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Hydrogen: Making It On The Farm
Lawrence Spicer, a building contractor in Lineville, Iowa, has worked with hydrogen for 15 years. Using the output of his 1,000 watt Jacobs windmill, he produces hydrogen for his part time farming operation at virtually no cost. His self-designed system plugs away 24 hrs. a day, turning rainwater, which has less minerals in it than well water, into gaseous hydrogen fuel and storing it in a 500 gal. propane tank. With only slight modifications, he's burned it in his truck, stove, propane refrigerator, acetylene cutting torch and other farm machines and appliances.
Spicer's hydrogen-maker consists of a small fuel cell, somewhat larger than a car battery. Like a battery, the "electrolyzer" has a series of connected metal plates. The plates are flooded with water and then charged with electrical current. Jumping between plates, the electricity splits water molecules into its two elements - hydrogen and oxygen. Automatic valves separate the two gases, moving the hydrogen to a big storage tank and oxygen to a smaller tank primarily for use with Spicer's cutting torch.
"My 1,000 watt Jacobs generator is small, but working 24 hrs. a day, it produces enough for experimentation with various engines and appliances," says Spicer. He has plans to set up a 15,000 to 20,000 watt hydrogen generating system, which he says would be enough to become energy self-sufficient.
Spicer has found that for some appliances, such as kitchen stoves, small modifications are necessary. For example, he has to fill part of the burner cavity on his stove with steel wool or else the hydrogen pops as it comes out. To avoid the problem of switching back and forth from his limited hydrogen supply to propane, he's now attempting to mix hydrogen with his propane supply.
Spicer is working on another hydrogen project: Producing his own anhydrous ammonia. "Anhydrous ammonia is simply a combination of hydrogen and nitrogen. Once we've made the hydrogen, all we need to do is combine it with nitrogen which is all around us in the air. I'm experimenting with a unit that would combine hydrogen and air in a box and give it an electrical charge. The out-put would be water, which you get when you combust hydrogen and anhydrous ammonia. This means that once perfected, we should be able to produce a unit for farmers that would produce hydrogen fuel and ammonia for the farm," he concludes.
Spicer sells a set of plans for $10 for building your own hydrogen electrolyzer. He notes that any electrical source can be used, including standard alternating current or solar cells, in addition to free wind power.
Spicer claims that John Lorenzen, Woodward, Iowa inventor featured several times in FARM SHOW for his experiments with powering a car on-the-go with hydrogen, originally built his first hydrogen-maker after seeing Spicer's system.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, L.E. Spicer, Rt. 2, Box 262, Lineville, Iowa 50147 (ph 515 876-5665).

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1981 - Volume #5, Issue #4