The Hydrogen news #24

Breaking news related to hydrogen energy with an insightful piece by me.

The Hydrogen News # 24

This week I was going to write a piece on the electrolysis of methanol. Instead though I want to share an email conversation that I am having with the editor of a well known magazine that is devoted to hydrogen energy. I like to abuse myself occasionally by contacting people in the scientific/hydrogen community and trying to explain a few simple concepts in relation to hydrogen. It is cheap entertainment. I changed the name of the person involved to protect their antonimity [and myself from a lawsuit ;-) ].
So enjoy the exchange and see if I get my point across effectively. Also check out story #2 in the news links for a special surprise.

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Mike Johnston [mailto:]
>Sent: Wednesday, November 24, 2004 7:35 PM
>To: support
>Subject: H2 fuel/energy
>Contact_Name: Mike Johnston
>Subject: H2 fuel/energy
>Long running newsletter you have here. Since the
>first oil crisis? My,my. And in all of that time so little changed. Sure
>there were design improvements but all in all no really earth shaking
>developments occured. I am something of a latecomer to H2 energy, having
>first started in on the subject in 1997. It has become a full time hobby
>me and I write my own little weekly newsletter on my blog:
> I think I have some things to contribute to the field
>and would be willing to write an article or two for you if you are
>interested. Question: Can an H2/O2 fuel cell produce it's own fuel? Answer:
>Yes. Want to know how? Email me and I will explain, for free even. Regards,

*********** REPLY SEPARATOR ***********

On 11/25/2004 at 9:25 PM wrote:

>You misread something somewhere. The newsletter has been running since
>and the first oil crisis was in 1973, but I did in fact write, or at least
>originate and contribute to, my first hydrogen stories in '73 (Business
>Week, other magazines).
> I don't know whether I'd want to run any articles by you; I don't know
>you want to say, what your qualifications, interests, etc. are. If it's
>just ramblings/musings, probably not, unless you want to contribute
>something to our occasional "Opinion" column. But this would have to be
>substantive/substantial/significant, no more than 800 words, we'd reserve
>the right to reject pieces, and we can't pay anything.
> AS to fuel cells making their own fuel: if you are talking about
>regenerative fuel cells that can run in reverse and work as electrolyzers,
>producing hydrogen and oxygen, the answer is yes, we have written about
>that. Anything else I'd take with a large grain of salt; I'd expect that
>claims to that effect have been reviewed by experts and/or presented at a
>reputable conference/symposium.
> Regards,

