Title:
Hydrogen Generator
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
This invention provides a system and apparatus with fine control over quantity and volume of water used, and current and charge used, to provide hydrogen and oxygen gas fr other purposes. The system provides for control of temperature and pressure of the produced gas to provide separation of the two gases post-electrolysis, based upon the physical characteristics of hydrogen and oxygen at same pressure and temperature, where one is in a different phase from the other (that is, gas/liquid/solid phase or state), using simple mechanical means. The system also uses small piezo-electric crystals configured to perform a pumping function to deliver the water to the electrolytic means' electrodes, and optionally to collect the produced hydrogen and oxygen as a part of the separation means by providing partial vacuum.



Inventors:
Mali, Mohammed (Calgary, CA)
Application Number:
10/137667
Publication Date:
04/17/2003
Filing Date:
05/03/2002
Assignee:
MALI MOHAMMED
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
123/536, 204/DIG.4
International Classes:
C25B1/04; F02B43/10; (IPC1-7): C25B1/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NICOLAS, WESLEY A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Suite 703d, Crystal Park Two Thompson Lambert (2121 CRYSTAL DRIVE, ARLINGTON, VA, 22202)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A hydrogen generator, comprising: a piezoelectric pump supplied with a source of electric current that in operation causes the piezoelectric pump to expand and contract; a passageway bounded by the piezoelectric pump at least on one side of the passageway so that in operation the piezoelectric pump imparts a pumping action on fluid within the passageway; an electrode positioned to be in contact with water lying within the passageway and connected to a power supply, the electrode having a tip; a water supply connected to the piezoelectric pump to supply water to the passageway; and means to isolate hydrogen separated from the water by electrolysis at the tip of the electrode.

2. A gas generator, comprising: a piezoelectric pump having an associated passageway, the passageway being defined at least on one side by the piezoelectric pump; water within the passageway; an electrode in contact with the water in the passageway; means for energizing the piezoelectric pump to pump water through the passageway; means to charge the electrode to produce hydrogen at the electrode; and a chamber in communication with the passageway for collecting hydrogen produced at the electrode.

3. The gas generator of claim 2 in which the piezoelectric pump is housed within a housing, the electrode forming part of the housing.

4. The gas generator of claim 3 in which the passageway is between the piezoelectric pump and the housing.

5. The gas generator of claim 4 in which the piezoelectric pump is cylindrical.

6. The gas generator of claim 2 in which flow of fluid through the passageway is governed by valves at opposed ends of the passageway to allow one way flow of fluid through the passageway.

7. A method of generating gas, the method comprising the steps of: pumping water using a piezoelectric pump by repetitively energizing the piezoelectric pump; producing hydrogen through electrolysis of the water being pumped through the piezoelectric pump; and collecting the produced hydrogen.

8. The method of claim 7 in which the piezoelectric pump is enclosed within a housing and water is pumped through a passageway defined between the piezoelectric pump and the housing.

9. A hydrogen generator, comprising: an array of at least one piezoelectric pump body with a channel through the piezoelectric pump body; an electrically conducting needle within the channel; a source of water, means of delivering water to an entry port of the channel; means of providing pulsed electrical current to the piezoelectric pump to cause the channel to contract and expand and pump water from the entry part of the channel to an exit end of the channel; means of providing electrical charge to the needle with opposing charge to an adjacent electrode part to cause electrolysis of water into constituent hydrogen and oxygen; means of separating the hydrogen and oxygen; and means to deliver the separated hydrogen and oxygen to a use.

