Hydrogen is a chemical element with symbol H and atomic number 1. It is the simplest, most abundant and lightest element in the whole universe. Hydrogen constitutes about 75% of the universe mass (while some argue that hydrogen constitutes 90% of the visible universe). At earth temperature and pressure (say when found in our living environment temperature and pressure), hydrogen is most commonly identified as a colourless, tasteless, non-toxic, flammable and odourless diatomic gas (H2). Hydrogen gas is rarely found alone in nature because it is usually bonded with other elements. For instance, hydrogen can be found in water (H2O).
Hydrogen is an extremely safe fuel. The gas is stored in secure airtight tanks, and in the extremely unlikely event of a leak there wouldn’t be any build-up. Instead, as hydrogen is lighter than air, it would escape quickly and harmlessly into the atmosphere.
When hydrogen is in a tank, there is no danger of explosion. Hydrogen is an energy source that is indeed, as is the case with every other fuel, flammable in contact with air. Risk assessments show however, that hydrogen is less dangerous than petrol or natural gas for example. In addition, hydrogen has also been used commercially for more than 100 years in large quantities safely, including in the chemical industry. The energy content of the hydrogen tanks in the vehicles is typically less than that of regular petrol or diesel vehicles. The automotive industry is geared towards 700 bars hydrogen storage (the pressure of hydrogen storage systems is mechanically controllable). The hydrogen vehicles driven today in demonstration programmes have undergone the automotive manufacturers’ complete development cycle, including crash tests, and are cleared for road transport. The vehicles are therefore just as safe as conventional vehicles.
No, modern fusion weapons consist essentially of two main components: a nuclear fission primary stage (fueled by uranium-235 or plutonium-239) and a separate nuclear fusion secondary stage containing thermonuclear fuel: the heavy hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium, or in modern weapons lithium deuteride. For this reason, thermonuclear weapons are often colloquially called hydrogen bombs or H-bombs but it is an improper definition. Hence the destructive power of a hydrogen bomb is based on a nuclear reaction that occurs just at very high temperature (millions of Celsius grades); in the use as fuel there is no possibility to trigger nuclear reactions.
One of the common myths that has questioned the security of the H2 is the infamous Hindenburg disaster, which occurred in New Jersey in 1937.After decades of debate and research, it is now considered that while the German passenger airship was docking during an electrical storm on the fateful day of the explosion, an electric discharge from the clouds ignited the airship's skin surface covering. This resulted in the ignition of the ship's hydrogen bags. However, what caused the great and deadly fire was not hydrogen, which burned quickly and safely over the occupants of the ship, but the dark iron oxide and the reflective aluminum paint that covered the surface of the ship. Those components were highly flammable and toxic and burned at a high energy rate once they caught were on fire.
The short answer is: yes, hydrogen is safe. Of course, this does not mean that it cannot be dangerous, but any fuel can be dangerous under the right circumstances, which is why all fuels must be handled with care, including hydrogen. That being said, the dangers of hydrogen are different and generally more tractable than the dangers arising from hydrocarbon fuels, such as natural gas and gasoline. According to the 2003 White Paper entitled "Twenty Hydrogen Myths", of the American physicist and president / head scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, Amory B. Lovins, hydrogen is exceptionally floating and is 14.4 times lighter than air. Lovins notes that hydrogen "is also four times more diffuse than natural gas or 12 times more than gasoline fumes, so the leaking hydrogen quickly disperses up and away from its source". Furthermore, he says that if the hydrogen was turned on, it burns quickly with a non-luminous flame. This flame cannot readily burn a person at a distance as it emits only a tenth of the radiant heat of a hydrocarbon fire and burns 7% colder than gasoline. In fact, to further talk about the safety of hydrogen compared to the safety of petrol, in general, victims of hydrogen fires are not generally burned unless they are actually in contact with the flame. Furthermore, they are not suffocated by smoking. Lovins also refers to a filmed demonstration comparing a hydrogen car fire with a gasoline car fire. What shows the proof is that the hydrogen fire caused a plume of vertical flame. This flame has increased the internal temperature of the vehicle by a maximum of 1 - 2 degrees Fahrenheit, while the external temperature closest to the flame was not hotter than that experienced by a car sitting directly in the sun. Furthermore, the passenger compartment was unharmed. However, in the second gas test, the gasoline fire gutted the car and killed anyone trapped inside.
Hydrogen can be produced in many different ways. However, the vast majority of Hydrogen currently produced worldwide uses steam reformation of natural gas and electrolysis of water. Water electrolysis is simply a means to split up water into its two gases constituents that are hydrogen and oxygen (this last is present in the breathable air for 21%) using electrical current. To split water, we use a device called electrolyzer.
Yes, and the process is known from over 150 years. When hydrogen is produced using electrical current from renewable sources through electrolysis process, it is an environmentally friendly fuel. Renewable energy, for instance, is the power generated from a photovoltaic panel or wind turbine. If an electrolyzer is powered with this green power, green hydrogen would be produced. Furthermore the electrolysis process has only as “waste product” the oxygen (the same that we breathe), that could be stored and used for medical reasons for example without CO2 emissions, while in the steam reforming (process by which hydrogen is made from methane), 11 grams of CO2 are obtained for each gram of hydrogen produced.
Because hydrogen can be produced and used with no harmful emissions. Also, hydrogen can be used everywhere we use energy (transport, cooling, heating, cooking, electricity generation, etc). In addition, hydrogen can be used in a fuel cell (a device that can convert hydrogen directly in electricity with only water as waste product) which is more efficient than any conventional energy devices, considering the heat recover coming from split (electrolyzer) and recombination (fuel cell) processes.
Yes. The 71% of Earth surface is covered from water that can be used. In fact, the full cycle is water neutral as per the below description:
We can use electricity from renewable sources directly to satisfy our immediate needs in electricity and heat. However, there are many times when there is wind/solar/hydro electrical power being generated, but there is no demand or there are times in which the demand is larger than production (for solar panel during the night for example). In other words, we are not needed to use this green electricity at the time of it being produced. Hence hydrogen production system using electrolysis processes can be used when we have surplus renewable energy, and give back the energy when we need it. The energy power in form of hydrogen gas remains unchanged even after years in contrast with other storage systems (for example batteries).
Yes. Wind and solar systems, on their own, do not address our need for continuous power and fuel due to their discontinuous character. Green hydrogen energy systems can do that through the storage and reuse on demand.