HyperSolar shows dirty water no barrier to power world

May 24, 2012 by Nancy Owano report
Image: HyperSolar

(Phys.org) -- The Santa Barbara, California, company, HyperSolar, is set to transparently share the ups and downs of its research experiences toward the company’s ultimate vision, successfully producing renewable hydrogen. The company is setting down experiences with their own development processes. The company this week reported an achievement, in that it was able to announce that its first proof of concept prototype is successfully producing renewable hydrogen.

The company is focused on working out less costly, sustainable and environmentally friendly methods for producing hydrogen gas; their research involves producing hydrogen gas in a zero-carbon process from wastewater.

The technology involves a low-cost polymer coating with a small-scale solar device to form a self-contained particle that separates hydrogen from water using the power of the sun.

In a video demo, one can view the company’s own “artificial photosynthesis process” in that the approach mimics photosynthesis to split water molecules into hydrogen gas.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Tim Young, CEO of HyperSolar, described the test. An inexpensive plastic baggy was filled with wastewater from a mill and on the bottom of the baggy was a small-scale solar device protected with HyperSolar’s polymer coating. Bubbles coming up are free hydrogen using the power of the sun.

Most hydrogen used today is not renewable and not clean, coming from hydrocarbon sources, such as oil, coal and natural gas. Renewable hydrogen in contrast is produced from nearly infinite sources of water and sunlight, is clean and carbon-free.

The electrolysis goal of the company is nothing new; splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis has been well known. In theory, this would be the way for a greener world. Commercial electrolysis, counters Young, has so far offered up expensive and impractical methods, however.

The requirement for highly purified clean water to prevent fouling system components amounts to an inability to make use of the large quantities of free water from oceans, rivers, industrial waste and municipal waste as feedstock. HyperSolar's technology is designed to use any natural water or waste water for renewable hydrogen.

Young has confidence that his process can achieve commercial viability as a result. “Starting with a negative value feedstock in the form of wastewater and operating in low cost reactors, we believe that our artificial photosynthesis process of extracting hydrogen from water will be cost effective,” he said. Moving forward, Young suggests the solar device used in the prototype will be replaced with HyperSolar’s nanoparticles, which can be mass-produced and lead to large-scale production of hydrogen gas.

The impact of renewable hydrogen to generate electricity and to power fuel cell vehicles, for Young, would be nothing short of extraordinary. According to Young, “If we can successfully complete the development of a low-cost, highly efficient solar powered water-splitting nanoparticle, we can use readily available seawater, runoff water, river , or wastewater, to produce large quantities of fuel to power the world.”

HyperSolar recently entered into a yearlong sponsored research agreement with the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Explore further: After nuclear phase-out, Germany debates scrapping coal

More information: Press release

Related Stories

Renewable hydrogen production becomes reality at winery

Sep 29, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The first demonstration of a renewable method for hydrogen production from wastewater using a microbial electrolysis system is underway at the Napa Wine Company in Oakville. The refrigerator-sized hydrogen ...

NREL, Xcel energy sign wind to hydrogen research agreement

May 08, 2006

The U.S. Department of Energy's, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Xcel Energy recently signed a cooperative agreement for an innovative "wind to hydrogen" research, development and demonstration project. Researchers ...

Metal particle generates new hope for H2 energy

Jun 28, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Tiny metallic particles produced by University of Adelaide chemistry researchers are bringing new hope for the production of cheap, efficient and clean hydrogen energy.

Recommended for you

New battery technology for electric vehicles

Nov 21, 2014

Scientists at the Canadian Light Source are on the forefront of battery technology using cheaper materials with higher energy and better recharging rates that make them ideal for electric vehicles (EVs).

Company powers up with food waste

Nov 19, 2014

Garden products company Richgro is using Western Australian food waste to power their operations in a new zero-waste system.

User comments : 17

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Eikka
1.8 / 5 (6) May 24, 2012
Where does the oxygen go?
kaasinees
2.3 / 5 (9) May 24, 2012
Where does the oxygen go?

into air, which is then extracted from the air by combusting hydrogen.

cmon..basic of the basic...
Cynical1
2.6 / 5 (5) May 24, 2012
think what he was askin was - doesn't the oxygen produce bubbles too? So how would we know which are hydrogen and which was oxygen?
Sonhouse
1 / 5 (1) May 24, 2012
In electrolysis, the positive electrode collects one and the negative collects the other. They may have to use reverse osmosis membranes to separate the two with this process. The main point though, is not about O2 but about how much H2 gets released per watt of solar energy input. If it is only a few percent more efficient than electrolysis (which is about 3%) then little will be gained. If it's like 50%, they are on to something. Obviously, you can take the best former processes and make H2 but the key is how much energy per gram of H2 released.
sstritt
1 / 5 (4) May 24, 2012
think what he was askin was - doesn't the oxygen produce bubbles too? So how would we know which are hydrogen and which was oxygen?

