I decided to write this article about how to make hydrogen water due to regularly getting questions about how we are delivering hydrogen gas inside a pill (we aren’t) and how magnesium can be used to produce hydrogen gas, as well as questions regarding the basics of hydrogen water and what it is. Of course, I have previously written similar content, including an article breaking down what hydrogen water is, and another page detailing a comparison between hydrogen water and gas technologies. However, this content is missing a simple explanation of how each technology creates hydrogen water.
How to Make Hydrogen Water: Bubbling Gas
A common method used in the laboratory setting to make hydrogen water, is to bubble hydrogen gas through water. Hydrogen gas is simply the hydrogen molecule, which consists of two hydrogen atoms bound together to form a stable molecule (H2). The issue with bubbling pure hydrogen gas into water to make hydrogen water is two-fold: 1) hydrogen gas is flammable and explosive and 2) hydrogen gas has relatively poor solubility in water, with its solubility in molarity (molecules present) being 44 times lower compared to CO2. When considering mass in mg/L, its solubility is roughly 1/1000th of CO2 (CO2 is used for comparison here, since this is the gas used to make “sparkling water”).
When dissolving hydrogen gas in water, it may take upwards of half an hour of bubbling hydrogen gas through water to reach the saturation point of ~1.6mg/L at standard ambient temperature and pressure (SATP). Bubbling hydrogen gas that is not dissolving in water and entering the (surrounding) air space for half an hour is potentially a dangerous task for DIY enthusiasts, as it is possible to reach explosive hydrogen gas levels without proper ventilation in the size of a standard room.
Hydrogen gas bubble diameter plays a crucial role in the dissolution kinetics, and this is something heavily emphasized in my pending patent applications. Moreover, “nano diffusers” can allow for smaller bubbles to enter the water, dramatically improving the dissolution kinetics and speeding up the time to reach saturation. That said, these diffusers are typically only capable of producing gas bubbles in the high-nano to low-micro range, meaning that due to the large bubble size relative to the hydrogen tablet technology I have invented, it is not possible for the cloud of nano bubbles produced by these diffusers to reach the levels of supersaturation that the hydrogen tablets do.
Bubbling pure hydrogen gas into water also requires a pressurized tank of hydrogen gas. However, their sale is controlled due to safety issues and they are not typically available to consumers. Pressurized gas tanks come with their own safety issues. The gas (not just with hydrogen) is typically pressurized to such an extent that if a canister were to fall and break off a valve, the tank would shoot like a rocket, and would perhaps be capable of blowing through a concrete wall, while also certainly killing anyone that happened to be in its trajectory.
For all of these reasons, there are currently no commercially available technologies I am aware of that use a hydrogen gas canister to bubble hydrogen gas through solution, which is a practice used exclusively by a handful of researchers.
How to Make Hydrogen Water: Electrolysis Machines
Electrolysis is the decomposition of the water molecule into oxygen and hydrogen gas via electric current. There are two competing technologies that utilize this method to make hydrogen water: water ionizers and proton exchange membranes.
Standard Water Ionizers
The benefit of a water ionizer is that a single machine can make hydrogen water for a potentially unlimited number of people. Of course, this would be in a “perfect world” scenario, since there are certain challenges with this technology. High-powered electrolysis machines can generate large amounts of hydrogen gas under the right conditions, namely adequate mineral content in the source water. Mineral content is required for conductivity, and having low mineral content in the water will lead to low, or negligible, amounts of dissolved hydrogen gas. Therefore, some of the leading ionizers may vary widely in performance, even when brand new, in different geographical areas. For instance, the first hydrogen machine that I used delivered almost undetectable levels of hydrogen gas dissolved in the water where I lived, measuring an embarrassing 0.03 parts per million (ppm) with my source water from a suburb of Vancouver, Canada. The source water had an incredibly low total dissolved solids (TDS), being less than 3 ppm. In other areas with hard water, the same model can deliver up to 1 ppm of dissolved hydrogen gas.
Even when high amounts of hydrogen gas are produced, water ionizers are quite poor at dissolving the gas. This is due to the bubble sizes that form on the plates. Some models that may deliver 1 ppm when brand new will often deliver a fraction of this amount after prolonged use. This is due to a process called “scaling,” which involves a layer of minerals, typically calcium, forming on the plates inside the machine. This calcification further reduces the dissolution kinetics, as the average hydrogen gas bubble diameter becomes larger and larger. Proper maintenance of the machines can delay this process. However, if significant calcification occurs, it can permanently damage the plates, meaning that adequate levels of hydrogen gas will never be dissolved again.
It is also important to note that in best-case scenarios, dissolved hydrogen levels in water ionizers remain at or just above the lowest observed therapeutic dose. Furthermore, it is likely not ideal to drink hydrogen water for all of your consumption, and doing so will likely lower the therapeutic effects. As such, having a higher supply of a lower concentration of hydrogen water is objectively not beneficial for one’s health, and is not the health benefit, as these machine manufacturers and distributors portray it.
