Hydrogen: energy source Essay
Hydrogen: energy source
Man discovered hydrogen to be the simplest element because for every atom of hydrogen is composed of only one proton. Since it is on its most basic form it is the most abundant gas in the universe. One good example of a large mass that is almost made up of hydrogen is the sun. Hydrogen is combined with helium which makes the sun continuously burning. Lighter than air, hydrogen rises into the atmosphere when released. Thus, to keep hydrogen most available on earth, it is found always in combination with other elements such as with oxygen equaled to water (H2O), combined with carbon equaled to methane (CH4) and so on.
Since hydrogen has the highest energy content of any common fuel by weight and at the same time is the lightest element, it can be used as an energy carrier (not a fuel) because it can be produced from another substance. The potentiality of hydrogen as energy source comes from a variety of available resources such as in water, fossil fuels and biomass. Hydrogen can be stored in large quantity and can be reserved for future use unlike with electricity. It can be used where electricity is nonexistent and the stored energy can be moved where it is necessary.
Recently, the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel has been greatly considered and technical innovations were already conducted to discover more of hydrogen’s capability as energy source. Because hydrogen does not normally exist alone, it must be separated from other elements. There are two methods to do this and the first one is through steam reforming and the other is though electrolysis or water splitting in layman’s term. Steam reforming is a method of producing hydrogen from hydrocarbons and it is being used on industrial scale because it is least expensive.
Electrolysis is done through splitting of hydrogen from water. Unlike in stream reforming which produces emissions, electrolysis is a very expensive process. Ninety-five percent of hydrogen is being produced in the United States mostly from the states of California, Louisana and Texas. An estimated 7. 8 million metric tons or equivalent to 17. 6 billion pounds of hydrogen can be produced which can provide power to more than 20 million cars. Such power could also provide electricity to more than 7 million homes in the U.S.
But since there were only few automobiles that uses hydrogen as alternative fuel, the hydrogen produced are mainly used by industries in refining, treating metals and in food processing. Because of its highly industrialized usage, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) uses hydrogen-powered fuel cells and energy fuel for their space programs. The extraordinary lifting power can push space shuttle into the orbit and still have enough power to propel it back to earth.
Fuel cells or hydrogen batteries power the shuttle’s electrical systems because unlike ordinary batteries, hydrogen fuel cells can produce electricity more efficiently and with more power. Fuel cells packed in small batteries can power up electric cars. Large hydrogen batteries are used as emergency power sources for hospitals and remote areas. However, the disadvantage in making hydrogen batteries is that they are expensive to produce (Administration).
Individual hydrogen fuel cells were the building blocks of power systems which many researchers concluded in their studies will be the next generation in providing power to automobiles replacing internal combustion engines and batteries. Fuel cells run by pure hydrogen will only release water vapor and heat. If practice, this will be a major leap in innovation in eliminating fumes and smoke as harmful byproducts from car engines and electric power plants. More suitable for cars and buses is the polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell and it is one of the more common types of fuel cells.
Positively, it is relatively light and starting and conditioning the engine is quicker. Each hydrogen fuel cell does consists of many individual fuel cells and each cell produces small amount of electricity that when stacked together will produce energy source for the electric motor and power the car (NewsHour). As there is always the promise of discovering alternative fuel other than fossil fuels, there is also the light in pursuing hydrogen economy that could lessen the dependence on nonrenewable energy sources.
In 2005, an experiment resulted in producing a novel catalyst which can be used to produce hydrogen from water without necessarily addressing the process to severe reactive conditions. Mahdi-Omar, a researcher from Purdue University said he and his group have discovered a catalyst that can manufacture readily available volume of hydrogen without the need for water to be subjected to extreme temperatures. Their innovation includes the use of compound based from the metal rhenium which they termed as ‘coordination complex’ The team mixes organosilanes and water along with the rhenium complex at room temperature and pressure.
After such an hour hydrogen gas was produced due to chemical reaction. This study was published on the Journal of American Chemical Society and it specifically identified this method as hydrogen-generating procedure. Accordingly, the only problem is would it be economically feasible to produce organosilane fuels in large quantities enough to power billions of cars running on fuel cells? They said that at present the demand to produce even small volume of this liquid is very few although the process of production seems easy. Not to mention some drawbacks like the high cost of organosilane starting materials because it is not readily available.
Organosilane, however can be produced through effective recycling of silicon byproduct and silicon are abundant which makes the study economically feasible. Although the first result was highly successful they still want to pursue further studies before it could be scaled for broader production and usage (Graham). As many foresee and very optimistic of an energy-efficient world without the use of fossil fuels, the “hydrogen economy” is also seen as creating millions of jobs worldwide in science, engineering, manufacturing, sales and marketing.
There were already multi-million dollar hydrogen initiatives launched in the United States, Japan and the European Union and all of these countries are still very optimistic for the promise of an hydrogen economy. The EU who is one of the most recent players has already projected research investments to produce job opportunities in education and training for chemists, physicists and engineers. There is a large demand for experts but unfortunately, not enough people have the proper skills required in dealing with hydrogen technology.