Hi "Joe",
Oh, yes, I meant your writing about H2 has been going since 1973.
I try not to ramble too much but do muse occasionally... I was just curious, you certainly don't have to want any of my stuff. Won't hurt my feelings. :-)
Yep, large grain of salt, best way to approach things. I didn't really give you much of an explanation there I know and no, I wasn't talking about regenerative fuel cells. I mean using H2 fuel to produce H2 fuel. I am working on the presenting papers at the moment but haven't yet. Haven't tried to till now either. Still, I could give you a better explanation I suppose.
If you look at the reactions: 2H2 + O2 --> 2H2O and 2H2O ----> 2H2 + O2 you see two sides of the same coin and as long as you are using just those reactions then it is true that an amount of energy that is required to separate water is equal to the amount that is released when the two are combined and so in that instance, no, you couldn't use H2 fuel to produce H2 fuel. But that is not the case if there is another element on one or both sides of the reaction which also plays a part in the reaction even if that third element is not present in the final product of the reaction.
For example, we know that a H2/O2 fuel cell produces 1.23 volts no load and .8 volts under load. All we have to do is find a compound which contains H2 that can be electrolyzed at less than .8 volts. Do such compounds exist? Yes, one easy example is methanol. If pressed I could find a paper I have which demonstrates methanol electrolysis at .2 volts. So a fuel cell producing .8 volts should be able to power at least 3 methanol electrolysis cells maybe 4. And if you remember Faraday's laws of electrolysis then you realize that both the amount of H2 fuel used in the fuel call and the amount of H2 fuel produced by the electrolysis cells is determined solely by the amount of current flowing through the system and so for every one H2 molecule combined in the fuel cell one molecule of H2 would be released in each of the 3 electrolysis cells. So you end up with three times more H2 than you started with and it doesn't violate any chemical or physical laws doing it. :-)
An easier example is to consider one 1.5 volt zinc/carbon dry cell battery powering one electrolysis cell. Pretty simple stuff, right? Classic high school chemistry demonstration. That experiment is used to show that all of the energy produced by the battery is used to produce the H2 in the electrolysis cell. If the battery produces 1.5 volts and the system allows .5 amps to flow then the battery is producing .75 watts of power, right? Sure, and if 1.5 volts is dropped across the electrolysis cell and .5 amps flows through it then .75 watts of power is "used" to produce the H2 that is released. Ok so far? Then if we take that H2 and use it in a fuel cell we get 1.23 volts no load and .8 volts under load so if we multiply .8 volts by .5 amps (from the initial setup) we see that the H2 we produced in the electrolysis cell is yielding only .4 watts of power :-(
Which is less than the energy that it took to produce the H2 in the electrolysis cell. Bummer, eh?
But let's look again at out battery/electrolyzer setup. In our experiment we considered only the electrolysis cell in relation to H2 production. What about the dry cell though? That is pretty basic too. In the dry cell the electrolyte attacks the zinc canister (anode) and zinc oxide is produced. This oxidation reaction releases electrons which race around the wire connecting the zinc anode to the carbon rod cathode and powers whatever load is between the two. When these electrons reach the carbon cathode the reduction portion of the reaction takes place. This reaction is 2H+ + 2e- ---> H2. Hydrogen is produced at the carbon cathode of the dry cell. As the cell operates more and more H2 builds up at the cathode and this is what makes the battery get weaker with extended use. Then, once the circuit is broken (turned off) the depolarizer in the electrolyte converts this H2 into water. This step is unnecessary though and you technically could collect this H2 as well. Then your battery/electrolyzer combination would have produced DOUBLE the H2 that was produced in our first example and when you use that amount to power a fuel cell you would either get the same voltage and double the current (.8v x 1a = .8w) or if you used two fuel cells you would get double the voltage (.8v + .8v = 1.6v) at the same current or 1.6v x .5a = .8 watts of power produced. If we look again at our first example we see that the battery we used produced .75 watts of power. We used that .75 watts to electrolyze water and then used the H2 produced by the battery/electrolyzer in fuel cells and produced .8 watts of power. That is more out of the system than was in it originally (GASP!). And it all follows plain old scientific laws. Why? Because H2 is not energy, it is an element and the energy produced when combining it with O2 comes mostly from the O2. H2 has very little energy of it's own.
So you see you in fact can use H2 fuel to produce H2 fuel and, if done correctly, you can produce more H2 fuel than what you are using to produce it. And all of that can easily be proven from a high school chemistry textbook. So how do you think I could get that published? Call Nature Magazine? "Um, excuse me Mr. Editor, I would like to prove that you can get more energy out of a system than you put into it by using a high school chemistry textbook"......CLICK.....hello? hello?...We must have been cut off. (hehe) Or submit that to a big hydrogen expo? Well I have but I won't be holding my breath until the response comes. And yet it is all true, simple to understand and easily verified from available literature or by actual experiment. Sigh. Big grain of salt indeed.

How will this exchange turn out? I don't know yet but I think it illustrates how hard my job is. Try approaching the established hydrogen industry with such a simple concept and you won't even get a foot in the door. They act as though you are insulting their intelligence by suggesting something so impossible. But at the same time it is something so damn simple that any chemist should know it. Of course you aren't taught it this way but that shouldn't matter. The facts are what they are and that simply doesn't change no matter how long you ignore them.

E! Magazine is your source for cutting edge environmental news.

Survey: MIT Graduate Students Survey of H2 Vehicles
We are a group of MIT Graduate students doing research into Hydrogen
Fuel Vehicles. This is to request your input for a term project on
Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars as part if the "15.828 New Product Development
Course". We have setup an online survey to gauge public response to
the concept of a Hydrogen car we have christened "Aspire"

So if you could please take the time to respond to the survey, I would
very much appreciate that.

1. The survey is available here: (if that
link doesn't work an alternate URL is:

2. This survey is hosted on a home machine - so if it is unavailable
at some point, please could you take the time to try later.

