Hydrogen Fuel Sources
Among the most common hydrogen fuel sources utilized today are
water, natural gas, and hydrogen rich chemicals. Most of the hydrogen
production in the United States today actually utilizes natural
gas, which is the main component of the steam reformation process.
It is expected that the use of steam reformation,
and by extension, natural gas, will continue to be the main
hydrogen fuel production method over the next few years.
Nevertheless, various research studies are underway, all
of which aim to produce hydrogen fuel from other sustainable
Among the processes up for consideration are fermentation, biological,
solar thermal and photoelectrochemical water-splitting, biomass
and waste conversion, and renewable electrolysis.
Today, one of the most promising fields of study in hydrogen
fuel involve biological water splitting, which is essentially
a process in which photosynthetic microbes are used to derive
hydrogen from water by utilizing light energy. While such photobiological
technologies are considered to be quite promising, one issue that
has come up is the sensitivity of oxygen to the hydrogen-evolving
enzyme system, mainly because the process results in the production
of oxygen along with hydrogen.
Photoelectrochemical water splitting is now being heralded as
a viable production alternative, since this is by far the most
environmentally friendly way to produce hydrogen fuel. This process
utilizes sunlight to split water into its hydrogen and oxygen
This method of hydrogen fuel production largely sidesteps the
cost and difficulty associated with traditional solar-to-hydrogen
conversion methods, and it is has been estimated to be as much
as 12.4-percent more efficient. Further research in this area
involves pinpointing more efficient and less costly materials
that are better able to withstand the stresses of being submerged
Some other promising sources of hydrogen fuel are biomass and
other similar waste matter. Using these waste products, hydrogen
fuel can be produced by way of a pyrolysis process, which essentially
involves gasifying biomass and consumer waste products such as
peanut shells, plastic, grease and biomass that is produced specifically
for such purposes.
This process results in the production of a liquid bio-oil, which
contains substances that can further be processed in order to
derive a variety of chemicals and fuels, hydrogen being only one
Water is of course a widely available source of hydrogen-and
subsequently, of hydrogen fuel-via a process called solar thermal
water splitting. This process involves the use of sunlight, which
when concentrated produces temperatures sufficient to split methane
into its hydrogen and carbon components. This process has been
earmarked as one of the most environmentally friendly ways to
produce hydrogen fuel.
While solar power as an energy source is of course prone to variances,
the high reaction rate of these processes means that hydrogen
fuel is also produced at a much more efficient rate, and this
makes solar thermal water splitting a viable hydrogen fuel production
method in spite of its inherent drawbacks.