A new method for producing hydrogen from the element helium has been described by a group of researchers from the US and Japan.
The research, reported in the journal Nature, was led by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and University of Tokyo, who also used the element to create helium atoms for use in the manufacture of lithium ion batteries.
The team used the helium atom to generate electrons which can be converted to hydrogen, which is then converted to oxygen by the reaction with hydrogen.
This process is called the hydrogen oxidation.
The group’s discovery may be useful for a number of applications, including fuel cell energy storage, quantum computers and high-temperature devices, which use hydrogen to store energy.
“This discovery may have implications for a range of future hydrogen-powered energy systems,” said lead author Yohannes Dufour, a PhD student in the Department of Physics at UC Berkeley.
“With this technology, we could eventually reduce the cost of hydrogen storage by as much as 80 per cent.” “
Our discovery opens the door to hydrogen energy storage in other applications, such as fuel cells and batteries that have a high energy density, but low cost,” he added.
“With this technology, we could eventually reduce the cost of hydrogen storage by as much as 80 per cent.”
Researchers from the University on a mission to the stars ‘to build the world’s first interstellar rocket’ The researchers used a process known as electron spin splitting, which involves the use of the hydrogen element as a catalyst, in order to generate hydrogen.
In the process, a thin layer of silicon (Si) is mixed with a hydrogen atom.
This hydrogen is then heated up to a temperature of 454 °C, and the silicon is cooled to minus 273 °C.
The heat causes the hydrogen to solidify, forming a hydrogen crystal, which then splits into hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
The resulting atoms are then recombined and the mixture is condensed into a liquid state at a temperature that can be as low as −196 °C (-273 °C) to allow the reaction to complete.
The process is not suitable for making helium because of its extremely high thermal conductivity.
This means that the reactions take place on an extremely small surface area.
The researchers also realised that the process is prone to mixing errors, and they had to improve their technique to overcome this.
“The helium reaction is relatively simple to produce, and its efficiency depends on a number: the number of atoms used, the number in the mixture, the efficiency of the catalyst and the temperature,” said senior author Ryoji Yoshimura, an assistant professor in the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics (MEMS).
“For example, for the helium reaction, the catalyst efficiency is approximately 90 per cent.
However, for many different materials, the catalytic efficiency varies from 30 to 40 per cent,” he said.
“So the ratio of the reaction efficiency depends only on the materials used, and it varies greatly from one material to another,” he explained.
The scientists found that they needed to improve the reaction in order for the hydrogen atoms to form a hydrogen-oxyhydrogen bond, and this was achieved by using a technique known as ion exchange.
“In the hydrogen exchange reaction, an electron is released as a by-product.
This electron is converted to an oxygen atom, and a bond between these two atoms is formed between the two hydrogen atoms,” said Yoshimura.
“At the same time, the carbon atoms in the two atoms are exchanged for the oxygen atom in the atom with a carbon chain attached.
This carbon chain then bonds to the hydrogen molecule, and hydrogen atoms form a pair of hydrogen bonds, with hydrogen ions in the hydrogen bonds forming the hydrogen electrons,” he continued.
“We found that the ion exchange reaction requires two steps: first, the hydrogen molecules are separated from each other, then the electrons are formed.
These are the two steps of the electron spin split process,” Yoshimura said.
The result is that the reaction produces a mixture of hydrogen and helium ions, which can then be converted into oxygen, which in turn is converted into hydrogen.
“If you are interested in learning more about the process of hydrogen oxidation, we suggest you visit our hydrogen oxidation webpage,” Yoshimi said.
The research was funded by the DOE Office of Science and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
This article was originally published by New Scientist and can be republished here.
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