The Advantages And Obstacles Of Hydrogen As A Fuel

1383 words - 6 pages

Considering current tendency of consumption of fuel in the automobile industry, it is assumed that humanity will exhaust the supply of the oil for transport supposedly in the period of the next 50 years. It is assumed by British Petroleum (2013) in their annual report that “world proved oil reserves at the end of 2012 reached 1668.9 billion barrels, sufficient to meet 52.9 years of global production”. As the only widely distributed automobile fuel type is petroleum, it will be problematic to travel from one place to another if the oil depletion occurs and no other fuel types will be introduced by that moment. Therefore, it is essential to find alternative fuel type as a substitute to the petroleum. In the field of automobile industry, out of all the available options, hydrogen seems to prove to be a superior alternative to petroleum in terms of usage as fuel in automobiles.
Hydrogen as a fuel
Plenty of arguments demonstrate that hydrogen is an exceptional alternative to petroleum. The main reason is that it has the highest energy-to-mass ratio than any other chemical, as it is the lightest element in the periodic table. It is also the central reason why it has been used as fuel in rockets, where minimizing the carried fuel mass is necessary. Secondly, it is ecologically harmless and possesses no threat to the environment. When combusted with oxygen, both thermally or electrochemically, it produces only water, energy and insignificant amounts of nitric oxide air pollutants, which do not provide much hazard to the atmosphere. Furthermore, the primary source for hydrogen is water, virtually infinite resource (Schlapbach 2009, 809).
Operating principle
Currently, engines are divided into two categories, as there are two methods for hydrogen combustion: thermal and electrochemical. However, engines that use thermal energy convert energy from chemical to mechanical with very low efficiency, a bit more than 10% in usual traffic conditions. It would be far more efficient to use the hydrogen-fuel-cell-electric-motor (Hy-FC-EM), also known as power train (Schlapbach 2009, 810). Nevertheless development of such engine turned to be a difficult task, because controlling the process of reaction and obtaining electric current requires construction of complicated cumbersome structure. “And therein lies the challenge: how to pack all that complexity into a device that is light, cheap, robust and durable — as well as being powerful enough to provide rapid acceleration, plus drive all the lights, air conditioning, radio and other amenities that consumers have come to expect in a modern vehicle” (Tollefson 2010, 1262-1263). Power train fuel cell works by taking in oxygen from air and hydrogen from tank and creating reaction to output water and electricity. The reaction is based on channelling hydrogen from one side of the cell to another and splitting it into hydrogen ions and electrons. Electrons are then taken to generate electricity and hydrogen ions...

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