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Scientists Making Hydrogen Efficiently from Water Steam


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!

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  1. “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”

    Regarding efficiency, for many persons, its a measure of how much produced per unit of energy.
    In terms of electricity, that can be expressed as MMW, milliliters per minute per watt.
    For those who don’t know, electric power is expressed in watts while energy is expressed in watts over a period of time.

    Here are some facts I recorded while experimenting with hydrogen production. A 12 volt cell will typically produce about 1MMW of oxygen and hydrogen gases at standard temperature and pressure. The products are about 2/3 hydrogen and 1/3 oxygen. A 6 volt cell will produce something close to 1.8 MMW. A 3 volt cell will produce close to 3.5 MMW. Although driving a cell at lower voltages drives the efficiency up, current levels drop faster. Work arounds include stronger electrolyte, Closer spacing, larger surface area. 800 degree Celsius water adds some energy from the temperature of the water, thus requiring less electricity. High temperature steam should result MMW about 25 to 50% higher for the same voltage applied. Still, a few milliliters per minute per watt does not produce much when your only using a few watts per minute. In summery, hydrogen production requires energy, and to produce more during the same time frame for a given efficency, you need to up the power consumption.

  2. All the time we have to think about input and out put.If input is more than output it will confirm work other wise have to think several times.So about free energy it could be unless we extract the power from each stage of molecule changes stages.Everybody are thinking hydrogen touching hydrogen but cant getting success to create it commercially cheap and use-able.
    I am also one one them spending time , energy and money.I was thinking to run my car by hydrogen with my own way no gas storage.Its simple RUG run up gas theory.
    Now due to load shading in my country though becoming second hydro source in world after BrazilI am thinking to make it hybrid power plant.A 75 % recycle theory hybrid plant run by initial water source using the ideas of different great scientist and inventors and finally my own principle.

    I am trying to get it into media to attract the govt for experiment.Hope we can share ideas.

  3. All the talk about running out of liquid fuel. Not a chance, we could just grow Hemp (NOT thc type) to use the seed to make hemp oil and run diesel engined vehicle from this. The by products would also make fabrics harder wearing than denim/cottons, pulp for paper/power stations and all the while at a much more balanced Carbon Footprint as the growing plants breath in huge amounts of CO2 and expire Oxygen. Can we get a better deal than this. Yes we could also supply our hard pressed farmers with a cash crop that could help them run profitable farms again.

    Sounds like a Win, Win situation to me. This is why the Oil Corps got the World governments to demonise hemp as if it was the same as the weed people smoke. Try smoking hemp and all you will get is a headache.

    I lived in The Netherlands (Amsterdam) for 4 years and even though they understand about and allow soft drugs (Weed) they still don’t grow hemp to use as fuel etc.

    • Yes we could use bio diesel from hemp seeds, but the problem is that we can not grow enough to replace fossil fuels. Furthermore, and far more worrisome is that progressively trying to replace fossil fuels with bio diesel will progressively compete against food crops for productive land.

  4. Did you ever add water to your car battery? OR Have you ever been warned not to make sparks while connecting jumper cables? I made that mistake once and KA-BOOM the battery exploded right in my face. Traditionally, most cars use 12 volt batteries and charge them with anything greater then 12 volts depending on the battery’s state of charge. Electrons are trying to transgress from + to – through a series of lead and copper plates in a solution of sulfuric acid and H2O. The lead is sacrificed in the process and binds to the copper emitting little bubbles of HYDROGEN. HOWEVER, the amount of energy given off as hydrogen comes at a net loss of gasoline and of coarse lead and copper, even though the explosion that splattered my face was fierce. Now if we really wanted to singe hairs, try separating a oxygen molecule from H2O2. By simply forcing it through a silver, nickel catalyst it will expand into supper heated steam at 16,000 times leaving as its exhaust pure clean water and steam. Ever wonder how a torpedo is powered? So the reality of all this commentary is the process of electrolisis, do it efficiently or with free energy and we might just have liquid fuel once our oil is depleted.

  5. I understand that the new nuclear air craft carrier, George Bush ,has (2) nuclear reactors. Why can’t the carrier be retrofitted with a hydrogen from sea water system using waste heat and elecricity from the two reactors?

    Can the hydrogen then be chemically reformulated into jet fuel?
    As a suppliment, the additional jet fuel could extend the time between re-supply and surve as a goverment funded energy project.

    Existing power plants, all with large supplies of cooling water could be modified to make clean drinking water and hydrogen, both in short supply.

  6. A few points…
    “15 kW of energy” to produce 500 g of H2.
    I assume that should read 15 kW-Hrs.
    “1 kg H2 ~= 1 gallon of gasoline”. I’ll assume that, for now.
    So, 30 kW-Hrs of electrical energy to yield equivalent of 1 gallon of gasoline. At $0.15 US per kW-Hr, that’s’ roughly $4.50/gallon.
    Not much savings in cost, but it’s not using fossil fuel, either.
    Except where do we get the electrical energy? Right now, the vast majority comes from burning fossil fuel.

    “Free energy”? “Zero-point Energy”? I prefer to believe in the Easter Bunny.

    Let’s see some development incentive money going towards clean and effective nuclear power, and particularly towards fusion!

    Regarding tidal/wave power: All well and good, but what’s the long term effect on local ecology? Beach/harbor erosion or silting-up? Change the power and flow of currents and waves, and there will be side effects.

    • “At $0.15 US per kW-Hr, that’s’ roughly $4.50/gallon”
      Power company do not pay $.15 per kwh for power generation. Nor does that electricity needed to be transported if its used locally to produce hydrogen fuel. residential consumers pay substantial taxes on the electricity they consume. Off setting the previous savings, you’ll need to store and distribute the hydrogen fuel, and I am not sure what if any taxes need to be collected per pound of hydrogen sold.

      “Except where do we get the electrical energy? Right now, the vast majority comes from burning fossil fuel.” This article discussed more efficient hydrogen production paired with nuclear power plants for the high heat to make steam.

  7. My dad is a retired engineer and has designed a way to harness the energy of ocean waves to produce hydrogen. If the energy to produce the hydrogen is free, the production of hydrogen with devices like these become practical. The basis of his idea is to have a stationary platform in the ocean that uses energy of the waves. On this platform the electrolysis of Hydrogen would be powered by his device. From the ocean you would could draw the water and the energy and produce the hydrogen to be transported back to shore. The problem I see with using hydrogen is getting people from each specialty together. Investors for their money, scientist for the best way to produce it, engineers to build the plants, manufacturers to produce cars to use it, and marketers to get it to the customers. Everyone is working on their own bit. Some kind of coop needs to be formed between these enities.
    Mass Production of Hydrogen

  8. yeah:), basically, that’s the point, but all poor inventors had someone to invest in their ideas (see Tesla), otherwise the law of energy (money) conservation applied: nothing in=>nothing out.

    • “It is not practical yet, we need more money.”

      Problem is demand. There is not enough demand for hydrogen to really scale up the process.


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