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Just Water and Go!

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Hydrogen Basics

 

Basic Electrolysis 

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

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