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Sodium Hydroxide, Bad for engine?
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BroBob1 Offline
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Sodium Hydroxide, Bad for engine?
I've heard and I've read that Sodium Hydroxide could be bad for internal engine components? What's your feedback!Gasp
05-24-2008 08:58 PM
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jksav7 Offline
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RE: Sodium Hydroxide, Bad for engine?
I'm sure it is, but don't worry about it. First of all, the extremely small amounts NaOH and KOH that we put in our electrolyte is probably not going to hurt the engine at all. However, if you have a bubbler inline between the booster and engine, it will scrub any potential NaOH vapors that may have attached to the hydroxy gas. It's a non-issue if you have the bubbler, which you should have anyway.

Also, baking soda over time turns into NaOH. So, for those who use soda it isn't as safe as they think it is. It also produces carbon monoxide.

BTW, as far as I know, it's the aluminum in the engine that the NaOH or KOH will cause problems with.

I did a test (sort of) on my own. I took a piece of aluminum that I cut off an old timing cover for my pickup. I put it in a solution of water and KOH. I made sure it was a very strong solution, although I don't remember how much. After a few days I checked the piece of aluminum to see how it was handling that solution. The whole solution had turned black because the aluminum was being eaten alive. So, I took it out, washed it off, and put it back into another solution mix, but not before I weighed it first. I weighed it on my reloading scale, so I got the weight right down to the grain. There are 7000 grains in a pound. I left the scale sit at the weight it was at while the aluminum went back into this second mixture. This second mixture consisted of .25 cup of water to .25 tsp of KOH. That is a significantly stronger mixture than what the vast majority of us use in our boosters. That piece of aluminum sat in that mixture for 3 or 4 weeks. I just took it out tonight to check it and weigh it. After drying it off, it weighed 7 grains more than when I weighed it the first time. I'm not sure why it gained wait. Perhaps some water had somehow soaked into the aluminum, or perhaps that is simply the error of the scale. The water the aluminum was in wasn't black at all like the first time around. It was clear. That tells me that more than likely it takes a pretty strong mixture of the caustic to damage aluminum.




BroBob1 Wrote:I've heard and I've read that Sodium Hydroxide could be bad for internal engine components? What's your feedback!Gasp
05-24-2008 10:38 PM
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BroBob1 Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Sodium Hydroxide, Bad for engine?
ThanksBig Grin Good information!
jksav7 Wrote:I'm sure it is, but don't worry about it. First of all, the extremely small amounts NaOH and KOH that we put in our electrolyte is probably not going to hurt the engine at all. However, if you have a bubbler inline between the booster and engine, it will scrub any potential NaOH vapors that may have attached to the hydroxy gas. It's a non-issue if you have the bubbler, which you should have anyway.

Also, baking soda over time turns into NaOH. So, for those who use soda it isn't as safe as they think it is. It also produces carbon monoxide.

BTW, as far as I know, it's the aluminum in the engine that the NaOH or KOH will cause problems with.

I did a test (sort of) on my own. I took a piece of aluminum that I cut off an old timing cover for my pickup. I put it in a solution of water and KOH. I made sure it was a very strong solution, although I don't remember how much. After a few days I checked the piece of aluminum to see how it was handling that solution. The whole solution had turned black because the aluminum was being eaten alive. So, I took it out, washed it off, and put it back into another solution mix, but not before I weighed it first. I weighed it on my reloading scale, so I got the weight right down to the grain. There are 7000 grains in a pound. I left the scale sit at the weight it was at while the aluminum went back into this second mixture. This second mixture consisted of .25 cup of water to .25 tsp of KOH. That is a significantly stronger mixture than what the vast majority of us use in our boosters. That piece of aluminum sat in that mixture for 3 or 4 weeks. I just took it out tonight to check it and weigh it. After drying it off, it weighed 7 grains more than when I weighed it the first time. I'm not sure why it gained wait. Perhaps some water had somehow soaked into the aluminum, or perhaps that is simply the error of the scale. The water the aluminum was in wasn't black at all like the first time around. It was clear. That tells me that more than likely it takes a pretty strong mixture of the caustic to damage aluminum.




