Patent application title: Hydrogen-from-water on-demand supplemental vehicle fuel electrolyzer system
Alex Rivera (Northridge, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AC25B104FI
Class name: Plural cells with feeding and/or withdrawal means gas
Publication date: 2010-02-18
Patent application number: 20100038236
Patent application title: Hydrogen-from-water on-demand supplemental vehicle fuel electrolyzer system
BELASCO, JACOBS & TOWNSLEY LLP;HOWARD HUGHES CENTER
Origin: LOS ANGELES, CA US
IPC8 Class: AC25B104FI
Patent application number: 20100038236
A simple electrolyzer system, that can be easily installed in most motor
vehicles, including boats, generates a gaseous mixture including hydrogen
as auxiliary motive fuel to provide increased performance and mileage.
The electrolyzer system is powered electrically from the vehicle battery
and consumes only water. In a preferred embodiment, a pair of similar
electrolyzer cells, mounted in the engine compartment of the vehicle,
generate a gaseous mixture of hydrogen and oxygen that is delivered
independently to corresponding input ports at two strategically selected
domains in the vehicle's air intake system: one at the intake manifold
and the other at the main air intake duct leading to the intake manifold.
A check-valve disconnect coupling in each gas delivery hose serves as a
flash-back arrester for safety, and facilitates maintenance.
1. An auxiliary motive energy fuel source for a vehicle equipped with a
storage battery and an internal combustion engine including an air intake
manifold having an air intake duct, comprising:an electrolyzer system,
including a plurality of electrodes immersed in liquid electrolyte,
receiving electric current from the vehicle battery, and generating a
gaseous mixture of hydrogen and oxygen;a first delivery conduit system
made and arranged to conduct a first portion of the gaseous mixture to a
region in the air intake manifold; anda second delivery conduit system
made and arranged to conduct a second portion of the gaseous mixture to a
region in the air intake duct.
2. The auxiliary motive energy fuel source as defined in claim 1 wherein said electrolyzer system comprises:a first electrolyzer cell;a second electrolyzer cell, like said first electrolyzer cell;said first delivery conduit system made and arranged to receive the first portion of the gaseous mixture from said first electrolyzer cell independent of said second electrolyzer cell; andsaid second delivery conduit system being made and arranged to receive the second portion of the gaseous mixture from said second electrolyzer cell independent of said first electrolyzer cell.
3. The auxiliary motive energy fuel source as defined in claim 1 wherein said electrolyzer system comprises:a first electrolyzer cell;a second electrolyzer cell, like said first electrolyzer cell; andsaid first and second electrolyzer cells being interconnected in fluid communication with each other so as to co-operate in a manner to function equivalent to a single electrolyzer generating the first and second portions of the gaseous mixture.
4. The auxiliary motive energy fuel source as defined in claim 1 wherein said electrolyzer system comprises:a single electrolyzer cell configured with said first and second delivery conduit systems originating in a common plenum region of said cell.
5. The auxiliary motive energy fuel source as defined in claim 1 wherein said electrolyzer system includes at least one electrolyzer cell comprising:a non-conductive corrosion-resistant container;a quantity of aqueous electrolytic liquid deployed in said container;a quantity of catalytic component, dissolved in said aqueous electrolytic liquids, of composition selected to increase electrical conductivity of said aqueous electrolytic liquid;a pair of electrodes immersed in said aqueous electrolyte, connected by a pair of terminals to receive electrical current from the vehicle battery, anda plenum region above said aqueous electrolytic liquid made and arranged to contain foam and bubbles of generated gas.
6. The auxiliary motive energy fuel source as defined in claim 5 wherein:said container is made from glass;said aqueous electrolytic liquid is water; andsaid catalytic component is sodium bicarbonate.
7. The auxiliary motive energy fuel source as defined in claim 4 wherein each of said electrodes is configured as a helix formed from a plurality of strands of stainless steel wire twisted together in a rope/cable form, the two helixes being interlaced together and supported on an insulating form made and arranged to prevent electrical contact therebetween.
8. The auxiliary motive energy fuel source as defined in claim 1 further comprising in each of said first and second delivery conduit systems, and located within a designated distance from a corresponding electrolyzer cell, a disconnect coupling fitted with a one-way check valve that acts as a flash-back arrester safety feature that prevents possibility of flames entering the electrolyzer cells in the event of engine backfiring.
9. The auxiliary motive energy fuel source as defined in claim 8 wherein the designated distance is six inches.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to the field of vehicle accessories and more particularly to a method and apparatus for generating and injecting a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gas, electrolyzed from water, into the air intake manifold system of a petroleum-powered internal combustion engine as a supplemental fuel source produced on-demand for purposes of increased power and fuel economy along with further environmental benefits of cleaner emissions.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Steep increases in the cost of petroleum fuel for vehicles, along with increasing world consumption thereof, has motivated increased interest not only in hybrid and alternatively-energized vehicles, but also in supplemental fuel systems that can be added onto existing petroleum-powered vehicles to increase the performance and mileage economy.
