For years the public has been hearing about how hydrogen might be the answer as an alternative fuel source to fossil fuels. The public listens to vague plans of hydrogen fuel cells mounted on or under their cars, and filling them up at modified gas stations. The so-called reasons for them not already being in production often revolve around safety. The public is also hesitant to sign on to what they consider as a new and untried technology. What most don’t realize is that hydrogen powered internal combustion engines aren’t new – although the idea of a hydrogen fuel cell is newer than the technology itself. Hydrogen just might be one of the answers to a safe form of energy, just not the way people are being led to think.
The history of the internal combustion engine is an interesting topic, and one still debated among scholars and various national interests. Most ignore all prior engines to the gas-fired internal combustion engine built by Jean Joseph Etienne Lenior in 1860. Many more don’t consider any engines built before the four-stroke engine (the closest relative to the modern automobile engine). If one goes by the terms internal combustion engine, then there are several examples prior to 1860. For example: Christiaan Huygens designed a gunpowder driven water pump which used a rudimentary piston in the 17th century. Many of those earlier designs are impractical, or they used fuels such as coal dust.
The first hydrogen powered internal combustion engine was built by Francois Isaac de Rivaz in 1807. His engine injected oxygen and hydrogen into a cylinder which was ignited by an electric spark. Where that design differs from the modern idea of the fuel cell driven vehicle is that it separated hydrogen from water mixed with an electrolyte. The hydrogen cell method uses stored hydrogen which is injected into the engine. The electrolysis method of hydrogen generation is to create oxyhydrogen ( hydroxy or Brown’s Gas) by running an electric current through electrodes in an electrolyte and water solution. This is then injected into the cylinder where combustion takes place. Modern gas powered engines have oxygen censors, computers, and various other censors. It takes quite a bit of modification to get them to run completely on hydrogen.
For now, a gasoline engine slightly modified to run on both hydrogen and gas will have several benefits. First, the addition of the Brown’s gas in the cylinder with the gasoline will cause more of the fuel to be consumed during combustion – reducing the amount of gasoline needed to run the engine. Next, because there is hydrogen and oxygen in the cylinder the waste product (exaust) will mostly be the recombined hydrogen and oxygen (H2O) vapor. Another benefit is that the mixture, instead of building up carbon in the cylinders, will serve to keep the engine cleaner. With better compression and a few censors an engine currently designed for gasoline could be produced to run completely on the hydroxy mixture. Research is still ongoing to further refine the process of separating hydrogen and oxygen so that only the hydrogen will be used.
The Department of Energy (DOE) does not currently allow the mass production and sale of hydrogen boosters in the US. Part of the reason is that the use of certain materials as electrodes can also produce dangerous materials such as hexavalent chromium from using stainless steel. Other reasons are listed, but most of them boil down to commerce under the guise of protecting the public safety.
The current method of creating hydrogen for fuel cells is by using fossil fuels. With a small investment in hydrogen on demand technology car manufacturers could produce vehicles which run fully on hydrogen for a fraction of the cost. Hydrogen cell technology will require a continued reliance on fossil fuels until a more efficient method to mass produce hydrogen is introduced.
About the Author – SelJones | Sam Jones recently was having a debate about the use of hydrogen as an alternative use of energy for the future, energy comparison for the future is worth considering. | Article Source: Hydrogen Might Be an Answer, But Not the Way You Think | images: Cell by Виталий Смолыгин
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