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Japanese company lays claim to world's cheapest hydrogen production process


October 18, 2010

FUKAI's functional water generators (left) and a hydrogen-extraction demonstration (right)...

FUKAI's functional water generators (left) and a hydrogen-extraction demonstration (right)

At least half of the world’s usable hydrogen is obtained through a process known as steam reforming, in which steam reacts with fossil fuels such as natural gas to produce hydrogen gas. On a smaller scale, hydrogen can also be obtained through the process of electrolysis, in which ordinary water is split into its oxygen and hydrogen components by running an electrical current through it – consumers can even buy their own electrolysis-based home hydrogen extraction kit, in the form of the HYDROFILL. Now, however, Japan’s FUKAI Environmental Research Institute has announced a new technology for obtaining hydrogen that it claims is less expensive and more efficient than anything that’s been tried so far.

FUKAI’s process involves adding aluminum or magnesium to boiling “functional water,” a proprietary substance that can be produced simply by running regular tap water through a natural mineral-containing "functional water generation unit.” The bonds that join hydrogen and oxygen molecules in regular water, which ordinarily require some energy to break, are weakened in functional water.

The liquid yields 2 liters (122 cubic inches) of hydrogen gas per gram of aluminum, or 3.3 liters (201 cubic inches) per gram of magnesium. FUKAI claims that the cost of producing enough hydrogen to generate 1kWh of electricity is about 18 cents US. That cost could be lowered through the use of recycled aluminum.

The technology is said to not involve the expansive facilities, petroleum-based fuels, or CO2 output of steam reformation. It is also reportedly more energy-efficient than electrolysis, and doesn’t require the growing of crops necessary for experimental biomass-based systems.

“If we make the most of this technology, in the future it will be possible to run automobiles using water only – no need to use gasoline or electricity,” stated Toshiharu Fukai, the developer of the system. “We are also pushing forward with technology that will allow us to generate hydrogen with zero cost. If we succeed in this development, even ordinary households will be able to produce hydrogen.”

The technology will be publicly demonstrated at a press conference next Monday (Oct. 25, 2010) in New York City.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth

Home Hydrogen Generators - all i can say is "remember the Hindenberg"

bushman Jack
18th October, 2010 @ 08:28 pm PDT

And how much energy does it take to smelt that aluminium?

19th October, 2010 @ 02:51 am PDT

Yeah petroleum is much much safer....! never been any accidents with that!

Andrew Gillies
19th October, 2010 @ 02:52 am PDT

The place this kind of system tends to run into trouble is can it be scaled up.

Many promising processes sound really good until scaling up starts costs going up logarithmically.

19th October, 2010 @ 08:50 am PDT

ffs don't tell Dick Cheney

19th October, 2010 @ 08:53 am PDT

I wonder what injecting "functional water" into the combustion chamber of a warmed up gas turbine (1100 degrees C) would do? Split the water and produce an immediate burn? That would be impressive.

19th October, 2010 @ 08:55 am PDT

We used to do that as teenagers over 30 years ago. Just mix some lye and water in a soda bottle then dump some aluminum foil bits into it. We'd pop a balloon over the top and wait for it to fill the ballon. Then we'd tie a candle wick to it, light the end and let it float up in the air. When the flame reaches the balloon it blows up in a little fireball. Of course a harmless trick like that these days would no doubt get a person arrested as a terrorist making weapons of mass destruction.

I have no doubt their "functional water" is made functional by merely adding lye to it.

19th October, 2010 @ 09:30 am PDT

Didn't the Hindenburg crash because the skin first caught on fire? Not because of the hydrogen? Check out some youtube videos of a hydrogen car fire. Looks much safer than a gasoline car fire.

Smelt aluminum... how about I rinse off the aluminum foil from my lunch and use that? Or chop up a soda can?

Very interested to see where this concept goes.
19th October, 2010 @ 09:34 am PDT

I agree with"oldsurly".Let's see where this goes.Time will tell.

19th October, 2010 @ 11:50 am PDT

hydrogen generation is one issue. An entirely different issue is hydrogen storage. Hydride tanks are the cost and technical halt. Density for vehicle use, hence the range, is far superior to battery on board and thus we should be happy about any quantum jump in the direction of ready to market.

19th October, 2010 @ 12:10 pm PDT


I completely agree, extraction of bauxite and it's electrolysis into aluminium is extremely power hungry and the production of functional water. This isn't some magical break through, although it's going to aid, the laying of the foundations for hydrogen power being seen as a serious energy producing medium.

19th October, 2010 @ 12:16 pm PDT

Most of you who are concerned about the safety of hydrogen are misinformed. Hydrogen safety has been in development for decades now. There is a company called Texaco-Ovonics that developed hydrogen storage in solid form. This method allows a much safer and more compact form of storage.

The issue here is cheapest hydrogen production, not safety. Most of you who posted about the Hindenburg, can't even stay on topic and need to go back to school.

