Is there any possible replacement for platinum wire in the electrolysis process?

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Jack Puntawong
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Is there any possible replacement for platinum wire in the electrolysis process?

Post by Jack Puntawong » Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:48 am

I've seen many project who uses platinum wire as electrode in the electrolysis process of producing D2 from D2O. I have contacted a local supply store to confirm a price on a 0.01" platinum wire as said in this website.

http://www.rtftechnologies.org/physics/ ... olysis.htm

However, the supply store said that they could only sell me a minimum of 1 meter wire priced at around $1,000 due to the thickness of the wire. Another alternative would be to install a pressurized D20 container which would cost approximately the same as the D20 production system.I am a cash poor scrounger so I would like to know if there is any other alternative for the electrode rather than platinum, or if there is any alternative (cash friendly) system ?

Ps. the price for hardware in South East Asia might be double of what is in the USA.

All comments is appreciated,

Jack Puntawong

Wilfried Heil
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Re: Is there any possible replacement for platinum wire in the electrolysis process?

Post by Wilfried Heil » Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:23 am

Certainly. You can use carbon electrodes from a pencil or from the inside of an old AA size battery. They will produce a black slurry in the water during electrolysis, which shouldn`t matter for this purpose.

You can get any number of dead batteries from the collection box in a department store. They are free.

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Re: Is there any possible replacement for platinum wire in the electrolysis process?

Post by Jack Puntawong » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:14 pm

Thank you Wilfried Heil,

But wouldn't the carbon electrode contaminate the D2O solution and be carried by air vapor when the D20 solution bubbles ? It would contaminate the D2 solution and might cause the fusion to not work properly.

Also, correct me if I'm wrong. I should use centrifuge electrolysis rather than the old school method of using two separate electrode, right? Is there any reason why this method is better? I couldn't find the reason after abusing the "search" bar.

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Re: Is there any possible replacement for platinum wire in the electrolysis process?

Post by Frank Sanns » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:45 pm

Just about any metal will work to generate hydrogen without going in to the gas phase with the exception of something like mercury which has a high room temperature vapor pressure. Some metals like sodium do not even require external electricity to produce hydrogen. You might consider a batch process of a small amount of your D20 to produce hydrogen rather than continuous electrolysis so contamination is not an issue of the remainder of your D20.

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Re: Is there any possible replacement for platinum wire in the electrolysis process?

Post by Wilfried Heil » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:49 pm

> But wouldn't the carbon electrode contaminate the D2O solution and be carried by air vapor when the D20 solution bubbles ?
No. The pencil mines are made of a mixture of carbon and clay. They have a tendency to flake off during electrolysis, but all of that stays in the water. You can use a small filter tube after the electrolysis step, with silica gel pellets to absorb the water vapor from the gas.

The problem with metal electrodes is that most metals will be etched away during the electrolysis and go into solution. A copper wire will also work, for some time.

> I should use centrifuge electrolysis rather than the old school method of using two separate electrode, right?
The "centrifuge tube" is just a thick walled test tube in which the electrolysis takes place between two electrodes. They can also be had with screw caps which can be useful here.

I have run a fusor on heavy water vapor alone and let the electric discharge do the electrolysis:
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=2721#p12231

Although it is possible to do it this way, I wouldn't recommend it as a first attempt. It was awkward to hold the discharge stable for any amount of time. This is much easier done with clean D2 gas.

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Doug Coulter
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Re: Is there any possible replacement for platinum wire in the electrolysis process?

Post by Doug Coulter » Mon Sep 10, 2012 1:59 pm

Using electrolysis (I used *dry* sodium carbonate to make the solution conductive enough) will pollute your D with water vapor quite a lot, and with H since D20 seems to attract atmospheric water like a magnet - verified on my mass spectrometer here. After just one overnight of air exposure to the pinhole that lets the O2 out and keep pressures equalized (so your heavy water doesn't go up the D2 feedline) - 1% or so plain water appears from "somewhere" in the solution.

In tests, I found the platinum plated nickel wire available from SciToys a lot cheaper works just as well as pure Pt wire does at a significant price reduction. Other metals will eventually go into solution as will most any "bound" carbon. Pure graphite lasts a little longer. It's ugly but doesn't really hurt anything except the wire which you wind up replacing - so make that easy to do!

In other tests, I found that the fusor is actually a lot more stable with water vapor ~~ .5% than it is with 5 9's pure D2, but also that "stable" isn't the ideal case for Q.

