Researchers from the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) and the company Cerametec (Utah) announced that they had experimentally obtained the highest rate of hydrogen production by high temperature electrolysis (HTE) ever reported. This promising process, which breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen by applying an electric current, requires an input of energy on which its yield and therefore its interest depends. In the case of low-temperature electrolysis, powered by a coal-fired power station 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 climb up to 50%, especially if it is coupled to a high temperature nuclear reactor (HTR). The researchers' idea is therefore, in the long term, to build a unit of this type which would bring the heat transfer gas (helium in this case) to a temperature of around 1000 ° C. The heated gas would be used in two ways: either to turn an electricity-generating turbine, or to bring the water to 800 ° C for electrolysis. On arrival, this “2 in 1” reactor could either generate 300 megawatts of energy for the electricity grid or 2,5 kg of hydrogen per second. The problem is that the control of high temperature heat transfer gas plants, even conventional ones, is still limited. Cerametec and INEEL now intend to test the feasibility of the device with a $ 2,6 million project. A commercial scale prototype is expected by the Department of Energy (DOE) by 2017.
source: New York Times, 28 / 11 / 04