Using Hydrogen for Clean Energy Generation


Finding new clean energy sources has become a global concern; not only due to the imminent depletion of fossil fuels, but also due to the climate change crises resulting from the use of traditional fuels, as well as the widespread forms of pollution around the world. All these reasons have pushed the serious search for clean energy.

This led to using different clean energy sources, such as wind, water, and solar energies, in addition to other natural resources that generate electricity instead of fossil fuels. However, these sources have not become entirely reliable due to some issues that have to do with cost, storage, etc. The use of hydrogen in clean energy production has marked a breakthrough in the field; hydrogen has become one of the most important, realistic, and effective clean energy sources.

Why Hydrogen?

It is the simplest and most widespread element on Earth; it consists of one electron that orbits its only orbit. Yet, we never find a single hydrogen atom on its own; it is either combined with oxygen to form water, or with carbon to form hydrocarbon—the main constituent of many fossil fuels—or combined with other elements in several other compounds.

How is Hydrogen Energy Generated?

There are several methods to extract pure hydrogen for the purpose of energy production. The most common extraction method is “electrolysis”, or the process of using electricity to split water into its constituents—hydrogen and oxygen—through chemical reaction.

Although effective, this method is not economically efficient. Therefore, scientists have searched for other methods to extract hydrogen from water; another economic alternative is using solar cells supported by a light anode made of metal oxide vandat bismuth. Yet, experiments are still being conducted on this technique to prove its efficiency and potentials.

Advantages of Hydrogen Energy

Hydrogen energy has several advantages that places it ahead of the clean energy options humans can rely on in the future. First of all, it is a “clean energy” that is friendly to the environment and its creatures. Hydrogen energy does not produce any exhaust fumes, toxins, or excessive heat; it also does not affect the planet’s temperature or the stability of life.

Renewable energies, such as solar and wind powers, are non-depletable; similarly, hydrogen energy is renewable, as the world would not run out of hydrogen. In fact, hydrogen is the main constituent of the universe, representing 75% of it. Hydrogen energy is amongst the most efficient energy sources, whether renewable or non-renewable. In other words, the amount of hydrogen energy used to operate a machine will make it work for more time compared to the same amount of any other energy source.

Disadvantages of Hydrogen Energy

Despite the above-mentioned advantages, hydrogen energy has some disadvantages, forming challenges that hinder us from utilizing it; at least for now. Yet, scientists are still researching to overcome these challenges. A major challenge is storing hydrogen and transferring it from one place to another. Hydrogen is very thin; therefore, it requires high pressure to be transformed into liquid form so as to be stored. This liquefaction process is not practical at all, and only little amounts can be transferred. Hydrogen is a highly flammable element; it is odourless, which makes it very difficult to discover leaks. As a result, it can cause unpredicted fires.

Uses of Hydrogen Energy

Fossil fuels were initially used for spaceships and rockets; however, they are costly and harmful to the environment. Recently, it has been found that hydrogen energy is more suitable for operating spaceships, as it is renewable, environmentally friendly, and light-weighted. As such, it does not require huge tanks for storage as the traditional fuels.

Scientists seek to make hydrogen energy the alternative to fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas. Despite the challenges, scientists are taking steady steps towards operating all devices, machines, factories, and cars with hydrogen energy in the future.


The article was first published in print in SCIplanet, Winter 2019.

Image by GarryKillian on Freepik

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