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Clean Power Hypersolar envisions solar powered hydrogen production systems

Published on May 26th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


HyperSolar Envisions Solar Powered Hydrogen “Farms”

May 26th, 2012 by  

Hypersolar envisions solar powered hydrogen production systemsLast year the solar company HyperSolar, Inc. filed a patent application for a solar powered system that creates renewable methane gas from water, which it has been testing out at California’s Salton Sea.  Just last week, the company announced that it has completed  a proof-of-concept prototype for a solar-powered hydrogen generator, so this looks like a good time to check in and see what they’re up to.

Everything you need to know about hydrogen

Hydrogen can be produced from plain water through a reaction touched off by electricity. However, it takes a significant amount of energy to split hydrogen atoms from water molecules. If the energy in question is a fossil fuel then hydrogen is a wash in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

An emerging solution is to develop hydrogen production systems that are integrated with solar power, essentially mimicking the natural process of photosynthesis.

One notable example of this approach is MIT researcher Daniel Nocera’s solar powered “artificial leaf,” which is based on a small solar module the size of a playing card.

Plastic bags, solar power and green hydrogen

Hypersolar’s system goes even farther down the size spectrum, using tiny particles consisting of a nanoscale solar device and a protective plastic coating.

The particles float in water, and the coating enables them to function in hostile environments including  sea water, wastewater or stormwater runoff. That gives the system a leg up on conventional hydrogen systems, which require purified water.

The reaction takes place at ambient temperatures, so it can take place in a low-cost glass vessel or even an ordinary plastic bag.

For the proof of concept prototype, Hypersolar used a baggie placed in wastewater from a pulp and paper mill.

A little help from hydrogen friends

Hypersolar recently partnered up with the UC-Santa Barbara College of Engineering to bring the technology closer to commercial development, with a focus on

using municipal and industrial wastewater as feedstocks. Potentially, the system could be scaled up to form sprawling hydrogen “farms.”

When they’re ready for another announcement, we’ll be sure to check in again.

Image: Courtesy of Hypersolar.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • DonT

    I would like to put solar on my house, an H2 generator in the garage and buy an overpriced vehicle which in the long run be worth it. Then I won’t have power companies or oil companies to worry about. To me it looks like independence at a reasonable cost. Probably about $115,000 spent and no more pollution or greedy oil barons.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You could do most of that right now for a lot less.

      You could do most of your driving with a EV or PHEV using electricity. After the tax rebate a Nissan Leaf would cost you about $22k. A Chevy Volt, a few thousand more. And state/local rebates could take the prices lower.

      If you’re an average 13,000 mile driver a 3kW solar array should produce all the electricity you’d need (for 40 and possibly a lot more) years.

      13,000 * 0.3 kWh/mile / 365 days / 4.5 avg solar hours = 2.4 kW.

      If you’re an average US household and use about 30 kWh per day then 7 kW of panels should produce all the electricity you use per year (and for 40+ years).

      So, less than $25k for a ride. 10 kW of solar $32K ($4.59 US avg price and the 30% federal subsidy).

      Let the grid do your storage and backup for now.

      Half of your estimate and you’ll be producing what you use.

  • Mike Hillsgrove

    Costs are not an issue. In fact, the costs for H2 are really just in building the infrastructure, something we did for gas and oil 100-150 years ago. Water is vastly cheaper and more available then oil pumped out of oil wells digging 3 miles below the ocean and producing H2 from it far less costly than refining oil.

    The real problem is resistance from oil companies whose world ends the instant that infrastructure is built.

    Critical damage to this planet requires us to make the switchover, and since ALL renewable energy is local, the benefits of a total switchover to H2/Renewable are phenomenal.

    Clean air, clean water, total elimination of the CO2 produced by man, ending the energy monopolies, no electric or heating bill – forever, efficient housing, no more pipelines, filthy tankers, wars for oil, massive oil spills, refinery fires, just to name a few.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “Costs are not an issue”

      Costs are always an issue. At this point in time H2 fuel cell cars would cost about the same per mile as gasmobiles. We lose about half the energy in the conversion of electricity to hydrogen and then into kinetic energy. Plus that hydrogen infrastructure has to be paid for.

      Since we don’t price carbon there would be no financial advantage for people to move to FCEVs.

      We need to move away from oil. EVs cost about one-third as much per mile as gasmobiles.

      Our move away from oil (and coal) will largely occur because renewables are so much cheaper. The fossil fuel industry will likely be able to block a price on carbon (in the US) for some time to come.

  • ecosolglobal

    This post is very much informative and at the same time has the same goals as ours. At Ecosol Global we offer R.E.D Teslagram to help people lessen harmful emissions. Thanks.

    Lessen Harmful Emissions

  • Thomasdodgson

    There is a comprehensive weekly world wide NEWS up date service on this most interesting and vital new energy arena. It is concise, well balanced and well documented It also gives good analysis of other new developments that have outstanding potential for real and fast change away to inexpensive, clean and space age energies.