Proton Exchange Membranes
Machines utilizing proton exchange membranes (PEMs) were designed to overcome many of the issues of conventional water ionizers.
They do not alter the pH of the water.
They are far less prone to the “scaling” process I detailed above, primarily due to the fact that they do not alter the pH of the water.
They are not dependent on source water and can make hydrogen water using any water source, whether it is high TDS, low TDS, or even water with no TDS, such as distilled and reverse osmosis (RO) water.
PEM machines tend to get a slightly higher level of dissolved hydrogen, even up to full saturation of 1.6 ppm, although some machines are also low in hydrogen levels. If the PEM machine has a pressurization chamber, levels may reach 3–4 ppm, with higher levels needing more advanced engineering.
Machines incorporating PEM technology are an advancement over conventional water ionizers in terms of making hydrogen water (water ionizers come with other benefits such as acidic water for beauty applications, strong acidic water for cleaning/disinfectant, etc). That said, they still deliver relatively low levels of hydrogen gas in the water and, again, encourage users to consume hydrogen water all day, at a reduced or nonexistent benefit.
How to Make Hydrogen Water: Reactive Earth Metals
Various elemental earth metals can be used to produce hydrogen gas when in contact with water, for example, potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, lithium, and aluminum (and more). These are the elemental metals and should not be mistaken for the salt forms found in supplements and consumer products. Salt forms, once the metal has reacted and is in ionic form, are not reactive with water and will not produce hydrogen gas. This means you cannot add a magnesium or calcium supplement to water and expect it to make hydrogen water.
Potassium and sodium are rarely, if ever, used for this process as the reaction is literally explosive. You can watch sodium exploding when in contact with water here:
Further, the mass of metal needed to produce hydrogen gas is relatively high, with about double the amount of sodium metal needed compared to required amounts of magnesium metal, and more than triple the potassium amount being needed to produce the same amount of hydrogen gas as the comparative amount of magnesium would produce.
On the other hand, aluminum has very low reactivity with water. That said, it can be an attractive solution as aluminum is very cheap, safe to handle, and produces about 35–40% more hydrogen gas compared to magnesium given the same mass of starting metal. The challenges to the low reactivity can be solved a couple of ways. One common method to produce hydrogen gas with aluminum is to heat the aluminum until it becomes red hot, and then pass it through a chamber of steam. Another way to utilize aluminum for hydrogen production is to utilize fine aluminum powder, and then react it with a strong alkaline solution such as calcium hydroxide.
One commercial technology does utilize aluminum powder and a strong alkaline buffer in an encased chamber that can be added to water to produce hydrogen gas. Its patent claims that no aluminum and only hydrogen gas will enter the water, which is also part of the safety claim. However, this claim is tenuous, as the pH of the solution changes once the reaction occurs. The only way this could happen, since hydrogen gas is neutral and does not alter the pH, is if some of the reactants enter the water, namely the aluminum hydroxide produced. Of course, the safety of ingesting excess aluminum is of concern, with aluminum ingestion being linked with many neurological disorders.1
Lithium reacts with water without the need for an alkaline or acidic aid or heat and does not react so vigorously that it explodes, in contrast to sodium and potassium metals. That said, lithium floats, and as such, the hydrogen gas would not dissolve in water. Further, ingestion of lithium hydroxide may be toxic.2 It is also highly corrosive, with skin contact potentially resulting in severe burns or damage. Finally, lithium has a very low recommended daily allowance for healthy individuals not using it as a medication, in the range of about 1mg per day.3 Of course, higher doses (up to 1200x higher) are often prescribed as long-term treatment for bipolar disorder to reduce symptoms of mania.4
Lithium is often used as a prescribed medication and does have many contraindications. However, it is also commonly sold as a supplement in doses of 1–10mg per day, but is not recommended for children. This low amount of lithium metal would not allow for adequate hydrogen production, even considering the high yield of hydrogen gas per mass, with about 75% more hydrogen gas produced compared to magnesium. When considering the many other challenges detailed above, lithium would not be feasible for use for the general population in the production of hydrogen water.
The use of calcium metal in hydrogen water production has many drawbacks. It is slightly more reactive than magnesium, although it produces far less hydrogen gas per mass with about 65% more calcium than magnesium needed to produce the same amount of hydrogen gas. Additionally, calcium comes with many of the same safety challenges as magnesium metal in terms of handling and manufacturing, and the reaction yields calcium hydroxide, a far stronger base that can act as a toxic and corrosive lye. Calcium metal is also harder to acquire and comes at a greater cost, at least from what I was able to ascertain during my early days of R&D. Finally, most get abundant calcium in their diet and as such, this extra calcium would not come with much of a secondary benefit for many consumers. For all of these reasons, calcium metal is not typically used to make hydrogen water.