In conventional petroleum-burning vehicles, a major source of energy is the oxygen obtained free from the atmosphere, drawn into the intake manifold through the air filter. Whether pre-mixed with gasoline vapor in a carburetor or mixed in the cylinder combustion chamber with injected liquid fuel, oxygen forms a major part of the explosive mixture that explodes upon exposure to heat above a critical temperature when ignited from the spark plug, or in a diesel, after starting with a glow plug, heat from compression and high pressure timed injection exceeding the critical temperature, releasing mechanical energy to drive the piston and propel the vehicle.
Experimental work has shown that internal combustion engines can be made to run on hydrogen as the basic fuel, however issues of cost and concern about safety regarding storage and public distribution of hydrogen, whether in liquid, solid or gas form, are still being resolved.
DISCUSSION OF KNOWN ART
U.S. Pat. No. 3,262,872 to Rhodes et al for APPARATUS FOR THE ELECTROLYTIC PRODUCTION OF HYDROGEN AND OXYGEN FOR THE SAFE CONSUMPTION THEREOF teaches the generation of hydrogen and oxygen electrolytically by passing electric current between a pair of electrodes immersed in conductive water, and is directed to the utilization of the resultant hydrogen/oxygen mixture for torch welding purposes.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,081,656 to Yull Brown for ARC-ASSISTED OXY/HYDROGEN WELDING teaches generating a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen in substantially stoichiometric proportions in an electrolytic cell by electrical dissociation of water. Brown states that although a mixture of hydrogen gas and oxygen gas had previously been considered highly explosive, he found in accordance with his invention that the two gases can be safely and usefully produced and utilized for fuel purposes provided that certain safety precautions are observed, such as the employment of a flash-back arrester. Brown points out the many advantages of producing the gases on site, i.e. "on demand", citing many disadvantages of the conventional practice of storing, distributing and utilizing cylinders or "bottles" of gas for welding purposes. The stoichiometric mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gas generated by electrolysis is sometimes referred to as "Brown's gas".
U.S. Pat. No. 4,085,709 to Tangri for HYDROGEN FUEL SYSTEM FOR A VEHICLE discloses a system that uses hydrogen as the primary fuel for an internal combustion engine in a vehicle. The system is mounted on the vehicle and is operable primarily when the vehicle is at rest, electrically sourced from a.c. utility electric power, generating hydrogen gas in an electrolyzer and storing the gas aboard the vehicle.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,368,696 to Reinhardt for ELECTROLYTIC SUPPLEMENTAL FUEL GENERATION FOR MOTOR VEHICLES discloses a combination internal combustion engine and electrolyzer for producing hydrogen from water on board a motor vehicle in order to supplement the gasoline fuel for the engine, further including a heat-activated engine such as a Stirling engine, activated directly from main engine heat to provide the electrical current necessary to decompose the water. The oxygen and hydrogen gases formed by the electrolysis of water in two cells shown are passed by passageways 34 and 36 to a common location at the air intake of the carburetor and enable the use of a much leaner gasoline-to-air mixture to run the engine thus increasing gasoline mileage and reducing air pollutants.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,516,905 to Baaurmert et al for VEHICLE WITH A FUEL CELL SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR OPERATING THE SAME includes at least one auxiliary electric power supply including a fuel cell system and an electrolyzer which is capable of generating hydrogen and oxygen.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,833,206 to Erdle et al for AUXILIARY POWER SUPPLY FOR A VEHICLE WITH A COMBUSTION ENGINE AND METHOD OF OPERATING SAME discloses apparatus including ". . . a fuel cell with a hydrogen input, and oxygen input and an exhaust output, an electrolyzer capable of generating hydrogen and oxygen from water . . . ".
OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION
It is a primary object to contribute to improvements in world environmental conditions by increasing the efficiency and fuel economy and decreasing harmful emissions from internal combustion engines of existing motor vehicles.
It is a main object of the invention to provide, for installation on existing vehicles with internal combustion engines that operate primarily on petroleum fuel, a relatively simple electrolyzer system that generates hydrogen and oxygen for injection as a supplementary fuel to improve vehicle performance and overall fuel economy.
It is a further object for the electrolyzer system to operate from the vehicle's battery.
It is a further object for the electrolyzer system to take maximum advantage of variations in vacuum conditions in different domains of the engine air intake system.
