Presented at the Proceedings International Hydrogen Energy Congress and Exhibition IHEC 2005
Istanbul, Turkey, 13-15 July 2005
We would like to bring to the attention of countries aiming to turnaround the climate change situation without sacrificing either quality of life or socio-economic advances the potential technological choices offered by the systematic use of water as a fuel. Our network has followed and facilitated one such system since its inception: Brown’s Gas. Because so much research has been conducted with this technology, it is possible to describe many of its application with specifics. We believe that it is in the economical and political interest of nations to consider some of these applications in this decade.
Brown's Gas is water separated into its 2 constituents by an advanced alkaline electrolysis process in a way that allows them to be mixed under pressure and then be burned together and safely in a 2:1 proportion. The process results in a gas containing ionic hydrogen and oxygen. When sparked, the gas recombines safely, by implosion, into water, collapsing in a vacuum/water ratio of 1,886.6/1.
- 1. Air conditioning and cooling
- 3. Cleansing of smokestack
- 4. Coal to Oil conversion
- 7. Destruction of toxic wastes
- 8. Drying of fruit and legumes
- 10. Glazing and Kiln operation
- 15. Nuclear waste decontamination
- 18. Production of hard materials
- 19. Production of electricity
- 20. Pure water production
Brown's Gas generators and some of the applications were first developed and manufactured in Australia. Production was transferred to the People's Republic of China at the inducement of its government, resulting in mass production of generators for national distribution. Important Chinese applications, besides welding and brazing, include water desalination, medical and toxic waste management and destruction, pharmaceutical production applications, and materials hardening. In 1996, the Chinese re-invited Yull Brown to build a Brown's Gas system for deployment in automobiles. This particular technology transfer was interrupted in part due to ill health when he decided to return to his homeland, Australia, to spend the last months of his life.
Through the auspices of our Association's network, Yull Brown made arrangements for additional manufacturing facilities to produce generators and applications that would meet North American and European Union standards in Canada. One novel Canadian application is in synthesizing heavy crude and oil sands. Our Canadian colleagues are now successfully investigating applications in automobile engines, in optimizing the combustion of other fuels (wood, coal, natural gas, etc.) in to near – complete burn and minimal emissions.
There is also the very convincing, but not yet test-proven on a large scale, case of using Brown’s Gas for the purpose of storing energy in such situations as excess hydro capacity, wind and solar energy by producing Brown’s Gas from electrolysis during slack demand periods and then using Brown’s Gas to produce electricity on demand during high-consumption periods. The efficiencies in both phases are very exciting.
The ready and limitless availability of water makes Brown's Gas possibly the best carrier for solar energy and other alternative energy sources developed to this time. It has higher energy-conversion efficiency than hydrogen alone, which is conventionally considered to possess the highest conversion efficiency as fuel. Brown's Gas is non-polluting -- it does not even emit the nitrogen oxides, which results from hydrogen burning. It is naturally recyclable -- the product of its burning is pure water. Brown's Gas is adaptable, like hydrogen, to most of the existing energy utilization technologies, without any major modifications.
Healthy House Applications
The illustration of the application of Brown’s Gas as a main source of energetics in a healthy and affordable house can help indicate the flexibilities offered by this fuel. A house would need a proportionately sized Brown's Gas generator for all its basic requirements. These are as follows:
Attaching catalytic heaters to a supply of Brown’s Gas would provide heat for cooking elements and for space heating. The catalytic combustion (400 - 800ºC) resulting has the advantage of very significant heat loss reduction with, unlike all other available, no poisonous waste gases such as NOx. The range of temperature is determined by the control of the catalyst system itself. A ceramic carrier material with noble metals as catalyst operates at 400 to 600ºC and a power of 4 to 5 Watts per square centimetre. By using noble metal catalysts, no ignition is required for burning Brown's Gas.
On the other hand, in catalysts with a porous sintered metal, temperatures ranging from 700 to 800ºC are attained with power density of 15 to 20 Watts/cm2 but ignition is required. Such is the case of conventional gas burners. For cooking, hot plates using both types of catalytic techniques are commercially available. Contrary to hydrogen or hydrocarbon burning in catalytic cooking, which robs oxygen from the ambient medium, Brown's Gas results in only pure water vapour with minimal humidity -- and no requirement for vents. Space heating by catalytic heaters using hydrogen and oxygen only, such as Brown's Gas, are recognized to be more than 95% efficient.
Water cooling and space cooling requirements can be provided by compressing Brown's Gas and releasing it, on demand, by venting the result either directly onto the medium to be cooled or into the space to be cooled. A more efficient system might involve exposing a Brown's Gas flame to a circulating freon (or like) gas tubing, not unlike the old method of applying lit gas lamps or paraffin wicks in the pioneer frigidaires. Pure Water would be available on demand by re-conversion back to water.
