Hydrogen Commentary

Thoughts and comments about switching to hydrogen as a fuel

Interesting Links

Making Hydrogen:

There are many unproven ideas floating around the Internet, but steam separation of methane and electrolysis of water are the two known effective ways to obtain hydrogen as a gas. Separation of Methane can contribute to environmental polution and uses petrolium based resources.  Electrolysis of water to obtain hydrogen requires electricity, a lot of electricity, but other than byproducts of making that electricity, the method is environmentally friendly.

Electrolysis of water is accomplished by imersing two electrodes in a container of water and applying a DC (Direct Current) to those electrodes.  Hydrogen bubles will form and be released from the negative electrode and oxygen bubbles will form and be released from the positive electrode.  If the resulting bubles of gas are collected together you have what is called "Browns Gas" which is used in industry for cutting metals and other very high temperature tasks.  The problem with Browns Gas is it's perfect mixture for recombining into water, making it dangerous to handle and use.  Most Browns Gas is used close to the location where it is generated to avoid hazardous transportation and storage issues.

If there is a partial barrier between the two electrodes in an electrolysis system, the Hydrogen and Oxygen can be collected separately.  While still somewhat dangerous to store and transport, pure gaseous hydrogen is much less problematic than Browns Gas when it comes to storage and/or transportation.

12 April 2010

Hydrogen Infrastructure:

In the not too distant future, Hydrogen and Oxygen will be available near major transportation routes, much like gasoline (petrol) is today.  The present day problem holding us back is centralized generation of hydrogen and it's transport & storage in a myriad of locations.  In the future hydrogen will be made at the site where it is to be dispensed as a motor fuel.  Requirements for this are water and electricity.  With each "service station" already having a water supply, we only need to add space for large solar cell arrays, and storage tanks for the hydrogen and oxygen.  If these solar cell panels are elevated, then the storage and pumping facilities can be located directly under the solar arrays.  Shade from the solar panels help keep the storage tanks cool in summer.

Conventional (i.e. what is available today) hydrogen power engines do not make use of the oxygen that is released in electrolysis operations.  Oxygen then becomes a marketable byproduct of the service station business.  There should be many uses for this formerly expensive gas, but even if we just dump it into the atmosphere this is not all that bad.  It will help offset part of the CO2 emission problem.