Researchers from the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) and Cerametec (Utah) announced that they had obtained the highest hydrogen production rate by high-temperature electrolysis (EHT) ever reported. This promising process, which decomposes water into hydrogen and oxygen by the application of an electric current, requires an energy input on which its yield and therefore its interest depends. In the case of low-temperature electrolysis, powered by a coal-fired power plant, for example, the energy cost is three to four times higher than the final energy production. For EHT, however, the yield can rise to 50%, especially if coupled to a high temperature nuclear reactor (HTR). The idea of the researchers is therefore, in the long term, to construct a unit of this type which would carry the heat-exchange gas (helium in this case) at a temperature of about 1000 ° C. The heated gas would be used in two ways: either to turn a turbine generating electricity or to bring the water to be used for electrolysis to 800 ° C. On arrival, this reactor "2 in 1" could optionally generate 300 megawatts of energy to the grid or 2,5 kg of hydrogen per second. The problem is that control of even high-temperature heat-transfer gas-fired plants is still limited. Cerametec and INEEL now intend to test the feasibility of the device through a $ 2,6 million project. A commercial scale prototype is expected by the Department of Energy (DOE) by 2017.
source: New York Times 28 / 11 / 04