Energy Storage System
One litre of water, with about 5 kW input generates 1,866 litres of Brown's Gas that can be released to a chamber located up to 10 metres above floor height, which is linked to a flexible pipe connected to a water basin subject to ambient atmospheric pressure. When the chamber of Brown's Gas is ignited with a spark, it creates vacuum by implosion. This triggers the atmospheric pressure to suction pump about 1,866 litres of water upwards the height of 10 metres to fill the container. The head of water can be used to drive an alternator for electrical energy if so required or desired. Other applications could include suction pumps, irrigation, etc. Under proper conditions, 1 litre of water at 10m has the potential to produce 98 Watts; 1,866 kg of water has the potential to generate 182.9 kW/litre of water consumed. The inherent inefficiencies of the various energy users will have to be considered for the final design configuration utilized.
Such a system has been operated for a period of 10 years. Brown's Gas storage is over 98% efficient, as are current hydrogen and oxygen tank storage systems. Were the Brown's Gas generation and storage system be replaced by a conventional bottled liquid gas supply, the total costs of operation are estimated to become 20% higher. So it makes more sense to have the gas generation system installed indoors.
Experience to date indicates that the Brown's Gas generator, a commercially available alkaline electrolyser, unlike others, does not produce electrolyte creepage nor presents any difficulties in automatically controlled start-up procedures. Brown's Gas could fit in a house with a solar cell system. It would also replace the need for massive storage batteries, which present burdensome maintenance tasks for the average homeowner. A viable concept would involve a high-efficiency storage system integrating a Brown’s Gas generator and the distribution of gas to appliances (stove, refrigerator and air-conditioning units) and a DC/AC converter. Other arrangements are also possible.
The use of Brown's Gas in such configuration for autonomous housing: 1) extends benefits in indoor air and water quality, 2) allows additional space heating and space cooling options, 3) potentially lowers sound levels, and, 4) reduces and/or eliminates some of the expensive elements or aspects of present systems. It would fit well with initiatives in remote areas to install housing in isolated communities that assure problem-free energy production, heating, air venting, clean water, grey water, sewage treatment. The combination of Brown's Gas generation and energy storage system in such stand-alone block units should optimize this initiative.
There is the question of the big picture. Existing combustion technology can be boosted from low efficiency to extremely high efficiencies by spraying Brown's Gas onto flames, an application now being manufactured in China for waste and medical waste incinerators. Large-scale application of this fact can mean big advantages to those economies that are dependent on “imported” fuel supply. A similar context exists in the Federal Republic of Germany, where an econometric study by the University of Hagen explored the global implications of applying low-cost Brown’s Gas for heat and electricity generation (with both centralized and decentralized settings) and for the transportation sector. It recognizes that a phased implementation of such a system would be beneficial in terms of national budget because of decreased expenditures related to the environment, it would probably have lead to an increase in employment and greater use of the highway infrastructure by cars and could stimulate the economy with greater purchasing power. A similar and desirable consequence could be expected for many regions throughout the world.
The Brown's Gas-generating alkaline electrolyser uses a mixture of sodium hydroxide with the supplied water to form an effective electrolyte with a measured conversion efficiency in the 90 to 95% range excluding cable and other system losses. The theoretical energy level of hydrogen/oxygen gas is in the range of 50,000 Btu's per pound. Brown's Gas has about 66,000 Btus per pound (and, with some proprietary technological priming, up to 210,000 Btus). If just 80% of this energy can be recaptured, it would be a significant improvement on the main problem with all variable power input systems, solar, wind, tidal, etc.: namely, energy storage. The gas-storage system development is of a very high priority in future developmental work in this area yet experience suggests that the off-the-shelf liquid petroleum gas technology storage system conveniently adapt themselves to Brown's Gas storage. But, only large consumption requirements warrant further Brown's Gas-specific developmental work, such a might be considered by large utilities.
Brown’s Gas could be used to increase the efficiency of fuel cells upwards from their current low levels, especially by providing an inexpensive source of hydrogen. This could prove to be very interesting for variable power input hydroelectric plants and wind-energy farms.
Magnetohydrodynamic Electrical Plant
Also of interest may be the use of Brown's Gas to energize the magnetohydrodynamic system -- an electrical plant of no moving parts. MHD converts hot gases directly into electricity. The MHD requirement is to have temperatures about five times higher than conventional power plants. Such temperatures are readily available with Brown's Gas. A method using Brown's Gas would require that the gas be burnt to produce plasma at the nozzle end of a conical shaped rocket engine surrounded by a strong magnet. The hot gas would be then seeded with an ionized alkali metal such as potassium or caesium to induce electrical conductivity, and thereby setting up a strong electric field. With the magnets, DC current would be generated very efficiently -- with an estimated improvement of about 20% over conventional systems.
