There is a balloon the shape and size of a beach ball. A string keeps it tethered to the ground. Someone in a white lab coat stands about eight feet away with a rod about as
long with a small flame on the end. They put on a protective headset and put the flame in contact with the floating balloon. Not even a second later the balloon violently explodes in a large fireball and a loud bang. All that remains of the balloon is the string that held it down and invisible molecules of water vapor now floating through the room. With the continuing buzz on the issue of global warming and the general rise of cost of fossil fuels alternatives have been explored. One of these is hydrogen power in the form of the hydrogen fuel cell. This source of power is unique because the only direct byproduct of it is water.
With hydrogen power there are several ideas that need to be understood to determine if hydrogen power can significantly reduce or replace fossil fuels in homes and cars. First, how hydrogen is able to produce power as well as what a fuel cell is and how it works. Second, there are two primary ways to produce hydrogen, the electrolysis of water as well as from methane each with differing economic and carbon costs. Third, there needs to be an infrastructure to deliver hydrogen to the consumer, with its own cost. Fourth, with the rising prominence of hybrid-electric and pure electric vehicles and their advantages, hydrogen fuel cell technology has its own strengths over those alternatives. Fifth, the development of safety regulations around the transportation and storage of hydrogen. Sixth, past, present and future real world applications of fuel cell cars showing promise of a tomorrow with greater acceptance and availability of these vehicles. Finally, beyond the realm of the fuel cell, hydrogen power has other applications in the lives of consumers to help reduce or eliminate carbon emissions. After considering all of these things, it becomes clear that hydrogen power will play a significant role as an alternative energy source. Hydrogen fuel cells really are the best compromise between gasoline and electric vehicles.
In order to understand the why behind the need to change from fossil fuels to hydrogen power, it is necessary to understand what that power is and how it works. Hydrogen is the most abundant and simplest element on earth. It is most commonly found as part of water. In its pure gaseous form it is extremely light, but when ignited in this state releases a large amount of energy in an explosion. In this violent reaction the hydrogen combines with free oxygen molecules in the atmosphere and creates water vapor. This is similar to the way gasoline is combined with air and ignited in an internal combustion engine in the cars used today and like with gasoline, the combustion of hydrogen has risks. In addition to the risk, some of the energy released in the reaction is lost in the form of sound and heat. As an alternative to burning, these same...