Browns gas for ICE - not totally without merit

Dear Cecil, I have something stuck in my craw (not claw, CRAW!). Years ago you debunked the notion of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen into brown’s gas using a cars electrical system, only to reburn it for better fuel economy. I totally understand your ‘you don’t get something for nothing’ take on this. However there is another factor - timing. Sure you could light a fireplace log with a few boxes of matches, but it’d be a whole lot easier and faster if you created kindling first. Browns gas is a very fast very hot burning mixture and its intention is to get the petroleum gasoline burning as quick and thorough as possible in the few milliseconds of combustion, not to add more fuel to the fire so to speak. Call it kindling or a catalyst or accelerator perhaps. If the browns gas works as planned then the benefit is increased fuel economy due to more thorough combustion. However with the advent of electric cars this may be a moot point very soon, as the internal combustion engine (ICE) may go the way of the dinosaur.

I remember that Cecil article and the following conversation we had here on the dope. While at the time it was hard to find out where the claim towards higher efficiency came from, it was rooted out that the theory you propose, namely a better/quicker combustion due to the hydrogen (and O2?) is the reason. The conclusion back then was as I recall while nice in theory, I don’t believe any evidence that it made any different at all was presented. And even with the best fuel savings device you can buy on the internet for your car, such as the 200 mph carburetor, it ain’t worth nothing without proof/evidence.

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FWIW, here’s a link to Cecil’s original column, which is from 2008.

I think everyone missed the point of Brown’s gas. It doesn’t have to improve the efficiency of the engine (or even improve the energy rating of gasoline) to get the desired effect. If you can dilute gas and still get an engine that runs the same, then you’ve improved the gas efficiency of the engine. Granted, you haven’t improved the fuel efficiency; you’re still using the same amount of fuel. But, there’s less gasoline in that fuel mixture. So you’re getting more miles per gallon of gas.

Gearheads do mess around with water injection into the intake manifold and messing around with the compression ratio, but you have really misunderstood that this has to do with splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, or splitting the beer atom for that matter.

You just blew out the logic processing unit on my Electronic Monk.


Stick to astrophysics. Snark is not your thing.

Well, formal semantics is clearly not “your thing”.

The use of electrolytically-produced oxyhydrogen to improve the “gas efficiency” of an internal combustion engine has never been demonstrated in an objective laboratory experiment; instead, we have anecdotal claims and spammy websites selling “Brown’s Gas” as a cure for all that ails you in addition to massive increases in fuel efficiency inexplicable to anyone knowledgeable about physical chemistry and combustion physics, or indeed, basic thermodynamics.

It is certainly possible to improve the thermodynamic efficiency of a process by increasing the temperature range, pressure range, or volumetric efficiency of the process or recovering waste heat through regeneration, but “Brown’s Gas” doesn’t appear to do that in any explicable way. I see one site that claims of how it breaks the H2 and O2 into “mon-atomic molecules” [sic], which setting aside that the cleaved oxygen is already monatomic, still doesn’t explain how more energy is gained from the resulting combustion than was put into the electrolysis operation.

I look forward to a more extensive dissertation on the thermochemistry of this amazing device and how it modifies the Otto cycle to extract miraculous amounts of otherwise wasted energy into useful work.


I think you’ve mistaken my argument, but thanks for more snark. It was very helpful.

Here’s a snark-free point-by-point breakdown.

  • If you’re burning less gasoline, because you’re now burning hydrogen alongside the gasoline, it’s true that you’d be burning less gasoline for a given amount of power produced. You are correct.

  • Your diluent is Brown’s gas. Which is being processed on the fly from electrolyzing water, using the car’s electrical system.

  • As you know, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. It takes power to make that gas. That power is coming from the engine, from spinning the alternator.

  • Which means the engine has to run harder to produce the power to break up the water, which means you’re spending more gasoline than you would have.

  • Regular thermodynamics ensues. You get a fraction of the power you put in back out again. Since you’re spending more gasoline to make this gas, including this gas better make up the efficiency losses. Unfortunately, the good science I’ve seen does not seem to back up this point.

If the goal was, as the OP puts it, to improve combustion by adding extra heat to the system, just add the heat directly with more sparkplugs, it’s less wasteful than the thermodynamic pushme-pullyu of electrolyzing water and then recombusting it.

If the goal was to burn less gasoline, making hydrogen gas in situ is ultimately wasteful and, ironically, burns more gasoline. If you’re carrying pre-made Brown’s gas, you’re just borrowing from Peter to pay Paul; the energy tax was paid beforehand.

If you want to improve gas mileage and you’re interested in how gasoline is combusted, consider the SkyActive-X engine, which “diesels” gasoline to produce a more uniform flame front and gain efficiency in the process.

Thank you. That was very informative.


Stick to the topic please, no sniping at one another.