Trying to make hydrogen a viable fuel, economically and energetically, a team of researchers from Idaho National Laboratory splits water steam into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis, but from steam, and at a high temperature.
They make use of a nuclear power plant, using a part of its produced electricity to make the electrolysis. The classic method of making the hydrogen consists of splitting the methane, but that is a process that depends on using fossil fuels, which is not green enough for our days, obviously, because it creates carbon dioxide.
“This is a way to produce hydrogen without producing carbon dioxide,” says Stephen Herring, the INL nuclear physicist who heads up the High-Temperature Electrolysis project, part of the Department of Energy Office of Nclear Energy’s Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative.
The team of engineers recently made a test for their Integrated Laboratory Scale (ILS) experiment, which is a scaled-down, high temperature electrolysis hydrogen producing plant. All the equipment of the ILS (pumps, control systems, heating elements, electrolysis cells) operate at 800 degrees Celsius. Their systems work at that temperature because the electrolysis works better at that point.
“This is everything but the reactor, only on a smaller scale,” he says. When operated at full capacity later this year, the ILS plant will generate roughly 500 grams of hydrogen an hour. “That doesn’t sound like much, but hydrogen is light stuff,” Herring says. The ILS experiment will helps them design a full-scale plant capable of producing 2.5 kg of hydrogen every second. For using in a car, a kg of hydrogen contains just about the same amount of energy as a gallon of gasoline.
The team started the high-temperature electrolysis experiment 4 years ago with a single, small button cell of about an inch in diameter. Since those times, they changed the cells’ geometry from single buttons to a series of stacks. The water steam is pushed through every other layer of stacks where it is split into hydrogen and oxygen. On the other side of the ceramic membrane, the oxygen ions that have migrated through the ceramic electrolyte are pushed outside using normal air. The geometric change from single cells to stacks was a crucial step: “We’ve gone up a factor of 15,000 in hydrogen production from the little button cells we had to what we have now,” Herring says, “but we have another factor of 15,000 still to go.”
The ILS will consume about 15kW of energy to produce 500g of hydrogen. The researchers want to make this process a little more efficient, by adding heat exchangers to transport the heat from the exit of the ILS to heat the water that goes in. With this heat exchanger addition, they could save up to 20% energy. One big step is also making the whole thing resist corrosion.
Now, my opinion: there has been proven in “free energy” world that water can be split by using certain frequencies and certain wave forms, in a much more efficient way. I wonder why nobody talks anything about these experiments, but instead tries to reinvent the wheel? I’m sure the free energy fans experiments are not perfect, but they claim to split water at a current of 5 to 10 amperes, and 12 volts, not 15,000 Watts (1250 Amperes!). I’m sure these experiments are not fake, as I also believe we’re not alone in the universe. Too many people talk about free energy and hydrogen from water. Zero point energy… that’s the point to be discovered.
Maybe the CERN guys will discover something and tell us… 100 years from now!