What is Brown's Gas?

Matthew F.
Matthew F.
Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

Brown's gas is a chemical used in high-powered lights and lamps, torches, and welding tools. Also known as oxyhydrogen, Brown's gas was named for Yull Brown, a Bulgarian inventor who first patented two producers of oxyhydrogen. It is a technology that burns water as fuel, and can be used for heating, cutting, fusing, and is popular in automotive industries. It is also known as HHO gas, di-hydroxy, green glass, water glass, and knallgas.

Brown's gas has been used to produce oxyhydrogen lamps, like the limelight sometimes used in stage lighting. It is also used in the melting of and working with many metals. Because of the high temperature possible in oxyhydrogen, the chemical has been used to melt various metals, such as platinum, since its discovery, though more efficient and safe methods have since been discovered. The oxyhydrogen torch has been used in this method for cutting glass and thermoplastocs as well. It has also been used as an experimental automotive fuel.

Brown's gas is a mixture of the elements of water in the same proportions as water: hydrogen and oxygen mixed at a 2:1 ration. An electric current is used to separate and disassociate the molecules of the water, allowing the hydrogen and oxygen to act independently of each other. It can burn with almost any volume of hydrogen, and when burnt it converts to water vapor and releases energy. This energy released is enough to keep the reaction burning, and the chemical powered, as long as hydrogen remains.

Brown's gas burns at a rate of 241.8 kilojoules of energy. It can reach a temperature of 2800° Celsius (5072° Fahrenheit), which is nearly 700° C (1290° F) hotter than a normal hydrogen flame produced in air. When the molecules are in their proper ratio and producing their own energy, ignition is enough to keep the gas burning and can reach a level 3.8 times higher than that of a normal oxygen flame.

Yull Brown first patented an electrolyzer in 1977 to utilize the power and benefits of Brown's gas. The electrolyzer is a tool that separates the oxygen and hydrogen of water by decomposing it into its separate components. Brown's gas has been introduced to manufacturers and the general public through generators which prepare the gas for welding. It is a relatively safe substance to work with. It is odorless and not poisonous when inhaled or ingested, and its cheap cost and abdundance, only the price of electricity and water, make Brown's gas an available and convenient chemical for many scientific endeavors.

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Discussion Comments


How complicated is it then to separate the o2 from the hydrogen?


brown's gas is mono atomic H1 and O1 as opposed to di atomic = H2 and O2. H1 and O1 are highly active (they want to fill their outside valence rings) whereas H2 and O2 are more stable. H1 + H1 + O1 = browns gas = in a contained environment will implode not explode.


Anon17734 -- Depending on the relative amounts of hydrogen and oxygen used to make Brown's gas, it can be a relatively safe gas. Yull Brown discovered a proprietary method of water electrolysis that created a non-explosive mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gas. If a 2:1 ratio of hydrogen:oxygen was mixed, and this can be off (apparently) by +/- 5%, the resulting gas will be safe. I think it's when the ratio of hydrogen to oxygen is much different than a two to one ratio that the result becomes _incredibly_ explosive as you note.


Say what? A mixture of hydrogen and oxygen, especially in the 2:1 atomic ratio produced by water electrolysis, is _incredibly_ explosive. I can't see how you can possibly call it a "relatively safe substance"! There's nothing special at all about Brown's gas. It is just a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen, and you'd get the same thing by mixing O2 and H2 from a tank: a very explosive mixture!

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