Global Hydrogen Inc. Turns Water Into Hydrogen

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In view of the cross-country hydrogen vehicle tour last week, it seems like a good time for a post on hydrogen technology.  Global Hydrogen, Inc. (GHI) is a small Texas company founded by Dr. Linnard Griffin that says it has developed a more efficient, low-voltage hydrogen production process. (see the Matter Network story)

Dr. Griffin is the named inventor on a family of patent applications covering his hydrogen generation equipment and techniques.  U.S. Application Pub. Nos. 2005/0042150 (‘150 application) and 2006/0180464 (‘464 application) are directed to apparatus and methods for producing hydrogen.

Known reactions for producing hydrogen gas from water and metallic compounds either react too quickly or too slowly to be useful or require very expensive metals of intermediate reactivity.  According to the ‘150 and ‘464 applications, Dr. Griffin’s process makes hydrogen efficiently with relatively inexpensive metals.

The process generates hydrogen from water using a special electrolyte.  The reaction uses metal catalysts in colloidal form (i.e., composed of very small particles that are dispersed, but not dissolved, in solution).  The tiny size of the catalyst particles results in a large effective surface area that increases contact with other molecules and accelerates the rate of reaction.

The ‘150 and ‘464 applications describe the electrolyte reaction medium and the electrode construction of the reaction vessel (pictured below).  The medium comprises water, an acid or base, two colloidal metal catalysts and an ionic salt. 

The reaction occurs in a reaction vessel 100 which has an anode 106 (an electrode that attracts negatively charged ions) and a cathode 104 (an electrode that attracts positively charged ions), each in contact with the reaction medium 102.  The anode and cathode are connected to a controller 108, which allows the user to select from a range of hydrogen production rates. 

The reaction vessel has an inlet 112 for adding water and an outlet 110 for the hydrogen to escape.  The resulting hydrogen can be fed to a fuel cell to produce electric energy.

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According to GHI’s web site and its white paper on the technology, this process requires substantially less electricty than the best hydrogen generation technique currently known (41.2 kilowatt hours per kg of hydrogen produced versus 53.4 kWh per kg). 

The other obvious advantage of Dr. Griffin’s technology is that it could make hydrogen production from water economical.  It would be a big step forward if clean hydrogen production becomes commercially viable – currently the raw materials for most industrial hydrogen generation are fossil fuels.

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.