Alternative Energy

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Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Apr 22

Splitting Water Into Hydrogen And Oxygen

Posted in Energy Inventions | Future Technology | Hydrogen Fuel

Splitting Water We often want to imitate nature for near perfect results. But sometimes it just remains a desire. In its quest for green and clean energy mankind is searching for that magical method that can split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Nature performs this task wonderfully through the process of photosynthesis. Man is still facing challenges in duplicating that process in the laboratory. If we are able to split water into oxygen and hydrogen in the presence of sunlight we will be able to harness the potential of hydrogen as a clean and green fuel. Till date man-made systems are quite inefficient, time consuming, money consuming and often require additional use of chemical agents.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute Organic Chemistry Department under the leadership of Prof. David Milstein have developed a novel way of splitting water molecules that can separate oxygen from water and bind the atoms in a different molecule. This technique leaves the hydrogen free to combine in other compounds as well. They were inspired by photosynthesis, a process carried out by plants. Photosynthesis is the life giving force on the earth because it is the source of all oxygen on the earth.

The new approach devised by the Weizmann team has three important steps that end in liberation of hydrogen and oxygen with the help of a special metal complex. This metal complex’s core element is ruthenium. This ‘smart’ complex’s metal part and organic part help in splitting the water molecules. When water is mixed with this complex, the bonds between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms break. Here one hydrogen atom binds with organic part of the complex, the hydrogen and oxygen atoms (OH group) bind to its metal center.

The second stage is known as heat stage. Here the water solution is heated up to 100 degrees C. This releases the hydrogen gas from the complex. Here comes our clean and green source of fuel. Another OH group is added to the metal center.

Milstein explains about the magical third stage, “But the most interesting part is the third light stage. When we exposed this third complex to light at room temperature, not only was oxygen gas produced, but the metal complex also reverted back to its original state, which could be recycled for use in further reactions.”

The results are considered unique because of the generation of a bond between two oxygen atoms promoted by a man-made metal complex. It is a very unusual event. And it is still unanswerable how it can take place. The team has found out that during the third stage, light provides the energy for the two OH groups to get together to form hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). This hydrogen peroxide quickly breaks up into oxygen and water. What Milstein thinks about this chemical reaction? He says, “Because hydrogen peroxide is considered a relatively unstable molecule, scientists have always disregarded this step, deeming it implausible; but we have shown otherwise.” Another interesting thing that Milstein and his team has spotted is that the bond between the two oxygen atoms is generated within a single molecule. This bond formation doesn’t occur between oxygen atoms located on separate molecules, but it comes from a single metal center.

The greatest achievement of Milstein’s team has been the development of a mechanism for the formation of hydrogen and oxygen from water, without the need for sacrificial chemical agents. It has been achieved by using individual steps and utilizing light. For their next project, they intend to combine these stages to create a proficient catalytic system. These steps could leave a mark in the area of alternative energy.

  • Bill McLachlan

    So if I understand this correctly, this process could be utilized in a car (hydrogen powered of course) with a gas tank filled with water and the only byproduct (emission) being oxygen.

  • Jim

    Look folks, maybe I’m just a simple engineer but why are we putting hydro power on the black list.

    Hydrogen production could be done at the existing hydro electrical plants with minimum impact on the environment or the existing power demand.

    Yet nary a word has come down to set up such a device here in the 69 power plants the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation runs. We have both water and power on site, and the tax payers own these sites!

    While your sleeping the local hydro plant could be brewing your trip to work and OPEC would be conducting stimulus programs.

    Lets use the tools we have. The USBR works on consumer demand, so why aren’t we demanding it?

  • Ravi Soparkar

    Exciting achievment. Making Water to Hydrogen technology commercially viable will take care of all energy crisis on the earth. Congratulations once again. Ravi Soparkar, Pune India

  • Dan Chance

    Chemical reactions cause the H2 to separate from O in the three stages right? No input of electricity? Is it small? Portable? Does it generate H2 in sufficient quantity to be useful as a fuel in an “on demand” system or would it need to be collected and compressed for storage to be sufficient for fueling an automobile? Please reply to wdanpom[AT] Question for Jim: Aren’t we already using all our hydro-power facilities? If not then I see no reason we should not be using it to make H2 for fuel. We should begin immediately.

