Hydrogen the fuel of the future

Hydrogen H is the most common substance on the Earth, about 75% of the mass around us is hydrogen. It is envisaged as the energy carrier of the future, delivering energy with no emissions – almost.

It was described in 1671 by Boyle, and Henry Cavendish found it was a separate substance in 1766. Hydrogen has been central in scientific work related to atomic structure and quantum theory.

There has lately been a lot of attention involving cars, buses, even planes and submarines. There are hydrogen burning engines being developed in several places, and Reykjavik has a bus service using hydrogen as a fuel, Norway has a hydrogen highway covering part of the country. Hamburg is at present building a large hydrogen facility for its buses.

Today hydrogen is used for many industrial purposes, e.g. for chemicals like fertilizer, refined oil products (hydrocracking) and cooling, production of ammonia etc. It is very light, and thus escapes the Earth’s atmosphere. It is involved in many chemical processes, and is used in production of electronics. The production of hydrogen in the world runs into the tens of millions of tons.

The production methods now are natural gas reforming, electrolysis, biomass reforming, water splitting and bacteria. Feeding CO2 to algae make them grow very fast making large scale production of biofuels possible – and then it can be made into hydrogen.

The energy carrier hydrogen may be made from many compunds, and all substances containing hydrogen could in principle be used: oil, natural gas, coal, biomass, other renewable hydrogen sources.

The idea is to produce it small or large scale to be used in a factory or in your home. Many techniques are feasible, and a promising one is microwave plasma technology.

The aim is a low cost energy carrier that can replace fossil fuels. There are challenges of many kinds, cost is one, general infrastructure is another, but the potential is clearly there.

So get costs down, build infrastructure and we have a widely available renewable fuel to replace fossil fuels. The hydrogen economy is moving in, the oil economy is moving out. The future is hydrogen!

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