Hydrogen is now considered one of the best means of storing and transporting
the energy of the future. At present most hydrogen is made from the reforming
of fossil fuel gas, but it can be made electrolytically, by splitting
water molecules into its constituent parts of oxygen and hydrogen. If
the electricity that is used comes from a renewable energy source, then
Hydrogen could then become a green energy alternative to power everything
from laptops to submarines.
Electrolysing water is the favoured technology to replace the present
industrial method of reforming fossil fuel derived hydrogen. Electrolysis
methods are well proven and domestic scale electrolyser units are now
entering the consumer marketplace. However, many believe that increased
research investment could produce a new and more efficient way to release
hydrogen from water.
There are various methods by which hydrogen can be produced biologically.
Landfill gas and other biomass treatments can produce hydrogen directly
or provide feedstocks such as Syngas and other hydrogen precursors. Experiments
with various natural, mutant and GM strains of micro organisms have demonstrated
potential for the future cultivation and processing methods which could
produce pure biological hydrogen.
Efficient Hydrogen storage is one of the important areas of ongoing research
required if a Hydrogen focused economy is to develop. Compressed and Liquid
Hydrogen has been stored, transported and used for a long time, but other
concepts are new and may offer improved suitability for the transport
and consumer goods sectors. Metal halides options are proving both expensive
and heavy, whilst carbon nanotubes are proving difficult to manufacture
large scale. At present no one has managed to achieve a higher density
of hydrogen than is already contained in petroleum.
Fuel cell technology, which allows hydrogen gas to bond back with atmospheric
oxygen to create electricity and fresh water, is the key to hydrogen exploitation.
Although many different fuel cell concepts have been successfully developed,
no single chemical approach is looking like taking over the market sectors.
Miniature fuel cell stacks are being developed to power micro-electronics,
whilst larger designs power automobiles and still larger systems are being
stacked into multi megawatt grid failure back up power supplies.