An efficient, affordable, environment friendly and safe hydrogen production technology has been developed by Israeli researchers, said a report on Sunday by the northern Israel Institute of Technology (Technion).
Every year, about 65 million tons of hydrogen is manufactured throughout the world and the total value of this industry is about 130 billion U.S. dollars.
Primarily, refineries, as well as in the production of ammonia and methanol, are the primary areas where hydrogen is used. Analysts expect that the use of hydrogen is to be used extensively in the production of fuel for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) in the near futures, as well as serving as fuel for storing energy from renewable energy sources and in industrial and home heating, etc.
Currently, fossil fuel is the most widely used source of production of hydrogen. The process of production of this important gas, which is also freely available in the atmosphere, also involves the creation and emission of carbon dioxide which adds on to causes of global warming.
Water electrolysis has been the main alternative so far in hydrogen production. In this process, two electrodes – the anode and cathode, are put in alkaline or acid enriched water which helps in increase of connectivity. When an electric current is passed between the electrodes, the molecules of water – which is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, are broken down into their component elements – oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen molecules gather at the cathode while oxygen gets collected near the anode. That hydrogen gathering is collected and bottled in the form of hydrogen gas.
However energy is lost in the electrolysis process and the energy efficiency of the method is only about 75 per cent which means that there is high electricity consumption. The pressure in the electrolysis cell is limited to 10-30 atmospheres because of the membrane that divides the electrolysis cell which is another difficulty of this method. In contrast, in most applications pressure of hundreds of atmospheres is required. Additionally, the process is also complicated by the presence of the membrane and also involves regular maintenance which is often expensive.
The hydrogen production efficiency is dramatically increased to 98.7 percent along with significant reduction in CO2 emissions by the new technology that was published in the journal Nature Energy.
Cyclic operation forms the basis of the new technology which is called E-TAC or electrochemical – thermally-activated chemical water splitting. The cathode produces hydrogen by reducing water molecules in the first stage, along with change in the chemical composition of water by the anode without producing any oxygen. Then, the cathode is passive while the anode produces oxygen by oxidizing water molecules. Next, the anode returns to its original state and the cycle begins again.
The entire process is simplified by the absence of the membrane. This process also reduces costs and even prevents the risk of the volatile encounter between oxygen and hydrogen. In addition, there is also saving of costs of electricity and equipment.
(Adapted from XinhuaNet.com)