Electrolysis

Off topic posts are welcome in this forum!
No smear campaign, or you will be banned!

Moderator: Mike Everman

Post Reply
Mark
Posts: 10751
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 10:14 pm

Electrolysis

Post by Mark » Sun Feb 21, 2010 4:18 pm

I remember talking to my brother one time about hydrogen and he said, "Got any hydrogen?" He said it in a way as if to say that it was not practical and from what I have read, I tend to agree at this point in time. So yesterday a gentleman came in the library and told me about this fellow he had seen lecture at "The Institute for Machine and Human Cognition" here in town. The speech was given by Dr. Daniel Nocera of M.I.T. The gentleman seemed sold on Nocera's idea and I kind of mentioned some general things I knew about hydrogen, how it's kind of hard to store, how if you had electricity to make hydrogen, you would be better off using it, rather than making hydrogen and oxygen and then storing it and using a fuel cell to get the energy out of hydrogen and oxygen - some losses along the way.
Anyway, let the adventure begin. It might be helpful to read some of the viewer comments, as the topic is somewhat complex if you delve into it, no matter what side of the fence you are on.
One thing I didn't like is that Dr. Nocera talks about many things, but I found myself wanting him to stick with the electrolysis specifics and not expound on all these other ramifications and possibilities until he actually had something "working". I recall saying to the gentleman in the library, you need a lot of bubbles. I sensed he thought I was being irreverent. ha

Daniel Nocera describes new process for storing solar energy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7ok8cOJbmo

Tiny bubbles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-M9VU_36NQ
Last edited by Mark on Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Presentation is Everything

Mark
Posts: 10751
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 10:14 pm

Re: Electrolysis

Post by Mark » Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:05 pm

Further tidbits and readings.
http://www.ihmc.us/evites/IHMC_e-vite_20100218.pdf
http://www.suncatalytix.com/

This is what I meant about straying from the electrolysis topic or rather not talking about how his system is going to work with specifics.
http://poptech.org/popcasts/dan_nocera_ ... zed_energy

"Catalyzing a Debate Nocera's discovery has garnered a lot of attention, and not all of it has been flattering. Many chemists find his claims overstated; they don't dispute his findings, but they doubt that they will have the consequences he imagines. "The claim that this is the answer for artificial photosynthesis is crazy," says Thomas Meyer, who has been a mentor to Nocera. He says that while Nocera's catalysts "could prove technologically important," the advance is "a research finding," and there's "no guarantee that it can be scaled up or even made practical." Many critics' objections revolve around the inability of ­Nocera's lab setup to split water nearly as rapidly as commercial electrolyzers do. The faster the system, the smaller a commercial unit that produced a given amount of hydrogen and oxygen would be. And smaller systems, in general, are cheaper. The way to compare different catalysts is to look at their "current density"--that is, electrical current per square centimeter--when they're at their most efficient. The higher the current, the faster the catalyst can produce oxygen. Nocera reported results of 1 milliamp per square centimeter, although he says he's achieved 10 milliamps since then. Commercial electrolyzers typically run at about 1,000 milliamps per square centimeter. "At least what he's published so far would never work for a commercial electrolyzer, where the current density is 800 times to 2,000 times greater," says John Turner, a research fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. Other experts question the whole principle of converting sunlight into electricity, then into a chemical fuel, and then back into electricity again."
http://pro-zev.com/research/catalog/93/index.html
Presentation is Everything

Mark
Posts: 10751
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 10:14 pm

Re: Electrolysis

Post by Mark » Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:10 pm

"Local Scientist Splits Water, Saves World, Gets On TV"
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4378

A few reader comments I fished out. Note, all comments might not be 100% correct, but I would hope they would represent some truth.

"This quote is also a red flag for me:"
"For the last six months, driving home, I've been looking at leaves, and saying, 'I own you guys now,'" Nocera said.
"Nocera sounds a bit manic."

Majorian
"Nocera is making hydrogen which can be stored very cheaply at a very high efficiency because there is very little waste heat."

"No, Nocera is not doing anything that has not been done technically better already. His catalyst is less efficient and produces more heat than the best existing catalyst. The virtues or otherwise of hydrogen as an energy store remain as they were. The price advantage of his catalyst is one, questionable and two, trivial in the overall cost of such a scheme."

"Hydrogen storage is not here yet" - you said it SamuM. I worked for a professor engaged in hydrogen storage research over 30 years ago. They still havn't figured it out. Hydrogen is the smallest molecule and highly reactive. It is tough to contain. Last I read, those hydrogen storage tanks in cars cost $20,000 each to hold the equivalent energy of 4 gallons of gasoline. Fill it up, leave it in your garage for a week and the tank will be empty. I believe France passed a safety law prohibiting hydrogen fueled vehicles from being parked in enclosed spaces.
In Ottawa, cars powered by CNG or propane can't be parked in enclosed spaces. Hydrogen would be worse than either.

