TEMPE, AZ September 14, 2004 -- Solar Hydrogen Energy Corporation (SHEC) of Saskatoon, SK, Canada demonstrated a technology Monday in Tempe Arizona that can split hydrogen from water using solar energy input.
The keys to the process are in a proprietary thermo chemical process that facilitates the liberation of hydrogen from water in the presence of heat, and the proprietary solar collector that can hold the heat during brief intermittent sun situations often encountered by solar arrays.
Three engineers were on hand at the demonstration that took place at Arizona Public Service (APS)’s Tempe solar facility (STAR) to corroborate the production of hydrogen using a gas chromatography machine procured by SHEC labs two days earlier for ongoing testing.
In addition to the engineers, also in attendance at the demonstration was an international contingent of investors, solar club representatives, and marketing agents from the U.S. and Europe.
The solar collector will be located for the next few months at APS’ solar testing facility where data may be collected over an extended period of time. The Arizona power station grounds are dotted with many arrays representing 20 or 30 different solar designs, producing together about a megawatt of power which is integrated into Arizona’s grid system.
Richard Stegeman, SHEC lab’s manager in charge of technical operations in Arizona, is a former NASA solar engineer, and was present at the demonstration. He will be supervising the data collection at APS.
To him, what is remarkable about this system is that it only needs around half the amount of heat usually required to produce thermal cracking of water. “It is not that hard to get that temperature. Now we don’t have to use exotic metals, but can use stainless steel and other easily worked metals.”
The ideal temperature for the SHEC reaction is 850 degrees Celsius, which is what the present array is designed to deliver. However, the process will separate hydrogen at temperatures as low as 400 degrees Celsius.
Another facet of this design that impresses Stegeman is the receiver design. A typical problem in solar designs similar to this one is that the receiver re-radiates much of the heat away. The patent pending design that SHEC labs has produced reduces such emissions by an estimated 30 to 40 percent, thus increasing the net absorption.
The present design prevents the receiving head from overheating by incrementally closing a camera-like shutter in front of the receiver. In future designs, that will be regulated by increasing or decreasing the flow of water and gasses to the reactor, increasing or decreasing the rate of hydrogen production.
Another advantage of the design is that the receiver forms a large thermal mass to maintain the heat during brief fluctuations in sun exposure – similar to a flywheel keeping the system going.
SHEC labs was incorporated Dec. 15, 1996 by Tom Beck, who conceived the design. Maurice Tuchelt has been responsible for implementing much of the design. Dr. Lang is responsible for perfecting the catalyst and other chemical processes.
The hydrogen separation occurs in two steps. First, the hydrogen is split off from the steam through a catalytic bed reactor. Second, the hydrogen and oxygen are prevented from rejoining the liquid via their “water-gas-shift reactor,” which sequesters the oxygen in an oxide compound.
The prototype demonstrated Monday – the fruit of nearly eight years of research and development - is the third to be produced by SHEC labs.
After several rounds of gas collection and testing by the engineer team on hand, Ray Fehr, VP of Marketing for SHEC labs announced, “We did it. We have produced hydrogen today. The gas chromatography results show a sharp spike for hydrogen.”
SHEC-Labs has been able to raise $4.5 million Canadian, much of that from the Saskatoon community where SHEC labs is located. Mark Danneberg of MD Marketing in Spain, has recently joined SHEC labs to bring in additional funds. Danneberg said the arrival of this technology in the marketplace is dependant on how much more money they can raise. “It could be less than a year, if we get enough money”.
APS has expressed an interest in utilizing the SHEC labs system in its grid power production once the technology is adequately proven over time. Meanwhile, they are assisting SHEC labs by providing the real estate and the utilities and power needed for testing.