The Interest in Hydrogen is Ever Increasing
According to The National Academies in Washington, D.C., scientists from Pennsylvania State University and Virginia Commonwealth University have discovered a new way to produce hydrogen from water using minimal energy.
While the method has only been demonstrated on a rather small scale, the development demonstrates the importance of innovative scientific research in the evolution of America’s energy future.
In 2004, the National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering released a report, The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs, (see link below) highlighting the potential of hydrogen as an alternative fuel, noting that “a transition to hydrogen…could fundamentally transform the U.S. energy system.” The report discusses the challenges in such a transition, one of which is developing environmentally friendly and cost-effective methods for mass production of hydrogen.
One way to produce hydrogen is to split the water molecule, which is comprised of one part oxygen and two parts hydrogen. However, current methods of splitting water require high heat or electricity. The energy required can make this form of hydrogen production expensive and less than environmentally friendly, unless renewable energy sources are used. A Research Council report released in 2008, Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies: A Focus on Hydrogen, (see link below) points out that the greatest challenge for production of hydrogen from water splitting is cost. Discovery of an efficient, cost-effective technique to split water could enhance the likelihood of a successful transition to hydrogen fuel.
The 2008 report examines the progress that has been made in hydrogen-fuel research and builds on the findings from 2004, stating that while significant advances have been made in recent years, there is still much work to be done to develop a new energy portfolio for the U.S. Investment in research and development is imperative in the search for viable new energy sources. The National Academies’ America’s Energy Future project, a long-term initiative designed to stimulate discussion about U.S. energy options, will release a series of reports in 2009 detailing the potential costs and benefits of energy efficiency technology, renewable energy, and alternative fuels.