"If these MIT people can make a slightly more efficient and cost-effective hydrolysis cell, then they will have made an important contribution, but to tout up this sort of thing as a 'solution' is plainly irresponsible."

"I'm sorry you find my analysis unbalanced. Have you read the report? Has the press coverage been balanced? Nocera might be inspired by photosynthesis, but this is electrochemistry pal. Ain't no bright light shining on his electrode (except that from the TV crew)."

"The reactions in Nocera's jar occur on the surfaces of electrodes, one of which is InSnOx covered with a thin film. Yes, this thin film is a catalyst, because it speeds up considerably what would be a very slow electron transfer rate. But it is useless as a catalyst in this case without the applied potential between the electrodes. You wouldn't get any oxygen (or hydrogen at the other electrode) at all. But people have been making thin films on electrodes for decades exactly for the purpose of speeding up the reaction."
"The fact that O2 is being generated from H2O under benign conditions" just means that the thin film facilitates the transfer of electrons (from oxygen) under those conditions. That's nice, but "benign conditions" is not evidence, nor a requirement, for good efficiency. Lead-acid batteries are still used in cars, but you wouldn't want to pour the insides on your breakfast cereal."
Yes, the photons would come from sunlight. But you need a chromophore and a completely different geometry to do photocatalytic splitting of water. That is not what he is doing here."

"I don't care (how) stable your electrode is, how efficient it is, you're not going to mimick the very complicated arrays of organelles used for photosynthesis and energy storage by growing a thin-film on tin-oxide. Solid state photo- and electrochemistry is nothing like photosynthesis. If the guy were creating arrays of photon harvesting complexes and using these to drive enzymes that synthesized an energy storage molecule like ATP I might believe they were working on "artificial photosynthesis" but as it is... it's just a new electrode for making hydrogen and that's it. It wouldn't be that big of a deal except the ego of one professor and the marketing department of MIT have managed to sell it very well."

"Of course the disadvantages are the ones we are discussing in this thread. Apart from a petrochemical source, hydrogen must be produced at great energy expense and low efficiency. It takes up a lot of space and storage is a problem. Fuel cells work to convert it into electricity, but also are inefficient and don't scale well to mass consumption levels."

"The key advancement here is that where previously much of the oxygen would have been unable to escape the water and would turn into hydroxides, this new catalyst allows the oxygen to efficiently escape into the gas phase at 100%. This is important because this prevents the accumulation of a caustic liquid, allows the use and reuse of a single batch of water, and brings all the oxygen gas to rereact with hydrogen gas (without this there would be a stoichiometric imbalance, thus requiring more electrolysis of water for the needed oxygen.) I was concerned about the continued need for platinum to produce the hydrogen gas, but Dr. Nocera assures us that he has developed a catalyst for hydrogen production that will require a less expensive element. This should be published within the year."

"Yes, direct photocataliysis has HUGE potential. Sadly, however, like most alternative renewable energy, it is dismissed by many as impossible, a scam and a joke, a source of laughter and ridicule. The U.S. population has been raised in an era of cynicism. To them everything is a joke. Witness JoulesBurn's title to his piece, "Splits Water, Saves World, Get's on TV", it could have been right out of The Onion or Saturday Night Live...did anyone doubt what was coming? Surely it was not going to a fair technical piece, but more in the nature of ridiculing and satire. And it must be confessed it was decent comedy writing, good as satire often is, but satire does not have to be fair...in fact it is not nearly as funny if it is."
"As we laugh off any attempted development, we are falling further and further behind the rest of the world in the alternative energy developments that could salvage our future."
I hope the laugh is a good one and the fun is worth it, not only in this case, but in the multitude of other attempts to discredit all alternatives to oil and gas. It will turn out to be expensive beyond comprehension."

"splits water, saves world, gets on TV"
"hey, 2 outta 3 ain't bad."

"There is no future to a hydrogen economy because it is much too wasteful. We cannot solve the energy problem by energy waste. The energy losses are all caused by laws of physics. If you go through the entire hydrogen chain starting with AC-DC conversion, electrolysis, compression, or liquefaction, transportation, storage, re-conversion the electricity by fuel cells with subsequent DC-AC, there are additional losses in every process stage. These are all related to physical processes. This is physics, not poor handling, and as the laws of physics are eternal, there was no past, there is no present, and there will be no future for a hydrogen economy. Hydrogen economy is a structure of mind, which has no backing by physics."

