Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a machine that could cheaply manufacture a gallon of gas per hour for your automobile? Envisioning the day when we may all have fuel cell cars, General Electric researchers have built a prototype that makes the equivalent quantity of hydrogen: plug it in, and it splits water molecules to generate one kilogram per hour of hydrogen.

The basic technology, called an electrolyzer, is nothing new: water is mixed with an electrolyte and made to flow past a stack of electrodes. Electricity causes the water molecules to split into hydrogen and oxygen gases. What GE has achieved is a potentially inexpensive, mass-manufacturable version of the technology.

Whereas traditional electrolyzers are made with expensive metals requiring hand assembly, a team at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, NY, came up with a way to make them largely out of a GE plastic called Noryl that is easy to form and resistant to the highly alkaline potassium hydroxide electrolyte. To get more hydrogen out of a smaller electrode, the researchers borrowed a spray-coating process normally used for jet engine parts to coat the electrodes with a proprietary nickel-based catalyst that has a larger surface area.

Their prototype of an easy-to-manufacture apparatus could lead to a commercial version that produces hydrogen via electrolysis for about $3 per kilogram – a quantity roughly comparable to a gallon of gasoline – down from today’s $8 per kilogram. “We’ve attacked the capital costs,” says Richard Bourgeois, an electrolysis project leader. GE could potentially manufacture the machines within a few years, he says.

12 comments. Share your thoughts »

Tagged: Energy

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me
×

A Place of Inspiration

Understand the technologies that are changing business and driving the new global economy.

September 23-25, 2014
Register »