At present, “dirty hydrogen” is still a problem because 95% of the gas comes from fossil fuels. Electricity is being generated by combining hydrogen (taken from gasoline, natural gas, and diesel) with oxygen (taken from air) in an electrochemical reaction. Scientists are now reconsidering producing hydrogen through electrolysis on a bigger scale. Refueling stations composed of fuel-cells, electrodes, catalysts and electrolyte materials also pose technical problems because too much work is required. However, Scandinavian initiatives are underway.
They aim to put up consumer hydrogen-fuelled vehicles on roads by 2012. Nevertheless, Sweden, Denmark and Norway established the Scandinavian Hydrogen Highway Partnership to create a network of refueling stations throughout southern Scandinavia. Such partnership demonstrates to other nations in preparing the world market for hydrogen economy as an energy carrier in all Europe. Although there are only about 20 prototype hydrogen cars a day being fuelled by liquid hydrogen in Europe, these cars mainly come from California indicating that the U.
S. is now keen in pursuing the use hydrogen technology as an alternative energy source to fossil fuels. To date, Germany even planned on investing more than 1 billion Euros for the next ten years in hydrogen and fuel-cell technologies while the federal ministry of transport will also give 500 million Euros for its R&D. Detlef Stolten, director of the Julich Institute said that this program can produce 1,000 jobs for scientists, engineers and technicians (Schiermeier).
However, even though the prospect in using hydrogen as energy source seems to be advantageous and most significant, there are at present technicalities that must be overcome. As previously discussed, hydrogen is most abundant in nature particularly in water but it have to be derived through the said processes before it can be of used. It cannot be simply drilled like oil or mined like ore or coal. Its production takes lots of energy. To consider its usage, imagine how much energy should be used in order to produce hydrogen to power up millions of American cars, trucks and buses.
That means the U. S. has to produce thousands of tons of hydrogen by its standard of production and processes. As natural gas are not always available anywhere, producing hydrogen through standard method like electrolyzing water and steam reforming still require electric energy in the process and this process require double the capacity to generate electricity. If in case renewable-energy technology must be used to produce electricity for the production like solar panels, the panels could cover an area the size of Massachusetts or for windmills the size of New York (Homer-Dixon).
Nonetheless, U. S. President George Bush has predominantly pushed the use of hydrogen as the main fuel alternative to world’s oil crisis. He urged his government to develop technology in producing commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells. In his State of the Nation Address in January 28, 2003, President Bush specifically stated that: “A simple chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen generates energy, which can be used to power a car producing only water, not exhaust fumes.
With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom…Join me in this important innovation to make our air significantly cleaner, and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of energy. ” – President Bush, State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003 Along with his undertaking, he said an allotment of $1. 2 billion for nationwide Hydrogen Initiative will be provided to oppose America’s reliance on foreign crude oil.
One of his options was relying on technology to develop commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells for Americans to use. Americans had learned to live with their trucks, cars and homes and all these are consuming oil and gasoline for fuel and heating. As each equipment is contributory to the continuous degradation of our environment, hydrogen when used in vehicles and heating produces zero emissions because the only by-product is pure water. Hydrogen is renewable and a nuclear-based hydrogen production technology also offers a sure way for zero emissions.
The president was optimistic that every American is liable to enjoy and live life with the advancement of civilization without adding to the pollution and degradation of the environment. This initiative will somewhat improve the U. S. energy security and considerably reduce the need and dependency for foreign oil. Recently, carbon capture and storage technology was discovered using America’s abundant coal resources (Energy).
Work Cited Administration, Energy Information. “Hydrogen. ” (2006. http://www. eia. doe. gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/IntermediateHydrogen. html). November 8, 2007 <http://www.eia. doe. gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/IntermediateHydrogen. html>. Energy, U. S. Department of. “Hydrogen, Fuel Cells, & Infrastructure Technologies Program. ” (2007).
November 8, 2007 <http://www1. eere. energy. gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/presidents_initiative. html>. Graham, Sarah. “New Catalyst Produces Hydrogen from Water. ” Scientific American Mind Journal (2005. http://sciam. com/article. cfm? chanID=sa003&articleID=000EE96B-C0B8-1314-80B883414B7F0000). Homer-Dixon, Thomas F.
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization Island Press, 2006.http://books. google. com/books? id=rvk6tsE4UDcC&dq=hydrogen+energy+source. NewsHour, OnLine. “The Future of Fuel. ” The Science Reports (2007. http://www. pbs. org/newshour/science/hydrogen/interactive. html).
November 8, 2007 <http://www. pbs. org/newshour/science/hydrogen/interactive. html>. Schiermeier, Quirin. “Hydrogen Hopes. ” Naturejobs. com (2007. http://www. nature. com/naturejobs/2007/070906/full/nj7158-110a. html). November 8, 2007 <http://www. nature. com/naturejobs/2007/070906/full/nj7158-110a. html>.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 April 2017