  • Andy Gerard

    Unless we make hydrogen using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, it takes more energy to extract hydrogen from water and compress it into a fuel cell than you get from burning said hydrogen in the fuel cell — and it’s highly polluting (extracting the hydrogen). Forget hydrogen — it’s all about batteries…

  • Drew Lessard

    Good point Andy. Running after hydrogen is just a distraction from the tangible technologies that are ready for large scale installation today.

  • Dane T. Colucci-Lemberger

    Making hydrogen from solar or wind power is a much better idea, and it can be used in the synthesis of other fuels…

  • Susie Quinn

    HYDROGEN – 2 thumbs up!

  • Edgardo Andres Tapia Rodriguez

    See the Stan Mayer solution for producer Hydrogen and Oxygen with a low energy system.

  • Luka

    It is an interesting discovery.

    First it would a plus to know if this experiments has shown industrial applicability in the way that the whole process should produce enough hydrogen to supply a car engine or a turbine. Is to note that if the process steps have different kinetics and one is too slow the whole process become of academical interest but has no practical application. Second and last question is the following: If it is produced H2O2 (peroxide) during the process I am not sure that the same process can continue for long time. Is well known that peroxides are strongly aggressive against organics and can destroy the the catalyst (that I understood is a combination of Ruthenium and some organic compound) in a short time, especially when an oxidation catalyst like ruthenium is present.

    These are only some doubts and question, anyway I believe this is a great discovery.

  • Stuart Dragon

    Checkout HydroDrive and MIT Plasmatron. Both these units are on board vehicle and extract small amount of H2 from existing fuel supply and inject into cylinders. The results are cleaner running engines, 25-30% mileage improvement, less pollution and this info was validated at Sandia Labs. The solution to pollution and energy has existed for a longtime. My group has a system for fueling a boiler with air. The whole thing weighs about 150 pounds and runs on rectified 110AC! Sayonara Oil Sheiks!

  • John Watson

    Even if we could come up with an alternative fuel, and I believe we could have a long time ago, untangling the economic spider web created by oil money would be equivalent to trying to fix Medical in this country. Its all about the money.

  • Jim

    Ruthenium? The 74th most abundant metal on earth. This is in realm of gold and platinum folks. What’s the return on the product? How much hydrogen will an ounce of Ruthenium produce? Is there an alloy of Ruthenium that functions better like platinum black? (an oxide) As a catalyst, is it a sacrificial metal? Does the H2O2 damage the material?

  • Jim

    Question for Jim: Aren’t we already using all our hydro-power facilities? If not then I see no reason we should not be using it to make H2 for fuel. We should begin immediately.


    I wish is was that simple. Question: which department is responsible slowing hydro-power generation technology?

    Answer, all of them!

    Power is regulated and controlled or affected by just about every government agency. Believe it or not, even the State Department is responsible for a dam in Texas.

    We seriously need to loose some government red tape to make an impact.

  • Vladimir Markovic

    I salute this conversion from water to hydrogen because since longer than 3 month we have solution which can reach very cheap electric energy from slowly moving water stream – for 0,0075 EUR for kWh – from 20 to 100 kW individual units. So, problem is only which capacity and costs all this new technology has.


  • luka

    Vladimir your idea seems the most reliable. Simple things have the highest change to became reality. Exotic technology maybe has more appeal but it requires to overcome thousands of little problems to become reality. Small plants spread in rivers is easy to imagine and to do especially if they not require infrastructures.

  • Vladimir Markovic

    Luka, thank you for supporting my work on cheapest energy sources which can also make realistic new ideas from Weizmann. As I feel and see the problems of Renewable Energy, it seems to be that all people in theory are supporting it but nobody cares about the most important problem: Price of it. So, if instead of USD 0,05 for kWh you have to pay USD 4 to USD 30 for kWh reached from Solar or Wind, by my opinion most people will not be very happy to invest and pay for it. But, if somebody wants to offer Energy for the price of USD 0,009 per kWh, the “Big Fellows” which are leading Energy markets do not want even to know anything about that and they are supporting only photo cells and Windmills which are several times more expensive than classic or even Nuclear Energy sources. Believe me, that is a proven fact and the most of your concerns and expectations are grounded on too big idealism.