Push-Pull Radial Engine
Medium-sized industries of many countries could develop an advanced push-pull radial engine that would optimize the peculiar physical properties of Brown’s Gas. It would be a kinematic arrangement of atmospheric pressure vs. Brown's Gas-created vacuum will allow the creation of a push-pull engine to generate motive force; for example, driving pumps, ventilators, etc. Preliminary calculations show that such an engine will have very impressive characteristics and easily outperform the more exotic technologies such as Stirling engine generators and fuel cells. The proposed 3-cylinder radial engine has at least one piston doing work on the crank at any one time, which will maintain continuous rotation of the shaft. This type of engine has very good emission characteristics and a low vibration level during operation.
Automotive Engine Fuel Experience
Yull Brown drove a number of cars on a variety of internal combustion engines, performing many measurements on them using his laboratory's fully instrumented dynamometer set-up. He has been officially monitored to drive 1,000 miles per gallon of water.
The staff of Electronics Australia magazine found that the usual internal combustion engine needs very little modification to run on Brown's Gas. The main thing is the removal of the carburetor and its replacement by a pressure reducer and throttle valve. The only other change needed to the engine itself us re-timing to allow for the fact that the hydrogen-oxygen mixture has a higher flame speed that the normal gasoline-air mixture. There is also a positive improvement in engine life since the only product of combustion is water vapour, leaving no carbon build-up on plugs and valves and no corrosion on the exhaust manifold or muffler due to acid vapours in the gas. The engine runs cooler, due to the absorption of heat by the exhaust water vapour as it expands on exhausting from the cylinders. And there is no pollution. The exhaust feels like a warm steam.
Brown's Gas cells produce about 340 litres of gas (13.6 cu. ft.) per kilowatt-hour (estimated at between 16 to 194 times cheaper than bottled oxy/hydrogen gases and between 7 to 58 times cheaper than oxy/acetylene gases, depending on the electricity rates and the bottling costs worldwide). Each kWh of gas produces about 5,650 kiloJoules on the basis of heat output. Compare this with the oil industry data of 34,983 kJ per litre. This means than 1 cent will provide between 300 and 706 kJ of Brown's Gas whereas it would provide about 290 kJ of gasoline (at C$ .80/litre). A small gasoline car in Canada costs 3 cents/kilometre to operate, an electric car costs about 1cent/kilometre and a Brown's Gas full-size car should run at 0.20 cents per kilometre.
At this point in time, for use in automobiles, the gas may have to be stored in useful quantities, in conventional gas bottles, even though the stored energy/weight ratio of about 4400 W/hr per kilogram is not as good as for gasoline (about 13,200 W/hr per kilo of gasoline). While the energy-to-weight ratio is about a third of gasoline, it is better than that for batteries in general. Lead-acid batteries range from 40 W/hr per kg up to 350 W/hr for the lithium-sulphur variety.
Yull Brown began experiments in metal absorption on metallic surfaces, particularly on least costly metals so that large amounts of gas could be stored easily and safely in quite small volumes. He envisaged that bottled Brown's Gas - to run cars and trucks and even to generate home electricity - could be rented at about $75/week. Canadian research shows that it is feasible to use small battery-charged Brown's Gas units, the size of large Coke bottles to run on board vehicles.
Vacuum-Packaging Agricultural Applications
Since Brown's Gas offers easy and low-cost vacuum production, it permits the picking of fresh foods in-the-field, in vacuum packs, enhancing preservation, and destroying infestation. The technology also provides a drying system that does not adversely remove the water content of many produce, naturally and quickly. This would help not only in saving the yields now lost to rot but also allow freer distribution of fresh agricultural produce over greater distances. A widespread application of this technique could decrease substantially of the use of expensive petrochemical spraying. Agricultural regions could sell more food, at less cost. The technology was successfully applied in Australia for orchards and tobacco growing.
Renewable energy in the form of stoichiometric hydrogen/oxygen Brown's Gas should be considered, in our opinion, as one of the most promising future energy fuels for many nations. This is a reasonably mature and available technology. It also has its inherent and very important safety features. It is also inexpensive in terms of the primary fuel but also in terms of capital requirements and it can adapt itself to retrofitting large facilities such as our aging nuclear generation plants to continue to supply electricity in large quantities without adverse environmental impacts.
Our Association’s collaborative network would be pleased to embark on a technology transfer program to steward interested parties into a viable energy strategy that most nations can afford.
- Wiseman, George: A Brown’s Gas Manual, Planetary Association for Clean Energy, Ottawa, 1997
- Michrowski, Andrew (compiler): The Brown’s Gas File: Water as a Fuel – from the Association’s Archives, Planetary Association for Clean Energy, Ottawa, 1998