Yeah- in regular electrolysis H collects on 1 electrode and O on the other. If they are collecting mixed gases to be separated later, that strikes me as a tad dangerous
Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (6) May 24, 2012
The oxygen combines with magic pixie dust and goes away.

The fact that the company misidentifies oxygen bubbles as hydrogen strikes me as being explosively disingenuous.
Going
2.5 / 5 (2) May 24, 2012
If they are producing a mix of hydrogen and oxygen gases , and they dont explain how they avoid this, then they are in big trouble.
dacarls
1 / 5 (1) May 24, 2012
Maybe Nancy Awano, who wrote this, badly, doesn't know. The company does if you look at their other press releases. This looks pretty good, actually. That they speeded up the videotape does not help. Look at how fast the water is shuddering in the baggie. Poorly written and presented.
packrat
2 / 5 (4) May 24, 2012
The oxygen ions are left in the water and are used to break down the sewage particles though photo-oxidation. They explain what happens on the website like dacarls said so the bubbles are pretty much all hydrogen. It's a two for one deal, you get hydrogen and faster breakdown of the crap - no pun intended.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (2) May 24, 2012
Pretty much all hydrogen means that the explosions will pretty much be small ones.
celine bag
1 / 5 (2) May 24, 2012
he oxygen combines with magic pixie dust and goes away.
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (4) May 24, 2012
Celine bag is a genius.

If only Parker Tard had 1/10,000th the brain power.

antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (5) May 25, 2012
They may have to use reverse osmosis membranes to separate the two with this process.

Or just use the fact that hydrogen is lighter than oxygen and tends to pool at the top of an inverted container.
Eikka
1.8 / 5 (5) May 25, 2012
Or just use the fact that hydrogen is lighter than oxygen and tends to pool at the top of an inverted container.


Only in large volumes. With small volumes, the gasses are more or less diffused together and you won't get anywhere near pure hydrogen out of the top.

Letting hydrogen and oxygen pool up together is a safety hazard anyways, because hydrogen explodes at almost any ratio to oxygen and requires very little energy to do so. The static charge caused by the gas coming out of a nozzle may be enough to set it off. That's why you can't let any oxygen bubble up the collector.

I suppose they could be turning the water into hydrogen peroxide and then diluting it away so it won't bubble up, but there's still going to be some oxygen escaping unless some active oxygen scrubber chemical is being used.
antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (5) May 25, 2012
Only in large volumes.

As I see it this is a technology that would be well suited for large volume applications.

Alternative 1: You can use a condensation device (condensation column). Oxygen condenses at different temperature from hydrogen (and you can even sell liquid oxygen on the market at a profit.)

Alternative 2: Oxygen is a larger molecule than hydrogen. I'm pretty sure one could make a nanotube material that lets only hydrogen pass. It seems that about 100 years ago they used asbestos for this.

Alternaive 3: Flood the area with another gas of intermediate weight (nitrogen) to keep it below ignition point.

Alternative 4: Massive parallelism can keep the risk very low (much like nitroglycerin was first produced).

But there seem to be entire companies all over the world which do this sort of thing on industrial scales - and somehow they manage to do it without blowing themselves up.
Eikka
1 / 5 (3) May 25, 2012
As I see it this is a technology that would be well suited for large volume applications.


Well, here's the thing. What happens when you have a large volume of hydrogen and oxygen gas in a collection container?

I'm not talking about large production volumes, but of the physical volume that the gasses are in. If you have a liter of oxygen and hydrogen gas, it's going to be pretty much all mixed up no matter how long you let it sit still. If you have a cubic meter of it, the concetration of hydrogen will be higher at the top than at the bottom.

But if you have a cubic meter of hydrogen with oxygen gas, you don't call it a separation vessel - you call the bomb squad and the fire department.

But there seem to be entire companies all over the world which do this sort of thing on industrial scales - and somehow they manage to do it without blowing themselves up.


They separate the electrodes physically, so the oxygen bubbles up in a different container.
Eikka
1 / 5 (2) May 25, 2012
Alternative 1: (condensation column)

Significant volumes of the mixed gas are still present in the pipes before the condenser, and can leak around, presenting an exposion risk. Also uses a lot of energy.

Alternative 2: nanofilter

Same as above, unless you can integrate the filter into the gas producer itself. Has potential.

Alternative 3: dilute the gas


Pure oxygen and hydrogen need to be diluted a lot before they stop going bang. Separating them again will be difficult and energy intensive.

Alternative 4: Massive parallelism can keep the risk very low (much like nitroglycerin was first produced).


And the reason why nitroglyserin is no longer produced that way is because the cost is still high when equipment keeps going up in smoke

Stoichiometric oxyhydrogen does not just go bang, it detonates, which makes any large volume of it act like a thermobaric bomb. People get injured just from the amount that can build up in a car battery due to overcharging

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.