Hydrogen generation from water using magnesium and aluminium and their alloy


With the growing need for clean, reliable power, the promise of the hydrogen economy is greater than ever. Wide-spread availability of hydrogen generation has been a critical factor in limiting the overall development of this sector.

This patented technology was developed at Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) and is a system for generating hydrogen on demand at a controlled rate. The vast majority of hydrogen that is used is produced on-site (i.e. next to the facilities that use the hydrogen) through gas reforming or electrolysis. This is due to the challenges associated with producing and storing hydrogen. NRC’s technology takes this concept and applies it on a much smaller scale and in a distributed setting.

Technology transfer

This technology is available for licensing, or for further development through a collaborative research agreement with NRC. The business opportunity may be referred to by its NRC ID # 11716.

Market applications

This technology could be applied to a range of applications in industries as diverse as air conditioning, automotive components, glass processing, construction, defence, transportation, rail networks, ship building and powering, efficiency for transport industry, environmentally acceptable refuelling solution for fuel cell-powered unmanned aerial systems (UASs) to operate in remote areas or propulsion of terrain vehicles, an alternate way to power equipment in the construction industry such as blowtorches, saws and drills.

How it works

The technology consists of anode and cathode materials (magnesium and aluminum) arranged in the form of a stack and immersed in water-based electrolyte (“cartridge”) inside a vessel (“canister”) made from plastic or lined aluminum or steel. The system remains dormant as long as the stack terminals are not connected. When the switch connecting the anode and cathode of the stack is closed, a reaction begins generating hydrogen gas and consuming the stack materials in the process. The resulting hydrogen gas stream collected at the top of the vessel is highly pure (99.99% pure hydrogen). The rate of hydrogen production is controlled by the surface area of the anode and cathode materials exposed to the electrolyte and the resistance in the circuit connecting the terminals. The hydrogen capacity of the system is related to the mass of electrodes and water. As long as the switch is closed, hydrogen is generated and the pressure of the hydrogen will increase to any desired level. In the lab, a pressure of 15,000 psi or 1000 bars has been demonstrated. The hydrogen generation reaction can be stopped by opening the circuit through a pressure switch, making it safe and easy to control.

As mentioned, the anode and cathode materials of the cartridge are consumed in the reaction. Once the cartridge materials are exhausted, the canister is disconnected from the hydrogen collection or consuming system and the electrolyte is filtered. The solid filtered materials are environmentally benign and can be disposed of or recycled. A new fuel cartridge can be added to the canister to continue operation.


The advantages of NRC’s technology include:

  • Cost competitive with existing merchant hydrogen delivery
  • Relatively high energy density
  • Controlled hydrogen production
  • Improved safety (non high-pressure storage)
  • Scalable design supplying hydrogen for milliwatt to 10kW power applications
  • High purity hydrogen production (99.99% pure)
  • Benign, non-polluting by products that are recyclable
  • Simple process that is silent and reliable in operation
  • Designable for low pressure and high pressure (1000 bar) hydrogen production



To inquire about this technology, please contact:

Dann Chow, Business Advisor
Phone: 604-221-3157
Email: Dann.Chow@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Express Licensing

NRC makes research & development licenses for this technology available under its Express Licensing program. To purchase such a license, please complete the Express Licensing order form.

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