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Hydrogen Basics

In many ways, hydrogen is the perfect fuel. It is the cleanest burning and the most efficient. Hydrogen can produce electricity and electricity can produce hydrogen, creating an energy loop that is renewable and harmless to the environment. Hydrogen combines chemically with most elements, so it has been utilized as an industrial chemical in a wide range of applications for many years. In vehicles, hydrogen can be used as a fuel in two ways: to produce electricity in a fuel cell for the cleanest option; or in an internal combustion engine where emissions are still significantly reduced compared with other fuels.

What is Hydrogen?

  • Hydrogen is the most abundant element, comprising about three quarters of the mass in the universe. Hydrogen is found in the water that covers 70% of the earth's surface and in all organic matter.
  • Hydrogen is the simplest element in the universe. It is made up of one proton and one electron.
  • Hydrogen is the lightest of all elements and gases, and is 14 times lighter than air. A gaseous hydrogen "spill" diffuses immediately into the air, and does not pollute the ground or groundwater.
  • Hydrogen is colorless, odorless and nontoxic. It does not produce acid rain, deplete the ozone or produce harmful emissions.

How is Hydrogen the Most Efficient Fuel?

  • Hydrogen has the highest combustion energy per pound relative to any other fuel, meaning it is more efficient on a weight basis than fuels used currently.
  • Hydrogen offers 2-3 times more energy than most other common fuels. It combines readily with oxygen, releasing considerable energy as heat.

Why is Hydrogen the Cleanest Fuel?

  • Unlike carbon-based fuels, hydrogen produces no harmful by-products upon combustion. Only energy and clean water are produced when hydrogen is combined with oxygen in a fuel cell.

How is Hydrogen Produced?

  • The reforming of natural gas by applying heat is currently the most economical process for producing hydrogen.
    Electrolysis produces hydrogen by using an electrical current to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen.

How has Hydrogen Been Used?

  • Hydrogen is used daily as a gas and liquid by many industries, including the petroleum industry and in manufacturing processes for producing chemicals, foods and electronics.
  • Towngas, a fuel used in the early part of the 20th century, was 50% hydrogen.
  • Hydrogen is used as a fuel for the NASA space shuttle.

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