Popular Mechanics magazine has awarded GE Global Research (of the General Electric Company) its 2006 Breakthrough Award. The award was given in recognition of GE’s development of an advanced hydrogen electrolyzer. The Electrolyzer has the potential to lower the cost of producing hydrogen energy through the water electrolysis process. High-tech plastic parts are used in place of metal parts to lower the cost of producing high performance electrodes, which improves the technology’s market competitiveness. This technology has the potential to build a better future by improving lives and expanding knowledge.
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GE’s electrolyzer, which was developed by a research team at Global Research led by Richard Bourgeois, was recognized for its potential to make hydrogen production by water electrolysis economically feasible. The novel design makes extensive use of GE-developed materials and processes. A GE invented plastic, Noryl, replaces complex and expensive metal parts. Metal coating techniques from GE’s aircraft engine and power generation products are used to make high performance electrodes with very low processing costs.
The U.S. Department of Energy has identified electrolyzer capital costs as a major barrier to the competitiveness of hydrogen fuel for transportation. GE’s electrolyzer has the potential to bring the cost of producing hydrogen down to a level that is competitive with the current price of gasoline.
“GE’s electrolyzer represents a profound breakthrough in hydrogen energy that has the potential to greatly expand the possibilities in realizing cleaner, more affordable energy solutions, said James Meigs, Editor-in-Chief, Popular Mechanics magazine. “We were impressed as much with the technology’s potential impact as we were with the creativity of design that enabled the breakthrough itself. We applaud GE for this extraordinary achievement.”
“GE’s electrolyzer is a true breakthrough technology that could accelerate advancements toward the hydrogen economy,” Kelly Fletcher, Advanced Technology Leader, Sustainable Energy Programs, GE Global Research, said. “We’re thrilled that Popular Mechanics has recognized Global Research with this prestigious award. It is a great tribute to the hard work and ingenuity that our entire electrolyzer team has brought to this project. The core issue with producing hydrogen from electrolyzers is that the economics are not there. They are too expensive to build, so we set out in our program to attack the capital costs,” Fletcher added.
Today, producing hydrogen by water electrolysis costs at least $8 per kg including capital, energy, and operating costs. GE participated in a program with the U.S. Department of Energy that has the goal of bringing the cost to under $3. By lowering costs on the capital side, GE researchers are confident this goal can be met.
GE researchers have figured out a more cost-effective way to build it by replacing most of the metal parts in the electrolyzer stack, which is the main part of the system, with parts made of a GE invented plastic called Noryl.
GE’s Noryl can be manufactured less expensively and exhibits the properties that are needed to function in an electrolyzer. Noryl is very resistant to the strong alkaline solution, which is used as an electrolyte in the system.
Thus far, GE researchers have built and tested an electrolyzer big enough to make a kilogram of hydrogen per hour. A kilogram of hydrogen has about the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline.
Global Research, in conjunction with GE’s Nuclear business, is currently engaged in a project under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Hydrogen program to study the economic feasibility of producing hydrogen at existing commercial nuclear power plants. GE’s project is exploring the potential for producing hydrogen using GE’s low cost, advanced electrolyzer.
Electrolyzers, when coupled with wind, solar or nuclear power, produce hydrogen from water with no CO2 emissions. The global market for hydrogen is currently more than $40 billion, which includes ammonia production, refineries, chemical manufacturing and food processing. The low capital cost of the GE electrolyzer would make it competitive with other hydrogen production methods such as natural gas reforming. Within the next decade, electrolyzers could serve as the foundation for future hydrogen vehicle refueling stations.
About the Breakthrough Awards
Each year, the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards recognize 10 individuals and teams, including one winner of the Breakthrough Leadership Award, who are helping to improve lives and expand possibilities in the realms of science, technology and exploration. Additionally, Popular Mechanics highlights a group of 10 consumer products that represents milestones in design and engineering. A complete report of the Breakthrough Awards will be published in the November 2006 issue of Popular Mechanics (on newsstands October 10, 2006) and at http://www.popularmechanics.com.
About GE Global Research
GE Global Research was the first industrial research lab in the United States and is one of the world’s most diversified research centers, providing innovative technology for all of GE’s businesses. Global Research has been the cornerstone of GE technology for more than 100 years, developing breakthrough innovations in areas such as medical imaging, energy generation, jet engines, advanced materials and lighting. GE Global Research is headquartered in Niskayuna, New York and has facilities in Bangalore, India; Shanghai, China; and Munich, Germany. Visit GE Global Research at http://www.ge.com/research
» Source: FuelCellWorks