Alternative Mechanism to Produce Hydrogen Fuel

I have written another blog earlier talking about Hydrogen Fuel Cells where we could combust hydrogen to make energy through the following reaction.

Hydrogen Fuel: 2 H2 + O2 => 2 H2O + energy

Previously, I mentioned how this is a very clean way of producing energy since all that is created through this combustion reaction is water steam and no carbon dioxide. This is a source of energy that can benefit human lives very greatly had it been implemented sometime in the future given the current rise of green sectors. The only drawback that is stopping us from using hydrogen fuel is because hydrogen gas does not exist naturally and we have to make them.

I previously mentioned how electrolysis is one of the most common way of creating H2 gasses. There is actually an alternative mechanism that occur spontaneously which can generate H2 gasses. It is by reacting methane gas CH4 with steam (H2O(g)). It follows the following reaction.

CH4 + 2H2O => CO2 + 4 H

Retrieved from U.S Energy Department

Or it can follow this alternative path

CH4 + H2O => CO + 3 H2

This reaction is actually a far easier way to create hydrogen gas and has much higher yield proportionally. But there are many reasons why we don’t use it to produce hydrogen.

One, this reaction is highly dangerous since, as you have probably noticed, it created carbon monoxide. We don’t allow any commercial vehicles to emit CO anymore since it is so dangerous. We force cars to install catalytic converters to make sure the CO are converted to CO2. This additional step cost a lot of energy and even then could still be dangerous given that H2 in the system is flammable.

Secondly, as you may have also noticed, this reaction created CO2 as by-product. It is just as destructive to the environment as anything else. If are trying to help the environment, why are we creating more carbon dioxide?

While for the above two reasons, it is highly unlikely we will ever use this method to mass produce hydrogen as fuel. However, it is possible for us to use this as an alternative way to combust methane. Currently, natural gas (CH4) is mostly used to combust with oxygen gas in the following reaction.

CH4 + 2 O2 => CO2+ 2 H2O

The end result of this reaction is just as destructive, except it does not produce an actual possible energy source at the end. Perhaps one day we will find a way to manipulate technologies so that we can create fuel when we consume fuel. Until then, perhaps solar energy and thermal energy are more probable sources.

Comments

  1. Amalia Urloiu says:

    Understanding more practical uses of chemical formulas rather than just textbook ones for homework isn’t easy. You really seem to know the material, making it easier for readers to also understand it. Great job!

  2. Danté W. says:

    An interesting and clearly written blog post. Another way of producing hydrogen is through photobiosynthesis; some algae and bacteria can use sunlight to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen. However, the methods you mentioned produce much more hydrogen than photobiosynthesis.

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