Personally, I'd prefer to have it pure and then add any "doping or impurities" on purpose if that's what I want, but there are plenty of sources of impurities other than the supply - the rest of your system can contribute more (except that water vapor and H from water getting into your D2O).

You obviously have to vent the side of your electrolyzer to air so the O can escape, so there's no ready solution to the contamination issue.

Many think dririte will solve this. The answer is "in your dreams" in terms of any real purity. Dry ice won't remove enough vapor to really matter, but LN2 might (this is book knowledge of the stated numbers of how hard it is to get rid of water vapor).

I now use a tank of D2, it's a lot happier situation, but we did get our first neutrons off electrolyzed heavy water. One issue no one has mentioned is that if you somehow open your gas inlet to the tank too big too quick - you can suck in solution unless you have a trap setup to avoid that. It's just a pain and a mess in exchange for saving a few bucks.

I did a little glass blowing and machine work here. The other electrode is a tungsten TIG rod, which doesn't corrode, and was chosen to make the glass-metal seal with the pyrex as they have a very close tempco.
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Dennis P Brown
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Re: Is there any possible replacement for platinum wire in the electrolysis process?

Post by Dennis P Brown » Mon Sep 10, 2012 3:40 pm

A simple trick to keep your system clean is to bubble the waste gas produced through an oil 'bubbler'. That is, run a tube from the system and place the other end of the tube under oil so the system never "see's" the out side air. Extra oxygen just bubbles out. I used this idea on a special very high temperature hydrogen furnace that was maintained at 99.999998 purity and it remained that pure (of course, if air had gotten in, the explosion would have taken out a floor and many rooms ... .)

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Re: Is there any possible replacement for platinum wire in the electrolysis process?

Post by John Futter » Tue Sep 11, 2012 9:53 am

Yeh olde Lead

is pretty good and should be OK for any amateur effort

and whats more its cheap

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Doug Coulter
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Re: Is there any possible replacement for platinum wire in the electrolysis process?

Post by Doug Coulter » Tue Sep 11, 2012 3:31 pm

I didn't try that, since my pinhole wasn't easily connected to a pipe for it, but the system dynamics should allow that to work, and yes, it should keep the plain water out of your heavy water solution.
Again, there should be some sort of trap or sump to prevent "suck back".

The worst trouble we had was accidentally sucking solution up into the delivery pipe to the fusor, which could easily have been prevented with a bulb that would hold enough to not allow that to happen, in the line up to it. Once NaCO3 gets into orifices/capillaries and dries...you wind up replacing a lot of things, it's very hard to get out once it dries inside a .005" tubing for example.

And oh yes, when I said dry above, I meant it - NaCO3 has a lot of water of crystallization, and it's not heavy water. So you bake the snot out of it before using it to make the heavy water conductive enough to electrolyze. If you don't you start right out with contamination with regular H.

But by then, we'd scored research grade D in a big tank, so...no going back, it's just plain better, and worth it. I can always add whatever doping/contamination I might want later, and in fact we tried a few. The fusor itself seemed to be sensitive to these in (roughly) descending order:

Water vapor
shop air (usually a bit damp)
nitrogen
welding gas mix for wire welding
helium
argon or neon (yes, I really have a big tank of pure neon)

With only about .1 to .5% of water being enough to really change things. It made the fusor more "stable" but lowered the Q and total neutron output quite a lot.

While the fusor isn't as sensitive to contamination as say, semiconductor grade silicon, there IS an effect, and so far, none of the things we've tried help - they all hurt.

Strangely, heavy hydrocarbon contamination (like diff pump oil) didn't seem to do much harm, but we didn't try it with the silicone type oils, just diffoil 20. This seems borne out well by Richard's comment that most people's systems are "awash in oil", yet we know they work fine. Lighter hydrocarbons, though, do seem to cut output and Q. I get some of those since part of my grid is high grade graphite and some sputters off under the D bombardment and makes light hydrocarbons (according to my mass spectrometer).
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Re: Is there any possible replacement for platinum wire in the electrolysis process?

Post by richnormand » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:27 pm

Have a look on e-bay for small amounts of platinum wire..

I got several lengths from there in the past.
Several vendors will sell from 1cm to several meters with assorted diag available (0.5mm being popular).

Fortunately my application was not with a fusor so the horrors of getting rid of water vapours were not an issues.

As always buyer beware on ebay! I actually used my lab balance and water volume displacement to get the density and see if it was at least close to platinum. Turned out OK.

Good luck.

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