  • kayla

    The materials you are supposed to use are 9 volt batteries, a piece of cardboard, 1/6 teaspoonful salt, a big glass cup with water in it and two coppers wires.

  • Tom E.H.

    Kayla, problem, salt will help the water to conduct, but will also separate and the chlorine will contaminate the gases. (salt = NaCl sodium chloride.)

    Bill McLachlan, oxygen would not be expelled, as it will be used in the fuel cell to get the electricity from the hydrogen.

    This system uses “Light” as the input energy to separate the hydrogen, using the catalyst. Rate? do we need fields of equipment in Arizona with clear tops to generate sufficient H2 to be productive?

    Jim, using hydro is great, but use the existing infra-structure is easier than transporting compressed hydrogen all over the country, and safer. Just generate the electricity and pump the electricity and water to fueling stations, then separate the hydrogen at the local “gas station” while I am filling my tank. Results? No storage or transportation of dangerous hydrogen. All infrastructure is already present. The user just pays for his water and the electricity to separate it into hydrogen.

    As for the slow moving water and power generation, Vladimir Markovic and Luka, in the U.S. all flowing water is regulated by the government and each and every item put into the water that disturbs the flow has to have an impact study. (There is probably a minimal amount for a tiny generator though, for private streams and such and say a 5wh unit?)

    John Watson, if the people can come up with a way, the congress better get out of the way or they will be replaced by public opinion. (new administration).

    Dan, I think Andy is right. Just make the electricity and charge the batteries (Lithium ion) and let the batteries handle the “On Demand” situation.
    Hydrogen is Non-polluting but first get energy from…?

  • luka

    Instead transport Hydrogen that is very dangerous is possible to join it with CO2 to form methanol. Methanol is a good fuel and is liquid, has many applications in industrial chemistry and can be decomposed again to hydrogen and CO2 where necessary. As liquid methanol can be shipped at environment pressure and temperature.

    Regarding the slow rivers there are some project here in EU that have low or no impact on the flowing river (no infrastructure) that should be compatible also with US laws.

  • Fabian Wee

    What is the energy balance.? Does unity exceed 572 KJ?

  • Ryan

    “If we are able to split water into oxygen and hydrogen in the presence of sunlight we will be able to harness the potential of hydrogen as a clean and green fuel”

    Solar hydrogen

    Electrolysis splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The electricity that is needed for electrolysis can be generated from photovoltaic cells. In other words, yes we can split water into hydrogen in the presence of sunlight (indirectly). The electricity does not have to be from PV cells. I agree with Jim above. Use the hydro power plants to make hydrogen

  • Theodor Dechev

    Hi guys,

    Yes, electrolysis is a very expensive process, but when you use much power and less brains. There is a number, that stands in the foundation of all experiments with hydrogen obtaining trough water electrolysis – this is the maximal Faraday efficiency, which is 2,75 WattHour energy used per liter hydrogen extracted. Remember this – 2,75 Wh/l. This is the value which is the main religion of all textbook writing scientists, who profess, that this is the maximal efficiency and more is impossible.

    However, I have reached 1,2 Wh/l from usual tap water in my laboratory, using inexpensive and clean catalyst and some tricks with the power supply, and I’m going further. I’m sure that there are thousands and thousands of researchers, who have reached even better results. There are not much secrets to hide how it’s made – they use much less power trough impulse frequent cutting the current, and few more tricks. Websites like, and hundreds like them, will convince you.

    Which means, that finally we have MORE energy obtained, than USED to supply the process. No, this is not a Perpetuum Mobile, because you still have a “fuel” – the water, which costs money. But its a very, very cheap fuel, 100% clean and renewable. A large part of the afterburning water steam could be used as water fuel again after condensing. Thus you can make the power generating system to be completely self-sustainable, using as outer source only small quantities of water. And you can produce power wherever you like, as much as you need, “on demand”, only having simple water. You may put your generator in the middle of the field, or in the mountain, in your kitchen, on your car, ship, plane.

