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Hydrogen production from coal, water and electrons


Coals and other forms of solid carbonaceous fossil fuel are oxidised to oxides of carbon at the anode of an electrochemical cell and hydrogen is produced at the cathode, these gases being produced in relatively pure states. The reaction proceeds at very mild temperatures and at operating electrical potentials significantly lower than the thermodynamic potential of water electrolysis. Although the reaction is readily observable at room temperature, the observed activation energies and the expected decomposition temperatures of the presumed intermediates suggest that much more rapid and steadier oxidation rates might be achieved at higher temperatures in the range 200–600 °C.

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Coughlin, R., Farooque, M. Hydrogen production from coal, water and electrons. Nature 279, 301–303 (1979).

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