10. The hydrogen generator of claim 9 in which the hydrogen is separated from oxygen by taking advantage of differential temperature at which hydrogen and oxygen undergoes phase-change from gas to liquid, by using controlled chilling of the environment at the needles' tip end where electrolysis occurs.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention is in the field of hydrogen generation.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The production of hydrogen from water is a known manner of producing a supply of a useful fuel. It has been known for many years that hydrogen may be separated from water by use of electrolysis. The improvement of hydrogen generation systems is an area of active research, and this invention is a contribution to the production of hydrogen for use as a fuel.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0003] This invention provides a system and apparatus with fine control over quantity and volume of water used, and current and charge used, to provide hydrogen and oxygen gas for other purposes. The system also in one embodiment provides for control of temperature and pressure of the produced gas to provide separation of the two gases post-electrolysis, based upon the physical characteristics of hydrogen and oxygen at same pressure and temperature, where one is in a different phase from the other (that is, gas/liquid/solid phase or state), using simple mechanical means. The system also in one embodiment uses small piezo-electric crystals configured to perform a pumping function to deliver the water to the electrolytic means' electrodes, and optionally to collect the produced hydrogen and oxygen as a part of the separation means by providing partial vacuum.

[0004] The production of hydrogen and oxygen on an as needed basis from a supply of water provides a simple means of storing and using hydrogen and/or oxygen for other purposes as required. This system provides novel means of separation and pumping, using fine components to provide fine levels of process control. This provides advantages over the prior known art of large-scale electrolysis of water, or provision of hydrogen from hazardous hydrogen storage tanks. The energy within this system is stored as electricity or electrical potential (or equivalent), and then may be used to produce hydrogen and oxygen for later use (for example as a fuel).

[0005] The invention in one embodiment can be described as a hydrogen generator, comprising: a piezoelectric pump supplied with a source of electric current that may cause the piezoelectric pump to expand and contract; a passageway bounded by the piezoelectric pump at least on one side of the passageway so that in operation the piezoelectric pump imparts a pumping action on fluid within the passageway; an electrode lying within the passageway and connected to a power supply, the electrode having a tip; a water supply connected to the piezoelectric pump to supply water to the passageway; and means to isolate hydrogen separated from the water by electrolysis at the tip of the electrode.

[0006] In a further embodiment, there is provided a gas generator, comprising: a piezoelectric pump having an associated passageway, the passageway being defined at least on one side by the piezoelectric pump; water within the passageway; an electrode in contact with the water in the passageway; means for energizing the piezoelectric pump to pump water through the passageway; means to charge the electrode to produce hydrogen at the electrode; and a chamber in communication with the passageway for collecting hydrogen produced at the electrode. Preferably, the piezoelectric pump is housed within a housing, the electrode forming part of the housing, with the passageway between the piezoelectric pump and the housing. The piezoelectric pump may be cylindrical. Preferably, flow of fluid through the passageway is governed by valves at opposed ends of the passageway to allow one way flow of fluid through the passageway.

[0007] In a further embodiment of the invention, there is provided a method of generating gas, the method comprising the steps of: pumping water using a piezoelectric pump by repetitively energizing the piezoelectric pump; producing hydrogen through electrolysis of the water being pumped through the piezoelectric pump; and collecting the produced hydrogen. Preferably, the piezoelectric pump is enclosed within a housing and water is pumped through a passageway defined between the piezoelectric pump and the housing.

[0008] In a still further embodiment of the invention, there is provided a hydrogen generator, comprising:

[0009] an array of at least one piezoelectric pump body with a channel through the piezoelectric pump body;

[0010] an electrically conducting needle within the channel;

[0011] a source of water,

[0012] means of delivering water to an entry port of the channel;

[0013] means of providing pulsed electrical current to the piezoelectric pump body1 to cause the channel to contract and expand and pump water from the entry part of the channel to an exit end of the channel;

[0014] means of providing electrical charge to the needle with opposing charge to an adjacent electrode part to cause electrolysis of water into constituent hydrogen and oxygen;

[0015] means of separating the hydrogen and oxygen; and

[0016] means to deliver the separated hydrogen and oxygen to a use.

[0017] In one embodiment, the hydrogen is separated from oxygen by taking advantage of differential temperature at which hydrogen and oxygen undergoes phase-change from gas to liquid, by using controlled chilling of the environment at the needles' tip end where electrolysis occurs.

