HYDROGEN: A VERSATILE ELEMENT

This article points out two reasons why hydrogen is considered by many scientists as potentially an ideal general fuel: (1) hydrogen, in water, is one of the most abundant and widely distributed elements on the earth's surface, and (2) burning of hydrogen merely produces water again, with no deleterious environmental effects. A review is made of the production methods, including electrolytic processes and thermochemical cycles. Since primary sources of energy are required to produce hydrogen, four possible sources of primary energy are discussed, including wind, oceanic thermal gradients, solar energy, and nuclear energy. It is predicted that a hydrogen economy will begin with the production of hydrogen by large-scale electrolysis plants, using electricity generated with nuclear reactors. This hydrogen could be used near its production site. The storage and transmission of hydrogen and, more important, it generation by thermochemical cycles could then be developed concurrently. At present, the two major consumers hydrogen are the anmonia and petrochemical industries. Other uses likely to grow to importance in the future are as follows: energy transmission, peak shaving or load leveling (the use of storage of electrical energy during times when supply exceeds demand), coal liquefaction and gasification, fuel for industrial furnaces, domestic appliances and transportation, and reduction of iron ore to produce steel. There are, however, certain characteristics of hydrogen which limit its applications. One problem is storage -- to obtain the same heat content as gasoline or methane, a hydrogen volume 2.5 or 3 times as large is required. Another problem is the potential embrittlement of metals and alloys used for its containment and transport.

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  • Corporate Authors:

    Sigma Xi, Scientific Research Society

    345 Whitney Avenue
    New Haven, CT  United States  06511
  • Authors:
    • Bamberger, C E
    • Braunstein, J
  • Publication Date: 1975-1

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  • Accession Number: 00125021
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 5 1975 12:00AM