Since the industrial revolution 200 years ago, mankind has unflinchingly been reliant on fossil fuels to fuel its ambitious drive to acquire the ever-evasive technological Nirvana. Humankind was so lost in this never-ending pursuit, that any dissenting voices trying to bring to fore the environmental ramifications were stifled and suppressed. Governments advocating cleaner energy sources over job-creation were toppled all over the world. However, regardless of popular disapproval, scientists from all around the world laboured on, working hard to find cleaner energy sources, that might someday replace polluting and contaminating fossil fuels.
So it was a dream come true for the scientific community when the outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama, chose to make the issue of climate change as the crown jewel of his legacy. He helped in institutionalizing the effort to fight climate change, by making the COP21 summit in Paris a glitzy event. Many countries around the world started levying a ‘green tax’, the proceedings from which will go on to fund efforts to control climate change. Encouragement
This recognition injected a fresh impetus into the search for alternative energy sources, resulting in billions of dollars worth of research in this area. Already, this research has led to the discovery of several materials, which might be plausible candidates to replace the petroleum you fill in your vehicle. This article attempts to bring to light one such material, which might revolutionise the global energy sector.
For many years, researchers globally have come to an informal concurrence: the hypothetical Hydrogen economy is the safest, cleanest, and the most efficient alternative to the current petroleum-based economy. Hydrogen fuel cells can potentially be used for motive power (to power cars and other vehicles), stationary power generation (to meet the needs of buildings), and for large-scale electricity generation.
Before we go forward, we need to understand what a hydrogen fuel-cell is, as it is deputed to form the bedrock of the theoretical hydrogen economy. The hydrogen fuel cell produces energy on the basis of a simple reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, which releases massive amounts of energy. These fuel cells generate electricity with very little pollution–much of the hydrogen and oxygen used in generating electricity ultimately combine to form a harmless by-product, namely water.
So now the question arises, what is stopping us from using these hydrogen fuel cells as the ultimate panacea for the current clean-energy crisis? The answer is, the impossibility to obtain 100% pure hydrogen. This is due to the fact that the hydrogen atom is the smallest known independent particle. A Hydrogen Fuel Cell needs pure hydrogen to produce the enormous amounts of energy required to produce enough electricity to run a vehicle or a building. Scientists, thus met a dead end and put the research to turn the Hydrogen economy into a reality on the backburner. However when all seemed lost, a magic bullet rushed and pierced through the darkness, showing us the way forward. This magic bullet is the material called Graphene.
But wait… The picture is not at rosy as it seems. The material we are talking about right now .a.k.a. Graphene, is one of the most expensive materials on Earth, with a sample the size of a human air costing about $1000. This amount is outrageous, and thus ensures that a graphene powered car is a possibility only in the distant future. