Saltwater as fuel

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Post Tue May 29, 2007 10:10 am

This guy was trying to find a cure for cancer.

He discovered how to use saltwater as fuel.

Yeap, I didn't believe that, either.

Now, how much energy does this thing consume to produce electrolysis? Could it be less than the energy contained in hydrogen and oxygen? Any guesses? Can you debunk it?
Ciro Pabón
Joined: 10 May 2005

Post Tue May 29, 2007 10:41 am


unless this chap has found a way around the first law of thermodynamics then the process must consume more energy than he is producing.

There are a couple of notable omissions from the broadcast and one or two errors; The inventor refers to water as an element, which it is not. Furthermore, the gas that is burning must be hydrogen, although evidently there is some sodium giving colour to the flame - hydrogen burns with an amost clear flame, sodium should be yellow, although the video appears to have reddish tinge on my screen (maybe from the calcium in the anti caking agent for cooking salt!)

I would like to see the hypothesis behind the use of salt water in place of regular water - Sodium chloride is also a rather stable molecule requiring lots of energy to break it up. Electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen is nothing new, nor electrolysis of sodium chloride, although in aqueous solution it will electrolyse to sodium (which will then react with the water to produce sodium hydroxide liberating another hydrogen atom, plus chlorine (not a very clever product to release to the atmos); so I doubt the salt is a prerequisite for the process; plus you would end up with a highly alkaline solution at the end of it.

Furthermore, there are aparently no electrodes, so it is probably not electrolysis. More likely it is heating the water to extremely high temperatures (I think one of the contributors mentioned 1500 degrees??). Therefore it seems that essentially the process is using microwaves to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen by heating it to extremely high temperatures. This definitely goes agains the first law of thermodynamics as water is (obviously!) the more stable configuration otherwise the reaction of burning hydrogen to create water would consume energy instead of releasing it and our oceans and rivers would spontaneoulsy dissociate into theitr component atoms.

I'd be delighted to be proved wrong, but this sounds a lot like cold fusion... and it does appear to fly in the face of conventional science. Still, we can always look forward to electricity too cheap to meter (as we were promised from nuclear power!!)
Joined: 21 Dec 2005

Post Tue May 29, 2007 1:51 pm

Exactly my thoughts, except for the bits about the color of the flame, I had no idea salt could be electrolysed. I also did not know water could be electrolysed (is that a word?) through heat, the only process I know is by current passing through the water.

It has one clear advantage over conventional electrolysis: no cathode or anode to erode.

Besides, if Mikey_s imagine (and I agree) it works by microwaves that dissociate oxygen and hydrogen, it could be more efficient than a conventional heat source, because the energy is applied directly to the water: there are few convection and radiation losses, if you put the water in a closed chamber (closed to microwaves).

Almost certainly this is not a source of energy, but it could be a more efficient way to produce hydrogen than conventional electrolysis, steam reform of natural gas or more exotic ways, like production from algae, pirolysis of biomass or solar thermal electrolysis.
Ciro Pabón
Joined: 10 May 2005

Post Tue May 29, 2007 4:52 pm

Amazing! :shock:

So, if we're to use this fuel for cars, what kind of engine would be best option? Has anyone ever construct high speed steam engine that could be fitted to conventional gearbox? The car would need to have two tanks, one for boiling water and second one for "fuel salt water". I know people will say now "why steam engines, better use steam for electric generators" but I just hate electric powered cars. Perhaps both could exist together on a car improving efficiency. Or... could salt water and air mixture be injected in 4 stroke engine that would "ignite" mixture by those radio wave emitters? :?

Two big radio wave emitters sunk in the middle of the ocean, think of that "smoke on the water, fire in the sky" :lol:
Joined: 3 Jun 2005

Post Wed May 30, 2007 3:20 am

I'd like to see the numbers. How many calories are liberated, and more importantly, how much energy the radio emitters use.
And the specific chemical composition of what is being burned.
Joined: 20 Jan 2005

Post Wed May 30, 2007 9:19 am

OK, no time to do detailed calculations, but a couple of points to add;

MC; the most efficient system to use would be a steam turbine; the little reciprocating engine in the video has all of the issues with energy loss that a conventional internal combustion engine has... although now I think about it why not a wankel type of engine?

Dave; It doesn't work. Simple as that! First the water has to be dissociated into Hydrogen and Oxygen, then you burn it to reform the water... this doesn't work from either the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy), or the second law of thermodynamics (entropy increasing).

The product of the reaction will be water which is the starting material - it's pure magic if you can do that without providing energy

We can't know the efficiency of the process as we do not know the power of the radio/microwave generator, or how it is formed, but thermodynamically the process just does not work as the fact that water is the 'feedstock' and water as the 'exhaust' means that the bond dissociation energy must be supplied externally (via the radio transmitter which cannot be 100% efficient) and heat losses from the system would decrease the efficiency of the process further. It's a zero sum game at best. I have not got time to check out the thermodynamics of salt to sodium hydroxide, but in principle the same issues apply... it cannot be 100% efficient.

Ciro; strictly speaking it would not be electrolysis unless there were electrodes present, but you can split molecules into their component atoms by heat. In fact you did know this (even if you didn't realise it) because, if I recall correctly, it was you that was looking at laser ignition rather than spark ignition. It's caled plasma generation; a plasma where the atoms exist in an ionised state; it's inherently unstable so when you remove the energy source the components will revert to their lowest stable configuration - which in this case would involve a chemical reaction. So.... there you are Ciro; you knew the answer all along, you simply failed to realise it :)

The only thing bugging me at present is why it needs salt water; if it were simply microwaves these work by stimulating the chemical bonds between the atoms; the microwave you have in your kitchen is 'tuned' to the water molecules. I guess that the 'radio' frequency might be 'tuned' to the bonds in the salt so that they heat the water (or the salt???). I can only imagine that this is what stops the water from boiling 'en masse' and that it is somehow managing to heat the saltwater at the molecular level to get the dissociation into hydrogen and oxygen without simply boiing the water and evaporating it... hmmmm, more thinking required.

... and another thing; why is it that I can't see all of my typing errors until I press the submit button! :?:
Last edited by Mikey_s on Wed May 30, 2007 10:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
Joined: 21 Dec 2005

Post Wed May 30, 2007 9:57 am

Yes, I agree, Mikey, Dave: this is no perpetual motion machine.

But, as all you know, hydrogen isn't a source of energy, unless you find it free in nature, a thing that doesn't happen on Earth. The huge majority of hydrogen available on our planet is already "oxidized", that is, converted into water. As you point out, it has been already "burnt".

So, the hydrogen used in hybrids is merely a way to store energy, energy that has to be provided by another fuel. There are several combustion engines that use it, Manchild.

The only way this new method could "work" is by using less energy to produce hydrogen than other methods. As far as I know, most hydrogen produced today is made by steam reforming.

This method produces (ironically, for the buyers of "green cars") huge volumes of CO, using this reaction:

CH4 + H2O → CO + 3 H2

I read that you can produce hydrogen by "water splitting": you heat the water to 2.500 centigrades. That is not particularly efficient thermodinamically speaking, I imagine, because of the huge temperature involved. Thanks, Mikey_s, now I understand this is the same process as plasma production.

So, if a process is able to produce hydrogen at more or less ambient temperature, it has (in principle) an advantage over water splitting. It produces chlorine (if salt water is used) as Mikey_s points out, but I believe this element is relatively easy to capture AND is useful for other chemical products.

I cannot produce hydrogen directly from water in my microwave: water would boil well before reaching that temperature (and the plastic door would fuse! :) ). So, I guess the antennas used by this inventor are NOT tuned to water absorption frequencies. I'd love to know which are the frequencies used: that information would provide Mikey with the data needed to understand "what is being energized". I wonder if it works by matching somehow the frequencies of the bonds between oxygen and hydrogen in water (that's pure speculation on my side... :) I really don't understand how that "bond energizing" could be acomplished, if it is feasible at all).

Anyway, here is a new technology for energy storage, that maybe can compete with batteries and that doesn't require a huge refinery, but could be "decentralized" at each house or fuel station.

Of course, as we have been said many times, most hybrid technologies simply are energy storing technologies.

I think it is really important to find a more efficient way to store electricity (nonwithstanding Manchild rejection of electric cars), because most of the truly renewable sources (wind, solar) produce it and nowadays it cannot be stored: the eternal problem of solar energy, for example, is that is produced in places and at times where it is not needed (during the day or in the middle of deserts).

Besides, the energy storage density of batteries (compared with gasoline) is pathetic. If this method can turn electricity into hydrogen with a reasonable efficiency, it could be useful in transportation.
Ciro Pabón
Joined: 10 May 2005

Post Thu May 31, 2007 5:19 am

Id rather opt bio-diesel or ethanol..I heard Merc is using sheep's urine to clean the exhaust in their fish looking car concept?
“Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary...that’s what gets you.” - JC
Joined: 4 Apr 2007
Location: India

Post Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:28 am

Ethanol? It takes about 4 Btu's of diesel to produce 5 Btu's worth of ethanol. Why bother?

Fuel cells are also a joke. Based on well to wheel efficiency, a modern common rail diesel is more efficient than a PEM fuel cell.
Joined: 24 Dec 2004

Post Mon Jun 04, 2007 3:05 am

Ethanol has less energy than gasoline. It also gives you a better burning, diminishing NOX, that causes smog. There is nothing (or no one) as bad as to not be useful for something... ;) So, a good compromise is use 10-20% ethanol on your gas and, hence, refill your gas tank 1 to 2% sooner (which is negligible).
Ciro Pabón
Joined: 10 May 2005

Post Tue Jun 05, 2007 1:38 pm

Mikey_s wrote:Weeeell,

unless this chap has found a way around the first law of thermodynamics then the process must consume more energy than he is producing....

Legendary debunking of another pretender. Nice work.

Rob W
Rob W
Joined: 18 Aug 2006

Post Tue Jun 05, 2007 3:55 pm

Rob W wrote:
Mikey_s wrote:Weeeell,

unless this chap has found a way around the first law of thermodynamics then the process must consume more energy than he is producing....

Legendary debunking of another pretender. Nice work.

Rob W

I repeat: the inventor does not allege that he's producing energy. The only way to evaluate if this could become practical, is by comparing the efficency of this discovery vs. other hydrogen production methods, or against other methods of energy storage (like batteries).
Ciro Pabón
Joined: 10 May 2005

Post Tue Jun 05, 2007 4:04 pm

If powering of radio emitters would take only certain percentage of energy that is produced than it would give us a great new power source.

Even more, the way he used to burn it is of less importance as a discovery than fact that salt water car burn. Even if it takes very much energy to cause burning it is now up to scientists to find new ways to initiate that burning and improve efficiency of the process if possible.
Joined: 3 Jun 2005

Post Tue Jun 05, 2007 4:32 pm


the first law of thermodynamics concerns the conservation of energy (it can neither be created or destroyed - just changed).

The second law states that entropy (the degree of disorder) tends to increase.

As mankind (not Manchild :lol: ) has not yet managed to produce anything that operates even close to 100% efficiency the production of radiowaves will involve the loss of energy. The production of (what we presume is) hydrogen from water will not be a 100% efficient process, therefore more energy will be lost. The sum of the losses should be taken into account when assesing the fficiency of the process. The video doesn't give anything away about the process, so it is impossible to say how (in)efficient it is.

The losses are where the second law creeps in; the excess energy you have to expend on inefficient processes increase the entropy in the universe. So you find that by creating your hydrogen (decreasing entropy) you have created a whole bunch more entropy by the energy you expended to do so... it's fiendishly difficult to overcome the second law - to the extent that nobody managed it yet :?

Now @ MC and Rob W;
Salt (assuming that it is common salt) is Sodium Chloride (NaCl), water is H2O. Assuming that the combustible gas is Hydrogen it must come from the water - there is no hydrogen present in salt. Therefore there are two possible mechanisms to produce hydrogen; either split the water directly... but then why do you need salt???? (I don't know the answer btw), or split the salt into sodium and chlorine; the sodium then reacts with the water to produce sodium hydroxide and liberates hydrogen gas in the process.

I don't know what is going on in this chaps invention, but normally scientists are accurate in their descriptions of a chemical process and he refers to water as an element... that is not the case. Furthermore, the most efficient way to split water is via electrolysis and this is not electrolysis (no electrodes in the water).

As Ciro said, at best this is hydrogen stored in water; As water is rather stable it will cost a lot of energy to recover the hydrogen and re-burn it. As such it is incumbent on anyone trying to do so to demonstrate that this is actually viable, and superior to other methods of energy storage rather than just to say it can be done - it CAN be done easily, but nobody does it because it is clearly stupid to do so thermodynamically - you just waste energy!

@ Ciro;
Ethanol does have a few drawbacks in addition to its numerous advantages; it is hygroscopic (attracts water) which you really don't want in your fuel tank (unless you are planning to be really clever!!) and it can lead to the formation of aldehydes and ketones as combustion products; which are really irritating to eyes and mucous membranes. Much better to take your alcohol in small doses.. perhaps in old rum! :wink:
Joined: 21 Dec 2005

Post Tue Jun 05, 2007 6:23 pm

Sorry, when I said "great new power source" I meant "great new engine". Since we can only speculate of losses I based what I said hoping that perhaps an engine powered by burning salt water could spend only small part of the energy on powering radio emitters just as passenger car engines nowadays spend some energy of burned gasoline on powering ignition and fuel injection.
Joined: 3 Jun 2005


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