Hydrogen Fuel Research Paper

After the year 1973 the issue of alternative resources for energy and fuels production gained more and more importance. Desire to have healthy and independent economy lead to development of new solutions for the problem. One of them is a hydrogen fuels. There are different opinions and predictions whether the hydrogen fuel is the fuel of the future, but let me first start with the development of it and then continue with the future expectations.

British scientist Henry Cavendish first identified the Hydrogen as distinct element in the year 1766. Then the first hydrogen balloon flight was launched in the year 1783. Then the investigation of this element started to gain more technological and scientific character. In 1800 English scientists William Nicholson and Sir Anthony Carlisle were the first who discovered how hydrogen could be extracted from the water. Later the process of spiting water into hydrogen and oxygen gases by applying electric current to water was called “electrolysis”. The development and usage of hydrogen started to be more popular especially after the year 1973 when the OPEC made an oil embargo. The supply shock that the country had experienced forced to think then the era of cheap petroleum had ended and that there was a need for alternative solutions. From this point the development of hydrogen fuel cells conventional commercial applications began. The government sponsorship is continued till this day and there are a lot of expectations that are put into the project. The movement started from the Hydrogen Economy Miami Energy Conference (THEMEC) held in March of 1974.

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Different international organizations were formed at that time. The most famous now is the National Hydrogen Association (NHA), which had only 10 members when it was formed (1989) and now has nearly 100 of them. We can follow the tendency and real importance of the issue here. If nobody cares why then they would want to be in the organization? As a development continued it brought significant results. In the 1990 the first solar powered hydrogen production plant at Solar-Wasserstoff-Bayern was built. Then in 1999 the first hydrogen fueling stations were opened in German cities Hamburg and Munich. Now more and more companies that produce machines powered with fossil fuels make scientific researches to apply a new hydrogen fuels to their products. But why is the hydrogen fuel so popular, why it is not solar or wind energy or some other? The reason is that the hydrogen is a unique fuel with unmatched properties. Its first property is that it can be easily converted to the electricity with a high efficiency. The hydrogen electricity is produced electro-chemically in fuel cells and it has a very high utilization efficiency that made a lot of electric power equipment manufacturers and power industry research organizations become interested in electric power generation through hydrogen fuel cells. The second property that makes it so attractive is that hydrogen fuel cells are clean, the only by-product that we have is water, and quite, it has no moving parts. These unique properties promise a big future for the new hydrogen fuels. But not every one is agree. (Veziroglu 2005)

There are also those who do not see the future for the hydrogen fuels. In the issue “Will Hydrogen Replace Fossil Fuels for Cars?” we obtained different opinions, which predict the future of hydrogen fuels differently. In the discussion Jeremy Rifkin argues that this type of fuels is the only good alternative to the fossil fuels in the future. In his opinion there are several reasons for hydrogen fuels to be the fuel of the future. They are the following: (1) no environmental harm plus hydrogen fuel also reduces carbon dioxin emission and mitigate the effect of global warming, (2) it is “forever fuel” because the water is the most available resource on the Earth plus the by-product of hydrogen fuel is water itself, (3) it provides a way to store renewable sources of energy and insures ongoing and continuous supply of power, (4) it provides more power production by lower costs along with (5) a lot of technological advantages which makes it cheap, easy to transfer (through HEW), plus provides additional benefits – production of pure drinking water as a byproduct. But there are not only economical and environmental benefits, which hydrogen fuels can bring. Rifkin also beliefs that changes in society could occur that are represented by the end of world’s reliance on oil and creating decentralized power grid (he uses World Wide Web as an example where everyone are free to participate). Every individuals and communities can become a producer of energy, which creates equal opportunity. Therefore the dramatic shift of power can occur: no longer from up down but from the bottom up. Author argues that the nature of traditional energy production is very complicated and therefore requires very centralized command-and-control structure to make it as efficient as possible. In this way the energy production influences the structure and distribution of power in the society and the way of people’s life. Therefore if we will change the energy production we can change the social life.

Rifkin also beliefs, that the shift to hydrogen energy could lift millions of people out of poverty by making the energy available and not expensive in every city and country. All of these arguments make us believe that the hydrogen fuels have a big future. Today’s production of energy and pollution from cars that use fossil fuels has a tremendous impact on the environment. As a lot of countries strive for the sustainable economy the hydrogen fuels seem to become a good alternative. But there are also opponents to this point of view. C.J. Baker, for example, argues in his article that the hydrogen fuels could provide good opportunities for the future but there are still a lot of questions that should be answered such as: What will be the cost to generate pure hydrogen if we will consider the cost of energy and pollution from hydrogen generation plants? Or what will be the costs to transport and distribute the hydrogen? He points that to build hydrogen fuel infrastructure costs a lot of money and not every country can effort such projects. Plus it takes lot of time to implement this new technology in the every day life. Therefore if we are going to make projections on the nearest future, we would probably receive the same results as we have now. The best that will happen is increasing in the efficiency of vehicle that use fossil fuels to reduce the consumption of it and also decreasing emissions. (3) Henry Payne and Diane Katz in the issue “Will Hydrogen Replace Fossil Fuels for Cars?” also argue that there is a big problem with hydrogen fuels, hydrogen can be extracted from methane gas or from water. Most fuel-cell technologies rely now on the hydrogen that is extracted from methane. It is their contra-argument to the benefits that Rifkin suggested (no environmental pollution and independent economy). If we will take this argument into account it seems we will just replace one dependence for another. Methane will still be needed to take somewhere. And such production is also harmful for the environment. If we will use water as an alternative then the carbon-based fuels costs to make hydrogen energy will be much higher because electrolyze is most energy extensive process. They believe that the misguided energy scheme, which Rifkin proposed, will not make America more independent. As an alternative fuel they see a nuclear power and argue that hydrogen is its synonym. Another alternative is a clean-diesels that are considered to be environmentally healthier and are already implemented. (Peckham 2005)

As I analyzed different opinions I understood that there are a lot of factors that can influence the future development of the hydrogen fuels. It is not only money that are necessary for the scientific researches and building of plants, there are also different powers that are not interested in this invention. Companies, which produce fossil fuels, make big profits, why then they would need to invent something new? There are also time limits. We need a fast solution but as we see the hydrogen fuels need a lot of time to enter the economy of different countries and to make people accustom to the idea of sustainable production. In any case we need an alternative to the existent fuels, which cause too much pollution and have a complicated system of production. We need to the new area of technology to improve all lacks of energy production we need today.

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