Hydrogen Gas Composes Almost 92% Of Our Sun
Move over electric and gasoline vehicles, there’s a new kid in town named “Hydrogen” and it’s a smarter, kinder and better means of powering our lives. No longer a matter of speculation, hydrogen use is in full swing all around the planet. It’s an energy resource that harvests the power of the most abundant element in the universe and it’s growing by leaps and bounds.
The use of hydrogen gas is not new. In fact, it’s been around since it was first artificially produced in the early 16th century by the reaction of acids on metals. In 1766–1781, Henry Cavendish was the first to recognize that hydrogen gas was a discrete substance and that it produces water when burned, the property for which it was later named: in Greek, ‘hydrogen’ means “water-former”.
Hydrogen is the lightest atomic element, colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic and highly combustible. Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical substance in the universe, constituting roughly 75% of all normal matter. It can be burned to produce combustion and/or heat, combined with oxygen in fuel cells to generate electricity directly, with water being the only emissions at the point of usage.
Obstacles To Hydrogen Gas Production
Hydrogen is produced by running a low voltage current between two electrodes to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen gases. One of the main challenges of electrolysis is the high cost of current electrolytes and the electrode materials used for industrial production, such as platinum or iridium. However, researchers at RMIT University in Australia have found a way to increase the production of green hydrogen by 14 times – without corrosive and expensive materials by employing sound waves through electrolysis to split water.
This ultrasonic approach makes it possible to use much cheaper electrode materials such as silver. Because hydrogen has so much potential as a 100% carbon neutral source of energy, it’s set off an international race to produce and distribute it globally. Currently, the largest hydrogen refueling station in the world under construction is in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. Hydra’s innovative Prince George station will be operational in early 2024.
An emerging alternate production process for hydrogen was discovered in a joint effort by scientists from Florida State University (FSU) and the University of South Carolina. The researchers combined two molecules, a photoredox catalyst (i.e., a catalyst that moves electrons with light) and naphthol, a fluorescent organic compound. The molecules were then exposed to light, enabling each to absorb a photon and generate hydrogen fuel, mimicking a process referred to as the Z-Scheme in natural photosynthesis.
And a research team in China claims to have developed a device that splits salty seawater in order to produce hydrogen. The device, a membrane-based seawater electrolyzer, helps address the side-reaction and corrosion problems of traditional hydrogen production methods. The team, led by chemical engineering professor at China’s Nanjing Tech University, Zongping Shao, published their study in the journal Nature claiming that their model “ran for over 3,200 hours under practical application conditions without failure”.
Obstacles To Hydrogen Gas Transportation And Delivery
Gaseous hydrogen is already being commercially produced and transported through modified pipelines much the way that natural gas is. In fact, there are approximately 1,600 miles of large hydrogen pipelines currently operating in the United States. Owned by private producers, these pipelines are located where large hydrogen users like petroleum refineries and chemical plants are concentrated, such as the U.S’s Gulf Coast region.
Transporting gaseous hydrogen via pipelines is a low-cost option for delivering hydrogen to the public. However, a major concern is the inability to distribute pure hydrogen gas through existing liquified natural gas lines to homes and businesses because hydrogen gas embrittles the steel and welds used to fabricate them. An proposed solution would be mixing 15% hydrogen with 85% LNG in order to be able to use existing pipelines. To deliver 100% hydrogen gas to homes and businesses new pipelines will need to be installed
So, the high initial capital costs of new pipeline construction will constitute a major barrier to expanding hydrogen pipeline delivery infrastructure. A potential way to reduce costs and increase safety is to use fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) pipelines. The installation costs for FRP pipelines are about 20% less than that of steel pipelines because the FRP can be obtained in much longer sections, minimizing welding costs and requirements.
Another pressing issue to transporting hydrogen gas through hundreds of miles of commercial size pipes is the need for lower cost, more reliable and more durable hydrogen compression technology. On the upside, hydrogen gas can be produced anywhere there’s an energy source (such as sun, wind and/or geothermal) and water, eliminating the need for many hundreds of miles of pipelines. Hydrogen production plants are also significantly smaller in size and require much less infrastructure than fossil fuel refineries do, allowing them to be fabricated in areas much closer to concentrated populations. And hydrogen production facilities have a much, much smaller environmental footprint than fossil fuel production sites do.
Hydrogen Gas Powered Home And Commercial Appliances
Currently, there are a number of manufacturers offering 100% hydrogen gas powered appliances, ranging from ovens and stoves to furnaces and commercial grills, such as Belling and Stoves. The price of hydrogen appliances are very similar to natural gas appliances. And governments are getting serious about transitioning to hydrogen gas use. For instance, the government of the U.K. ordered a comprehensive study to be done about the viability of home use and the results were very promising. The results of the U.K. study can be read here. There are even hydrogen gas leak sensors available, such as those manufactured by Fastsense, that work like carbon monoxide alarms. Unlike carbon monoxide alarms however, hydrogen sensors must be installed on the ceiling because when hydrogen – the lightest element – leaks it rises in air like helium to form pockets of potentially explosive gas.
Hydrogen Gas Powered Vehicles And Vessels
Hydrogen gas use is growing all around the world. And the ways it’s being used are promising. For instance, combining liquid hydrogen with liquid oxygen have created massively powerful rocket engines that propelled almost all of the U.S National Aeronautics Space Administration’s (N.A.S.A.) space craft into space. Note: while NASA’s rockets appear to produce fire and smoke as their engines roar to life and they hurtle upward, it’s actually a huge vapor trail of pure, clean water.
When it comes to personal and commercial transportation, there have been three hydrogen-powered cars offered for sale in North America from three different car companies: Honda, Hyundai and Toyota since 2015. Most major commercial transport truck manufacturers already have hydrogen fueled engines in development.
ZeroAvia, a California-based company, is developing hydrogen aircraft powertrains to convert existing aircraft and has letters of interest from over fifteen of the world’s largest airlines. Universal Hydrogen, another California-based hydrogen gas aircraft developer, is planning to fly its first hydrogen-powered regional airliner by the end of this year using a hydrogen-fuel-cell-based powertrain housed in one of the nacelles of a De Havilland Dash 8-300 turboprop. Rolls-Royce and EasyJet have successfully completed ground tests with a concept demonstrator for a hydrogen propulsion system that could one day be capable of powering narrow-body airliners. Airbus, one of the biggest aircraft manufacturers in the world, is also developing three concepts for possible hydrogen-powered airliners under a project called ZeroE.
Developers across the world are for the first time testing the use of hydrogen to power ocean liners and freighters as the maritime industry races to find technologies to cut emissions. And confidence grows that the fuel is safe to use commercially. Oil major, Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L, last month reiterated its commitment to hydrogen, which it saw as “advantaged over other potential zero-emissions fuels for shipping”. Municipalities in Norway have launched a tender process that includes the development of hydrogen-powered, high-speed vessels by 2022.
Roll Over Rover – Hydrogen Will Take Over
The development of environmentally friendly energy sources now make it possible to affordably produce, distribute and consume green hydrogen gas on a massive scale. Even as you read this article developments all around the world are already underway to transition away from environmentally harmful fossil fuels to the use of abundant, 100% carbon neutral, clean, green hydrogen gas. So, for once, it’s good news about energy use to the world, because instead of polluting the planet, the use of hydrogen gas as an energy source will build a brighter, cleaner and healthier future for us all.