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Know Your Alternate Fuels: Hydrogen

written by: Ashwin Satyanarayana•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 9/15/2008

Hydrogen, in spite of a few glitches in the way it is to be used as a fuel, promises to be the future fuel for our use, among a bevy of other alternate fuels. Here's some juice on whether it really matches up with the expectations and whether it meets the requirements required of an automobile fuel.

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    Hydrogen promises to be the swash-buckling, knight-in-the-shining-armor among all the other alternative fuels we study about. It is one of most abundant elements earth and can be produced easily by electrolysis of water, from biomass or from fossil fuels too ( although we aren’t counting on that). Hydrogen, as a fuel, can turn the state of transportation and automotive industry at large with concepts like fuel-cells and the like and the efforts are already underway to make the dream of pollution-free, fossil fuel independent world happen.

    Hydrogen: What’s the hype about it?

    Hydrogen is a colorless and odorless found abundantly on planet earth -- not all by itself but always as a compound with some other element in some fashion or the other. Water is one such example of Hydrogen’s abundance on earth (along with 2 molecules of Oxygen). If you look up the periodic table chart, you’d find Hydrogen at the very top. One of the challenges in using Hydrogen as a fuel is the fact that it isn’t present as a gas on earth and is locked up in the form of water ( as stated above), one of the other types of compounds like Methane, propane and most other forms of organic matter.

    How Hydrogen is being produced and what is it being used for?

    About 9 million tones of Hydrogen is produced each year in the U.S alone and is used to propel or fuel rockets. Other common uses of Hydrogen are for food processing, petroleum refining, treating metals and various other uses.

    Recently, however, Hydrogen is being increasingly experimented with in the fields of automobile engineering and checking to see if it can effectively replace the fossil fuels. Fuel Cells have already been put in place in a few vehicles to test the operating competence of Hydrogen as an automobile fuels, in the form of Fuel Cell Vehicles.

    Fuel Cells reported boast of high-efficiency and Hydrogen, as such, comes with clean burning properties making it for a great contender for the fossil fuels which promise to fade away very soon.

    Is Hydrogen the Fuel you would fill in your Tank?

    That is very much a possibility if certain glitches can be ironed out. One of the major problems faced in the case of Hydrogen is its storage. Since Hydrogen can only store a very small amount of energy by volume ( given that a similar amount of gasoline -- in volume-- can store higher amounts of energy), it needs a lot more space than what conventional vehicles have. This calls for holding Hydrogen in high-pressure tanks and turning it into cryogenic liquid to be held at low temperatures. It calls for advanced technologies, but efforts are on to make this a practical reality.

    The future has a lot in store for Hydrogen as a fuel and that day will revolutionize the automobile industry.

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    Related Resources

    Know Your Alternate Fuels is a series of articles being published to introduce almopst all of the alternative fuels available as contenders for the rapidly depleting fossil fuel reserves. Click on the appropriate links below to take you an article of your choice.

    Know Your Alternate Fuels : The Bets are ON for Ethanol

    Know Your Alternate Fuels :The Rise of Bio Diesel from The Grassfields

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    Hydrogen as an Alternative FuelHydrogen as an Alternative Fuel