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Simple technology to produce hydrogen gas at room temperature

  • Published
    13th Sep, 2022
Context

Researchers have developed a technique to produce hydrogen from water at ambient temperatures without the need for electricity.

About
  • The researchers used a composite made out of gallium and aluminium to produce hydrogen gas from water. 
  • Aluminium is an excellent candidate material for this purpose because the highly reactive metal easily reacts with the oxygen molecules in water to release hydrogen gas.
    • But the pure form of the metal is so reactive that it instantly reacts with air to create a coating of aluminium oxide on its surface, meaning it cannot react with water.
  • Gallium is liquid at slightly above room temperature and it removes the aluminium oxide coating that forms on the bare metal, allowing it to be in direct contact with the water and react with it.
    • The reaction of aluminium and gallium with water to produce hydrogen gas is already common scientific knowledge but the new technology features innovations that bring it closer to practical applications.
  • After the process, we could easily recover 95 per cent of Gallium that was used, without optimisation.
    • The only other product that was formed was Alumina [Aluminium Oxide], which can be used for many other applications.
    • Alumina has many applications including in spark plugs, abrasion-resistant tiles and cutting tools.

What is Hydrogen?

  • Hydrogen is the simplest element. An atom of hydrogen consists of only one proton and one electron.
  • It’s also the most plentiful element in the universe. Despite its simplicity and abundance, hydrogen doesn’t occur naturally as a gas on the Earth – it’s always combined with other elements.
  • Water, for example, is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen (H2O).
  • Hydrogen is high in energy, yet an engine that burns pure hydrogen produces almost no pollution.
  • NASA has used liquid hydrogen since the 1970s to propel the space shuttle and other rockets into orbit.
  • Hydrogen fuel cells power the shuttle’s electrical systems, producing a clean byproduct – pure water, which the crew drinks.
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