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The fossil fuel based engines are more dangerous than just speed; they are destroying everything we hold most dear. There is an alternative, but not everyone likes it. What would you say if I told you an engine could run on a renewable source and only emit what it uses?
Not as far fetched as it first sounds. Examples are springing up in major car manufacturers and Universities all over the world. The drivers have come from the major countries such as Germany and Japan that have no oil reserves of their own. Companies like BMW, Nissan, Mazda with their own Hydrogen Wankel engine, and even Ford with its H2ICE engine have taken this seriously enough to produce demonstration models as feasibility studies. Admittedly at this stage they are only a concept, but a concept that has got far enough to be a viably concern to those who have the most to loose.
SO WHAT’S THE ADVANTAGES OVER PETROL AND DIESEL? Using the UK MOT test for emissions as a guide and used for vehicles registered between 1/8/75 and 31/7/86, it requires Carbon Monoxide (CO) <=4.5% and Hydrocarbon (HC) <=1200ppm. Notice that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) was not tested. It should also be considered that not all countries are as tough as the UK or that not all countries of the world even test emissions. So what do these emissions do to us?
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Although not directly harmful, it is the subject of international agreements in an attempt to reduce its contribution to global warming, and this indisputable fact is directly proportional to fuel consumption.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Highly poisonous and very dangerous as it has no smell. Even with catalytic converters fitted there are problems such as these have to be hot to work, often don’t kick in until the journey has finished, and they increase fuel consumption, are easily damaged and get clogged up like a Hoover bag. Not very effective.
Nitrogen Oxides (NO) Nitrogen when under high pressure and temperature, combines with oxygen to form nitrous oxides which then combine with low level ozone to form smog, which in turn causes all sorts of respiratory problems.
Hydrocarbons (HC) These include benzene an extremely carcinogenic chemical, which has been declared unsafe by the World Health Organisation. Also note that a contribution to the smell when filling up at the petrol station is that of Benzene.
So what can a Hydrogen Engine contribute? Hydrocarbon emission = 0 Carbon Monoxide emission = 0 Carbon Dioxide emission = 0 Nitrogen Oxides emission = 0 Therefore Smog contribution = 0
HOW DOES IT WORK? Simple really, hydrogen gas mixed with atmospheric air possesses an explosive property that expands into a space greater than three times its volume. The best benefit is that the product of this reaction is a globule of water, formed by the union of the hydrogen with the oxygen of the air it is mixed with.
WHAT ARE THE STUMBLING BLOCKS? Apart from the governments, oil-producing countries, oil-company’s and the world economy, the main issues are around safety. A gas is of course much safer than sitting in a pool of petrol as it would simply evaporate (providing it is not ignited first). However, it is not in its storage but rather in its distribution and consumer top-up systems as they would need to be far below zero temperature in order to dispense it as a liquid. Not a good idea for a customer to be holding filling nozzle at minus 200 degrees in their bare hand. The other is not to make the same mistake and screw up everything by producing it using the same fossil fuels that has created this mess in the first place (which has been muted).
WHAT IS THE PERFECT SOLUTION? Hydrogen is plentiful all around us in the form of water. H2O means two parts Hydrogen to one part Oxygen; the constituent elements of the reaction we require, therefore extract the Hydrogen from the water and combine it with the air to product the controlled explosion. The next eco-step is to combine this with electrolysis powered by solar panels all we need is a water tank, Hydrogen generator and store then bang away we go.
SO HOW TO SEPARATE HYDROGEN FROM WATER? Passing an electrical current generated by solar panels through a nickel anode and an iron cathode immersed in the water will separate the atoms of Hydrogen and Oxygen from water (H2O). The hydrogen that collects on one and the Oxygen on the other can be collected as the current passes between them, and the process can also be improved with the addition of Sodium Hydroxide to aid the conductivity. This is basic chemistry I know works because I have done this many times, but have not yet hooked them up to solar cell which would need to generate at least 2 volts.
DISADVANTAGES. - Worldwide economy - Big business - Oil producing countries - No wars - No eco-disasters - No smog - No pollution
ADVANTAGES. - Clean - Much safer then liquid fuel - Cheap fuel (for now) - No adverse emissions - Perpetual - Ecological - Can drink your fuel - Potential of a refill after a visit to the pub
SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT? It is essential to maintain the pressure for funding conducted to develop the technologies needed to produce cost effective hydrogen and to develop ways to safely store and transport it. Bring pressure to bare on anyone you can affect these decisions and keep the concept alive in their minds.
Ask about them at car showrooms, write letters to Councillors and MP’s (especially at election times), but most of all show an interest.
CONCLUSION. The hydrogen engine will save the planet, the user money and it will clean the air as it runs - a “win win” for me and everyone else. Just consider how much money has been expended on fossil fuel chemistry; if that amount was to be put into this, we would all be running clean in a year.