  • David Nygren – here you can find info up to date info about LENR

  • Thomasdodgson

    Tina – Please take a most serious look at Cold Fusion/LENR etc. There are about 17 companies racing to market above the radar and a bunch below it. Market heaters are projected to start emerging later this year and early next. This obsoletes many of the other energy producing startups and systems. It leap frog’s over them. They are cheap, clean, small and scalable. The more and sooner people become aware of this new and quickly becoming well proven energy source the quicker it can become available. It is so super good it is disruptive to many status quo interests but can bring on a new, freer, richer and more exciting day for the rest of us. Please look into becoming part of the better solution and help us not to get hung up and hooked into a bunch of half way there semi-fixes. Your article was transported to which is an excellent place to get a quick look at the truly exciting field of H, Ni etc type LENR.

  • This would be really revolutionary if it could be coupled with cheap fuel-cells.

  • I am impressed by this such a great and i think it has something great knowledge that inspired me a lot.

  • This is the answer to all the Hydrogen Denier Trolls that pervade the web.

    Hydrogen can be produced cleanly and hydrolysis is a catalytic — not a 1 to 1 storage system.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’ve never encountered a “Hydrogen Denier Troll”.

      I have encountered people who question the cost of hydrogen as a viable storage medium. Especially for vehicles.

      This idea is interesting. But unproven. And it certainly is not producing cheap hydrogen.

      It might, but so far it hasn’t….

      • to add on to that, Dr. Joe Romm of Climate Progress was “assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 1997, where he oversaw $1 billion in R&D, demonstration, and deployment of low-carbon technology.” He was involved in a big push for hydrogen in that time, from what i remember reading in a recent post (hope it’s right), but has since sworn that it is money-suck that won’t compete with EVs & plug-in hybrids. he’s the top expert on the matter i know well enough to trust and would go with his take on that.

      • Mike Hillsgrove

        The idea is well proven. At least four car companies are now producing cars for it. 20 fueling stations are going into or are operational in Los Angeles now. Further, you can buy solar crackers now so that you can make your own H2 for a car or fuel cell TODAY!

        Ford (their F250 TriFlex Fuel truck), Hyundai, Honda and Toyota all have had H2 cars, some for years.

        H2 is coming and can’t be stopped. It is a vastly superior fuel.

        1) It is clean. Totally perfectly clean.

        2) Range and performance is equal to gasoline
        3) Fill up times are equal to gasoline.
        4) Fewer moving parts, less complicated engines
        5) Performance does not degrade with temperature, like electric
        6) You can make it at home

        • Bob_Wallace

          “1) It is clean. Totally perfectly clean.” If we make it from renewable energy. But most hydrogen is made from natural gas.

          “2) Range and performance is equal to gasoline” H2 does not pack as much energy per volume/weight as gasoline. Range, unless tanks are very large, is less.

          “3) Fill up times are equal to gasoline.” Perhaps they could be. Fill up times for CNG are slower.

          “4) Fewer moving parts, less complicated engines” OK.

          “5) Performance does not degrade with temperature, like electric” I’ve no information.

          “6) You can make it at home” Inefficient use of capital.

          • Mike Hillsgrove

            1) You did not read the article. Things are changing. You can make this stuff at home. You can get the kits off of Amazon, or just do it yourself.

            2) Blatantly false. The new Toyota vehicles prove that.
            3) 3 minutes for a complete fill up. And you can do it at home.
            6) Do the math. $400 kit and water gets you fill up’s forever. Pay $40 a week for gas now? On week 11 you make money. That’s just with what we have today. As it gets wider acceptance. an H2 filling connection will become part of every household solar installation.

          • Bob_Wallace

            1) You can turn water into H2 and O with renewable electricity. That is not how we are currently doing it. And electrolysis wastes energy as does compression.

            2) The Toyota FCEV has tanks as small or smaller than a 300 mile range ICEV? Please share the data.

            3) Possibly. You do realize that a 3 minute vs. 20 minute fill up on a long trip will likely not mean any appreciable difference in arrival time? At least not enough to offset the higher price per mile.

            6) Do some more math. Include the cost of electricity per mile.

  • jburt56

    Sure. Couple that with fuel cells for a nice system.

  • Currently we have the option of using natural gas and then using solar energy to remove the CO2 released. It will be interesting to see if solar hydrogen farms can get their costs low enough to compete with this.

    • Dihydrogen_Monoxide

      Unfortunately natural gas has a lot of other problems too (methane leaks, water pollution, etc). Also, even if you can remove the CO2 effectively enough there is still the problem about what to do with it afterwards.

      I do agree though it will be interesting to see if this proposed system become sufficiently economical. Of course we’ll still need cost effective and safe distribution and storage as well. Personally I’m betting on electrics, but I wouldn’t mind it being hydrogen that wins out either.

      • The beauty of the Hydrogen Infrastructure is you can drop components in and out using subsidies to help promising new developments while allowing consumers to get the benefits of clean fuel within the high population areas…even if the centralized method of production is still dirty.

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