Your input is VERY valuable and is much appreciated. My apologies

Hydrogen News Links:

(1) Wood Gas Powered Truck
Here is an article that appeared in the Mother Earth news way back in 1981. In it the construction and performance of a wood powered pickup truck is described alomg
with a wood gas powered 10,000 kw ac generator. So if you have a lot of wood this is something you could do NOW to escape high fuel and electricity prices. Such a
system might be ideal for small family farms and be an alternative to methane producing biodigesters.

(2) Scientists cite breakthrough in producing pure hydrogen
"Researchers at a government nuclear laboratory and a ceramics company in Salt Lake City say they have found a way to produce pure hydrogen with far less energy
than other methods" Oh, really? " The developers also said the hydrogen could be used by oil companies to stretch oil supplies even without solving the fuel cell and
transportation problems. Herring said the work showed the "highest-known production rate of hydrogen by high-temperature electrolysis." So electrolysis can be done
with less energy and H2 from water can stretch the world's energy supply? sounds like what I have been saying for years. "The new method involves running electricity
through water that has a high temperature. As the water molecule breaks up, a ceramic sieve separates the oxygen from the hydrogen." Large amounts of H2 produced
from water, on site, eliminates the need for an H2 distribution infrastructure, huh? Been saying that too. Nice the government nuke folks are finally catching on to my
ideas, isn't it? (ED.)

(3) Lunar Helium 3 Could Meet Earth's Energy Demands
"Helium 3, rare on the earth but abundant on the moon, may prove to be a feasible energy source with NASA's Moon-Mars initiative. Despite the American Physical
Society's Report that the initiative harms science, the moon may actually benefit humans because it contains 10 times more energy than all the fossil fuels on earth.

(4) Hydrogen System Approved At Chewonki
The Maine State Fire Marshall's office and the Wiscasset Planning Board have given their approval to plans for a hydrogen demonstration system at The Chewonki
Foundation in Wiscasset, placing the state firmly on the map as a leader in renewable energy innovations and technology.
(Old friends of mine. ED.)

(5) State hopes to land big coal project
Congress has provided $18 million for a project meant to be the world's first coal-based, zero-emissions electricity and hydrogen power plant. West Virginia is among the
contenders to be the site of the plant, which has an estimated overall cost of $1 billion.
( Oh, water gas. So new. At least in 1890 it was new...ED.)

(6) U.S. Wind Farming, Inc. Has Entered into an Agreement to Develop a 100-Megawatt, Wind Energy Electric/Hydrogen
U.S. Wind Farming, Inc. (Pink Sheets:USWF), "America's Only Publicly Traded Wind Energy Company," ( has entered into an agreement with
corporate partners to develop a new wind energy cooperative in Poland.

(7) Hydrogen leaves the lab ChevronTexaco building stations for fueling cars
In a corporate parking lot in Chino, ChevronTexaco Corp. is building what looks like a gas station. It isn't, at least not quite. When finished in February, the small
structure under a swooping canopy in the San Bernardino County town will dispense hydrogen for fueling experimental cars.

(8) Altair Nanotechnologies, University of Nevada Research Foundation and Hydrogen Solar LLC Lead Alternative Energ
Altair Nanotechnologies, Inc., in collaboration with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Research Foundation (UNLVRF) and Hydrogen Solar LLC, today announced the
consortium has received a $3 million grant award from the U.S.

(9) AEC Files Patents for its Hydrogen Production Technology
Today, Alternate Energy Corp. announced it has recently filed for provisional patents for its hydrogen production technology.

(10) Future cars may peddle electricity
Researcher says hydrogen-powered vehicles could sell excess power to utility companies. When and if the world ever changes from vehicles powered by internal
combustion engines to those powered by hydrogen fuel cells, your car may make money for you while it's parked.

(11) The Engine Looks Familiar, But It Runs on Hydrogen
How to build an infrastructure of filling stations for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles? Design conventional internal combustion engines to use hydrogen, too.
( Like the Russian did back in the 1940's?)

(12) Hydrogen considered the fuel of the future for vehicles
Brightly colored signs and pennants flapping in the breeze are all the grandness that the opening of a new filling station usually warrants, but knots of government
officials attended elaborate ceremonies -- in Los Angeles, Washington and Berlin -- at three recent ribbon-cuttings.

