One of the barriers to the new hydrogen economy is the affordability of the technology. Researchers at GE say they have invented a machine that produces hydrogen at about $3 per kilogram, a quantity roughly comparable to a gallon of gasoline, down from $8 per kilogram. GE’s new process could make the technology economically feasible for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, according to a report today in MIT Technology Review
.One way to make hydrogen power is by splitting water molecules using electricity from energy sources, called electrolysis. GE’s solution does not attack the efficiency of the electrolysis process; rather it attacks the capital costs, the report states. While today’s electrolyzers are made primarily out of expensive metals, the GE Global Research team came up with an easily formable, extremely resistant plastic. Using plastics means using less electrode material. To improve the reactivity of the electrodes' surfaces within the plastic housing, the researchers borrowed a spray-coating process, used to apply coatings for parts on jet engines, to coat the electrodes with a nickel-based catalyst.The new electrolyzer could be ready for production in a few years.