Researchers meet major hydrogen milestone

Sep 18, 2008

A team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory earlier this month reached a major milestone with the successful production of hydrogen through High-Temperature Electrolysis (HTE).

The milestone was reached when the Integrated Laboratory Scale experiment started producing hydrogen at a rate of 5.6 cubic meters per hour.

The achievement was recognized at a media event in Idaho Falls Sept. 18.

"This is by far the biggest achievement we've had," said Carl Stoots, the experiment's principal investigator.

High-Temperature Electrolysis is a system of producing hydrogen very efficiently by using technology originally developed for solid oxide fuel cells. HTE is a significant improvement over the more conventional methods to produce hydrogen. HTE uses an electric current through water to separate it into hydrogen and oxygen. Combined with a clean power source such as a next-generation nuclear plant, HTE could produce hydrogen at 45 to 55 percent efficiency.

There are several potential applications of hydrogen from high-temperature electrolysis, all of which are closer to being actualized now that HTE has proven itself capable of producing hydrogen at such an advanced level. Hydrogen is commonly used to help produce liquid fuels. INL Laboratory Fellow Steve Herring, who heads the HTE project, said it could also prove helpful in upgrading fuel from the Athabasca Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada, because producing gasoline and diesel fuel from such heavy oil deposits requires extensive amounts of hydrogen and steam.

September's achievement is a major scale-up from earlier INL experiments on a small scale. Herring said his team wanted it to match the final product closely.

With this milestone met, the HTE plant is on its way to opening many doors for innovation in energy production, contributing to the Department of Energy's overarching goal of a "hydrogen economy." Eventually, HTE could provide pure hydrogen for fuel cell-powered cars, Herring said – "but that's a long way off."

Source: Idaho National Laboratory

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User comments : 8

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1.4 / 5 (7) Sep 18, 2008
So tell me how nuclear energy is "clean"????

Sorry, down the wrong rabbit hole.
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 18, 2008
Using any energy source to produce hydrogen at 50% efficiency is senseless, when the same source can produce electricity at the same efficiency.
Electric motors controllers are 90% to 95% efficient.
Engines and fuel cells are between 25% and 40% for use in a vehicle.
Why would we want to throw away 1/2 to 3/4 of the energy, to use hydrogen as a carrier instead of electricity?
4.8 / 5 (4) Sep 18, 2008
So tell me how nuclear energy is "clean"????

Comparable greenhouse gas emissions to wind and hydropower, way less than solar PV or solar thermal.

Uses way less land, less building material than wind, solar or hydro. Produces baseload power and competes directly with coal power, while solar and wind power depend on coal powered spinning reserve and natural gas peaker plants to provide reliable electricity.

Produces a trivial amount of spent fuel that can cheaply and safely be stored.

Produces isotopes that are difficult or impossible to obtain any other way, such as technetium-99(used as a standard beta-emitter for calibration, could be used for opto-electric nuclear batteries, unique catalytic properties). Isotopes for Radioisotope Thermal Generators(plutonium-238, curium-244, strontium-90) which provide the only means short of a nuclear reactor to power probes in the outer solar system(voyager 1 is still active after 31 years; most of the plutonium powered pacemakers from the 70's still worked when they were disassembled, some patients have used them for well over two decades without further surgery). Valuable platinum group metals(ruthenium, rhodium, palladium). Tritium(vital for fusion research, used in radioluminescent paint for emergency exit signs, watches, betavoltaic powersources). Caesium-137(food irradiation, gamma source for radiotherapy of cancer).
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 18, 2008
Using any energy source to produce hydrogen at 50% efficiency is senseless, when the same source can produce electricity at the same efficiency.

That's not the case here. High-temperature electrolysis and thermochemical hydrogen production is more efficient than a typical heat engine; but that doesn't necessarily mean it's worth all the bother to compress, store, transport and use hydrogen gas in inefficient fuel cells.
not rated yet Sep 18, 2008
I seem to remember that about 1980 there was an article published in the Chemical Engineering Journal that exposing water to a microwave cavity resonance of 600 would separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. I've not heard anything further and left the field a couple of years later when the political situation made oil and gas cheap again. Anybody find anything about that?
4 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2008
certainly, losing 50% of the energy being produced is a heavy price to pay for conversion into hydrogen. But renewable energy sources such as solar, wind or tidal energy produce a lot of energy at times when it isn't being consumed. Now that is wasted energy. By converting it into a form which can be used later, the could represent a significant improvement in energy efficiency for these power sources. This hydrogen could also be used to fuel cars and kick start the hydrogen economy.
not rated yet Sep 19, 2008
Here's more:

30kWH thermal input per kg H2 out
not rated yet Sep 25, 2008
The Idaho National Laboratory has a lot of other environmentally friendly projects. The Web site is but there is also a channel at YouTube.


I would suggest the "Motion to Energy M2E" or "Harvesting the Sun's Energy" videos.

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