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New Discovery Makes Hydrogen Production 1000% Cheaper

One of the biggest issues in solar and wind power production is that of the variability of the power production throughout the day and throughout the year, and because of that, there is a great need for affordable and effective energy storage systems for both small and large scale use.

Batteries keep getting more and more efficient, but buying large battery banks isn’t always the most effective (or cheapest) way to store energy from peak supply to cover peak power demands.

However, a new discovery by a pair of scientists at the University of Calgary may make it feasible to have a home hydrogen production unit attached to a solar or wind power system, which would then generate hydrogen from water with the energy. That hydrogen could then be used as stored energy for converting into electricity later, as desired.

The research of Curtis Berlinguette and Simon Trudel, both in the Faculty of Science chemistry department at UC, led them to the discovery of a much more efficient and quicker method of generating hydrogen from water than is currently used – and one that could be as much as 1000% cheaper.

Their work involves the catalysts, usually made from rare or expensive metals, that drive the chemical reactions that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen in electrolyzers. The pair found that by using abundant metal compounds or oxides, they could create a mixed metal oxide catalyst with an amorphous structure, which are more chemically reactive than the currently used crystalline materials, out of just about any metal in the periodic table.

According to the researchers, an electrolyzer unit the size of “a beer fridge” containing a few liters of water is all that’s necessary to provide and store all the power necessary for a typical house. They have created a company to bring the product to market, FireWater Fuel Corp., and expect to have a commercial large-scale electrolyzer unit ready for 2014, and a prototype home electrolyzer unit ready to test by 2015.

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