According to EE Times, a California-based company called QuantumSphere has developed nanoparticles that could make hydrogen cheaper than gasoline. The company says its reactive catalytic nanoparticle coatings can boost the efficiency of electrolysis (the technique that generates hydrogen from water) to 85% today, exceeding the Department of Energy’s goal for 2010 by 10%. The company says its process could be improved to reach an efficiency of 96% in a few years. The most interesting part of the story is that the existing gas stations would not need to be modified to distribute hydrogen. With these nanoparticle coatings, car owners could to make their own hydrogen, either in their garage or even when driving.
Here is the business plan of QuantumSphere according to EE Times. “QuantumSphere’s plan is first to retrofit existing electrolysis equipment with its nanoparticle electrodes to boost efficiency. Next, it intends to partner with original equipment manufacturers to design at-home and on-vehicle electrolysers for making hydrogen from water for fuel cells. Finally, the company wants to work with fuel cell makers to replace their expensive platinum electrodes with inexpensive stainless-steel electrodes coated with nickel-iron nanoparticles.” The question is: will this plan work?
Now, let’s move to technical details. “The nanoparticles are perfect spheres, consisting of a couple hundred atoms measuring from 16 to 25 nanometers in diameter. They are formed by means of a vacuum-deposition process that uses vapor condensation to produce highly reactive catalytic nanoparticles, for which the engineering team has formulated several end-use applications. ‘Our biggest engineering challenge was finding a way to get the nanoparticles to stick to metal electrodes,’ McGrath said. The company has solved that problem, she said, ‘enabling existing electrolysis equipment to realize a 30 percent increase in hydrogen output just by retrofitting our coated electrodes.’”