Transforming the carbon economy
Wind turbines with flexible blades found to be more efficient

Mike has been working on the SMD cell for quite a while, and he’s now ready to go public with the results. At base, this is a way to turn Iron (or some other metal) and electricity (from solar power or other intermittent source) into Hydrogen gas as a storage medium. The big advantage of the process is that it produces no Oxygen from electrolysis (which is normally an unwanted by-product) but instead oxidises the sacrificial metal with it and gains more Hydrogen as a result. The Hydrogen can then be used later to either produce heat or electrical power when needed. He’s working on developments of the basic idea that may be better-suited to running an electric vehicle.

 

 

Most of the rest of this article will be Mike’s own descriptions:
The SMD hydrogen cell uses three electrodes, it works as an energy and a hydrogen producer depending on the cycling mode. One is the hydrogen electrode and is made of stainless steel, this is formed as a cylinder and has the biggest diameter, it is the only electrode which produces hydrogen.

The second electrode is the oxygen electrode which is made of nickel hydroxide and carbon pressed on to a nickel plated foil for good contact and electrical conduction. This is formed into a cylinder of smaller diameter than the hydrogen electrode and is contained within a fine mesh (Fig:3), the surface area is far greater than the hydrogen electrode. In the centre of the cylindrical cell is the third electrode, this is made of iron and is the sacrificial electrode in this cell.

It can be seen that this is in part a nickel iron battery, the difference here is it is not charged in a conventional way, and produces hydrogen with reduced input power. The battery side to this cell is charged by the absorption of oxygen creating nickel oxy-hydroxide (NiOOH) at the second electrode, this is a very fast charge, while at the same time as creating pure hydrogen on the outer electrode. The power for this comes from a super capacitor store bank which is charged on one cycle by the external solar, wind or off peak grid in series with the internal battery power generated by the Ni/Fe reaction within the cell. The iron electrode on discharge is oxidised to iron hydroxides, and in this case is a one way reaction as recharging is rapidly done by the oxidation of the nickel electrode.

As can be seen, the oxygen, which is not wanted, is put to use to generate electrical power. Over 30% of the power for creating hydrogen from water, can come from the chemical reaction of the unwanted oxygen, and all in the same cell through creative design. In practical systems these cells are linked in series and or parallel to gain the working power and hydrogen production required, there is no real limit to the number. The external power can be a fluctuating supply as in wind or solar, there is no start up or run down time required, and the resulting hydrogen can be stored or converted to SNG (methane) using the Sabatier reaction.

This system is ideal for power to gas, be it on or off grid, and has the smallest power to gas loss of any electrolysis system today producing hydrogen from water.

 

SMD is an answer for power to gas (methane), which can be put into the NG grid or bottles or in your car for that. This is already being done, (ETO gas), but the real cost of doing this is the cost of H2 from water using electrolysis.
The negative points are these for power to gas:-
1.   Best electrolysis is 80% creating both H2 and O2 together.
2.   The O2 is not required for power to gas 33.3% of the power is lost in the O2 being produced.
3.   Normal electrolysis is not easy to start and stop quickly (high temperatures involved)
4.   The real cost of production is not shown as it should be.

 

The positive of SMD:-
1.   The effective electrolysis is still 80%, but for H2 only, an effective equivalent of 104% for H2+O2 together. (energy exchange)
2.   The O2 is converted into power by using it to oxidise Ni, and later along with Fe (nickel/iron battery), discharged to charge the capacitor bank (1.2v per cell)  along with a reduced power external input, all in one cell.
3.   Easy, cost effective half bridge/mosfet control of changeover cycles
4.   Rapid start and stop (instant) for working with renewable energies (wind, solar).
5.   Long life Ni electrode (20yrs), cheap Fe electrode, (which can be reprocessed if need be, and produce O2).
6.   The internal Ni/Fe battery charges nearly instantly with the reaction of the oxygen “in situ”.

 

Storing energy in a universal gas such as methane, is the future if the hydrogen can be produced at the right cost. The Sabatier reaction is very exothermic, so much so that the 20% energy lost to heat can be used to produce more power for the electrolysis, this last point is overlooked, on purpose!!!! I think so, don’t create waves I’m told, but we are talking high grade heat here (SH steam).

 

Little by little pilot plants of power to gas are being built, distribution is via the NG grid, it is a very viable solution to energy storage and distribution, it also has a zero carbon footprint.

 

Mike’s techniques have been copied by a Chinese group, and they wrote up their results and submitted them to Nature at http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms11741 which also gives a good overview of the ideas.

 

Mike himself has published on Researchgate at
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313660479_Phase_IV_SMD_Hydrogen_only_from_water which details the Phase IV version, and he’s working on Phase V at the moment which is not yet ready for publication.

 

Since the sacrificial metal doesn’t need to be pure, the system can use scrap Iron which then produces Iron ore that can be usefully fed into normal Iron production processes. This process can use renewable power when it’s there in excess of requirements and produce about 50% more Hydrogen from it than would otherwise be the case, thus making Hydrogen a cheaper fuel than it would otherwise be. Though I’m not expecting we’ll really be going to Hydrogen-powered cars because of the risks of non-professional handling of it, as an industrial fuel it’s great and non-polluting, and of course you will have trained people working with it.

 

Transforming the carbon economy
Wind turbines with flexible blades found to be more efficient