What is Hydrogen Fuel?
Hydrogen Fuel is a clean fuel that can only produce water when it is being consumed in a fuel cell. Since the only byproduct of this fuel cell is pure water it only leaves the system as both liquid and vapour, depending on the pressure and temperature applied in operating conditions and system configuration.
Also, it was considered as a zero-emission fuel when it was burned with oxygen. Additionally, Hydrogen can be produced from various resources such as natural gas and biomass, including different types of renewable energy like nuclear, solar and wind energy. Due to its characteristics and adaptability, it is the most used type of fuel not just for transportation but also for some electricity generation applications.
In fact, it’s application all started when it was used as a fuel in commercial fuel cell vehicles like passenger cars and still being used in fuel cell buses for years. It can be used also as a fuel for spacecraft propulsion.
Furthermore, Hydrogen fuel is a new kind of clean and renewable energy as it does not generate any pollution in the environment. Besides, it has been considered as one of the most reliable and promising candidates for an eco-friendly source of alternative energy that has the potential to eliminate the used of conventional fossil fuels in many applications.
Hydrogen is the first element on the periodic table and considered as the lightest element. It can be found in the first group and in the first period on the periodic table. Since hydrogen gas is very light-weight, it tends to rise in the atmosphere and is rarely found in its pure gas form. The flame of pure hydrogen gas, burning in air, forms water and releases energy when the hydrogen reacts with oxygen.
Also, if it was carried out in atmospheric air, hydrogen ignition may produce small amounts of nitrogen oxides along with the water vapour, instead of just pure oxygen. The energy being released allows hydrogen to act as fuel. Whereas, In an electrochemical cell, that energy being produced can be used with relatively high efficiency. For example, If it is used only for heating purposes, the usual thermodynamics limits on the applied thermal efficiency.
Furthermore, hydrogen is also considered an energy carrier, the same as electricity, as it can be produced from renewable energy sources such as biomass, solar energy, wind energy, as well as from hydrocarbons like coal and natural gas. The traditional hydrogen production using natural gas causes significant environmental impacts due to hydrocarbon where carbon dioxide is being emitted. However, the supply of hydrogen nowadays is coming from natural gas that releases carbon dioxide during the electrochemical process. As hydrogen is an important raw material needed for the electrochemical process in the fuel cell.
Types of Hydrogen Fuels Production Process
Nowadays, hydrogen fuel can be produced by several kinds of processes. But the most commonly used methods today are electrolysis and natural gas reforming in through the thermal process while other processes include biological process solar-driven process.
Through the process called electrolysis, water can be separated into oxygen and hydrogen. The electrolytic process takes place in an electrolyzer that functions as a fuel cell in reverse—instead of using the energy of hydrogen molecules similar to fuel cell functions. The so-called electrolyzer generates hydrogen from the molecules of water.
The hydrogen production using the thermal process typically involves steam reforming, which requires a high-temperature process wherein the steam reacts with a hydrocarbon fuel to produce hydrogen. The majority of hydrocarbon fuels are can be reformed to produce hydrogen, including renewable liquid fuels, natural gas, diesel, gasified biomass and gasified coal. As of now, there is about 95 percent of all hydrogen being produced from the steam reforming of natural gas.
In the biological process, types of microbes such as microalgae and bacteria are being used in the hydrogen production process. These microbes can produce hydrogen through what we called “biological reactions”. The microbes break down some organic matter like biomass or wastewater to produce hydrogen, in microbial biomass conversion. Whereas, in the photobiological process, the microbes are using sunlight as their source of energy.
As to the solar-driven process, it uses light as the main agent for the production of hydrogen. The solar-driven process includes solar thermochemical, photobiological and photoelectrochemical. To produce hydrogen, the photobiological process uses the natural photosynthetic activity of green algae and bacteria while the photoelectrochemical process uses specific and specialized semiconductors to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. On the other hand, the solar thermochemical process uses concentrated solar power to force water splitting reactions mostly along with other species like metal oxides, for the hydrogen production
Advantages of Hydrogen Fuel Cells
It is renewable
One of the main advantages of Hydrogen fuel is that it is a cleaner and renewable source of energy plus this is very abundant in nature. Running out of hydrogen anytime soon is not possible to happen, unlike fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources.
Using Hydrogen Fuel is virtually zero-emission
When we’re consuming energy from the hydrogen fuel cells, the majority of the emissions that we’re creating from that process only involves water vapour and hot air.
Most of the dirty energy sources like fossil fuels and coal are really harmful and toxic not only to the environment but also to animals and human health as well. But hydrogen fuel cells are completely non-toxic and can’t pose risk to our climate.
