Hydrogen – Abundant and Clean Energy Source
While hydrogen as a gas does not occur naturally on Earth, hydrogen is the most plentiful element on the planet. Hydrogen is also extremely simple, each atom of hydrogen consisting of a single proton and a single electron. Unless intentionally separated, hydrogen is always found combined with other matter. Water, for example consists of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen (H2O).
Hydrogen is an extremely powerful energy source, and is found in other fuels, like gasoline, methanol, natural gas, and propane. In modern times hydrogen has been used to propel space shuttles and city buses alike, and is an increasingly practical alternative energy source.
The public transit bus pictured above is a zero emission hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. What is expelled from its exhaust is pure and drinkable, water. No diesel fumes, no smog, no nothing — but water.
Hydrogen fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat, and pure water, with virtually no pollution. This makes hydrogen an especially attractive energy source for public transportation.
Extracting hydrogen from water and its other sources is a challenge, but recent technological advances promise to make hydrogen more practical in the future. One might think that since hydrogen can be extracted from water, that it should become the most widely used source of alternative energy. Until quite recently however, because the process of electrolysis as a method of separating hydrogen from water requires a great deal of electricity, producers of hydrogen gas have more commonly extracted the hydrogen from natural gas. SunLine Transit Agency in California, a pioneer in the use of hydrogen to fuel public transit buses, produces its own hydrogen. But they reform natural gas to extract hydrogen, instead of water.
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, however, have recently developed a solar-microbial device for a highly sustainable means of extracting hydrogen from municipal sewage.