The future of hydrogen

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Hydrogen is a fuel with a future. It burns without producing dirt, forms water as a burning residue and also a small amount produces large amounts of energy. Although the population is afraid that hydrogen will be dangerous (due to its high flammability), experts say it is no more dangerous than other fuels. Because of its abundance and lightness, hydrogen can be a good fuel for certain applications in the next century. (See article "HYDROGEN AS FUEL" in this issue).

Before hydrogen can be used as a fuel, it is necessary to find an adequate and economical way of production. Today most of the hydrogen comes from fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal. As all are appropriate fuels, it would be a mockery to use them as raw material to get another fuel. The best way to get hydrogen in the long run is the electrolysis of water (hydrogen and oxygen from water are separated by the application of an electric current). However, for the moment, this path is anti-economic.

Meanwhile, chemists from the Scottish university St Andrews propose an alternative method to obtain hydrogen. The raw material would be ethanol, a side product in many industrial processes, with photovoltaic techniques and rhodium catalysts.

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