CHAPTER 13Renewable Gas and Fuel Cells

Generations of schoolchildren have been entertained by the oxyhydrogen reactions in chemistry class. When hydrogen is oxidized by oxygen from the air, the hydrogen gas explosively releases its stored energy. A spark is enough to ignite a mixture of hydrogen and normal air. In contrast to many other combustion processes, however, the reaction product is absolutely harmless from an environmental point of view. Hydrogen and oxygen simply react to produce pure water.

The proportion of electricity used in energy supply systems is increasing all the time. Fuel cells or gas-fired power plants can generate the much sought-after electricity from hydrogen. The only waste created is water. It is no wonder that the many people with a vision of a global hydrogen economy see it as the solution to our current climate problems. Hydrogen as a single energy source could at the same time help us to get rid of air pollution, acid rain, and other environmental problems caused by the use of energy.

Jules Verne saw the potential of hydrogen as early as 1874, and the question is why this vision has not already been developed. The answer is simple: hydrogen essentially does not occur in a pure form in nature. Energy and a complex technical process are needed before it can be burnt again. This makes hydrogen expensive, and some production processes involved even create high greenhouse emissions. However, with the aid of wind and solar energy, hydrogen, and other ...

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