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Water gas is frormed in a process by which hydrogen is produced by the combining of steam and coke gas in the following chemical reaction:
In 1873, "Professor" Thaddeus S. C. Lowe developed and patented a process by which large amounts of hydrogen gas could be generated for residential and commercial use in heating and lighting. Unlike the common coal gas, or coke gas which was used in municipal service, Water Gas provided a more efficient heating fuel.
The process was discovered by the passing of high-pressure steam over hot coal, the major source of coke gas. Lowe's process improved upon the chimney systems by which the coal could remain superheated thereby maintaining a consistently high supply of the gas. This process created a thermo-chemical reaction of applying hydrogen, in the steam, to carbon monoxide, in the coke gas. The reaction produced carbon dioxide and pure hydrogen which after a process of cooling and "scrubbing," passing through water vapor, left just a pure hydrogen gas.
The process spurred on the industry of gas manufacturing, and gas plants were established quickly along the Eastern seaboard of the United States. Similar processes, like the Haber Process, led to the manufacture of ammonia (NH3) by the combining of nitrogen, found in air, with high volumes of hydrogen. This spurred on the refrigeration industry which long used ammonia as its medium. Prof. Lowe also held several patents on artificial ice making machines, and was able to run successful businesses in cold storage as well as products which operated on hydrogen gas.
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