"Tell me about it - I remember the TDP stuff myself, and for a while I even bought into it. I guess that's why I am so cynical about new developments right now. Especially journal articles from scientists - I used to work in that type of environment, and the competition for funding is intense so there is always a great temptation to make all kinds of exaggerated claims about what the potential of some development might have."
"I remember sitting in a meeting once - in our field we were under increasing pressure to come up with useful devices and not just study stuff because we thought it was interesting. The first adaptation was that in virtually every talk there was a slide to talk about "device potential". Most of us knew it was all BS, but that was how the game was played. That's not to say that some day there won't be a breakthrough of some sort someday, but you really need to put on the BS deflectors before you start reading these types of reports."
Last edited by Mark on Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:52 pm, edited 17 times in total.
Presentation is Everything

Mark
Posts: 10751
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 10:14 pm

Re: Electrolysis

Post by Mark » Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:18 pm

"Back to the MIT release:"
"Nocera hopes that within 10 years, homeowners will be able to power their homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.Why does professor of energy Nocera hope for something so unlikely and unuseful and expensive and inefficient? Most homes probably couldn't put enough PV panels on their house to generate excess solar energy anyway, even if anybody ever developed (an) affordable household fuel cell."
http://www.grist.org/article/you-say-yo ... evolution/
Presentation is Everything

Mark
Posts: 10751
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 10:14 pm

Re: Electrolysis

Post by Mark » Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:35 pm

"You’ve made your house into a fuel station," Daniel Nocera, a chemistry professor at MIT said. "I’ve gotten rid of all the goddamn grids."
"Nocera himself admits that he hasn’t "driven down the whole road" on what the setup could cost."
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/ ... e-fuel-ce/
Presentation is Everything

Kwazai
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2010 9:54 pm
Antipspambot question: 125
Location: Raleigh NC USA

Re: Electrolysis

Post by Kwazai » Thu Feb 25, 2010 1:48 pm

Mark,
I happen to think its going to take several of the methods used for browns gas to get anywhere with it , not just simple catalytic electrolysis- even with the right mix of chemicals.
What I have seen is pulsed dc(at a particular frequency- resonant freq.) with platinum electordes(spark plugs?) drastically increase the volume of gas per kwh input. The pulsed frequency would be close to the natural freq. of the water molecule (microwave?).
I doubt the catalytic process would be much better(a few %) than just dropping a chunk of aluminum in NaOH solution.
There was a wired blurb on an aluminum based catalyst also, with similar results claimed.
Combining several of these methods would make a lot more sense. just my .02$.
Mike
Murphy's law 28th corollary-
If there are five ways for something to go wrong and you circumvent all five-then a sixth will promptly develop...
(Kwazai's addition--if you circumvent the sixth, then a seventh, etc.,etc.,etc.,...)

Mark
Posts: 10751
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 10:14 pm

Re: Electrolysis

Post by Mark » Sun Mar 07, 2010 3:15 pm

Shift happens: Will artificial photosynthesis power the world?
http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/ ... 2010-03-03

Reader comment:
"The "water for energy storage" link explains that Nocera has reportedly accomplished the trick Mr. Wizard showed me on TV 50 years ago, but has replaced the expensive platinum electrode with one made of cobalt & phosphate. I'd suggest Nocera not encourage the use of waste water, since whatever equipment would be used would suffer maintenance issues. Kind of makes me wonder about the guy, along with the jazzy 'artificial photosynthesis' tag for age old technology. If this process really works reliably and is reasonably cheap, I'd expect Nocera to be rich, already. He's had months to collect venture capitalist investors..."

http://www.physorg.com/news187031401.html

More comments:
"Very touchy-feely. When the advertisement is over, I'd love to see some actual information."

"This work was published in Science (the best scientific journal) about 1.5 years ago. I was working on my PhD in photochemistry/ electrochemistry at the time and our group definitely took notice of this work. The efficiency is fairly respectable, but they really don't understand why the catalyst works so efficiently. If they can figure this out, and then optimize it, this has some real potential."

"But I don't see any details about its yield, catalyst stability and basic economical numbers (price tag of energy produced in such way)."
Presentation is Everything

Mark
Posts: 10751
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 10:14 pm

Re: Electrolysis

Post by Mark » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:12 am

Just something to skim.
The Hydrogen Hoax
http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publicati ... rogen-hoax
Presentation is Everything

Mark
Posts: 10751
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 10:14 pm

Re: Electrolysis

Post by Mark » Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:40 am

Water oxidation advance boosts potential for solar fuel
http://www.physorg.com/news187538062.html
Presentation is Everything

Post Reply