Researchers at Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) and Cerametec (Utah) announced that they have achieved the highest rate of high temperature electrowinning (EHT) hydrogen production ever reported. This promising process, which decomposes water into hydrogen and oxygen by applying an electric current, requires a supply of energy on which depends its yield and therefore its interest. In the case of a low-temperature electrolysis, powered by a coal-fired power plant for example, the energy cost is three to four times greater than the final energy production. For EHT, on the other hand, the efficiency can go up to 50%, especially if it is coupled to a high temperature nuclear reactor (HTR). The researchers' idea is, ultimately, to build a unit of this kind that would carry heat-transfer gas (helium in this case) at a temperature of about 1000 ° C. The heated gas would be used in two ways: either to turn a turbine generating electricity, or to bring to 800 ° C the water to be used for electrolysis. On arrival, this "2 in 1" reactor could optionally generate 300 megawatts of energy to the power grid or 2,5 kg of hydrogen per second. The problem is that the control of high temperature heat transfer plants, even conventional, is still limited. Cerametec and INEEL now intend to test the feasibility of the device through a project of 2,6 million dollars. A commercial scale prototype is expected by the Department of Energy (DOE) by 2017.
source: New York Times, 28 / 11 / 04