[0018] Variants of the invention may be in the configuration of the pump, which may be a crystal, the size of the pump, configuration of array, material and size of needle, plumbing and valving to handle water delivery, valve or other means to create a pulse-contraction pump with one-way fluid flow, current and charge control means (on-off and variable), differing levels of current and charge, use of AC versus DC power to electrolysis part (may not matter), manner of separating oxygen from hydrogen gas, for example by temperature controlled means of separation, use of produced gases. For example, a piezoelectric pump of the type shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,906,481 issued May 25, 1999 may be used for the piezoelectric pump, with suitable means for collecting hydrogen produced in the flow of fluid from the pump.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] There will now be described preferred embodiments of the invention, with reference to the drawings, by way of illustration only and not with the intention of limiting the scope of the invention, in which like numerals denote like elements and in which:

[0020] FIG. 1 shows a cross-section through an embodiment of a hydrogen generator according to an embodiment of the invention;

[0021] FIG. 2 shows a cross-section of a second embodiment of a hydrogen generator according to the invention;

[0022] FIG. 3 shows a further view of the embodiment of FIG. 1;

[0023] FIG. 4 is a top view of the embodiment of FIG. 1;

[0024] FIG. 5 is an exploded view of an embodiment of the invention in combination with a piston and cylinder;

[0025] FIG. 6 is a side perspective view, partly broken away, showing a further embodiment of the invention;

[0026] FIG. 7 is an exploded perspective view of an embodiment of a hydrogen generator according to the invention; and

[0027] FIGS. 8-14 show respectively parts of a sleeve, a crystal and stopper for use with the hydrogen generator of FIG. 7.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

[0028] FIGS. 1-6 illustrate operating principles of an embodiment of the invention, but the invention is not to be limited by the specific description of this embodiment. Referring to FIG. 1, a pair of hollow piezoelectric crystals 10 each have a hollow bore 12 through which passes a crystal needle 14. The bores 12 have a wider portion 16 for receiving water from a water supply through valves 18. The water may have an additive as described below. The crystal needles 14 are supplied with electrical power through a circuit relay 20 and power supply 22. The piezoelectric crystals 10 are energized by an electric current supplied through conductor 24 which causes the crystals 10 to expand every ¼ of a second. The manner of charging a piezo-electric crystal with current is well known in the art and need not be further discussed here. The crystal needles 14 extend through the bore 12 into a chamber 26 that is supplied with compressed air at −125C to −225C. The chamber 26 communicates with cylinders 28 that house pistons and spark plugs (not shown) for combusting hydrogen generated at the needles 14.

[0029] Referring to FIG. 2, water is supplied through water supply 18A into the crystal 10. The needle 14 is insulated up to its tip 15. The crystal 10 is constructed with one part crystal and one part metal. As the water drips to the tip of the needle 14, it is charged by energy from the electric circuit 20A conveyed to the tip 15 and hydrogen is separated from oxygen in the water. The hydrogen then meets with compressed air at a temperature of −125C to 225C from a compressed air supply (compressor) 27. A spark plug (not shown) is energized to cause the hydrogen to combust and move the piston (not shown) within the cylinder 28. As the electric charge passes through the needle 14, it also passes through the crystal 10, which causes the crystal 10 to expand. Expansion of the crystal 10 places a compressive force on water in the bore 12 of the crystal 10 and forces it down the needle 14. As shown in FIG. 3, the needle 14 is insulated as shown at 17 until the tip 15. 13 Referring to FIG. 4, the crystal 10 will be expanded every ¼ second by an electric current that passes through it. As the crystal 10 in effect breathes, it causes water to flow down to the tip 15 of the needle 14. At the same time as the crystal 10 expands, hydrogen is separated from the water by electrolysis at the tip 15. The fine metal tip 15 of the needle 14 is charged every ¼ second. The electricity supply to the needle is controlled by circuit relay 20, which may be DC or AC power. As the hydrogen is separated from the water, it is met by compressed air at −125C to −225C, which causes the oxygen to freeze and separate from the hydrogen. The separated hydrogen is then supplied to and combusted in cylinder 28. For every cylinder 28 in an engine, there is one crystal 10. Electric current may be supplied to the crystal 10 through a cross formation of electrical wires or strips of metal. Various crystals may be used, such as those made by carving or molding. In the centre of the crystal 10, there is a fine metal point needle 14 that is insulated until the end of the crystal 10.

