What We Have: Hydrogen Energy
Hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth, always found
combined with other elements to form chemical compounds.
One example of this is water - H2O - which is a combination of
hydrogen and oxygen.
By harnessing the power of this element, we can create a natural form
of energy that is not only renewable, but also
healthy for the earth.
This technology, which NASA has been using for years, is now being
researched for possible use in everyday life.
Hydrogen energy is stored in the form of fuel cells. These fuel
cells are what powers spaceships during takeoff.
Because hydrogen is not found naturally by itself, the first step to
building a fuel cell is to remove the hydrogen from
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found not only in water, but also in natural gas,
the substance most often used for this process, which is
known as reforming and uses heat to separate the
hydrogen from the natural gas.
When water is used, a similar process, called electrolysis,
is used to separate the hydrogen and oxygen with an
electrical current. The result of each of these
processes is more energy, in the form of hydrogen, than
is used in the process itself.
Hydrogen energy is a pure form of power. An engine that uses hydrogen
produces almost no pollution, making it much
preferred over fossil fuels.
In the space shuttle example, for instance, the byproduct of
burning hydrogen to power lift-off is purified
water, which the astronauts than can drink.
Therefore, using hydrogen power is not only clean, but
Fuel cells are often compared to batteries, and work in much of the
same manner, but unlike batteries, which eventually lose
their charges, a fuel cell continues to work until its
source of hydrogen is cut off.
Inside the cell, oxygen is combined with hydrogen, and the
chemical process that produces water also gives off
heat and electricity. The water can then be broken
into hydrogen and oxygen once again, and the process
starts all over again.
In the future, scientists have predicted that fuel cells will
become more widely used. Currently, they are still
working on more convenient storage methods since
hydrogen, although very light, takes up a lot of space.
When this process becomes more refined and cost effective, this could be
a solution to the world's energy problems, and since the
process is not only renewable, but clean, it can
help save our environment as well.