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Scientists discover quick recipe for producing hydrogen

9 December 2013

Scientists at the University Claude Bernard Lyon have discovered a simple process for producing copious volumes of hydrogen. The researchers will present a paper on the discovery at the American Geophysical Union’s annual Fall Meeting in San Francisco this week.

In a microscopic high-pressure cooker called a diamond anvil cell (within a tiny space about as wide as a pencil lead), Muriel Andreani, Isabelle Daniel, and Marion Pollet-Villard combined aluminum oxide, water, and the mineral olivine. After 24 hours at 200 to 300 degrees Celsius and 2 kilobars pressure—comparable to conditions found at twice the depth of the deepest ocean—they produced hydrogen.

Dr. Daniel explains that when water meets the ubiquitous mineral olivine under pressure, the rock reacts with oxygen (O) atoms from the H2O, transforming olivine into another mineral, serpentine. The process also leaves hydrogen molecules separated from oxygen atoms in water.

Finding the reaction completed in the micro space overnight instead of over months as expected was a surprise. The experiments produced H2 some 7 to 50 times faster than the natural “serpentinization” of olivine.

Scaling this up to meet global energy needs in a carbon-free way would probably require 50 years. But a growing market for hydrogen in fuel cells could help pull the process into the market.

—Jesse Ausubel of The Rockefeller University and a founder of Deep Carbon Observatory

Dr. Daniel noted that until now it has been a scientific mystery how the rock + water + pressure formula produces enough hydrogen to support such an abundance of chemical-loving microbial and other forms of life abounding in the hostile environments of the deep.

We believe the serpentinization process may be underway on many planetary bodies—notably Mars.

—DR. Isabelle Daniel

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Comments

Wow! Is this final victory for the abiotic oil crowd?
I am gobsmacked!

Before I get too carried away about this providing all our fuel, even in 50 years time, I would like to look at info on the energetics of this reaction.
It sounds energy expensive.

Olivine contains some Fe(II) probably the steam is reduced by this reduced iron and sheds off hydrogen gas - Magnetite and Siderite and Wustite would also be excellent reductants. None of this is useful however.

'None of this is useful however.'

Why?

I'm sure this will result in a HUGE market for home diamond anvil kits

"HYDROGEN at HOME — make NANOGRAMS PER DAY with our DIAMOND ANVIL KIT!!"

What could go wrong?

If we are going to transform billions of tons of rocks to porous mud, there will be a lot of mining rocks, and a lot of heavy metals being 'liberated' to the biosphere.
I would prefere using wind/solar/nuclear electricity to make H2 from rainwater.
Looks much more sustainable. The required green electricity will surely be available by 2050.

Yes, the sun sends us enough energy to make plenty of H2 for vehicles and rainy days etc.?

It may be a bit costly right now but better cheaper ways are coming.

The temperatures and pressures are not huge by industrial standards.
2 kilobar is around 29,000psi, and hydrogen forecourts will be dealing with pressures of 12,000psi to give enough differential to charge cars anyway, so perhaps it is even doable on the garage forecourt.
In any case, even if more centralised facilities are needed, this is well within present engineering.
There seems a lot of sentiment harking back to Walden Pond, with the dream of some kind of self sufficiency.
It ain't gonna happen, and not everything needs to be home producible.

Davemart,

Solar cells, windmills, electric cars and home battery storage. The first three are economic and the last one is coming. Not all will choose it because they prefer slavery to the results of their own decision making processes. However, what this freedom, for those that will work for it, does is offer an alternative to the slavery our industrial masters and their minions provide for us. The real problem with Walden Pond was that it required work. Imagine selling a philosophy to the masses that said you will need to work, but you will be happy. First off, that is an anathema to the right who prefer that others do the labor and they receive the benefits and similarly for the left work is unhappiness and pain and should not be done at all. You see, despite what the politicians tell them, americans are lazy and greedy, not hard working and fair minded. Neither political party says the truth or expresses the reality and thus they should be disregarded as having any insight to the countries state of being. However, dropping out like Thoreau might be your best chance for happiness. Of course, those that need slaves would disagree, and again, even if you do drop out you still have to work. It's the single most correct rule in the universe. Work must be done.

Brotherkenny:

Do study how to write in paragraphs, then people might be inclined to read what you have to say.

If you can't be bothered to write intelligibly or are sub-literate, why should anyone think that you know anything about energy issues either?

Since your initial two sentences claiming that solar and windmills (sic) are now economic are clearly in error since they both require subsidies and mandates or they would not get built, I couldn't be bothered to read the rest of your ill-informed illiterate notions.

Do try reading the surveys by the likes of the DOE on these subjects.

Surprisingly they tend to know rather more about the economics of power generation than guys spouting random comments on blogs such as yourself.

Brotherkenny4:
Laziness and Greed spark creativity. Without them we would not have capital investments, nor machines to help do the work. Try cutting your own wood to keep warm and then ask what laziness is all about.

Smart robots that can repair and build, failed and replacement units, may be the way to work less in the future?

Driverless electric cars could be one of the first steps in the near future.

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