Why hydrogen is a clean source of energy
Hydrogen is considered as one of the cleanest sources of energy. The products generated when hydrogen undergoes the burning process include water, heat, and electricity (Cooper, 2007). On the same note, hydrogen is primarily combined with oxygen to produce water as the main waste product. Batteries are similar to fuel cells because both of them produce energy. However, the products of a fuel cell are clean (water, heat, and electricity). Water and heat do not pollute the environment (Gresser & Cusumano, 2005).
Methods to make hydrogen
Hydrogen can be manufactured or prepared using various methods. To begin with, it is pertinent to mention that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen (Heidrich, Dolfing, Scott, Edwards, Jones & Curtis, 2013). Electrolysis can also be used to obtain hydrogen from water. In certain conditions, hydrogen gas can also be liberated by some bacteria and algae. The latter is possible, especially when the microorganisms are exposed to sunlight.
When there is a need to prepare pure hydra rogen, a solution containing saturated barium hydroxide (warm) can be electrolyzed using nickel anodes and cathodes. Any residual oxygen is removed from the impure hydrogen when the latter is passed through a pre-heated platinum gauze. Hydrogen gas can also be produced in small amounts when water is reacted with metals such as potassium, sodium, and lithium. These are alkali metals.
Metals can also be reacted with acids to produce hydrogen gas. For example, sulphuric acid reacts with zinc metal to produce zinc sulfate (salt) and hydrogen gas.
Hydrogen is contained in all compounds known as hydrocarbons. The reforming process can be used to obtain hydrogen from hydrocarbon compounds. This process employs heat application to the hydrocarbon compounds.
The Pros of hydrogen application
There are several advantages of using hydrogen as an alternative clean source of energy. For example, the abundant nature of hydrogen in the atmosphere makes the gas to be readily available whenever required. Second, it is a clean source of energy because it does not emit any harmful wastes to the environment. As already mentioned, heat and water are the only by-products emitted when hydrogen is burned. Water evolved from this process is even safe for drinking. Also, using hydrogen as a source of fuel has been proved to be friendly to the environment. Energy sources such as gasoline, coal, and nuclear are toxic to the environment.
Hydrogen as a source of energy is highly efficient and burns easily. As a result, it is capable of producing large amounts of energy during combustion. Its powerful nature explains why it is used to propel rockets. It has been estimated that the energy produced by hydrogen is three times more than those of other fuels.
This source of energy can also be renewed. Therefore, it cannot be depleted compared to other sources of fuel, such as coal and natural gas. Whenever there is a demand to utilize hydrogen gas, it can be produced immediately. The renewable nature of hydrogen means that it will be one of the dependable sources of energy in the future.
The Cons of hydrogen application
In spite of the several positive attributes of using hydrogen as a source of fuel, there are also limitations of this gas. First, the process of preparing or manufacturing hydrogen is costly (Olson, 2003). A lot of skills, knowledge, time, and financial resources are required to make hydrogen available for use. Not everybody can viably use hydrogen as a fuel due to the cost implication. Full utilization of hydrogen as a source of energy requires advanced technology (Olson, 2003).
Second, the portability and storage of hydrogen are cumbersome. Unlike oil that can be easily transported through pipes, moving hydrogen from one point to another is a tiresome process. Hence, it cannot be practically used in several functions. Using hydrogen has also posed another challenge in terms of replacing it with other sources of fuel. As it stands now, it is a costly venture to substitute the existing infrastructure with hydrogen. For instance, it would demand a complete overhaul of any system that uses gasoline before it can produce hydrogen compliant. The current infrastructures cannot accommodate the use of hydrogen gas as an alternative source of fuel. Refitting cars and gas stations will be a mandatory task before using hydrogen.
Hydrogen gas burns at a high rate because it is highly inflammable. In the discussion above, it was pointed out that this form of energy is very powerful. The high inflammability nature of hydrogen poses potential risks to both users and those who handle it regularly. Hence, there are several dangers associated with the use of hydrogen as a fuel. Extra precaution should be exercised when using hydrogen (Olson, 2003).
Finally, other fuels are still needed in the preparation of hydrogen gas. For example, natural gas, oil, and coal are required to provide energy in the production of hydrogen. Therefore, hydrogen still depends on other fuels to be produced. In other words, it is not an independent source of energy (Ray, 2001).
Cooper, H. W. (2007). Fuel cells, the hydrogen economy and you. Chemical Engineering Progress, 103(11), 34-43.
Gresser, J., & Cusumano, J. A. (2005). Hydrogen and the new energy economy: Why we need an apollo mission for clean energy. The Futurist, 39(2), 19-25.
Heidrich, E. S., Dolfing, J., Scott, K., Edwards, S. R., Jones, C., & Curtis, T. P. (2013). Production of hydrogen from domestic wastewater in a pilot-scale microbial electrolysis cell. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 97(15), 6979-6989.
Olson, R. L. (2003). The promise and pitfalls of hydrogen energy. The Futurist, 37(4), 46.
Ray, B. (2001). Tomorrow’s energy: Hydrogen, fuel cells, and the prospects for a cleaner plant. Civil Engineering, 71(11), 78-79.