Hydrogen Fuel from the Electrolysis
It is interesting to note that one of the most important substances
to humans is also a source of a viable energy source in the form
of hydrogen. Hydrogen itself is the most abundant element in the
universe, and it can be separated from water via electrolysis
and other processes.
It is therefore probably no coincidence
that the German word for hydrogen is "wasserstoff",
which literally translates into "water stuff".
One of the most efficient means to produce hydrogen fuel from
water is a process called electrolysis. This process basically
involves passing an electric current through the water, which
causes it to decompose into its component parts of oxygen and
Electrolysis utilizes an electrical power source, which is connected
to two electrodes or platinum or stainless steel plates, both
of are placed directly in the water. When designed properly, this
apparatus causes hydrogen to be coursed to the negatively charged
electrode or cathode, which is where electrons go into the water.
Oxygen is then coursed to the positively charged electrode or
anode. With a Faradaic efficient system, the hydrogen molecules
generated by this process is twice as many as the oxygen molecules
generated, the total of both of which are proportional to the
electrical charge generated by the water. When one or the other
side reactions are dominant, different ratios of these elements
are of course produced.
In an electrolysis process using pure water, over-potential is
required in order to produce energy sufficient to overcome different
hindrances to activation. In cases wherein there is insufficient
energy, the rate of electrolysis of pure water may be radically
slowed down or it may not occur at all. This is largely because
of the self-ionizing action of pure water, which is about 1/1,000,000
as conductive as seawater.
Certain electrolytic cells may also not have sufficient electrocatalysts,
and this may further retard the process of producing hydrogen.
Good ways to increase the rate of electrolysis is by adding an
electrolyte such as salts, acids or a base into the water, and
the use of an electrocatalyst. This electrolytic process is actually
not very widely used in industrial hydrogen fuel production today,
since it is still a lot easier and more cost-effective to produce
hydrogen by using fossil fuels.
The roots of electrolysis to produce hydrogen fuel from water
can be traced to as far back as 1789, when Jan Rudolph Deiman
and Adriaan Paets van Troostwijk used an electrostatic machine
in order to produce electricity. Deiman and van Troostwijk then
utilized gold electrodes in a jar filled with water. In 1800,
Alessandro Volta came up with the voltaic pile, which was used
for electrolysis a short time later by William Nicholson and Anthony
With the subsequent invention of the Gramme machine by Zénobe
Gramme invented in 1869, the world finally had the first inexpensive
method for hydrogen fuel production from water. This would set
the stage for the electrolytic splitting of the hydrogen and oxygen
molecules in the water by Dmitry Lachinov, which was developed