Ted Gore
19th October, 2010 @ 12:31 pm PDT

My Spidey sense is tingling. Something to do with the First Law of Thermodynamics. How can you weaken a bond without putting energy into it? The energy you get from recombining hydrogen with oxygen to produce water is in the molecular bonds that are created. To get them apart again takes at least as much energy (exactly the same I believe) as it takes to split them. Otherwise you're headed for a perpetual motion machine and that's impossible. Just a vague suspicion, need to hear more about the details rather than just naming it "functional water".

19th October, 2010 @ 01:24 pm PDT

as an ancient alchemist, also a physical chemist, this article does not "add up". maybe a hoax? waiting for a patent? in several professional science journals, articles published some 2 years ago regarding production of hydrogen with little input energy cost. utilizing nano-crystalline gold as a catalyst, with full recovery of the gold crystals for reuse. was a lab scale process, scaling up is usual problem. i had requested full lab report and was looking for the nanocrystal gold. but i was sidelined by hospital stays. never received replies for data or material sources. these could have been "lost", as reports of my death, as mark twain once said " an error" ok i abrev! i really applaud the lye/balloon comment, also taught my grad students how to make bottle rockets by same process. somewhat replicating space launches, of 60 yrs ago . university pres personally banned this activity from football field. seems football more important than sciences, as is certainly true today. therefore we have several generations of science illiterate citizens, who know sports stats, etc.

19th October, 2010 @ 03:13 pm PDT

Water as a fuel! Come on folks, this is a real breakthrough! Forget the cars...think about providing power for your own home. . . power a generator for light, heat, cooling, water pumps . . . . cheap power . . . this will change the world!

Facebook User
19th October, 2010 @ 04:20 pm PDT

I recall a scene in the movie "Back to the Future" in which Dr. Brown is refueling his Mr. Fusion with garbage. One piece of garbage was an aluminum soda can. Maybe that's how this will work in the near future.

19th October, 2010 @ 04:44 pm PDT

Does anyone seriously believe that you can weaken the bonds in H2O by passing it over a magic mineral? So they've discovered some magic physics that turns the rules off for them? So what's really going on here is they are oxidizing an expensively produced and relatively rare metal and capturing the liberated hydrogen. Then they switch units back and forth between grams of metal, liters of hydrogen and kWh. 1gram of aluminum gets us 0.018g of hydrogen. Then there's the energy for smelting the metal and heating the water. So 18c to produce a kWh this way or around 15c with a regular power station. Now if I stick this through a fuel cell I can get 50% of the kWh I started out with or if I had skipped all this baloney I could have had about 85% through a good battery system.

This does not pass the BS test.

19th October, 2010 @ 11:24 pm PDT

well here comes an acid test.hey thats a pun.conspircy theory folks take note.will the mighty powers that be.thats all the smiling people making a few cents on fossil fuel let this go down.if those boys have any hair on their collective chest you can faggetaboutit.

Cowfy Kaufman
20th October, 2010 @ 05:11 am PDT

Water can also be dissociated [split] by using photocatalysts and light. The photocatalysts take the place of electricity in the electrolysis method of water splitting. Economically, water is practically free, and since it is recyclable, you pay for it only once! Water requires no investment in exploration, drilling, refining, transportation, service stations, mining, farming, cooling towers, or disposal of coal fly ash and radioactive nuclear waste.

As a fuel, water would neither consume atmospheric oxygen, nor pollute the air and water environment.

Why isn't more research being done to use water as a fuel?

Water is the only portable source of energy available in the quantities required to supplant gasoline or diesel fuel.

Origo 1

20th October, 2010 @ 06:55 am PDT

Outstanding invention. Hydrogen is the future ENERGY CARRIER.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
20th October, 2010 @ 09:11 am PDT

I really hope this works.

Also will people please, please forget about the Hindenberge (afterall if it had not been not filmed and villified by the media back then it would have long been forgotten).

Facebook User
20th October, 2010 @ 11:42 am PDT

This is a load of nonsense. This guy (Fukai) has been trying to sell "magic water" for years. He's had several "institutes", all of which seem to be staffed only by himself (his first few websites are still online, with hilarious translations and a layout worthy of Mahir himself).

At first he was selling "functional water" (which is a meningless term) as a drink that would "restore your vital energies", then he was selling it as an additive that you could mix with fuel 50-50, to make your car run better, now he's selling it as a magical way to extract hydrogen from water using less energy than the energy you get by burning that hydrogen. Naturally, he doesn't present any scientific explanation (let alone peer-reviewed material) to back up his claims.

This is homeopathy for cars. He's just looking for some people with more money than brains to invest in his "company". And a part of me hopes he'll find them, because I'd rather see the money in the hands of a scammer than in those of a moron that can't be bothered to learn about the science behind the (obviously fake) technology he's "investing" in.

And to anyone thinking you can use water as "fuel", you need to learn a few things about basic physics (start with energy conservation and the relative energy of water and hydrogen molecules). Or, if you really can't be bothered to learn, please give all your money to Mr. Fukai, he deserves it more than you do.