[0030] Alternatively, when there are at least two electrodes, as shown in FIG. 1, one of the electrodes can be a positive electrode for creating oxygen molecules and the other can be a negative electrode for creating hydrogen molecules. The hydrogen may then be delivered to a combustion chamber. The compressor 27 need only be used for hydrogen collection. The oxygen may be supplied to an oxygen chamber separately. Chilling of the oxygen and hydrogen gases may also be used to store the gases.

[0031] Referring to FIG. 5, a spark plug 30 ignites the hydrogen in the cylinder 28. Chamber 16 extends about half-way through the crystal 10 to supply water through a valve (not shown) at the based of the chamber 16 to the needle tip 15. The crystal 10 is preferably strained by the same current that energizes the needle 14.

[0032] Referring to FIG. 6, the crystal needle 10 may be formed as a cylindrical crystal 10A placed in a metal, plastic or ceramic sleeve 32. The crystal 10A is charged by power supply 20 and the crystal 10A breathes within the cylinder 32 to drive water to the tip 15, where electrolysis occurs. The water may be supplied with electrolytes. The crystal 10B may be a piezoelectric crystal of the type with a center of inversion or without a center of inversion.

[0033] Referring to FIG. 7, there is shown a further preferred embodiment of a hydrogen generator according to the invention. In this embodiment, a piezoelectric crystal 40 is encased within a two piece cylindrical sleeve 42. One piece of the cylindrical sleeve 42 forms a positive plate 44 (FIGS. 8 and 9) and the other forms a negative plate 46 (FIGS. 10 and 11). The negative plate 46 has a channel 47 running along the bottom center of the sleeve. The positive plate 44 is provide with three ports 48 (FIG. 8), through which carbon needles 50 extend to provide contacts with the crystal 40 and plate 44. The carbon needles 50 are received by openings 52 in the crystal 40 (FIG. 12) and the crystal 40 is provided with a ridge 54 that is complementary to the channel 47 (FIG. 13). Carbon needles 50 are fitted into the positive plate 44 through rubber stoppers 56 (FIG. 14). At each end of the crystal 40 is a valve 64, 66, both of which are formed from a pair of discs 60, 62 housed within respective end caps, for inflow and outflow respectively (or vice versa by reversing the valves). The discs 60, 62 form a conventional disc valve, the details of which are known in the art of valve manufacture. With the disc valves aligned, the valves provide one way flow through the sleeve 42. Rubber caps 70 provided connection points for energizing the plates 44, 46.

[0034] The positive plate 44 and negative plate 46 are used to provide current flow across the piezoelectric crystal 40, which causes the crystal 40 to contract with each current pulse. Contraction of the crystal 40 draws water into the sleeve 42 through one of the valves 64, 66 and after the pulse of electricity stops, relaxation of the crystal 40 causes water to be pumped out of the sleeve 42 through the other of the valves 64, 66. At the same time, the crystal 40, acting as a negative electrode due to potential being applied through carbon needles 50, produces hydrogen gas within the sleeve 42, which is carried by the flow of water out of the sleeve 42. The water flow may be around the crystal 40 or within one or more channels (not shown in FIG. 7) in the crystal 40. The configuration of FIG. 7 is used in conjunction with a second such construction, but with its crystal charged positively to produce oxygen gas. The circuit is completed by having the crystals 40 connected within the same water supply. Oxygen and hydrogen may be separated by collecting oxygen from one side of the crystal 40 and hydrogen from the other side.

[0035] In the embodiment of FIG. 1, the piezo-electric crystal needle 10 is hollow with metal needle 12 inserted into it, with the point of the metal needle 12 charged as an electrode for electrolytic conversion of water into hydrogen and oxygen. The crystal needle 10 is charged in cycles to cause contraction thus pumping water through the crystal needle from a reservoir feed to the point of the metal needle 12. Hydrogen and oxygen are collected, either separately from different locations in the device, or separated using differing physical characteristics at same temperature and pressure (e.g. phase/state changes at different temperatures at same pressure, can thus separate materials in different phases using simple mechanical separation means) and produced hydrogen and oxygen used in combustion or for other purposes.