Magnesium: The Most Commonly Used Metal to Make Hydrogen Water
Magnesium is the most commonly used metal used to make hydrogen gas for multiple reasons:
- Most people are deficient in magnesium, and utilizing magnesium as the reactant metal can help consumers to reach the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of magnesium
- The organic acids that can be utilized to facilitate magnesium’s reaction with water are typically safe for consumption, even with their own health benefits (such as malate).
- Magnesium hydroxide, which is produced in the standard reaction, is simply milk of magnesia: a common laxative aid. Other hydroxides formed from metals, such as calcium hydroxide, are strong lyes that could cause serious chemical burns.
The Magnesium Reaction and Its Challenges
Magnesium metal reacts with water very slowly under the following reaction:
Mg + 2H2O 🡪 H2 (g) + Mg(OH)2
This reaction will slow to a stop as magnesium hydroxide, Mg(OH)2, is produced. Magnesium preferentially reacts in acidic conditions, so that hydroxide production during the reaction between magnesium and water will begin to passivate the reaction, slowing it to a stop. Additionally, magnesium, like other earth metals, will form a protective layer of magnesium oxide, which is insoluble in water. As such, the reaction between the magnesium rod and water may yield negligible amounts of hydrogen gas saturation if no acids are used. For DIY enthusiasts utilizing magnesium rods added to water with acids, or those utilizing “commercial magnesium sticks” and adding additional acids, there is no way to control magnesium consumption. This leads to the potential of hypermagnesemia, which is basically “magnesium overdose,”with symptoms including weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and even heart failure. Diarrhea symptoms will typically appear first. I am personally aware of DIY enthusiasts who utilized the “rod method” and charged forward despite early symptoms of hypermagnesemia, until I warned them of what was going on.
For this reason, utilizing a controlled delivery such as magnesium-based hydrogen tablets is preferable. The magnesium-based hydrogen tablets I have developed overcome many of the obstacles of other technologies. They provide a known dosage of magnesium, with a known purity, and overcome many of the challenges to the reaction and dissolution kinetics in a safe way. I will detail all of this in a future article. With the addition of the acids we use, in the way we use them, the reaction formulas differ from the simple formula above. The net result is bubbles that average as low as 30 nanometers in size at the peak of the reaction, which allows for the high levels of supersaturation under no external pressure, which we have demonstrated in our gas chromatography results.
Hydrides are commonly used to store and release hydrogen gas. What exactly is a hydride? It is simply a compound that has had hydrogen gas bonded to a metal. Hydrides present a practical way to produce hydrogen water. However, as of yet, there have not been any commercial products that have overcome some of the associated challenges.
Magnesium hydride produces roughly 85% more hydrogen gas per unit of mass than magnesium metal, meaning that a far lower amount of hydride is needed to produce the same amount of hydrogen gas compared to magnesium metal. That said, the stability of magnesium hydride is an issue, as it will freely react with humidity. There have been numerous commercial products that have attempted to utilize magnesium hydride to make hydrogen water, primarily originating from South Korea and Japan, and all of these products that I am aware of have had significant shelf-life problems. Moreover, some of these products have yielded no hydrogen gas production by the time they have hit the docks in North America. For this reason, combined with my knowledge regarding the controls and how difficult they are to attain in protecting magnesium metal, which is more stable, as well as the challenges of replicating the reaction and dissolution kinetics we achieved with magnesium metal, we abandoned the idea of utilizing magnesium hydride, as it is currently unfeasible with technological limitations.
There is no evidence of the existence of “silica hydride.” Manufacturers claiming to utilize it are, in fact, using sodium borohydride, as evidenced by lab reports (please see the section below).
Sodium borohydride is currently being used illegally in some supplements, as uncovered by an investigation I have launched against said companies, which included lab testing, expert opinions, and legal counsel in order to properly alert the FDA and various state departments. Some US states explicitly list sodium borohydride as a toxin, which makes it unlawful to add it to any food or supplement sold in that state. Its addition is also illegal from the federal perspective of the FDA. Since the safety and use of sodium borohydride have never been declared to the FDA with proper documentation and rationale for use, products using this chemical are considered adulterated and unlawful.
Sodium borohydride is an attractive choice to produce hydrogen water for companies that don’t care about the health of their customers or laws protecting consumer safety, as this reaction yields 257% more hydrogen gas than magnesium metal. Additionally, sodium borohydride is safer to handle in manufacturing than magnesium, not requiring the incredibly strict hazmat protocols. Sodium borohydride can also throw off titration results meant to measure hydrogen gas, with sodium borohydride acting as a reducing agent. This means that consumers may be falsely led to believe they are seeing hydrogen gas, but instead, an unknown percentage of sodium borohydride is “tricking” the testing reagent. This allows companies and distributors to claim high levels of hydrogen gas in solution with no requirement to actually conduct R&D in order to maximize the incredibly challenging reaction and dissolution kinetics to deliver quasi-dissolved gas solutions. This is truly a perfect example of “buyer beware.”