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November 13, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 45


Letters to the editor

Fuel-cell cars

Credit: Toyota
A photo of a fuel cell, which looks like a thin, silver block, under the hood of a car.
Credit: Toyota

The article “Fuel-cell cars finally drive off the lot” (C&EN, Sept. 25, page 28) is well written and timely, but incomplete. The generation and transport of the fuel, hydrogen, is not discussed. The cheapest method to produce hydrogen uses methane from natural gas, but methane is a fossil fuel, and the by-product from hydrogen production is carbon dioxide. How is this hydrogen fuel being produced and at what cost? Shipping hydrogen is also difficult; natural gas pipelines cannot be used because hydrogen corrodes the welds. The author should explain how hydrogen is being delivered to fuel stations. Finally, are fuel-cell automobiles being subsidized?
James P. Collman
Stanford, Calif.

Science writing and realistic photos

Credit: Covestro
A man and a woman draw a chemical structure on a transparent board.
Credit: Covestro

I wish to comment on two recent writings: First, it is heartening to see young, scientifically literate writers tackle the major problem of our times: reaching “the people” with understandable prose. This, Sam Kean with “Caesar’s Last Breath” has done (C&EN, July 10, page 22). On reading about the content, one is reminded of Primo Levi’s brilliant “The Periodic Table,” with chapters on his relationship with the elements rather than, as Kean, with gases. “The Water Book” by Alok Jha informs us with wit and candor about the molecule that is 60% of our body; Carlo Rovelli’s “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” is a delightful journey from Einstein’s relativity theory to us humans. We must praise such writing and champion those that undertake such popularization ventures.

Two, I beseech you to ask for poses of scientists in the lab who are real, doing real things, not [a picture of people] wearing recently Tide-washed lab coats, drawing a simple structure on a fume hood sash (C&EN, July 24, page 30) or the numerous similar pics showing them holding a flask to their faces (now never without safety glasses) with pretty pink-, turquoise-, and emerald-green-colored solutions that have zero relationship to the research in progress.
Victor Snieckus
Kingston, Ontario

From the web

Re: Fuel-cell cars finally drive off the lot

This article shows the right direction. In 2015 I had the chance to drive a Mercedes B class at the Hannover fair together with the former chief of development from Mercedes. Next year Mercedes will bring the G class to the market, and I really cannot wait to get my first ride with it. What we need are the countrywide filling stations like we have for gasoline and diesel. In Europe they spent a lot of money to get them in place. Right now and in the next years, electric-driven (battery-based) cars do not make sense when you need to go further than 400 km. When all cars will suddenly be driven with electricity, the power lines in Germany will break down. So hydrogen can be the next step.
Volker Klindwort


Oct. 30 , page 26 : The cover story about quantum computing stated that over 56,000 users had performed the lion’s share of 1.5 million experiments via the cloud on IBM’s 7-qubit system. These were actually performed on an earlier 5-qubit system.


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