    You’ll ask – wtf there are no commercial systems yet to be sold on the market? Yes, there are – B.E.S.T. Korea ( the first and biggest producer, working from 1993. They produce mainly welding/cutting generators, but also heater/boilers, etc. But still not effective – they suck 3,75 Wh/l from outer grid power. As much as they state on their site, which I don’t believe. I am sure they have much better efficiency, but they are afraid to announce it. And I understand them completely.

    People are stupid, as Mother Theresa whispered desperately. Trillions of dollars were burnt in the crisis and stupid wars. Governments and presidents pouring billions and trillions to revival company corps, addicted from a long time ago to a painful death. But when you ask them to give some funny thousands to push up the birth of so called “hydrogen economy”, the only answer is: GFY.

  • Arthur D Hall

    I personally made an electrolyzer (device to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gas) using nine stainless steel ten inch pie pans, eight rubber bands between them so as to insulate them from one another and to keep the water in when compressed together between two sheets of twelve inch square plexiglass. I drilled seven one inch holes in them to
    allow water to circulate through them via an aquarium water pump and plastic tubing. I hooked one end pan to positive 12v the other end pan to negative 12v battery charger. The seven pans between are neutral. At eight amps I can produce a two liter Pepsi bottle of oxygen/hydrogen gas in 70 seconds from just rainwater. It is enough to burn a one inch flame using a .023 mig torch tip.

    These are the facts of what I have done so far with just household items. What could G.E., Westinghouse and Dr. Chu do if they really wanted to? That won’t happen easily because it is too simple, too cheap and can provide energy to power any farm or cabin in the woods without a meter, without a meter, without a meter, all over the world. This will happen though, because “You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. Thank you all; I hope this is of some help.

  • Arthur D Hall

    In comment 24 I stated that at 12 volts and 8 amps I was able to produce a 1 inch oxygen/hydrogen flame.
    12 VOLTS X 8 AMPS = 96 WATTS So; Does this small flame have the capacity to produce more heat energy than that which a 100 watt light bulb expends? I believe that it does many times over. If that is the case;
    Then what are we waiting for?

  • Ray

    Electrolysis of water: Graphite is conductive and inert. Coat all metal parts with EZ-Slide graphite paint. This will prevent corrosion. Use sulfuric acid (battery acid) as your electrolyte. Use graphite felt for your electrodes. Use Wire Glue graphite glue to connect the wire leads. For oxyhydrogen production, wind two pieces of graphite felt, as electrodes, separated by plastic woven landscape fabric as a insulator, together in a roll. This will give a great electrode area and have the electrodes very close together. For hydrogen production wind a piece of graphite felt in a roll and insert into a plastic pipe to channel the hydrogen for use. Let this be the cathode (-) electrode. Wrap a piece of graphite felt around this pipe to be the anode (+) electrode. Secure using Wire Glue. The goal is to have the maximum amount of gas and the minimum amount of heat. Connect 6 cells in series for 12 volt direct current.

  • Theodor Dechev

    Yes, Ray, graphite is almost the perfect material for electrodes. Instead of the stainless steel, which liberates hexavalent cromium and thus becomes imperfect. However, there is a major problem – graphite dissolves in both acids and alkali. Several hours of electrolysis work and the electrolyte becomes black, slowly, but happens, I tried it personally.

    I don’t know what this graphite paint is about, it could maybe protect the surface, but all the graphite brands are soluble in most liquid electrolytes when they work as electrodes.

    I also tried to mix graphite powder in many non-soluble compounds as epoxy or bakelite resins, but the only result was complete loose of electrical conductivity.

  • Ray

    Electrolysis of water needs much more research and experimentation. This includes everything, power supply, electrodes, electrolytes, etc. Conversion of wasted heat energy to useful energy needs a lot of work. Currently there are Stirling engines, steam engines, steam turbines, and thermoelectric modules. Possibly resonance could be used if bridge rectifiers were fast enough to rectify heat frequencies. Maybe a graphite and metal alloy could be developed, for electrodes, to take advantage of graphite’s inertness. Different binders, in graphite coatings, also need much more work. Electrolytes are either a simple base or an acid. More research is needed for compound base or acid electrolytes. Currently used electrolytes apparently have problems with freezing. People tend to suppress their discoveries because of greed and do not give their knowledge to the public. Please share your knowledge!