It is a further object to provide a simplified embodiment that supplies supplemental fuel on-demand, and thus does not require auxiliary fuel storage bottles or cylinders.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The foregoing objects have been accomplished in an electrolyzer system that can be easily installed in most motor vehicles including boats. In a preferred embodiment, a pair of similar electrolyzer cells are mounted in the engine compartment of the vehicle and connected by a switch to the vehicle's storage battery. The oxy-hydrogen gas generated at the electrodes is conducted by two delivery hose lines, one from each cell, leading to two corresponding strategically selected input ports at different locations in the vehicle's air intake system: one port on the intake manifold and the other port on the main air intake hose leading to the intake manifold. A check valve disconnect coupling in each delivery hose line facilitates removal for maintenance and serves as a flash-back arrester for safety.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The principles and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following more detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings which illustrate the invention, by way of example.
FIG. 1 is a functional diagram of a preferred embodiment of the present invention showing a system including pair of electrolyzer cells installed in a motor vehicle so as to independently supply oxygen/hydrogen gas to two ports at different locations in the vehicle engine air intake system.
FIG. 2 is a functional diagram showing, as an alternative embodiment, a version of the system of FIG. 1 which includes the addition of a passageway interconnecting the two electrolyzer cells.
FIG. 3 is a functional diagram of an alternative embodiment of the invention utilizing a single electrolyzer cell, fitted with two gaseous fuel delivery hoses leading as in FIG. 1 to two ports located in different domains in the vehicle engine air intake system.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 1 is a functional diagram of a preferred embodiment of the present invention showing a system including pair of like electrolyzer cells 12' and 12'' installed in a motor vehicle so as to supply oxygen/hydrogen gas independently to two ports 36A and 38B, each located at a different strategically selected domain in the vehicle engine air intake system.
Each electrolyzer cell 12' and 12'' is typically contained in a glass jar and configured internally with a pair of electrodes 14 immersed in the electrolyte liquid 16, typically distilled water with a catalyst such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda, a.k.a. bicarbonate of soda), typically a half teaspoon to a quart of water, to increase the electrical conductivity to a desired level, since pure distilled water is non-conductive.
In a preferred electrode structure, each electrode 14 is made from a few strands of 0.04'' stainless steel wire twisted together into a in a rope/cable-like form, then formed into a helix. The two helixes are arranged in an interlaced pattern supported on an insulated coil form that avoids electrical contact between the two helixes. The coil form may be made from two rectangular pieces of suitable insulating material such as plastic, nylon or Teflon. The jar is filled with electrolyte liquid to a level that leaves a sufficient plenum region, approximately one inch, at the top for formation of foam and bubbles of gas.
Each electrode is connected to an electrical terminal in an insulated top cover 12A. The two cells 12' and 12'' are shown with their electrode terminals connected in series with the vehicle battery 18, an on-off switch 20 and a regulator 22. With switch 20 turned on, bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen gas are generated at the electrodes 14: the amount of gas depends on the electric current and that in turn depends on the voltage applied to the electrodes and the conductivity of the electrolyte.
The sealing cover 12A on each cell 12' and 12'' is configured with a filler tube 12B enclosed by a cap 12C, and a delivery conduit, typically a tube 24 connected to check-valve disconnect coupling 26, thence via delivery conduits, typically flexible delivery hoses 28 and 30 in two hydrogen injection paths respectively leading to two different vacuum domains of the vehicle.
In the first hydrogen injection path, delivery hose 28 leads to port 36A, which can be drilled and threaded if it is not already available in the vehicle air intake duct 36, which conducts air intake (arrow) from the vehicle air filter (not shown) to the intake manifold 38 to which duct 36 is attached. Immediately inside manifold 38, a butterfly control valve vane 38A acts as a throttle that regulates the air intake of the engine via manifold 38 and influences the level of vacuum in duct 36 relative to that in manifold 38 at any given moment.
In the second hydrogen injection path, a T-fitting 32 has been installed in the original hose line between two sections 34' and 34'' leading to port 39B which is normally already available in the vehicle intake manifold 38.
In this embodiment, the first and second electrolyzer cells 12' and 12'' operate independently to supply the hydrogen/oxygen gas mixture "on demand" in the respective injection paths and vacuum domains, where the demand and the vacuum may vary from each other, depending on operating conditions such as engine speed, acceleration, load, etc. When the engine is idling, there is a high level of vacuum in the intake manifold 38, drawing gaseous fuel from the second electrolyzer cell 12'' via delivery hoses 30 and 34'' and through port 38B. The vacuum in manifold 38 decreases when the engine is accelerated to higher RPM: momentarily, higher vacuum is available in the air intake duct 36 drawing the gaseous fuel from the first electrolyzer cell 12' via delivery hose 28 through port 36A. This dual-injection system accomplishes an overall balancing effect between the two air intake vacuum domains.