BroBob1 Wrote:I've heard and I've read that Sodium Hydroxide could be bad for internal engine components? What's your feedback!Gasp
05-25-2008 04:36 AM
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Grisen Offline
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RE: Sodium Hydroxide, Bad for engine?
BroBob1 Wrote:I've heard and I've read that Sodium Hydroxide could be bad for internal engine components? What's your feedback!Gasp

FYI sodium hydroxide is used in the production of soap. First it's mixed with water and develops heat, then this is mixed into (while stirring) a heated-up container of OIL, usually tallow from beef or palm oil. Through a chemical reaction with the oil, it breaks the oil molecule in half and forms a brand new molecule, which has an oil-affinity half, and a water-affinity half. This is how soap can cut grease and mix it with water. It has affinity for both substances. The by product (left over from the original oil molecule) of making the new SOAP molecule is glycerine, which is skimmed off of most soaps, left in others like Neutragena, and promoted as a skin softener.

So, the risk of either sodium hydroxide (NaOH) - draino - "caustic soda", or potassium hydroxide - KOH (also used in making soap-- the liquid variety) going into the engine mixed with water vapor is that the caustic water vapors will react with the oil in your cylinders and break it down, right where it is, perhaps, needed the most. I guess it would turn the oil into a soapy sludge. So it seems real important IMO to keep the lye-vapors from getting into the engine.

I think using the bubbler as a scrubber is real important. It also seems important to empty out and replace the water in the bubbler frequently to see that the vapors have not made it caustic, and to make sure that that water is not sucked back into the generator and emptying out the bubbler. The bubbler isn't just a good protection against a backfire ignition of the HHO, but also against caustic soda getting through and breaking down the oil in your engine.

The risk seems to be oil breakdown. Read about simple soap manufacture (practiced for centuries - they used to get the caustic soda by running water through ashes) on Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica and look at the chemical reaction between the NaOH, the H2O and the hydrocarbon of oil. I was involved in relatively small-scale soap manufacture in Africa-- directly involved. It's amazing to see the water and oil join together and cool into bars of soap. You can do it in your kitchen over the stove with a heated kettle of oil, with the NaOH you got at Menards or Ace or wherever.

This is probably a bigger risk than any reaction with aluminum, as an engine not protected by a healthy film of oil will experience quicker wear from friction and spot overheating.

Having said this, I'm using KOH - potassium hydroxide - in my own generator. But with a little nervousness about it getting into the engine.
05-25-2008 09:30 PM
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jksav7 Offline
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RE: Sodium Hydroxide, Bad for engine?
Grisen, thank you for that very informative post. I've always wondered how NaOH and KOH were used in soap-making. Also, I didn't know how the caustic would break down the oil in the engine. That's why Bob Boyce insists that at least one bubbler be used to scrub the gas before it enters the engine. He uses two, but he says one will work.
(This post was last modified: 05-25-2008 10:03 PM by jksav7.)
05-25-2008 10:03 PM
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BroBob1 Offline
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RE: Sodium Hydroxide, Bad for engine?
You then would probably notice a change in your oil sump (The oil in it)
Being though you have no oil entering into the combustion chamber (Unless you have bad valve seals or rings)?Hmm


jksav7 Wrote:Grisen, thank you for that very informative post. I've always wondered how NaOH and KOH were used in soap-making. Also, I didn't know how the caustic would break down the oil in the engine. That's why Bob Boyce insists that at least one bubbler be used to scrub the gas before it enters the engine. He uses two, but he says one will work.
05-26-2008 08:26 AM
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jksav7 Offline
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RE: Sodium Hydroxide, Bad for engine?
Yes, it's something to look out for, but I'm not worried about it.


BroBob1 Wrote:You then would probably notice a change in your oil sump (The oil in it)
Being though you have no oil entering into the combustion chamber (Unless you have bad valve seals or rings)?Hmm
05-26-2008 09:08 AM
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sargearoo Offline
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RE: Sodium Hydroxide, Bad for engine?
Has anyone had success using Sodium Hydroxide as an electrolyte without massive corrosion? I am using 316 stainless (better corrosion resistance than 304) and my solution turned dark brown within 45 minutes of testing. Anyone tried Potassium Hydroxide? I have some on order. Any other electrolytes that do not turn the solution brown and cause corrosion to the stainless steel?
07-26-2008 02:20 PM
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