Storing the Impossible: Hydrogen
("Thinkquest internet challenge," 2000)
The earth’s supply of gasoline is slowly diminishing along with the cleanliness. In a desperate attempt to save precious gas, scientists have been attempting to find new ways to store and use energy. One way that scientists are consistently trying out is storing hydrogen. According to Demirbas(2001), “Because hydrogen can be easily generated from renewable energy sources and water, it has great potential as an energy source” (p. 287). When using hydrogen, the product leads to zero emissions (Yocular & Olgun, 2008, p. 309). If not that, then carbon-free or carbon neutral systems are formed (Yocular and Olgun, 2008, p. 309). Alternative-energy researchers have attempted to find materials that have properties that can resemble those of sponges (Baker, 2005, p.82). This way, the materials could ‘soak in’ the hydrogen and then hold it until it is further needed (Baker, 2005, p.82). There are many ways of storing hydrogen, but what is the most effective way to store it?
In most cases, hydrogen cannot be stored by itself. Because of this, hydrogen is usually stored in forms of hydrides. One example of a hydride is called a fuel cell. Although other forms of storing hydrogen are found to be difficult, Eisenstien (2000) has found that the cell is not a very complicated device (Eisenstien, 2000, p.22). This is because all that there is to do is to pump hydrogen into one side and then pump oxygen on the other (Eisenstien, March 2000, p.22). This results to the gases combining to form energy and water vapor, which can be used to run electric motors (Eisenstien, March 2000, p.22). Another type of hydride is called a reformer. A reformer is simply a chemical plant that is used to produce gaseous hydrogen from gasoline or methanol (Eisenstien, March 2000, p.22). These studies have also led to the discovery of another alternative metal hydride that is made up of a mix of nickel, vanadium, and chromium, which are finely mixed to form a dull, gray powder. Eisenstien’s (2000) study found that:
It acts almost like a hydrogen magnet. If gaseous hydrogen is pumped in, it binds to the hydride mixture. When heated, the gas separates, so it can be pumped out to feed a fuel cell (p.22).
Another example of a hydride is a steam reformer. Rather than building a new infrastructure of hydrogen fueling stations, researchers are looking at ways to reform gasoline onboard vehicles. One way is steam reforming, in which hydrocarbon fuel reads with steam at high temperatures over a catalyst. Hydrogen atoms are stripped from water and hydrocarbon molecules to produce hydrogen gas (Carmody, June 2004, p.1).
Carbon is often used to help store hydrogen in hydrides. Lehrer(2003) states that Tom Bearden has found that bucky tubes, or carbon nanotubes, which are only one nanometer wide, have important properties that could lead to successful hydrogen storage (Lehrer, 2003, p.1). Bearden stated that...