Clean hydrogen?

Possible or not?

A doctoral student in mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware has designed a new type of reactor that produces hydrogen using nothing more than concentrated sunlight, zinc oxide, and water. And best of all, the zinc oxide used by the reactor can be reused, meaning that once the reactor is up and running, it would be self-sustaining.

Koepf will bring his reactor to Switzerland, where it will be tested for the first time at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. In the testing phase, concentrated light equal to the energy of 10,000 suns will be focused on the reactor, bringing the temperature up to about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Then the zinc oxide will be added, creating a reaction that will convert the powder into zinc vapor. Finally, the zinc will be reacted with water, producing hydrogen.“The idea is to create a small, well-insulated cavity and subject it to highly concentrated sunlight from above,” Koepf explained in a release.


#  Hydrogen production HAS been possible without the use of fossil fuels for quite some time. Electrolysis can be powered by photovoltaics just as well as a coal plant.

#  That is true, but there was not DIRECT way in doing this. Like the name already says, Electrolysis need electrical energy – which is usually generated by photovoltaic cells. This principle is quite ineffective since a photovoltaic cell only transforms (up to) 25% into electricity and you can imagine that you still loose energy in the process of electrolysis.  By doing it directly it might be possible to have a much higher effectiveness!

[H/T Chuckles]

2 comments for “Clean hydrogen?

  1. ivan
    April 14, 2012 at 14:29

    I notice they are very careful not to explain how zinc reacts with water to produce hydrogen.

    What they appear to be saying is that they can convert zinc oxide into zinc – a metal – and oxygen by using heat. The problem I have is the next step – using water to convert the zinc into zinc oxide.

    It is rather like a perpetual motion machine or they got the press release date 3 days late.

  2. Chuckles
    April 14, 2012 at 19:09

    Ivan, yes, carefully pushing the ‘solar’ and ‘free’ angle so they can gloss over the megawatts of power/energy needed to make this work. And what a wonderful fuel hydrogen is. Not.

    I’m also intrigued by them moving it to Zurich to get some sun? From Delaware. Right, so we’re going from 39 and a bit degrees N in Delaware, to 47 and some N in Zurich to get some sun. Sure. But then, there are so few areas in the USA than get a lot of sunshine, I suppose beggars can’t be chosers. 🙂

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