The obstacles to overcome Essay
The obstacles to overcome
A number of people believe that Hydrogen will be the fuel of the future. Hydrogen fuel is an electrochemical device that produces electricity from the chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. The combination of hydrogen and oxygen produces water as its main byproduct and produced no hazardous emissions making it friendly to our environment. The water produced can be used for life-support purposes, as in the case of the fuel cells carried on board the Gemini spacecraft (Huang 15). Fuel cell is more like a battery that produces electrical energy from chemical reactions.
Although, unlike ordinary batteries fuel cells do not require recharging and continuously provides electricity for as long as hydrogen fuel (H2) is continuously supplied. Fuel cell are also theoretically very efficient since it does not involve low efficiency combustion, so that if all of the energy can be harnessed it can attain a very high efficiency. Hydrogen fuel (H2) may come from a variety of sources such as electrolysis of water, from the hydrocarbons of natural gas or even from gasoline. The electricity produced can be used in many applications such as generators in power plants, fuel for automobiles or even a battery in your laptop.
Recently, major car manufacturers are in the process of developing fuel cell powered vehicle. The Department of Energy (DOE) also offered funding to research of fuel cells. Despite these seemingly good promise and massive support from the government, presently it comes with a lot of obstacles. Obstacles in its economic viability that even made some believe that fuel cell is just a hoax. OBSTACLES OF HYDROGEN FUEL The Scarcity of Pure H2 Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe but it does not come freely in its pure form in large quantity here in on earth.
The only alternative that we have is to produce hydrogen. The trouble is that making hydrogen requires more energy than the hydrogen so produced can provide (Zubrin 1). For example producing hydrogen through electrolysis of water requires more energy that can be harnessed from it. Other alternative makes use of natural gas through a process called steam reformer. The only problem is steam reforming still causes the emission CO2 and will still consumes fossil fuels. Thus it defeats the earlier attractive purpose to prevent global warming and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.
This is presently the cheapest way of producing Hydrogen. Even when using the cheapest production method—steam reforming of methane—hydrogen is still four times the cost of gasoline for the equivalent amount of energy (Crabtree, Dresselhaus, & Buchanan 1). Looking at this cost disadvantage and if there are no new technology that will allow cheap production of Hydrogen, fuel cell are not economically viable fuels. Difficulty in Storage Since hydrogen is a very small molecule, it can basically diffuse even from a steel containment.
Since the insulation can’t be perfect, the hydrogen will gradually evaporate, typically 1. 7 percent per day. This is quite fast for a car to sit for days or months in a between uses. Another problem is related to its very low density, a hydrogen fuel tank will have three times the size of a gasoline tank in order to contain the same amount of energy. This problem has led to more costly means of storing hydrogen, like in compressed form or liquid form. Recent developments in the automotive industry offer improvements in the reduction of size.
The current FCX technology of Honda uses compressed hydrogen storage with their fuel stack technology and the use of ultra-capacitor (McCormick 10). Presently, the production cost of prototype fuel cells remains high: $3000 per kilowatt of power produced for prototype fuel cells (mass production could reduce this cost by a factor of 10 or more), compared with $30 per kilowatt for gasoline engines (Crabtree, Dresselhaus, & Buchanan 1). Although even with the rapid advancement in technology in the past few years, the reduction of cost is still very minimal.
Transportation As a consequence of the storage problem, the handling and transportation of fuel is extremely difficult. One has to create expensive containment to transport Hydrogen from one place to another. Without much mobility, the alternative is to produce hydrogen in almost every location. So even if one must use nuclear energy to produce cheap hydrogen, it would not be practical from a security standpoint. Nuclear facilities are very dangerous and must be placed on remote locations. This again would lead to more costly means of production.
Some envision pipes to transport hydrogen from one place to another. Since again hydrogen has very low density, these pipes have to be enormously large and eventually expensive. Another problem is that as hydrogen diffuses into metals, it also embrittles them, causing deterioration of pipelines, valves, fittings, and storage tanks used throughout the entire distribution system (Zubrin 1). You can just imagine the cost maintenance to insure that faults won’t occur along the pipe lines. CONCLUSION Looking at these various technical problems, the hydrogen economy idea breaks down.
Hydrogen economy proponents may have overlooked the fact that hydrogen only carries energy but the energy has to come from another source. With the present technology of producing hydrogen, steam reformer, nuclear, or using solar energy, it is still not an economically viable fuel.
References Huang, Francis. Engineering Thermodynamics: Fundamentals And Applications . New York. Macmillian Publishing Company. 1988. Zubrin, Robert. “The Hydrogen Hoax”. The New Atlantis: A Journal of Techonology and Society. 2007. 24 February 2007. <http://www. thenewatlantis. com/archive/15/zubrin.htm>. Crabtree, George. , Dresselhaus, Mildred. & Buchanan, M.
“The Hydrogen Economy”. Physics Today. org. 2004. 24 February 2007. < http://www. aip. org/pt/vol-57/iss-12/p39. html >. Gartner, John. “Sunlight to Fuel Hydrogen”. Wired. com News on Technology. 2006. 24 February 2007. < http://www. wired. com/news/technology/0,1282,65936,00. html>. McCarthy, John. “Hydrogen”. Stanford University Website. 2006. 24 February 2007. < http://www-formal. stanford. edu/jmc/progress/hydrogen. html>. McCormick, John. ”Fuel Cell Pioneer”. Automotive Industries . March 2005. 10-11.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 April 2017