[0036] By using piezoelectricity one can separate hydrogen (and oxygen) from water by compressing the water down a crystal needle which has a fine metal point, preferably in the centre of the crystal, and then using electrical current on the fine metal point of the needle to separate hydrogen and oxygen from the water. Crystal needles may be housed in a carburetor-like structure on a piston-type internal combustion engine. For every piston inside a piston cylinder there may be one or more crystal needle. The crystal expands every ¼ a second (for example) the same time the hydrogen atom is being separated from the oxygen in a molecule of water. The crystal is a pump itself. It has a cooperating valve so that compression and decompression occur. The crystal should preferably be cylindrically shaped. The needle (or array of needles) will provide hydrogen and oxygen to the internal combustion engine's cylinders, to be used to provide useful power (in one embodiment).

[0037] The hydrogen generator provides for the generation of hydrogen from water using electrolysis, involving a piezo-electric pumping device such as a crystal, and separation means to separate the resulting oxygen from the hydrogen.

[0038] The use of a hollow piezoelectric crystal to contract in a pumping motion, perhaps at molecular or near molecular sized pump contractions, is also claimed to be useful, and novel. The size of the crystal and the bore and needle structure, the method of applying current (not just by “relay”) and controlling the current, the polarity, attachment points, etc. to the crystal will be apparent by non-inventive trial-and-error experimentation and adjustments for each of many possible configurations of crystal material, size, and construction.

[0039] The hydrogen generator may use a fine metal needle that will be charged with electricity. Carbon needles, as for example made of carbon graphite as used in batteries, may be used instead of the fine metal needles. There must be at least two crystal/needle structures in each electrolytic function (cathode and anode). Also there may be a dent or detent in the needle so that it will allow the water to move only in a desired direction.

[0040] A crystal possessing a center of symmetry is thought not to be capable of being piezoelectric because no combination of uniform stresses will produce a separation of the centers of gravity of the positive and negative charges and produce an induced dipole moment which is necessary for the production of polarization by stresses.

[0041] Other piezoelectric pumps are known in the art and may be used in combination with electrolysis and a hydrogen collection system to produce hydrogen as described herein.

[0042] The crystal/needle acts as a pump as well as a valve or flow-control means which drives and controls the flow of water to the needle where electrolysis of the water occurs. The crystal valve or pump can be made very small. Using these in arrays allows for a variety of sizes of finely controllable pumps and generators.

[0043] The crystal needle may be placed in a metal, plastic or ceramic sleeve. The crystal may be charged and breath inside metal, plastic or ceramic sleeve. This causes a vacuum flow, which will pick up hydrogen and oxygen molecules.

[0044] The piezoelectric crystal could form a moving barrier between two chambers, said chambers being the crystal's inner channel and the space between the crystal's outer surface and the sleeving. With valve or flow control means, those chambers are closed except to one-way flow. When the crystal pulses, the chambers are forced to change in volume, providing motive power to turn each chamber into a pump. The outer chamber might thus become the pump used for removal of one of the separated products, while the inner chamber remains used as the water pump.

[0045] We may separate hydrogen from water by using a (direct) current which will pass through water between two electrodes. What happens is that water essentially dissociates into hydrogen and hydroxyl ions (H and OH). The positive hydrogen ions migrate towards the cathode, the negative electrode, where they are discharged by picking up electrons and forming hydrogen molecules: 2H+2e=H2. The hydrogen molecules accumulate at or near the surface of the electrode.

[0046] At (or near) the oxygen electrode, a similar process occurs in which hydroxyl ions are discharged by giving up their electrons to the electrode and reacting to the form of water and oxygen. The oxygen molecules accumulate. The hydrogen generator may be arranged to capture each hydrogen molecule and each oxygen molecule for later use. These two materials, once separated (as described elsewhere here) may be collected using a piezoelectric pump similar to the one used to pump and control the water stock.

