At least half of the world’s usable hydrogen is obtained through a process known as steam reforming, in which steam reacts with fossil fuels such as natural gas to produce hydrogen gas. On a smaller scale, hydrogen can also be obtained through the process of electrolysis, in which ordinary water is split into its oxygen and hydrogen components by running an electrical current through it – consumers can even buy their own electrolysis-based home hydrogen extraction kit, in the form of the HYDROFILL. Now, however, Japan’s FUKAI Environmental Research Institute has announced a new technology for obtaining hydrogen that it claims is less expensive and more efficient than anything that’s been tried so far.
FUKAI’s process involves adding aluminum or magnesium to boiling “functional water,” a proprietary substance that can be produced simply by running regular tap water through a natural mineral-containing “functional water generation unit.” The bonds that join hydrogen and oxygen molecules in regular water, which ordinarily require some energy to break, are weakened in functional water.
The liquid yields 2 liters (122 cubic inches) of hydrogen gas per gram of aluminum, or 3.3 liters (201 cubic inches) per gram of magnesium. FUKAI claims that the cost of producing enough hydrogen to generate 1kWh of electricity is about 18 cents US. That cost could be lowered through the use of recycled aluminum.
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