T-fitting 32, inserted in the vehicle vacuum lines 34' and 34'' in a location near manifold 36, provides a convenient way of connecting this branch of electrolyzer system, i.e. delivery hose 30, to the manifold domain of the vehicle vacuum system, which typically provides auxiliary vacuum power for motivating vehicle accessories such as windshield wipers, brake assist, pneumatic locks, etc.
Alternatively the delivery hose 30 could be connected directly to manifold 38 via a separate port such as port 38B that may be available or added to the existing vehicle intake manifold structure. Similarly if the vehicle is already equipped with an accessory hose line connected to air intake duct 36, the invention could be practiced with delivery hose 28 connected via a T fitting such as T fitting 32 installed in the existing accessory hose line. In a further alternative, the delivery hose 28 could be directed to a through fitting in the air filter casing that is attached to duct 36.
Disconnect couplings 26, which enable convenient disconnection of the electrolyzer cells 12' and 12'' for removal from the vehicle, are each fitted with a one-way check valve that acts as a flash-back arrester safety feature that prevents any possibility of flames entering the electrolyzer cells 12' and 12', e.g. in the event of engine backfiring.
Alternatively the cells 12' and 12'' could be connected in parallel electrically: the main objective is to keep the amplitude of the direct current flowing from the battery 18 through the electrodes 14 reasonably constant at a designated value, e.g.5 amperes, which would be in the same general range as a typical auto radio or music player. Parallel connection would require regulator 22 to provide dual current regulators, one for each cell 12' and 12'.
Regulator 22 is a preferred option: it could be as simple as a resistor or varistor that serves to limit the maximum current to a safe value. The invention could even be practiced with regulator 22 eliminated, i.e. replaced by a short-circuit connecting the battery 18 directly to the cells, however that mode of operation is not recommended due to risk of a short circuit or other high current condition in the electrolyzer system that could overload and blow out a vehicle fuse.
For a simple practical system, a preferred form of regulator 22 is that of an electronic current regulator that automatically adjusts the voltage to maintain constant electrode current in the two cells 12' and 12'' connected in series as shown. For example if the system is initially set up with electrolyte 16 made to have conductivity such as to draw rated current, e.g. 5 amperes, at 6 volts (i.e. half the 12 volt battery voltage, then the regulator 22 would provide full current regulation for any increase in conductivity of the electrolyzer by automatically reducing the voltage as required to maintain the nominal current. Conversely, for decreasing conductivity, the regulator 22 would automatically increase the voltage as required to maintain the nominal current for loss of conductivity to as low as 50% of nominal, where the regulator would deliver full 12 volt battery voltage. Any further reduction in conductivity would take regulator 22 out of range: it would continue to deliver 12 volts, however the electrolyzer current and gas generation would then decrease accordingly.
As the level of electrolyte 16 decreases, the immersed portion of electrodes 14 also decreases tending to reduce the conductivity; however there is an offsetting factor: generally there is little or no depletion of the catalyst, and thus since the amount of catalyst remains relatively constant, the concentration of the catalyst increases and tends to increase the conductivity. Regarding the depletion of water: typically for one quart cell capacity, the level of the electrolyte 16 can be expected to deplete to 50% in approximately 800 miles of driving. It is recommended to use a syringe or other filler device to replenish cells 12' and 12'' to within about and inch from the cell cover with distilled water with each tank-filling of gasoline or diesel fuel.
In the functional diagram FIG. 2, a version of the system of FIG. 1 is shown in which the main difference is the addition of interconnecting hose line 40 between the two electrolyzer cells 12' and 12', via disconnectable couplings 40A on filler tubes 12B. This arrangement causes the two cells 12' and 12'' to perform in the manner of a single cell, as opposed to the independent cell mode of operation of the system of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a functional diagram of an alternative simplified embodiment of the invention utilizing only a single electrolyzer cell 12. Functionally this system is equivalent to the system shown in FIG. 2, particularly if the single cell 12 in FIG. 3 is made to have electrolyte capacity equal to the combined capacity of the two cells 12' and 12'' in FIG. 2.
In both FIG. 2 and FIG. 3, the two delivery hoses 28 and 30 are directed to the two designated different locations in the vehicle air intake system in the same manner as shown in FIG. 1.
The basic dual injection electrolyzer principle of the invention may be practiced with alternative configurations and materials with regard to the electrolyzer, its container, its electrodes and materials thereof. For example electrolyzer containers may be made from plastic, metal or other material as alternative to glass containers shown and/or the electrodes may be made in alternative configurations and from alternative conductive materials, however such departures from teachings and showings described above in the illustrative embodiment should be not be attempted without due consideration to maintaining performance and reliability and avoiding corrosion or contamination.
The invention may be embodied and practiced in other specific forms without departing from the spirit and essential characteristics thereof. The present embodiments are therefore to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, the scope of the invention being indicated by the appended claims rather than by the foregoing description; and all variations, substitutions and changes which come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are therefore intended to be embraced therein.
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