Effective and efficient source of energy
Hydrogen fuel cells are also undeniably effective and efficient. Most internal combustion engines can operate at about 25 percent efficiency level. While the rate of an average power plant can achieve an efficiency rating of 35 percent. Also, according to the Connecticut Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Coalition, a stationary fuel cell can exceed its efficiency level around 80 percent when it’s being used with heating purposes and power systems.
Cannot cause climate change and global warming
Hydrogen fuel cells are not associated with any greenhouse gas emissions. Other gasses, which are released by other types of non-renewable and dirty energy resources can cause global warming and severe climate change and pollutions.
Reduce the risk of chemical exposure
Unintentionally breathing fuel vapours from gasoline or certain agents can trigger a severe headache, dizziness and induce nausea but switching over to hydrogen fuel cells can help to reduce human risks of chemical exposure that can cause health problems.
The maintenance of hydrogen fuel cells is very affordable, unlike any other energy source. Although its installation may be a bit pricey. If only hydrogen fuel will be used widely to run cars, then it would also cause a little maintenance for the users.
Flexible and great power provider
Hydrogen fuel cells can be used in many applications most particularly in providing power. It can be used to meet the energy needs of your home. If you have a car then you can also use hydrogen fuel as your vehicle’s main fuel. Some automobile manufacturers provide 3 years source of hydrogen fuel as part of your purchasing package.
Disadvantages of Hydrogen Fuel Cells
As of now, storing fuel resources is a must so it can be used in the time of need. To maintain it, it is advisable to use only 700 bars or less of pressure or just keep it as a liquid at a very low temperature. Failure to do so can increase the fuel’s combustibility.
High-cost for transporting hydrogen as a fuel
There are significant expenses to pay when installing all the infrastructure necessary for hydrogen fuel cell technology. In fact, recent estimates show that it will cost about $200,000 per mile to build a core network for moving gas or liquid versions of hydrogen fuel.
The price of hydrogen fuel is sometimes double the standard type of gasoline. It might even cost more to drive with using a fuel cell than gasoline or diesel.
Regulating its temperature to maximize its use
When temperatures rise above 212°F the lower its efficiency rate level when it was used to power vehicles. On the other hand, The polymer exchange membranes are not working well when exposed to high heat levels.
Too expensive to store hydrogen for automotive purposes
Although the cost of hydrogen fuel cell storage was decreased by almost 50 percent in 2006, it is still estimated at $53 per kilowatt. These expenses are way far higher than using gasoline.
Few risks to the environment
Releasing too much hydrogen in the form of gas into the environment can cause a negative impact on the ozone layer that can be as serious and harmful as what chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) made in the past decades.
Reviews about Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Hydrogen – the Fuel of the Future?
Hydrogen fuel cell car – Where are they?
Vacuum Pressure Hydrogen fuel cell defeats high gas prices using hydrogen from H2O.
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Replacing fossil fuels with hydrogen is not a new idea but storageproblems have been hampering the application of this technology.However, a new technology announced this week promises a breakthroughthat could see carbon-free fuel delivered to the masses.
The technology is the result of years of research at RutherfordAppleton Laboratory near Oxford, England. It was led by ProfessorStephen Bennington, who worked with scientists from University CollegeLondon and Oxford University. A spin-out company called Cella Energy has been formed to develop the fuel.
To create the fuel, they took high-energy materials and encapsulatedthem by using a nanostructuring technique called coaxialelectrospraying. The most exciting aspect of the technology is thatearly tests have indicated that the fuel could power regular combustionengine vehicles without engine modification.
The researchers found a way of making tiny micro-fibres 30 timessmaller than a human hair. These form a tissue-like material that issafe to handle in air. The new material contains as much hydrogen for agiven weight as the high pressure tanks currently used to store hydrogen and can also be made in the form of micro beads that can be poured andpumped like a liquid.
“In some senses hydrogen is the perfect fuel; it has three times moreenergy than petrol per unit of weight, and when it burns it producesnothing but water. But the only way to pack it into a vehicle is to usevery high pressures or very low temperatures, both of which areexpensive to do. Our new hydrogen storage materials offer real potential for running cars, planes and other vehicles that currently usehydrocarbons on hydrogen, with little extra cost and no extrainconvenience to the driver”, said Professor Stephen Bennington, leadscientist on the project.
Cella Energy has received financing from Thomas Swan & Co Ltd, aspecialist chemical company. The companies signed an agreement onJanuary 24th.
“Consumers want to be able to travel 300-400 miles before they haveto refuel. And when they do have to fill up they want to be able to doit as quickly as possible. Existing hydrogen storage methods do not meet these consumer expectations, but the ones we are developing have thepotential to do just this” said Stephen Voller, the new CEO of CellaEnergy.
Image: Cella Energy CEO, Stephen Voller
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