hydrogen fuel cell

Hydrogen fuel cell.

Hydrogen (H2) is a chemical element that can be used as an alternative fuel since it has a very high energy content. It will play an important role in developing sustainable transportation, because in the future it may be produced in virtually unlimited quantities using renewable resources. Hydrogen has been used effectively in a number of internal combustion engine vehicles as pure hydrogen mixed with natural gas.


In addition, hydrogen is used in a growing number of demonstration fuel cell vehicles. Hydrogen and oxygen from air fed into a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell "stack" produce enough electricity to power an electric automobile, without producing harmful emissions.


What is hydrogen?

Hydrogen gas is the simplest and lightest fuel. Hydrogen is in a gaseous state at atmospheric pressure and ambient temperatures. Hydrogen may contain low levels of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, depending on the source.


Hydrogen is being explored for use in combustion engines and fuel cell electric vehicles. On a volumetric basis, the energy density of hydrogen is very low under ambient conditions. This presents greater transportation and storage hurdles than for liquid fuels. Storage systems being developed include compressed hydrogen, liquid hydrogen, and physical or chemical bonding between hydrogen and a storage material (for example, metal hydrides).


The ability to create hydrogen from a variety of resources and its clean-burning properties make it a desirable alternative fuel. Although there is no significant transportation distribution system currently for hydrogen transportation use, we can transport and deliver hydrogen for early market penetration using the established hydrogen infrastructure; for significant market penetration, the infrastructure will need further development.


How is hydrogen made?

Hydrogen can be produced using diverse, domestic resources including fossil fuels, such as natural gas and coal (with carbon sequestration); nuclear; and biomass and other renewable energy technologies, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro-electric power. Researchers are working to develop a wide range of technologies to produce hydrogen economically and in environmentally friendly ways.


Hydrogen benefits

Widespread use of hydrogen as an energy source in this country could help address concerns about energy security, global climate change, and air quality. Fuel cells are an important enabling technology for the hydrogen future and have the potential to revolutionize the way we power our nation, offering cleaner, more efficient alternatives to the combustion of gasoline and other fossil fuels. Hydrogen's main benefits are:


  • Stronger national energy security
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Improved air quality
  • Increased energy efficiency.