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Common Misconceptions About Dangers of Using Hydrogen

Hydrogen has been misconceived as unsafe and explosive due to false impressions of the hydrogen bomb and several accidents falsely attributed to hydrogen, such as the Hindenburg disaster and the Apollo 13 problems. Following are brief descriptions of what actually happened in each of these situations:

Hydrogen Bomb

A hydrogen (H2) bomb is created by the atomic fusion of H2, which generates a very high level of energy allowing it to explode. This is completely different from burning H2. When H2 burns chemically, it releases much less energy and will not explode. Without atomically fusing H2, it will not explode.

Hindenburg Disaster

Studies by Addison Bain, a former NASA researcher, and William D. Van Vorst, a chemical engineer at UCLA, alleges that the Hindenburg dirigible fire started when the highly flammable coating covering the ship's cotton skin was ignited by an electrical discharge. The coating was made with aluminum particles and was highly flammable. The manner in which the skin was attached to the frame allowed a large electrostatic charge to build on the surface, and the highly charged skin passed the electric current to the frame.

Hydrogen Didn't Cause Hindenburg Fire, UCLA Engineer, Former NASA Researcher Find.
UCLA News.
This paper provides an opinion on the cause of the Hindenburg disaster. It contains quotes from William D. Van Vorst, professor emeritus of chemical engineering at UCLA and Addison Bain, former manager, Hydrogen Programs Kennedy Space Center, NASA-the men who discovered the actual cause of the fire.

Apollo 13

On April 11, 1970, NASA launched the Apollo 13 mission. Two days into the flight, fans inside the #2 oxygen tank were turned on, and the fan's wires shorted and caught on fire. The fire weakened the tank and the # 1 and #2 oxygen tanks exploded. The explosion was not related to the hydrogen fuel or fuel cells that provide fuel to the rockets.


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