Hydrogen: Past, Present and the Future
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and, in fact, makes up 75% of the mass of the universe. But it is not present pure elemental form and, it is always combined with other elements like carbon (as in petroleum crude) and oxygen (as in water). Hydrogen finds applications in chemical, metallurgical and petrochemical industries, mainly exploiting its reducing properties. In agriculture it is used to manufacture nitrogen based fertilisers. It is one of the main components in fuel cell technology for energy conversion. Having realised its importance, at present a great deal of attention is being bestowed on this element and research is being focussed mainly, on three different aspects of hydrogen. They are production, storage & transport and application. The hydrogen can effectively replace oil or coal in energy conversion technologies. Since, hydrogen is not present in free state, one has to look into technologies for its production. This is in contrast to oil or coal, wherein, these materials are almost ready to use in energy conversion. It is this aspect of releasing the free hydrogen from the compounds like oil or water adds to the cost of hydrogen as the fuel. From the environmental aspect, global warming and pollution are part of the fossil fuel technologies. If one considers the cost of the environmental damage, production cost of hydrogen will not be that staggering. Now, studies are concentrated on using green technologies like, wind energy and solar energy, for the production of hydrogen. It is expected that these studies will fructify in economically viable processes for producing hydrogen. As hydrogen is a gas, storage and transportation is another aspect of research in the hydrogen technology. Some of the studies and results generated in our laboratory will be presented. The carbon free economy, that is envisaged, will lead to hydrogen economy as it is expected that hydrogen is the fuel of the century. The presentation will discuss all these aspects in detail.
Keywords: Hydrogen, Carbon Free Economy, Fossil Fuel, Wind Energy, Solar Energy
Prof. R. P. Viswanath
Emeritus Professor, National Centre for Catalysis Research