(13) Hydrogen fuel could be wave of auto future Major companies are already gearing up for significant change,1413,88~10982~2549490,00.html
The new pump at the Shell station in Washington doesn't look much different from the others, but it represents a new concept in automotive technology: hydrogen

(14) Mooresville man pushes for hydrogen technology
Do you want to read more about hydrogen in The Charlotte Observer? If so, Mooresville hydrogen guru Stan Thompson has a postcard for you.

(15) MAZDA gets fired up on hydrogen,,12389-1376162,00.html
Mazda is following BMW with a research programme looking into running today's engines on hydrogen.

(16) MILLIONS in funding headed to Lehigh Valley,0,5492408.story?coll=all-newslocal-hed
to pay for technologies to produce synthesis gas (hydrogen and carbon monoxide) from natural gas in a single step, a key component of fuel cell development.
( More fun with water gas. ED.)

(17) AZURE Dynamics Delivers 1st of 30 Hybrids to Purolator
demonstration of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and on-site hydrogen production, storage ...

(18) China Unveils Energy-Saving Plan
China plans to double its energy consumption as its economy quadruples by 2020, officials said.

(19) Japan faces energy revolution
With Russia's recent ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the accord adopted at the Third Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change in
December 1997 is finally to go into effect in February.

(20) Warning for business chiefs on weather upsets
Asia faces potentially drastic changes in rainfall patterns, heatwaves and the severity of tropical cyclones by the end of the century, a leading expert on climate change
will tell Asian chief executives today.

(21) PROPHET of oil-free future argues it's good business
... within a few decades: First, double the fuel efficiency of cars, trucks and airplanes; then replace gasoline with alternative fuels such as ethanol and hydrogen ...

Solar panels that heat water line the roof of one building, and a hydrogen fuel cell, which provides clean fuel to power the dorm, sits atop another roof. ...

(23) Birds Not Being Killed By Wind Farms - Ecologist

(24) Asia Faces Living Nightmare From Climate Change

(25) Arctic People Seek Tropical Team on Global Warming

(26) SOLAR Energy, Nanotechnology Hike Hydrogen Production,1602,5273,00.html
NANOTECHNOLOGY IS LEADING the way for a British company, Hydrogen Solar,to convert light and water directly into hydrogen fuel. ...

(27) Syncrude Canada Gets OK For Clean Air Equipment

(28) TICONA Introduces First Engineering Thermoplastic Fuel Cell
Each cell in a fuel cell stack has two bipolar plates and a polymer membrane ... Surface channels in the plates distribute hydrogen and air to the membrane between .

(29) FUEL Cells 2000 Releases the Eighth Edition of the Fuel Cell 2000's Fuel Cell Directory,1602,5270,00.html
With 1,085 listings of the fuel cell industry.

(30) SOLAR Electrolyzer Focus of Hydrogen Research
Granted, the Bush Administration's Hydrogen Energy Initiative has been criticized for its frequent reliance on fossil ...

(31) Fuel cell sector set for massive growth
Japanese market researcher Fuji Kaizai announced yesterday the findings of its report.

(32) Creating Hydrogen With (Very) Hot Water

(33) The promise: A hydrogen economy, the cost: more nuclear power

(34) Quasiturbine technology promises engine paradigm shift

(35) Boyle's Law Experiment
This interactive animation allows users to determine and explore Boyle's law, by looking at the relationship between pressure and volume of a number of gases (air,
hydrogen, helium and oxygen). The animation is supplied by Thomas J Greenbowe of Iowa State University Chemical Education Research Group. Macromedia flash is
required to view the simulation.

(36) Ford to make hydrogen engines soon

(37) Hydrogen Storage Research Training Network
Clean and plentiful energy: Utopian myth or technological reality? Hydrogen is touted by many as an environmentally benign solution to the impending energy crisis.
However, a major bottleneck is the lack of efficient hydrogen storage solutions. HyTRAIN is a Marie Curie Research Training Network established specifically to
address this challenge.
( If you store your H2 as water and release it at point of use you kind of solve the whole storage problem. ED.)

(38) Changing face of the family car,8269,11493509%255E21822,00.html

(39) Global warming could hit hard in WNC

(40) End of Pennsylvania ice fishing in sight

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