Hydrogen is a colorless, odorless gas that accounts for 75% of the entire universe's mass. Hydrogen is found on Earth only in combination with other elements such as oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. To use hydrogen, it must be separated from these other elements, then it can be used for a variety of things. The most inspiring and exciting use for this element would be for use as a fuel. Scientist have been exploring this possibility for many years and now it is becoming more of a possibility as prototype hydrogen cars and motors come out and are being tested.
The production of hydrogen in the United States is very cheap and easy. Hydrogen is actually a byproduct in the steam reforming of natural gas. Since we already use natural gases for a variety of uses this would be a very cost efficient way to produce pure hydrogen. Another way is through electrolysis. Electrolysis is the process of running electricity through water to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen. While this method is not as cheap as the first, it is still very efficent.
Changing to hydrogen is a formidable task that many individuals and companies will be afraid to make. Even though this is a huge undertaking to switch totally from gas to hydrogen, there are things that are out now that will make the switch easier. One of them is a conversion kit wich converts your gas car to a hydrogen. There also a few fueling stations scattered across California today. Also BMW has taken major intrest in the possobility and already has a prototype hydrogen powered car. Although the change will be tough some of the benefits will be great. For example it is much more environmentally friendly to burn hydrogen than to burn gasoline. This will cut down on pollution as well as health problems that asthmatic people face from living near polluted areas. Another advantage to switching to hydrogen would be the availability of the resource. Hydrogen makes up 70% of the earths mass, most of it in water, and is very easy collect. Once the water is collected, it is a simple matter of running electricity through it to separate the elements. One last major advantage is the fact that it would be cheaper to refine than gasoline. This means that it would be cheaper for the consumer. With gas prices so high, a new and cheap fuel is in high demand.
One of the main disadvantages of the switch to hydrogen will be the huge cost of switching all the cars and gas stations to receive and distribute hydrogen. This will be a huge undertaking from the small consumer to the larger fuel suppliers such as Shell and Exxon. This is only one concern of the people worried about making the switch to hydrogen. Another is the explosive property of hydrogen. Hydrogen like gasoline can combust very easily but hydrogen even more so. This means that special care will have to be made transporting and pumping such an explosive material. Even thought these are some large disadvantages the switch to hydrogen will be very beneficial in the long run.
(Photo Courtesy of Stirling Energy)