  • Ray

    When graphite is used for electrodes in electrolysis, the bubbles cause cavitation and a shearing of graphite particles released to the electrolyte. This shearing is why graphite is used for lubrication and is slippery. The graphite needs to be reclaimed by filtering the electrolyte. Currently the best material for electrolysis electrodes is platinum. All metal exposed to the electrolyte and bubbles should be platinum or plated with platinum. Graphite is much less expensive but requires much more maintenance. Platinum is much more expensive but requires much less maintenance.

  • Ray

    Currently, the most practical water hydrolysis electrodes are stainless steel mesh, rolled together, separated by plastic woven landscape fabric used as a electrolyte pervious insulation. This gives the largest electrode area and lets the electrodes be very close to each other, helping with maximum gas production. Metal hydride can be used to capture the hydrogen.

  • Ray

    The hexavalent chromium problem solution is to neutralize it using sucrose or sugar.

  • Theodor Dechev

    Yes, sucrose/sugar neutralization is one of several ways to solve the hexavalent problem. The SS mesh (also net, or sieve) looks attractive with its large surface, but the electrical connection is always the first problem in this case. You have strong amperage connected with thin wire(s)- you’ll have overheating in this points and possible cut-offs, sparks and at last – explosion. Second problem is the fast wearing out and short life of the mesh during a continuous work. And the third one is how to electrically insulate the mesh layers in order to separate them into reliable single cells.

    I never used platinum as electrode, but I used 24-carat gold. It is absolutely perfect and eternal, and the results are fantastic. But only the solid plate. Gold plated copper or nickel disintegrates after some time of work. And here comes the biggest, overwhelming problem with the price.

    There are several elaborations with cheap polymer electrodes. A porous ceramic plate, soaked with polivinyl, shows good conductivity performance in acids, but still not enough, and is still not well stabilized, but it is a pretty good base for future elaborations.

    A new invention is on way, where two different plastics, sticked together, show a good conductivity on their contact surface. For the moment, the old good SS 316L solid plate with added extra molybdenum, insulated in separate cells, even though not very cheap, looks like the best choise as a quality/price ratio.

    Dear Ray, you have absolutely no need to capture and stockpile the gas if you use HHO generator, because it produces the gas “on demand”. Instead of gas tanks transportation, you should transport the generator itself or its modules to that point, where gas /power generation is needed for the moment, and to produce as much as it needed for the moment, without dangerous and senseless stockpiling.

    You have listed correctly the existing heat conversion principles – Stirling engines, steam engines, steam turbines, and Zeebeck-Peltier thermoelectric modules. I should exclude the clumsy steam engine. Thermoelectrics are very elegant, but still showing a very feeble conversion performance – max 12%. Stirlings, with their 38% and especially the well proficient good old simple steam turbines with 47% electrical and over 90% overall cogenerating performance, seem to be the only miserable choice we have for the moment. But I should add the hydrogen fuel cells, especially the Molten Carbonate (MCFC) ones. Look at . That’s the future. If you combine this technology with a HHO generator, you’ll receive the cheapest ever power, directly, without intermediate burning the gas, and you’ll have still additional wasted 400 degrees C steam, to use it for heating, or for additional power generation, which launches the MCFC’s COP up to 75%.

  • Ray

    Theodor, large stainless steel bolts, used as electrical connection terminals, can be connected to the stainless steel mesh electrodes directly, without using any wire. The electrode wearing issue is a difficult problem. The insulating, electrolyte pervious membrane is another difficult problem. Thanks for sharing your insightful information.

  • Ray

    Multiple layers, of stainless steel mesh, can equal the thickness of stainless steel plates, to help compensate for electrode loss. Platinized electrodes can also help.

  • Ray

    High temperature and/or high pressure electrolysis can give better gas producing results using less electricity. Also, agitating the electrolyte, using sound, via transducers, knocks the gas bubbles off of the electrodes faster, facilitating faster gas production.

