Hydrogen goes to be massive! Positive, certain, you’ve heard that one earlier than, however this time, simply possibly, it’s for actual. President Bush is touting it as our near-future Freedom Gasoline, GM and Toyota are racing to convey the primary production-model fuel-cell automobiles to market, and everybody and his hippie uncle is dreaming of a day when hydrogen-powered SUVs emit nothing however water vapor. There could even come a time once we’re capable of produce it by harnessing power from the solar, wind or waves as a substitute of from pure fuel. In the meantime, although, as we await that wonderful future, it’s simple sufficient to cook dinner up some pure H2 by yourself.
My first train in hydrogen manufacturing was to drop a 9-volt battery right into a cup of water. (Hey, I used to be solely 12–what do you anticipate?) Amazingly, it labored: I had managed to assemble pure hydrogen fuel out of subatomic particles! The protons got here from the water itself, which at all times has a bunch of them working round unfastened (bare protons are additionally referred to as hydrogen ions). The electrons got here from the battery. After I injected (nicely, plunged) the electrons into the water, they latched onto the protons to kind just a few small bubbles of hydrogen fuel. Neat, however not very thrilling.
From there I added salt to the water to extend its conductivity, thereby rising the circulation of present and the variety of electrons accessible to pair up with all these wild protons. I crimped wires to the battery terminals for a similar motive. Sadly, these corroded somewhat shortly, which is why I now use graphite rods: They final endlessly and are splendidly low cost. For a very long time I salvaged them from previous lantern batteries (commonplace, not alkaline), pulling the carbon electrodes out of every cell. (I like this methodology as a result of they arrive ready-made with wires hooked up, however you too can purchase them in any welding store.) As soon as they’re sanded clear and soldered to a 9V battery clip, they produce nice billowing clouds of hydrogen (and oxygen–one fuel from every electrode) for the lifetime of the battery (which is simply a few minutes–there’s a critical quantity of present flowing now).
To find out which electrode produces which fuel, maintain a match close to the floor of the water. The fuel effervescent off the damaging electrode crackles and flashes: That’s hydrogen. Though it’s flammable, you gained’t generate sufficient with a 9V battery to make it harmful. The truth is, in comparison with gasoline, pure fuel or propane, hydrogen is sort of protected. Simply don’t gather it along with oxygen in a container: That’s a dangerously explosive combination. So explosive, actually, that in liquid rocket engines the 2 parts are blended solely simply earlier than the engine is lit.
Theodore Grey is a scientist educated in lab security procedures. In the event you do this by yourself, you achieve this at your individual threat.