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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

The Future is in Hydrogen...maybe

The Future is in Hydrogen...maybe

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, November 18, 2018/Categories: sustainability, art and design, environment, climate change

                   Refueling a Hydrogen Car in Queensland Australia, 8-8-2018 (credit: the ABC & YouTube)

In the 1967 film The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman's character was advised at a dinner party that "the future is in plastics". Fifty years on, we're not too sure that was good advise considering the environmental pollution caused by discarded plastic trash. Similar advice may apply today as "the future is in hydrogen". It offers great potential but its future is still "maybe".

Several important issues relate to using hydrogen as a replacement for gasoline or diesel for fuel in cars and trucks. Hydrogen is typically produced through hydrolysis by splitting the atomic bonds of water (H2O) molecules. Hydrogen bonds (H=O=H) that hold water molecules together are tight and require electricity to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The process is expensive and so the resulting hydrogen is expensive. The potential advantage of using hydrogen as an energy fuel source is that the gas produces power similar to a standard gasoline but the hydrogen exhaust from burring is just water rather than petrochemical pollutants and climate changing greenhouse gases.

A second big limitation for the use of hydrogen as a transport fuel is the classic issue of "which came first, the chicken or the egg" referring to whether vehicles should be build to run on hydrogen gas first or whether hydrogen fueling stations need to be built initially to supply cars and trucks. Thus far, a single hydrogen refueling station exists in San Francisco Bay Area. So, current supplies of hydrogen are expensive and filling stations do not exist, major disadvantages for a revolutionary fuel to power vehicles.

A 'consumer report' was provided by Mr. Mobile, a car technology reviewer, who had the opportunity to test drive a Toyota Mirai that runs on a hydrogen fuel cell. He reports the advantages and disadvantages of a hydrogen-fueled vehicle.

However, research in Australia may have overcome both of the current limitations to the use of hydrogen ie, its high cost and low supply. Earlier this year, our Journal presented the first development in a post on  A Renewable Energy System being developed at Melbourne's Monash University. Their project utilized renewable solar and wind energy to generate electricity to split water into hydrogen. This was followed by a new announcement from Australia's research and industrial agency, the CSIRO, relating to their own research into hydrogen as a fuel source. These dual efforts could revolutionize how hydrogen is produced and distributed. If commercially viable, renewably produced hydrogen could turn sunny and breezy Australia into an alternative energy super-power. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the ABC) reporting from Queensland discussed powering hydrogen-fueled cars.

The "future is in hydrogen" could actually happen and the impact will be more positive than the pollution that have occurred from plastics.



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