An examination of the feasibility of converting atmospheric or solar energy to stored energy in the form of electrolytically generated hydrogen using low or intermediate technology.

Cosslett, John Kenneth (1985). An examination of the feasibility of converting atmospheric or solar energy to stored energy in the form of electrolytically generated hydrogen using low or intermediate technology. MPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f945

Abstract

The object of this work is to establish if hydrogen can satisfy the fuel requirements of isolated, often third world, communities; also to consider how hydrogen can be produced electrolytically, using mainly low and intermediate technology.

A study of the literature has shown that hydrogen could be used a) to provide heat using a conventional gas burner or catalytic heater and b), to do mechanical work via an internal combustion engine or fuel cell. Electricity required for hydrogen production on a small scale can be generated by wind turbines and water wheels, which themselves involve only low technology fabrication. Larger scale operations necessitate use of more sophisticated equipment, needing to be manufactured elsewhere. Solar cells, although requiring high technology manufacture, are robust, durable and readily installed.

Production of hydrogen can be achieved using tank, or filter press, electrolytic cells; the latter can be made with solid polymer electrolytes, in place of alkaline solutions. Performance and operational safety of electrolytic cells have been assessed. The hydrogen produced can be stored either in low pressure gas holders, high pressure gas cylinders or chemically combined, as metal hydrides.

The amount of power that could be produced from stored hydrogen by linking existing technological processes has been calculated for selected conditions. Results show that about 25% of the original electrical energy could be converted to useful work using the internal combustion engine, compared with 38% using a fuel cell.

Other means of energy storage have been considered, either as an alternative to, or in association with hydrogen production. Lastly, energy requirements of two contrasting social groups have been assessed. It is concluded that use of hydrogen to store energy is technically feasible for isolated communities with no ready access to fossil fuels.

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