How Is Hydrogen Fuel Produced?
Hydrogen is a secondary energy source that can be formed from diverse, renewable resources like biomass, wind, solar, natural gas, and nuclear power. When consumed in a fuel cell, hydrogen generates only water. These attributes make it an effective alternative fuel option for electricity production applications and transportation.
Hydrogen Production Types
Hydrogen fuel is produced with various methods, and the most common ones include electrolysis and natural gas reforming, a thermal procedure. Some other methods include biological and solar-driven processes.
The electrolytic process uses electricity to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. Electrolytic processes occur within an electrolyzer that functions similar to a fuel cell in reverse. This implies an electrolyzer generates hydrogen from water molecules and does not use the energy of a hydrogen molecule, which a fuel cell does.
Typically, thermal processes for the formation of hydrogen involve high temperatures and steam when a hydrocarbon fuel reacts with steam to form hydrogen. Several hydrocarbon fuels can be reformed to shape hydrogen, including gasified coal, gasified biomass, renewable liquid fuels, natural gas, or diesel. Today, around 95% of all hydrogen results from steam reforming of natural gas.
Biological processes utilize microbes like microalgae bacteria and generate hydrogen via biological reactions. In the conversion of microbial biomass, microbes break down organic matter like wastewater or biomass to form hydrogen. On the other hand, microbes utilize sunlight as an energy source in photobiological procedures.
Solar-driven processes utilize light as an agent for hydrogen formation. Several solar-driven processes exist, including solar thermochemical, photobiological, and photoelectrochemical. Production of hydrogen through solar thermochemical processes utilizes concentrated solar power to drive water splitting reactions in addition to other compounds like metal oxides. Photobiological processes utilize green algae and bacteria’s natural photosynthetic activity to form hydrogen. And photoelectrochemical processes separate water into oxygen and hydrogen by utilizing specialized semiconductors.
Hydrogen: The Cleanest and Most Efficient Fuel
In contrast to carbon-based fuels, hydrogen combustion leads to the formation of zero harmful byproducts. Only clean water, power, and heat form when hydrogen combines with oxygen in a fuel cell — making it the cleanest and most efficient fuel
Hydrogen Provides Two to Three Times More Energy
Hydrogen readily combines with oxygen and releases substantial energy as heat. In fact, it generates two to three times more energy in comparison to other common fuels.
Hydrogen’s High Combustion Energy Results in Efficiency
Hydrogen has the highest combustion energy per pound in comparison to other fuels. On a weight basis, it is more efficient relative to other fuels.
While hydrogen offers many possibilities and advantages to our world, it also must overcome some significant challenges to compete with more widely used fossil fuels. At this stage, the cost is high, and more research is needed to perfect the processes for hydrogen production.
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