[0047] One use of the produced hydrogen is combustion with oxygen. Cleaner energy means that the resulting waste product of the combustion of hydrogen with oxygen is heat (energy) and water.

[0048] The oxygen changes state (for example from gas to liquid to solid or vice versa) at different temperatures (if at the same pressure) than hydrogen. This is important for one embodiment of separation. Various configurations and temperature of the separator may be used, but by having one material in gaseous form with the other in liquid form, it is believed that separation becomes a manageable mechanical function (such as by gravity flow, filter, or other means). Likewise, if one were liquid and the other solid, separation is again quite a trivial mechanical problem.

[0049] These are the steps which I believe allow for the invention to work and also the sizes of the material I propose being used in a sample embodiment.

[0050] 1. The first step is that there are two electrodes one being positive and one being negative. Both electrodes work at the same time. The first step is that both are charged at the same time. The negative electrode creates two hydrogen molecules for each charge that occurs. The positive electrode creates two oxygen molecules for each charge as well. The oxygen and hydrogen molecules will bubble up to the surface off the electrolyte. The electrolyte may be, for example, polymerized fluorinated polystyrene sulfonic acid. Both electrodes may be between the sizes of 1 micro meter to 5 micro meters in width, and the length may be between 1 centimeter to 10 centimeter, for example. In the case of a crystal that encloses a fine metal needle, the crystal may be between the sizes 1 and 8 micro meters and also may have the same length as the fine metal needle. The source for the H20 may be conventional gas tank or tank. The water may be exposed to electrolyte. Electrolyte is listed above.

[0051] 2. The second step is that the bubbles produced at the end of the fine metal needle are collected by a vacuum system which vacuums the hydrogen molecules as well as the oxygen molecules. These two types of molecules may be separated by controlling temperature and pressure such that one of them is in a different phase or state from the other, and they can then be separated by mechanical means. They may be placed back into a gaseous state after separation for ease of transport within the system. The gas molecules are vacuumed towards a combustion chamber. In one embodiment, the vacuum system may be a piezoelectric pump with the pump encased in a shell with one-way valve systems and feed and exhaust systems. The pulse for the strain of the crystals may be ⅛th to ¼ of a second.

[0052] 3. In an optional third step, the hydrogen and oxygen molecules travel to a combustion chamber where they are combusted. The molecules travel towards the combustion chamber powered by the piezoelectric pump. The pump may be directly attached to the combustion chamber. This allows for the hydrogen molecules to avoid having to be stored.

[0053] All of the piezoelectricity strains of the crystals and also the charge of fine metal needle are controlled by a control circuit which controls current flow, pulse timing and shape, and the like. An electrolyte (in conjunction with the water) may also be used and one example of that being polymerized fluorinated polystyrene sulfonic acid, to increase the system's efficiencies.

[0054] If required, additional passageways through the piezoelectric pump (such as for example from outer surface to inner passageway containing the needle electrode) may be provided to permit enhanced access of electrolyte and water to the electrode, in which case experimentation has shown 4 equally spaced radial passages have worked best.

[0055] Using the piezoelectric pump to carry produced hydrogen or oxygen (depending upon whether the needle structure is anodic or cathodic) away from the needle's tip, togther with a one-way valved structure, it is possible to have cathodic structures pumping one type of produced gas away and anodic structures the other, with no other means of separation by, for example, phase/state control by temperature/pressure regulation means.

[0056] At least one pair of such pump may be immersed in water, with their cathodic and anodic nature resulting in electrolytic production of hydrogen and oxygen gases at the respective needles' tips, where the pumping action of the piezoelectric structures is used to evacuate the gases, separately, to where they could be used. These structures may be deployed in arrays. Water could be provided differently than by immersing the crystal/needle structures.

[0057] The descriptions here are meant to be exemplary and not limiting. It is to be understood that a reader skilled in the art will derive from this descriptive material the concepts of this invention, and that there are a variety of other possible implementation; substitution of different specific components for those mentioned here will not be sufficient to differ from the invention described where the substituted components are functionally equivalent.