Compressed hydrogen is an attractive alternative for meeting energy needs in the future. Hydrogen itself is plentiful and is versatile as fuel. Hydrogen is difficult to store though because it takes up a lot of volume. Compressed hydrogen seems to be the best form of hydrogen for fuel purposes because in this form it can be stored in a smaller space while retaining its energy potency. Additionally, compressed hydrogen, while still flammable, can be stabilized so it is less volatile, making it a good choice to power automobiles, homes and office buildings.
Compressed Hydrogen In Cars
Hydrogen is a renewable energy carrier. Being a carrier means that it is not a direct source of electricity, but can be used to produce electricity. Unlike fossil fuels, which are naturally occurring substances, hydrogen does not exist in its pure form in nature and must be extracted from other compounds. As an example, methanol, natural gas or water can be separated to release the hydrogen into its pure form to be used as fuel. In order to separate hydrogen into its pure form, energy from coal, wind, solar or nuclear power must be used.
Depending on what is used for extracting hydrogen, it is possible that hydrogen could ease our dependence on foreign oil and help clean up the environment as well. Hydrogen by itself is environmentally friendly. The by-product of using hydrogen for fuel is water. If hydrogen is extracted via solar, wind or hydro-electrical means (dams), there is little or no adverse reactions to the environment. Therefore, it is important to consider the manner of producing hydrogen as it affects the environment. Using hydrogen as fuel means a whole host of infrastructure issues will need to be resolved from production to storage to distribution.
Compressed hydrogen storage is an issue because, at least for now, a hydrogen car with a 5,500 psi tank can only carry enough compressed hydrogen to travel about 100 - 200 miles (though 10,000 psi tanks are now being tested to increase the range to over 300 miles). Also, the price of hydrogen fuel on a per gallon or per liter basis will need to be comparable to today's gasoline prices.
As of yet there isn't a commercial infrastructure to support compressed hydrogen outside of what is being tested (mainly in California). Compressed hydrogen will most likely be one of the leading energies for transportation in the future, though. Research is focused on finding a means to store it that will be practical, relatively space efficient and that has the potential for mass marketing. Significant strides have been made in recent years to implement practical solutions to compression, storage and distribution problems, and compressed hydrogen may realize its potential in the not so distant future.