20th October, 2010 @ 11:48 am PDT

We already have two ways to make Al using solar energy. Its not a problem. Al can power cars and many other things and its an air drop-able fuel needing no parachute. This is a significant technology.

Wesley Bruce
21st October, 2010 @ 12:11 am PDT

Magnesium and aluminum have been used in past electrolytic designs with decent results, except they are consumed in the process and leave oxides and sludge as a byproduct that must be disposed of. The water could simply have been softened by natural minerals which would act as a surfactant to help break up the bubbles off the surface. I don't see anything breakthrough in this...

We have been making simple on demand hydrogen generators now for some time, they are under $1000, reliable and put enough hydrogen to catalyze the fuel mix for a faster, more complete burn. And they are not massive systems like his, so they fit into vehicles.

I'd put our units against his for form, fit and finish any day...

I very rarely post any links, but it is highly relevant in this article:

Facebook User
22nd October, 2010 @ 08:54 pm PDT

If not this process then another will surely get past the "break even" point in expending energy to produce hydrogen energy. The thing that gets me is, they better do it using brackish, grey water, or other possibly ocean salt water. Anything but fresh water suitable for consumpsion. Ways to store hydrogen may be improving but I vote for storing water then producing hydrogen on demand where ever needed!

Will, the tink
24th October, 2010 @ 04:11 pm PDT

See the movie below how it works

This is funtasutic!!

Facebook User
24th October, 2010 @ 06:36 pm PDT

New Technology for Generating Hydrogen from Water

at the Lowest Cost in the World

There are several different methods for generating hydrogen. The most ideal method is said to be generating hydrogen from water.

However, as many researchers have discovered, in practice it is difficult to generate hydrogen from water.

In order to generate hydrogen from water, we must break the bonds between hydrogen molecules and oxygen molecules.

Since these bonds are very strong, a large amount of energy, and therefore a high cost, is required to generate hydrogen.

If it were possible to do this efficiently at low cost, hydrogen could become one of our energy resources in the future.

SEE the movie below

Facebook User
24th October, 2010 @ 10:48 pm PDT

%u2018Sousei Water%u2019 - This %u2018miracle water%u2019 renders detergents, shampoo and pesticides obsolete, and by simply mixing it with oil can also reduce fossil fuels and harm from emission gases!

Facebook User
24th October, 2010 @ 10:53 pm PDT

I think this new technology to generate hydrogen gas will bring new systems in many ways like a automobile industry, power generation, transportation, infrastucture and so on and hopefully will end some natural resourse wars in the World. and of course will partly solve Environmental problems from its features.

25th October, 2010 @ 06:31 pm PDT

Re Hydrogen. Black light power seems to be the best so far as the material used is recyclable. The Hydrinos so produced give 2 times more energy than conventional H2


Cheers Kiwi

John M
28th October, 2010 @ 10:22 am PDT

for every 1000 cubic feet of hydrogen made you destroy 62 pounds of aluminum, that aint cheap, and then what do you do to clean up all that metal paste?

Ronald Wade Cooper
1st February, 2011 @ 09:49 pm PST

1. "boiling" functional water...they are putting in energy to essentially take out energy.

2. waste products to take care of.

3. from the article; i don't believe the water is recycled and therefore you have to replenish it.

4. scaling up problems.

5. loss of aluminum or magnesium (granted aluminum can be recycled).

6. cost of making "functional water".

all problems to overcome, but i wish them luck.

7th June, 2011 @ 07:27 am PDT

this looks like an application of just another water-to-gas method that is really not new and can't be patented.


the idea of aiding in electrolysis so it is not so expensive is great.

but ?metal?-oxides ??

patentability is the real sticking point when it comes to putting a method into production.

only the specific parts arranged in a specific way can be patented.

the idea is the dream of everyone looking for a way out of energy-slavery.

but, by all means let's keep swinging away at that elusive ball.

we'll hit it some day.



Joe M. Wesson
21st June, 2011 @ 08:23 am PDT

Maybe just use the bauxite (aluminum ore) in the reaction instead of aluminum and eliminate the energy penalty for creating the aluminum.

29th June, 2011 @ 08:46 am PDT

You need to look at public pair of Publication Number US 2011/0114506 A1

"Quadratic Electrolysis", will not wear out, will not need to be cleaned, runs continuously, independently verified to be at least 50% more efficient when configured serially and only sacrificing water and segregating gases. It consists of very inexpensive metals. Works with all electrolytic fluids. Even your trash talk water.

Aluminum, is expensive, requires huge amounts electricity and oxygen injection to be produced. Oxidation and divoting will occur very fast, huge maintenance costs, shorting through titration and scaling. Down time due to cleaning and resets.

Result of this report - Epic Failure.

Timothy Fletcher
23rd September, 2011 @ 08:24 am PDT

There is another easy way to produce hydrogen and oxygen, I made a video on it

Stephen Dickens
15th May, 2012 @ 11:55 am PDT
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