Essay, Research Paper: Hydrogen
Hydrogen in it’s liquid form has been used in space vehicles for years.
Hydrogen has a high combustion energy per pound relative to any other fuel,
meaning hydrogen is more efficient on a weight basis than fuels currently used
in air or ground transportation. Hydrogen is the universe’s most abundant
element. Most of that hydrogen though, is tied up in chemical bonds. Hydrogen
can exist in either a gaseous form or a liquid form. Hydrogen is The liquid form
is usually used for storage while the gaseous form is used as a heat transfer,
and also as a cooling agent in nuclear power plants. The name hydrogen is Greek
for water former. Hydrogen was once called “inflammable air” by a British
scientist names Joseph Priestly . French chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier then
renamed it to today’s name, hydrogen. Hydrogen can be produced in many ways.
Electrolysis is a common way hydrogen is produced. Electric current is passed
through water which releases the elements it is made of. These elements are
hydrogen and oxygen. Today’s efficiency of this method is about 65 percent,
however 80-85 percent are possible with more research. Another method of
producing hydrogen is through chemical means. It is a scientific fact that every
metal that is less noble than hydrogen will displace hydrogen from water .
Common materials used in this reaction is sodium or potassium . Sodium plus
water will produce hydrogen , NaOH, and heat . Other reactions include the
“producer” reaction that was discovered in 1800 . It involves combining
heat, carbon, and water. It then yields hydrogen and carbon monoxide . Bacteria
can also be a hydrogen producer. Bacteria and other microorganisms may release
hydrogen in the process of creating heavier hydrocarbons or oxygen for
assimilation . A process known as Photoconversion or photosynthesis involves
light combining with water, which produces hydrogen and oxygen . Hydrogen can be
stored in a variety of ways. Compressed gas storage and transportation has been
widely used for more than 100 years. Common materials for storage canisters are
mild steel, aluminum, and composites. Storage pressure for hydrogen ranges from
3,000 to 10,000 P.S.I . Cooling hydrogen to below the boiling point of -252.7º
C allows storage as a cryogenic liquid without the need for pressurization .
Cryogenic storage of hydrogen allows regular commercial shipment by truck and
rail. Many commercial processes such as glass manufacturing, brazing, heat
treating, and semiconductor manufacturing are served by deliveries of liquid
hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen has also facilitated the U.S. space exploration
program. If liquid hydrogen is suddenly subjected to a vacuum it will evaporate
with a subsequent cooling of the liquid mass will cause the temperature to fall
to below the freezing point of -259º C and solid hydrogen will be produced .
This mixture of liquid and solid hydrogen is called “slush” and provides
more dense storage of hydrogen than liquid hydrogen. Hydrogen can also be stored
in metal hydrides . Hydrogen is pumped into the interaom spaces of a granular
metal. When the hydrogen needs to be released the metal is heated. This system
is reliable and compact, but is very expensive. The energy from hydrogen can be
harnessed in many ways. One method of doing this is using a fuel cell. A fuel
cell is a device that converts chemical energy directly into electricity via a
modified oxidation process . The process also produces heat, water, and carbon
dioxide. By-products such as nitrous oxide and sulfur are eliminated because of
the low reaction temperatures of 200º - 500º C. Fuel cells create electricity
more efficient than mechanical systems because a fuel cell has no moving parts.
The absence of moving parts allows them to run quietly. Fuel cells operate in
reverse of electrolysis. In a fuel cell hydrogen and oxygen stream pass through
porous metal plates separated in an electrolyte bath. The plates have a single
connection to each other which is outside the electrolyte bath. The oxygen
molecules are combined with the hydrogen modules which creates heat and water.
The heat is then captured and turned into electricity. The first fuel cell was
constructed by Sir William Groves in 1839 . He used platinum electrodes and
sulfuric acid as the electrolytbath . A significant amount of research was done
in the 1920’s in Germany which laid the groundwork for today’s fuel cells.
One of the most important accomplishments in the history of fuel cells was the
accomplishments of Francis T. Bacon. He developed the Bacon Cell. The Bacon Cell
substitutes potassium hydroxide for the regular acid which was corrosive on the
electrodes . The Bacon Cell was selected by NASA to be used in the Apollo
missions and the space shuttles as the primary electrical fuel source. Fuel
cells are manufactured throughout the world, including in South Windsor,
Connecticut. International Fuel Cells, a subsidiary of United Technologies, is
the world’s largest manufacturer of fuel cells. This company produced the
Bacon Cell, that went into space. Today’s gasoline engines can be fairly
easily converted to run on hydrogen. The biggest cost involvement is in
purchasing the tank, however in some cities they can be leased or rented.
Engines can also be made to run on hydrogen initially. These would be more
effective since they were built to take advantage of the fast-burn and far-lean
combustion characteristics of hydrogen. Many auto makers including BMW and Mazda
have already made prototype hydrogen cars, to hit the market around the year
2000 . When hydrogen pumps are developed and placed at gas stations, hydrogen
will only cost about 75 cents a gallon, compared to the high prices of gasoline
. There are still other uses for hydrogen. It is currently being used in
stationary turbines and aircraft engines. In 1980 a propeller plane was fitted
to run on hydrogen in an air show. As the public notices the advantages of
hydrogen, it popularity will increase. Hydrogen is a clean and efficient fuel
but it can be dangerous at times. Hydrogen is both flammable and buoyant. It is
more flammable than gasoline or natural gas, but it dissipates more rapidly of
either of these two fuels in a spill. Like all gases hydrogen should be used in
a ventilated area. Since 1766 hydrogen has been a part of the world. First
appearing as “inflammable air” and then hydrogen. Hydrogen is a flexible
material in that it can be harnessed many ways and be utilized in many ways. In
fact if the US beings to use solar hydrogen California, Arizona, and other sunny
states would be richer than Saudi Arabia . Hydrogen will be the key source of
energy for the future. As of today hydrogen is the safest and most economical
way to move energy across the ocean . In fact, if we being to use hydrogen on a
large-scale basis we would actually reverse the greenhouse effect. The switch to
hydrogen will make the world a better place to live. The hydrogen market will
cut pollution, provide cheaper transportation, and create more jobs. If safe
power is the question, hydrogen is the answer.
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