Uncle Bobs Tips: Generator Guide

Hydrogen Generators

Renewable energy hydrogen generators hold fantastic promise for the future as a plentiful, clean-burning fuel source and an eventual replacement for gasoline.

Renewable energy hydrogen generators hold fantastic promise for the future as a plentiful, clean-burning fuel source and an eventual replacement for gasoline. Environmentalists like hydrogen generators because they trim the amount of greenhouse gas spewed by automobiles. Engineers like hydrogen generators because they represent a new technology that will entail innovative ideas and design work.

Hydrogen generators produce hydrogen and oxygen through the electrolysis of water, following the chemical equation:
2H2O + Energy --> 2H2 + O2

This chemical transformation occurs in an electrolytic cell. If the cell is exposed to any flow of electrical current it starts the process of electrochemical separation of water molecules into its two components, oxygen and hydrogen (H20). In a hydrogen generator, these two gases are emitted from the electrodes and are separated and captured in the electrolytic cell. The gases are then made available for use as they pass through a back flash valve, water trap and dehumidifier on their way to any one of many hydrogen powered appliances.

The purity of the hydrogen from a hydrogen generator (some hydrogen generators produce dry hydrogen gas to a purity level in excess of 99.99999%) is ensured by the fact that the generator palladium membrane allows only hydrogen and its isotopes to pass. A pressure transducer monitors hydrogen pressure at a point between the cell and the outlet of the hydrogen generator. The control circuit adjusts the electrical current to maintain the set hydrogen pressure. Key safety features of a hydrogen generator include minimal hydrogen storage capacity, a production control switch, an electrolytic leak detector, an over-temperature switch, a pressure sensor and a low water shutoff control.

Another key asset is the fact that hydrogen generators are on "on-site" energy sources, not only efficient but also great cost-reducers. Annual maintenance and electricity costs can be as low as $248 per year. The primary hydrogen generator maintenance activities are filling the feed water bottle and changing the electrolyte solution. If the hydrogen generator is operated 24 hours per day at the rated maximum flow, the water in the feed bottle lasts for 8 to 10 days. At this point, the water is refilled using de-ionized water. The electrolyte solution, a specially prepared solution of sodium hydroxide, must be changed once a year to maintain efficient operation of the hydrogen generator.

Moreover, hydrogen generators eliminate the time and aggravation associated with purchasing, installing and monitoring gas and helium cylinders. Gas cylinders are expensive to purchase and require a considerable amount of time to order, transfer and install while maintaining safety regulations. For example, one cylinder of helium can cost $167 or $8,684 per year if replaced weekly. In addition, gas cylinder tanks take up a lot of valuable space. Each instrument requires a cylinder to run, a spare cylinder supply and often an additional one in transit or storage. An on-site hydrogen generator, on the other hand, produces hydrogen from water on demand and requires virtually no operating costs.

Hydrogen from hydrogen gas generators is also replacing the use of helium. Helium tends to be relatively expensive, is a nonrenewable resource, and the purity of commercial-grade helium can be less than ideal for some of the more sensitive analytical methods.

Hydrogen generators also eliminate the need to transport gas cylinders and the potential dangers associated with a gas cylinder accident (such as a cylinder valve suddenly breaking off and the resulting rush of pressurized gas which can propel the cylinder through a concrete wall, or more prosaic dangers to extremities such as rolling onto a person's toe). With a generator, hydrogen gas is produced under very low pressures and is consumed nearly as soon as it is produced, eliminating most of the safety issues involved with cylinders.

Hydrogen generators are a sure answer to safe, reliable and affordable energy for the future.

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