High-Voltage Electrolysis Possible?

Jens Hanke, © Graforce

Graforce Hydro based in the Köpenick suburb of Berlin, Germany, is currently developing a high-frequency electrolysis solution. It would use an electric and a magnetic field to split water, explained Jens Hanke, Graforce’s founder. He has been working on the idea in the Technology Park Adlershof since 2010. By his own account, the high-voltage field directly above the water surface “creates plasma like on the sun.” The released electrons would split water into hydrogen and oxygen, he said.

Solar-sourced electricity could be used to operate such a plasma electrolyzer, as he calls the unit. A suitable PV system could be installed on the Center for PV and Renewable Energies or ZPV, which Graforce moved into in 2013. Hanke said that around 18 employees on the building’s fourth floor were currently implementing his ideas. The aim was to produce hydrogen at 89 percent efficiency (conventional electrolyzers have 70 percent) and a price of EUR 2.80 per kilogram. These figures date back to as early as 2010 when Hanke researched the technology in collaboration with his colleague Ramin Radmanesh in Wittenberg.

At first, it was said that a corresponding “garage-based hydrogen generator” could be ready for the market in fall of 2014. Then, the date for commercializing

was postponed to late 2016. Now, there has been another pushback to late 2017. Due to patent protection, there are no details on how the process works, for example, how hydrogen and oxygen are separate during the process. The announcement that hydrogen could be produced from water in an eco-friendly way at below three euros per kilogram should be taken with a grain of a salt, at least for the time being. Robowatch, which was headed by Hanke for 10 years before he founded Graforce, filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Still, Berlin’s water utility BWB intends to support the implementation of Hanke’s H2 plans, although it will first be mainly about testing out a “new” fuel. A BWB spokesperson confirmed that two Opel Combo were planned to be converted for running on hythane, a mixture of 30 percent hydrogen and 70 percent natural gas. It remains unclear whether the required hydrogen will be produced by plasma electrolysis.

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