[ASC-media] New 'Nova:Science in the news' topic: Hydrogen - fuel of the future

Richard Bray richybray at hotmail.com
Wed Sep 17 06:14:02 CEST 2008


 
 
The quest to make hydrogen the fuel of the future 
 
Australia and many other countries around the world are preparing for hydrogen to take over from fossil fuels and move to what’s being called the ‘hydrogen economy’. But there are some big hurdles to overcome before it can happen. The Australian Academy of Science’s new Nova: Science in the news topic, ‘The quest to make hydrogen the fuel of the future’, has the latest information at www.science.org.au/nova.
 
You may not realise it, but scientists, the energy industry, governments and climate change experts around the world have joined forces and are on a global quest – and a race against time. Their goal is to find an economical, practical and safe form of energy to replace our reliance on fossil fuels.
 
Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the Universe, is one potential candidate. Many regard it as the ultimate 'clean, green' fuel.
 
But a major obstacle to overcome is finding a cheap, efficient way of producing large supplies of hydrogen as it does not occur freely in nature. There are several competing technologies to produce hydrogen. Currently, the cheapest method uses natural gas – a method that also creates carbon dioxide, increasing our greenhouse gas emissions. The way to the future might be uncertain, but already there is general agreement that using fossil fuels to produce hydrogen is not a long-term solution.
 
So the search is also focusing on finding 'greener' methods of producing hydrogen that rely on renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wind or geothermal energy (which do not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions). That's a tough challenge in itself. But there are two other significant hurdles to overcome. Storing hydrogen is problematic and there is no infrastructure yet to ensure that it can be supplied cheaply, conveniently and safely.
 
Converting Australia to a hydrogen economy has been talked about for more than two decades. What's different now is that all the years of research and collaboration on the various technologies are coming together. Conversion to a hydrogen economy won’t happen overnight but the quest to make hydrogen the fuel of the future is well underway.
 
Information on this topic is available on the Australian Academy of Science’s Nova: Science in the news website at www.science.org.au/nova. A glossary, student activities, further reading and annotated links to relevant websites are also available.
This topic is sponsored by an Australian Research Council Linkage Learned Academies Special Project Grant. The Australian Foundation for Science is also a supporter of Nova.
 
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