When electricity flows between two metal plates (or wires) that are immersed in
water, the water is broken down into its basic molecules- Hydrogen and Oxygen through a process called
electrolysis. This electricity is DC (direct current) flowing from the Plus + side to the - side (like from a
battery), not AC (alternating current) like you have in your home.
This "DC" is hooked up to the metal plates in water- half of them connected to the -
side, half connected to the + side in various configurations.
Normally water by itself will not conduct electricity, so to make this happen you
have to add a little catalyst, called an "electrolyte". The electrolyte allows current to flow between the - side
and the + side of the plates. In most cases, without this electrolyte absolutely nothing would happen- they would
just sit there in the water. But by adding just a little of this stuff (sometimes just a teaspoon or so) into the
water - Voila! Electrolysis begins as the electricity makes the Hydrogen and Oxygen separate.
You can see this yourself very easily by simply talking a 9 volt battery and
attaching a small wire to each lead, then immersing those wires in a clear glass with tap water and 2 teaspoons of
baking soda dissolved into it.
Make sure you remove about an inch of insulation off the end of the wires before
putting them in the water. Keep the wires close together, but not touching. You will immediately see bubbles coming
off the two wires- Oxygen off of one, and hydrogen off the other.
The Hydrogen and Oxygen in the water, separate and become a new blend of gases made
up of its original molecules - Hydrogen, Hydrogen, and Oxygen;
hence the terminology "HHO gas". This is not the same process as used in industry to
make pure hydrogen or pure oxygen.
In fact, up until the late 1960's, electrolysis remained basically unchanged.
Industries have used it for a hundred years or more to create and separate various gases and store them in
pressurized cylinders. Hospitals and labs around the world then use these gases (such as oxygen, hydrogen,
nitrogen, etc.) for patients, research facilities, etc.
The industrial method differs from what we are learning about here. Their method uses
a "membrane" in the electrolysis process that separates the hydrogen from the oxygen for storage.
But in the late 1960's, a researcher by the name of Yull Brown, realized you didn't
need to separate the gases from each other, but could utilize them in a new way, by not separating them, but using
them immediately, or "on demand". The new gas was coined "Brown's Gas" and has been more popularized
now as HHO Gas.
Hydrogen (H2) is a potentially emissions-free alternative fuel that can be produced from domestic
resources. Although not widely used today as a transportation fuel, government and industry research and
development are working toward the goal of clean, economical, and safe hydrogen production and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. At Earth-surface temperatures and pressures,
it is a colorless, odorless gas (H2). However, hydrogen is rarely found alone in nature. It is usually
bonded with other elements. For more information, see fuel properties and the Hydrogen Analysis Resource Center.
Very little hydrogen gas is present in the Earth's atmosphere. Hydrogen is locked up in enormous quantities in
water (H2O), hydrocarbons (such as methane, CH4), and other organic matter. Efficiently
producing hydrogen from these compounds is one of the challenges of using hydrogen as a fuel.
Currently, steam reforming of methane (natural
gas) accounts for about 95% of the hydrogen produced in the United States. Almost all of the
approximately 9 million tons of hydrogen produced here each year are used for refining petroleum, treating metals,
producing fertilizer, and processing foods. Hydrogen has been used for space flight since the 1950s. Learn more
about hydrogen and fuel cells from the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Hydrogen also can be used to fuel internal combustion engines and fuel cells, both of which can power zero- to
near-zero-emissions vehicles, such as hydrogen fuel
cell vehicles. Major research and
development efforts are aimed at making hydrogen fuel cell vehicles practical for widespread use. Additionally,
hydrogen can be blended with natural gas to create methane, a transportation fuel for use in natural gas vehicles.
This alternative fuel offers significant decreases in nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions.
Learn more about hydrogen and fuel cells from the Fuel Cell Technologies Program.
Hydrogen as an Alternative Fuel
Hydrogen is considered an alternative fuel under the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The interest in hydrogen
as an alternative transportation fuel stems from its clean-burning qualities, its potential for domestic
production, and the fuel cell vehicle's potential
for high efficiency—it's two to three times more efficient than a gasoline vehicle. Learn more about fuel cells(PDF).
The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas is about the same as the energy in 1 gallon of gasoline.
Because hydrogen has a low volumetric energy density, it is important for a fuel cell vehicle to store enough fuel
onboard to have a driving range comparable to conventional vehicles. Some hydrogen storage technologies are
available and undergoing more research and demonstration. These technologies include compressing gaseous hydrogen
in high-pressure tanks at up to 10,000 pounds per square inch and cooling liquid hydrogen cryogenically to -423°F
(-253°C) in insulated tanks. Other storage technologies are under development, including bonding hydrogen
chemically with a material such as metal hydride. Learn more about hydrogen storage