"If consumption trends continue, worldwide consumption of crude oil will increase by over forty percent by 2025, according to a report in Futurist magazine."
Much of this demand is predicted to come from the United States, already the biggest oil importer in the world. It is already predicted that the number of cars on the road will rise from 800 million currently, to 1.1 billion over fifteen years. In order to appease the lust for cars and fuel, a far less damaging fuel source needs to come to the forefront. That source may just be Hydrogen energy.
How Hydrogen Works
Hydrogen energy is produced by creating a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. Although this process seems insanely simple, that is not entirely the case. This is especially true given the fact that because both components occur naturally in
gas form, and are therefore hard to store and capture. Pure hydrogen must be pressurized or liquefied in order for it to be stored in a vehicle, or in any other stationary type of consumption.
Although hydrogen is complicated, it is a clean, sustainable option for powering our future. It does not release any greenhouse gases after its creation, and has the potential to replace harmful emitters like conventional fossil fuels, of which there are also
limited supplies. Also by using renewables, carbon capturing, and/or clean nuclear technology as energy sources to create the cells, we can further minimize their effect on our planet.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Hydrogen fuel cells are an electrochemical energy conversion tools. They produce electricity through the reaction of some sort of fuel and an oxidant in the presence of an electrolyte. These reactants (in the case of hydrogen fuel cells it's hydrogen and oxygen) flow into the cell, and their product (energy) flows out, while the electrolyte remains in the cell. Fuel cells differ from batteries in that they are open systems, and require continuous replenishment of hydrogen and oxygen to continue producing
energy, whereas batteries store electrical energy chemically in a closed system.
Recent research has found that hydrogen can be produced spontaneously when water is added to an aluminum and gallium alloy. Since this is a slightly simpler method of producing hydrogen, it can be used on things like lawn-mowers, where smaller internal combustion engines are used, but currently run on gasoline. While it may be incapable of replacing our car engines just yet, this technology is still a worthy investment and could save a lot of energy over time.
The Down Side to Hydrogen
While hydrogen is definitely an option, a drawback is that it would/will require significant investment in new fuelling stations and other similar infrastructure. The typical
hydrogen fuel cell is also very expensive to produce. Currently vehicle fuel cells are 100 times more expensive per kilowatt output than your conventional internal combustion engine. This is due to the costs of liquefying the hydrogen to make it storable. The efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells depends largely upon how much power is taken from it. In general, the more power that is taken out of the cell, the lower the efficiency. However, companies like Toyota and Ballard Power Systems are working furiously at downsizing these costs and increasing the efficiency of this budding technology, and making hydrogen fuel cells a viable competitor in the
"Energy". Futurist; Nov 2007, Vol. 41 Issue 6, Special section pg. 3-4.