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Future Car - The Problems with Hydrogen Part II

Updated on May 9, 2010

Problems with Hydrogen

This is an extension to the original article on the problems with hydrogen.

This hub will concentrate on hydrogen production, not storage. e.g. problems with producing hydrogen and a potential new solution. Of course storage has to be mentioned so please read on.

Two Main Problems with Hydrogen

The first problem is storage. Hydrogen does not exist in a gaseous state on earth. Even if it did the most efficient and economical way to store it would require upwards of 5,000 Pounds per Square Inch and extremely well made containers to withstand those pressures. Both the container and the energy to reach those pressures are expensive.

Second, because it's lighter than air any hydrogen naturally produced migrates up and out of the atmosphere and into space.This means that any hydrogen we mean to use has to be extracted from molecules of which hydrogen is just a part.

Despite it being the most abundant element in the universe hydrogen bonds readily with other elements to form molecules. Most of the hydrogen on earth comes in two forms, both bonded almost inextricably with something else.

The first is natural gas. The second is water.

So despite being plentiful it's time consuming and expensive to "de-bond" the hydrogen from the other elements. Stripping hydrogen from it's bonds with other elements is also expensive in energy required and, of course, once we've gotten it we are back to the first problem; storage.

Electrolysis of Water

To date the most efficient means of extracting hydrogen involves immersing an electrode and cathode in water, running an electric current between the two, and thus stripping the hydrogen from the oxygen forming the two distinct gases.

Platinum as Catalyst
Platinum, at almost $2,000 per ounce, has been the most efficient material used as catalyst in the production of hydrogen from water. But platinum, despite being one very tough and useful metal, is oxidized during the process, "wears" away over time and ends up being an expensive type of material for this extraction of gas. Add to this the cost of stopping the process to replace the platinum, though up to now the best metal, the process becomes an expensive proposition.

Additionally, with this platinum catalyst, the water has to be within a tight temperature range, have no impurities, but must also be in a particular Ph range, and will not work at all with sea-water.

Suddenly, with all these conditions, electrolysis of water is not a cheap proposition at all, never mind the storage issue.

So science has been in a race of sorts to find a substitute that will make the conversion of water to the two primary gases cheap, efficient and cost effective. This has been a daunting task.

Molybdenum oxo
U.S. Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory & University of California at Berkeley researchers Jeffrey Long, Christopher Chang and Hemamala Karunadasa have come up with a platinum substitute. Not only is the material far cheaper than platinum it does not suffer from oxidation, does not require the water to have additives, works with dirty water, and even works with sea-water; the most abundant source of water on the planet.

In fact moly-oxo is about seventy (70) times cheaper to produce than pure platinum or roughly $28.00 per ounce.

Because Moly-oxo places so few demands on both the water and the conversion apparatus the idea of generating hydrogen by converting sunlight to electricity and then using that power to split the water molecule now seems much more economical and far closer to feasibility.

Research Continues
Long, Chang and Karunadasa continue to experiment with other molybdenum compounds in case the moly-oxo discovery turns out the be a catalyst that is less efficient than those yet discovered.

The Remaining Problem

If moly-oxo is indeed the "holy-grail" of electrolysis of water the storage problem remains. Still, this was two major problems (other methods of producing hydrogen also produce CO2) that now seems to be down to one.

Since Nickle Metal Hydride, a metallic substance that acts like a hydrogen sponge, is still very expensive to produce (making storage this way impracticable) perhaps this or some other team (Long started his research with hydrogen storage) will finally find a substitute for this expensive substance and the "hydrogen economy" can begin once and for all.


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  • LiamBean profile image

    LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    someonewhoknows: Considering the corrosive effects of salt-water, and those effects are directly related to it's conductivity, I've often wondered why more wasn't being explored in that area.

    The thing is how much energy is required of the radio waves to split the water? If it's more than the energy released in the "burnoff" then it's a pointless exercise.

    Still, I'd like to know more about it. And I do think the second fellow could say a bit more about how he splits water than nothing at all.

  • someonewhoknows profile image

    someonewhoknows 7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

    It seems I spelled Aquagyn wrong according to the above youtube video.

  • someonewhoknows profile image

    someonewhoknows 7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

    The first video on saltwater explains how radiowaves at close range can cause saltwater to release hydrogen and oxygen gas.

    They may not know exactly how it does that,but tht's for scientists to figure out after the fact.The fact is it does er.The only way to know for sure is to try it .Of course salt is an electrolyte and plain tap water has no electrolytes but can conduct electricity at high voltages,like house voltage for example.

    In the video from Florida the inventor doesn't say how his machine splits water but then he's trying to keep that knowledge to himself.

    In the video he is seen pouring what could be distilled water or mineral water into his machine ,but we don't know which one it is..I believe he has a company by the name AQUAGEN

  • LiamBean profile image

    LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    someonewhoknows: I haven't had time to research these links, but I've read your articles and think you are "on the level" so to speak. So for now I'll leave your references here.

    My main problem with both the videos is that neither explains how the systems work.

  • someonewhoknows profile image

    someonewhoknows 7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

    this is a specific link to a car in california that was designed to run exclusively on water

  • someonewhoknows profile image

    someonewhoknows 7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

    I appreciate your interest in a car that runs exclusively on water,but I think we should consider using available technology to enhance the efficiency of the gasoline powered cars that already exist.It's being done by a group individuals who are interested in it and they report this approach of using water as a booster increases miles per gallon of gasoline by making gasoline burn more completely while at the same time improving engine performance as well as well as reducing the amount of gasoline needed per mile of driving and vastly improving exhaust emissions.Even truckers are using this technology in order to save money on fuel-oil burning engines.It should work for buses as well.Most use an electolyte such as postasium or sodium hydroxide in water.Some use sodium bicarbonate which is safer as far as electrolytes go ,but not as an effective electrolyte.

    All of them use a specific grade of stainless steel for the plates that produce the hydrogen-oxygen

    fuel which when burned together in the engine burns better than hydrogen gas alone as they ignite together gasoline burns more completely.Just as when you burn wood in a wood burning stove the more oxygen you introduce the more completely the fuel will burn.The end result is less air pollution and more heat production.Of course when this mixture of hydrogen and oxygen burns in an engine it combines to produce water vapor which cools the engine as it runs while also increasing it's performance and reducing air pollution at the same time






    Hydrogen Garage LLC

    630 Quintana Road #125

    Morro Bay, CA 93442

    (805) 995-2669

  • LiamBean profile image

    LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    Winsome: It sounds like a great idea, but I have no idea just how much hydrogen is produced from a certain amount of water in a given amount of time. In other words, it may take much more water than will practically fit in a car. It may also take more time to produce hydrogen from water than is practical to run in a car.

    It's an interesting idea though. I'll find the answers to these variables. Time, water volume and hydrogen produced.

  • Winsome profile image

    Winsome 7 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

    Hi Liam, I read your other article also. Thanks for the info, I keep thinking we should be able to just do the electrolysis in the car as we go and burn the product. Perhaps using brake energy or solar, what do you think?

  • LiamBean profile image

    LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    Thanks katiem2. This is an unusually short article for me, but I thought it important enough to post right away.

  • katiem2 profile image

    katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

    Interesting report on the problems with Hydrogen. Looking forward to the hydrogen economy...or a affordable and suitable successful alternative. Thanks and Peace :)