. The released energy is too high to be carried by phonons or bond vibrations, and the emitted neutron isn't easy to catch and turn the kenetic energy into power. So the energy release simply heats water or other working fluid (maybe liquid metal)

The bacteria or equivalent organells in a eucaryote cell could produce one-time-use fusion event units, and these are harvested in a concentrate. To use effectively, you isolate one in a droplet of water and set it off, producing superheated steam. The loose neutron decays after 11 minutes or so and deposits more energy in the water. (A volume of water is used to safely stop the neutron)

Early crude use would get more than one unit in a diluted drop thus wasting them. Higher technology would make use of each one indivually.

Maybe you need to use heavy water to build the nanounit. But the usage can breed more, recovering some percentage. The whole living form could locate and harvest the duterion from its minor contribution in plain water. A molecule containing duterium in place of hydrogen can be smelled (at least by fruit flys bread for the purpose) so they can be sorted out.

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Nuclear fusion is another plausible method to store energy which reaches the order of TJ/L, without needing to use antimatter (which is extremely difficult to contain, and would certainly behave as a bomb).

Chemical reactions regarding organic chemicals are out of the question, since the energy levels of electron transfers is completely insufficient to power such energy densities.

However, nuclear fusion all the way to produce iron is capable of reaching the energy levels by using nucleon binding energy instead. This process requires extreme conditions (such as in the middle of a red giant star) to occur, which prevents the fuel from releasing its energy quickly.

enter image description here

By fusing the protons and carbon nuclei of simple organic molecules, very high energy levels can be reached. In this case, we can use methane ($\text{CH}_4$), the most hydrogen-rich organic compound, as the fusion fuel, which is fused into iron-56.

Liquid methane has a density of 0.42kg/L, which contains ~26 moles of methane.

Assuming pure protium ($\text{H}^1$) and $\text{C}^{12}$, and using the nucleon binding energy table, 1 molecule of methane produces 48.48MeV of energy, which converts to 4.67 TJ/mole, or ~121TJ/L.

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    $\begingroup$ Fusing hydrogen atoms is no picnic either. :) $\endgroup$ – Green Jul 3 '15 at 0:37
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Others have already pointed hydrogen fussion; I'll go this way along with a mechanism to make it more "organic" than most of the other answers.

One of the issues with hydrogen is with storage:

1) Since its molecules are so small, it has ease escaping through valves and other join points.

2) If its recipient breaks, it fast release into the atmosphera brings a very serious risk of explosion.

The mechanism I propose would be similar to the mechanism used by our bodies to transport gases:

  • a liquid medium where hydrogen can be disolved (to a point; most gasses are not easy to dissolve)
  • a compound with affinity to form weak interactions with hydrogen, dissolved in the above mentioned liquid

To "charge" the device, you:

  • put the liquid surface in a tank with hydrogen and pressurize it; this increases the quantity of hydrogen dissolved in the liquid
  • the increase in the hydrogen dissolved in the liquid increases the formation of compound-hydrogen bounds. This removes hydrogen from the liquid, allowing fresh hydrogen from the hydrogen tank to be dissolved

Then the device is sealed and installed as a power source. As a power source, the process is the opposite.

  • A part of the surface of the liquid is exposed to a vacuum tank. Hydrogen begins leaving the liquid, to be consumed elsewhere else. With changes in the size of the exposed liquid and/or temperature, the rate of discharge may be tuned.
  • As the liquids holds less and less hydrogen, the hydrogen-compound bounds progressively break1, replenishing the liquid (which, in turns, delivers those "recovered" atoms to the vaccum tank).

The solution would be less energetically dense that pure hydrogen, but would be easier to handle; if a device would break its hydrogen contents would be transfered to the atmosphera in a gradual way.

And obvious use, if you want maximum output, would be using the hydrogen for nuclear power (cold fussion?) You may change regular hydrogen with deuterium or tritium and it would workd exactly the same.

1: In fact, as long as the device is "charged", continually some dissolved hydrogen would merge with free compounds molecules while some combined molecules will divide into hydrogen + compound (chemical equilibrium). When you begin extracting dissolved hydrogen, there is less dissolved hydrogen to join with compounds so the reaction rate of that part of the equilibrium is reduced, so the net result is as only a separation of the combination was happening.

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  • $\begingroup$ How about methane? I can’t think of any liquid that desolves more H than 4 of them per 1 atom of “something else”. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 21 '17 at 8:52

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