What is hydrogen energy? (with photos)

As the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen is widely seen as a potential alternative energy source.

Hydrogen energy is an energy source recently harnessed to become one of the affordable forms of alternative energy such as wind, water and solar energy. Engineers and scientists believe that hydrogen is a viable energy source because it is the most abundant element in the universe and also the simplest of all elements, having only one proton and one electron. Hydrogen energy is more beneficial to the environment as it does not produce toxic emissions when burned.

Unlike fossil fuel, hydrogen energy does not produce any toxic emissions when burned.

Hydrogen may be the most abundant element in the universe, but on Earth it is hardly present by itself; rather, it exists with other elements to form compounds and gases, like oxygen to form water. Other organic products that contain hydrogen include fossils, methanol and other natural gases. Even algae and some bacteria contain hydrogen because they absorb light from the sun, which in turn contains hydrogen because the sun is basically a hydrogen-containing star. To create hydrogen energy, hydrogen must be harvested from these compounds that go through certain processes.

One of the most widespread methods for producing pure hydrogen is electrolysis, which separates the hydrogen atoms from the oxygen atoms in water. Electrolysis is very effective and also ecological because the process does not produce polluting emissions. However, it is not as efficient as it is very expensive to operate. Another method for harvesting hydrogen is steam reforming, which splits the carbon atoms from more hydrogen from methane. Steam reforming is not as expensive as electrolysis, but it is more harmful to the environment due to the carbon it releases into the air, causing a greenhouse effect.

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In this process, hydrogen reacts with oxygen or carbon and produces hydrogen energy. In this way, the hydrogen itself is not the energy source, but only acts as the energy carrier. The extracted hydrogen is then stored in tanks in liquid form, facilitating storage and conservation. When it is to be used, the hydrogen is dumped into fuel cells or batteries and into gas tanks. Hydrogen power is even credited by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for successfully launching the space shuttle.

In addition to fueling space shuttles, hydrogen energy has proven to be an effective fuel for cars, buses and trains. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that there are more than 300 buses and cars that use hydrogen fuel, and there are about 70 hydrogen filling stations in the states. Hydrogen energy is also applied as a generator and power system in rural hospitals not reached by electric companies.

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