  • Theodor Dechev

    Ray, be aware! Bolt connection in a gas environment is very,very dangerous! Sparks are possible all the time, even at the best tightened bolt, and the result is explosion! I had a very bad experience, even with bolt connections, immersed in the electrolyte – when the bubbles begin to go up close to the surface, they group themselves in gas pipes, which are very dangerous!

    All connections in the space of the box must be even not soldered, but WELDED only, with material, same or similar to the plate’s material. Otherwise, if soldered with a solder, made of different metals, you produce a battery, which have its own electrolytic process, interfering with the main one, making a real mess, and finally connection will be disintegrated soon, often accompanied with explosion.

    All bolt power connections, and such between different metals cables, must be led out of the electrolyzer box. If you want to use mesh, even if you weld it to the power connection cable, you’ll have a shock current right next to the welded area, with a heavy overheating. Additionally, around this area you’ll observe the most intensive electrolytic effect. The thin wires of the mesh won’t resist such combined electro-thermal shock and sooner or later will wear out and cut.

    About the high work temperature – the best level for me is about 40-60 deg.C. After 80 degrees, especially in a fixed resonance range, you have an uncontrollable avalanche effect of sharp increasing the process, often ending with explosion again.

    I tried to use different freq’s tranducers, but I didn’t received so good results – most of the bubbles were still staying sticked to the plates, even the plates were ringing loudly as bells; the best result I had with many thin high-pressure jets, flowing over the plates. They blew off the bubbles immediately.

  • Ray

    Proper insulation of the electrical connections, using rubber or a rubber like substance, depending on the electrolyte, will prevent electrical arcing and the possibility of an explosion. All electrical connections should be properly insulated. Electrical excessive heating is usually caused by insufficient tightening of electrical connections and/or an excessive concentration of electrolyte. Electrolysis systems must be properly engineered, constructed, operated and maintained, in order to prevent a catastrophic failure.

    Heating water to high enough temperatures can cause the atoms to turn into a gas with no added electrical input. Read this article for beginning information on thermolysis:

  • Ray

    Hydrogen accidents do happen. Look here:

  • Theodor Dechev

    The best defense against accidents is one: no stockpiling.

    All produced gas volume must be not more than this one, just evaporated over the electrolyte level and this in the connecting pipe, and all this must be not more than a couple of litres and has to be burned or converted into power trough HFC immediately, without putting ANY quantities in tank !

    If you have a liable combination of a bubbler and a backflame arrestor, no accidents are to be happen ever.

    Also you must have liable gauges for combined pressure/power measurement, and when the pressure increases, the power will be reciprocally decreased, thus a continued balance will be obtained. Also the temperature must be connected with the power supply and in case of overheating the power must be switched off and an alarm to be on.

    Addititonal gauges as digital pH-meter, a circulation pump with changeable/washable filter and a manometer after the filter are essential. All critical levels must be signalized trough alarm.
    To collect hydrogen in a drum is so, so stupid, that I just refuse to comment such a joke.

  • HHO Dry Cell

    Finally glad to come across hydrogen fuel developers who think outside the box. Most sites I come across are nothing more than people following old ideas, this only leaves us in an endless circle that leads back to old problems. I am personally working on an hho dry cell that uses no electrical from the cars electrical system, produces 2 LPM and the 9 plates are only two inches by two inches. Have a great day


  • chuckru

    We have had all kinds of alternative energy available since the early 1900’s. If you do any kind of research starting with Tesla and come forward in history you can see that is the case.

    In regards to the material in the article it sounds a lot like Chemalloy which is a material that was created in the 1950’s as an aluminum welding material. It was found that if it was submerged in water not only did it naturally break the water to release hydrogen and water with no loss of the material it would also create an electrical charge.

  • swm32yrs100k

    Well there is an electrolysis cell that no longer wears out, does not get dirty and electrolytic fluid does not become retarded during operation. You think these people could get funding. Every where they look, doors just slammed in there face.

  • Dr.Pravin

    Dear friends,

    I have been working on photo-electrochemical (PEC) hydrogen generation. Can anybody tell me which is the best way to measure the generated hydrogen in the PEC cell? Is there any device to measure the liberated H2 and O2 at the respective electrodes?

    Waiting for your reply.

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