Hydrogen is the simplest element and the most abundant element in the universe. However, hydrogen has to be separated from the compounds that contain it, for example, water (H20). Hydrogen is considered as a secondary source of energy, commonly referred to as an energy carrier. Energy carriers are used to move, store, and deliver energy in a form that can be easily used like electricity.
Hydrogen is found in many organic compounds such as the hydrocarbons that make up many of our fuels, such as gasoline, natural gas, and methane. Hydrogen can be separated from hydrocarbons through the application of heat – a process known as reforming. Currently, most hydrogen is made this way from natural gas. An electrical current can also be used to separate water into its components of oxygen and hydrogen. This process is known as electrolysis. Some algae and bacteria, using sunlight as their energy source, give off hydrogen gas under certain conditions.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Fuel cells directly convert the chemical energy in hydrogen to electricity. Heat and water are the only by-products. Fuel cells can power almost any portable device that normally uses batteries. In the future, hydrogen could also join electricity as an important energy carrier.
Did you know that Hydrogen can be produced by a catalyst? But what does a catalyst do?
Hydrogen is high in energy, yet an engine that burns pure hydrogen produces almost no pollution. This is the most attractive thing about hydrogen. NASA has used liquid hydrogen since the 1970s to propel space shuttles and other rockets into orbit. Pure water produced as a by-product of hydrogen fuel cells that power the shuttle’s electrical systems is used as drinking water by the crew. How cool is that?
Due to their high efficiency and zero-or near-zero-emissions operation, hydrogen and fuel cells have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in many applications. In the future, it will be used as a fuel for ‘zero-emissions’ vehicles, to heat homes and offices, to produce electricity, and to fuel aircraft.