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Directory:Hydrogen from Water using Boron

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Chemical process allows for rapid liberation of hydrogen from water. The resulting boron oxide can then be regenerated to boron using renewable energy. Does require distribution infrastructure. Present cost of Boron is prohibitive.


Overview of Process

By causing water to react with the element boron, we can produce hydrogen at a rate that can fuel an internal combustion engine, or be fed to a fuel cell to generate electricity.

As seen in simple high-school chemistry, elements like sodium and potassium undergo a violent reaction with water, releasing hydrogen from its bond with oxygen. Boron does the same thing, but at a more manageable pace. Boron is converted to Boron Oxide.

The reaction requires no special containment. Atom for atom, Boron is a lighter material than the more volitile sodium and potassium.

The generation of hydrogen could be regulated by controlling the flow of water into a series of tanks containing powdered boron. Because the water has to be supplied as vapour heated to several hundred degrees in order to kick-start the reaction, the system will require some start-up power, possibly from a battery. Once the engine is running, the highly exothermic oxidation reaction between boron and water could be used to heat up the incoming water.

Alternatively, small amounts of hydrogen could be diverted from the engine and stored for use as the start-up fuel. Water produced by burning hydrogen in an internal-combustion engine, or by molecular recombination in a fuel cell, could be captured and cycled back to the vehicle's tank, making the whole on-board system truly zero-emission.

When all the free boron is used up, the boron oxide that remains can be reprocessed and recycled. That regeneration step could be done via a renewable energy source such as solar.

Source: Power on tap (backup) (TMCNet; July 28, 2006)


  • Featured: Alt Fuels > H from H2O using Boron >
    Boron-Powered Vehicles- "An unusual but valid idea with some real prospect, the boron powered car. The main reason for a car fuelled on boron is a safety reason. Boron is very combustible but very difficult to light. This is great for a car because, many accidents are made worse by the flammability of the fuel." (PESWiki; March 13, 2009)


  • Water is an abundance source of hydrogen
  • The reaction process with water and boron is able to produce hydrogen gas at a rate fast enough to run a vehicle.
  • Boron can be separated out of the boron oxide which was created in the reaction, to be reused.
  • Boron recovery from boron oxide can be done via solar or other renewable energy.
  • Enables hydrogen-on-demand, eliminating the need for hydrogen storage.
  • Water resulting from the Hydrogen combustion process can be recycled back into the water source for the hydrogen extraction process.
  • Result is a Zero-Emissions vehicle.

NB: Because in this case the emissions are obviously non-toxic; pollution isn't the concern. Since the purpose of recapturing the water vapour would be to ensure that clean water is not wasted, especially in areas where it may be in short supply, we could describe this as a "self-contained" or closed system, rather than as "zero-emission" which usually implies preventing toxic contamination of the environment. (Comment by MSH)


The process requires a distribution/re-gathering cyclic system for the regeneration of the Boron.


Calculations predict that a car carrying 18 kilograms of boron and 45 litres of water could produce 5 kilograms of hydrogen, the same energy content as a 40-litre tank of conventional fuel.

Crystalline boron (99%) costs about $5/g. Amorphous boron costs about $2/g. (Ref)

So, one tank's worth equivalent of 18 kg of boron would cost $36,000.00 at $2/g. That is quite a bit more than the price of the equivalent 40 litres (about ten gallons) of petrol.


The Japanese company Samsung has built a prototype scooter based on a related idea.

An Israeli company has begun designing a prototype engine.

Research and Development


DaimlerChrysler built a concept vehicle called Natrium (after the Latin word for sodium, from which the element's Na symbol is drawn), which used slightly more sophisticated chemistry to generate its hydrogen. Instead of pure water as the source of the gas, it used a solution of the hydrogen-heavy compound sodium borohydride. When passed over a precious-metal catalyst such as ruthenium, the compound reacts with water to liberate hydrogen that can be fed to a fuel cell. It was enough to give the Natrium a top speed of 130 kilometres per hour and a respectable range of 500 kilometres, but DaimlerChrysler axed the project in 2003 because of difficulties in providing the necessary infrastructure to support the car in an efficient, environmentally friendly way.

Source: Power on tap (backup) (TMCNet; July 28, 2006)

University of Minnesota and Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel

Tareq Abu-Hamed, now at the University of Minnesota, and colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, have devised a water-boron scheme.

Abu-Hamed has devised a method to convert the spent boron oxide back to metallic boron in a pollution-free process that uses only solar energy. Heating the oxide with magnesium powder recovers the boron, leaving magnesium oxide as a by-product. The magnesium oxide can then be recycled by first reacting it with chlorine gas to produce magnesium chloride, from which the magnesium metal and chlorine can then be recovered by electrolysis.

Source: Power on tap (backup) (TMCNet; July 28, 2006)

In the News


Tareq Abu-Hamed

Deparment of Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota: 612-625-0705

See also

ALT FUELS (alphabetical sequence)


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