Hydrogen Utilization

Hydrogen Utilization

Hydrogen can be utilized electrochemically or thermochemically, the corresponding technologies are shown below.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Hydrogen fuel cells are electrochemical devices, that exploit a series of chemical reactions to generate electricity. Fuel cells operate on hydrogen and oxygen (supplied as a component of air). The 1990s were marked as the first period when mass production and widespread utilization of the fuel cell began. It is also important to mention that the global capacity for electricity produced from fuel cells is estimated to be between 1GW and 2GW. A conventional fuel cell contains an electrolyte and two electrodes. The electrolyte acts as a semipermeable membrane that allows the passage of positively charged atoms(such as protons). Diatomic hydrogen is characterized by a neutral charge, therefore, in order to penetrate the membrane, the catalyst acts in order to separate the electron from the proton (H+). Protons are now able to penetrate the electrolyte, however, in order to react with oxygen, the electrons detached from the individual hydrogen atoms must be transported to the cathode chamber, the transfer is completed by means of connecting an external circuit to the electrodes. The byproducts of such a device are water and heat.

Hydrogen Fuel cell principle of operation
Hydrogen Fuel cell principle of operation

We can summarize the FC operation principle as shown below

  • Catalytic separation of the proton and electron that compose a Hydrogen molecule
  • Power generation due to the electrons moving to the cathode chamber via the external circuit (energy loss in the form of heat)
  • Protons penetrate the membrane due to their positive charge
  • Reaction between Oxygen(air-provided) and Hydrogen (protons merge with electrons once again) top produce water

It is easy to see that hydrogen fuel cells are capable of powering any electricity–supplied system, be it a household appliance, a heating system, or use in the various energy-intensive applications of individual or industrial activities (Transportation, Metallurgy eg.).

Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine

The excessive use of hydrocarbon internal combustion-gasification technology for the bulk of industrial applications over the last three centuries, almost exclusively, bears responsibility for the impending Climate Change as The Greenhouse Effect has become a global issue in recent decades. Technology for production of mechanical energy-useful work through exploiting an expanding gaseous mixture is one of the most important technological breakthroughs and it is possible for it to continue to be widely implemented, with the prerequisite of drastic reduction and eventual annihilation of emissions of gaseous pollutants. In this context, Hydrogen can replace Hydrocarbons of all types and meet the requirements of each application without producing CO2 as it ignites. It is a fact, however, that the HICE Powertrain (Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine) differs compared to a conventional diesel or petrol internal combustion powertrain. There are commercially available models of such engines and the imminent imposition of fines for the owners of machinery or means of transportation that produce Greenhouse gas emissions makes the internal combustion of hydrocarbons an extremely short-term, non-viable solution, especially as technological development allows cost-competitive mass production of hydrogen, which is directly usable and able to meet energy needs without polluting the environment.

Hydrogen Internal Combustion Powertrain
Hydrogen Internal Combustion Powertrain

Current challenges

  • Fuel Cell technology has a higher efficiency rate (almost twice as efficient)
  • Hydrogen fuel tank generally occupies a significant amount of storage space in vehicles Nitrogen oxides are still emitted onto the atmosphere due to the air provided Oxygen
  • Victim to the current demonizing of the Internal Combustion Engine
  • Hydrogen occupies approximately 40% of the combustion chamber volume, thus producing significantly less power than an equivalent gasoline ICE
  • Potential water leakage from the combustion chamber could result in the attenuation of the engine oil lubricating properties
  • Positive Crank Ventilation-Spark Ignition technology is absolutely necessary


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