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Does Hydrogen Fuel Promise a Brighter Future?

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Finding Reliable Renewable Energy: Hydrogen Fuel

Concern for the environment has been a prevalent issue in America for the past several decades, and scientists have been working hard to find new energy sources for our power-hungry world. Our current main source of energy, fossil fuels, release many harmful gases into the atmosphere when burned, which are hazardous to the environment and to human health. In China, the air pollution in cities is so bad that clouds of smog block out the sunlight, blocking photosynthesis and threatening the food supply. Fossil fuels are also nonrenewable, which means there is a limited supply. It is predicted that by 2040, there will be practically no oil left to drill on earth. Hydrogen power may be the answer to the global energy crisis. Hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements in the universe, and humans have found a way to convert these tiny particles into usable fuel for vehicles or electronic devices. Hydrogen emits no harmful gases when burned, and is completely renewable. There is still some research that needs to be done before this fuel source becomes widely accessible, but once implemented, it may be one of the most efficient sources.

Fuel cells produce electricity by initiating chemical reactions that release energy. The energy released is then converted to electricity. Hydrogen is used in these chemical reactions, combining with oxygen and creating water as a byproduct. The water is then used to circulate around the cell to regulate the temperature. Fuel cells can produce power with gases other than hydrogen, but hydrogen is the cleanest and easiest option out there. Single fuel cells do not produce enough energy to power large appliances or automobiles, so they are stacked to conserve space and yield more power. One small drawback to hydrogen power is that fuel cells have to be pretty large to generate a decent amount of power, whereas other energy sources, like the motor on a car, ten to be more compact. However, nanotech scientists are working on ways to package these generators in a more space-efficient way.

Hydrogen power has many benefits, and is becoming a more widespread energy option. Fuel cells are completely silent, unlike internal combustion engines, which can be noisy and annoying. Hydrogen power is more efficient than diesel or gas engines, and it produces no pollution or harmful byproducts. The cells are low-maintenance and can be set up almost anywhere. Switching to hydrogen power would eliminate national dependency on oil, which would make the country safer and less involved in the Middle East. Most importantly, hydrogen is a renewable source, and will not run out fifty years down the line.

In 2003, President Bush granted 1.2 billion dollars to hydrogen power research, in order to switch the country over to a cleaner energy source. Since then, advances in hydrogen power and fuel cell technology have been made, but there are still many obstacles in the way of implementing hydrogen power on a national scale. Hydrogen is an extremely light gas which is hard to store, and before it is used in a fuel cell it must be extracted from water, which requires money and energy. Despite these downsides, hydrogen power has become more common and more efficient in the past several years. Recently, China unveiled a hydrogen-powered high speed tram. In fact, hydrogen-powered trains (aka hydrails) are all over Europe. Hyundai’s Tucson Fuel Cell, the first hydrogen powered car to go on sale to the mass market in the United States is an electric car that uses a hydrogen fuel cell instead of a battery for power. This car works like a regular car but has no harmful emissions. Hydrogen power is making its way into commercial products, which is good news!

Fossil Fuels are running low and as they deplete, they become more expensive and more dangerous to harvest. More clean energy sources are emerging, and becoming accessible to civilians. Hydrogen power is one of these sources. There are a few kinks to work out, but hydrogen power is overall a very clean, environmentally friendly, renewable source of power. In a few years, it may become available for people and companies on a wide scale. Research should definitely be funded and the switch should be made as soon as possible.

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