In the past I’ve talked about the thermochemical cracking of water into hydrogen and high temperature water cracking using electrolysis at nuclear power plants. The thinking is that if we already have nuclear power plants generating waste heat, we might as well put it to good use, generating hydrogen for cars, hydrail, hyboats and other “hy” vehicles.
The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) has decided to team up with the Argonne National Laboratory and the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to use nuclear waste heat, steam, copper and chlorine to create massive amounts of hydrogen.
The Copper-Chlorine (Cu-Cl) Cycle split water into hydrogen and oxygen and does so more economically than steam reforming of natural gas (the most popular current method of producing hydrogen). The Cu-Cl Cycle can create hydrogen for around $1.40 per kilogram (equivalent to a gallon for hydrogen car use), which is much cheaper than a gallon of gasoline at the moment.
How it works it that high temperature steam reacts to the copper and chlorine in a 5-step cycle that creates hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is separated and can be sold on the open market for use in vehicles. The oxygen can also be sold on the open market as well. The copper and chlorine can easily be recycled and reused to crack the steam once again.
This closed loop system offers the benefits of low cost, one-third higher efficiency than using electrolysis, much lower temperatures are needed than other thermochemical cycles and it uses low grade waste heat available from most power plants.
Some may argue against the proliferation of nuclear power plants and this is a different discussion altogether. What is at stake here is taking something that is currently being wasted (heat) and making something useful out of it at low cost, hydrogen. It would be a waste not to do it.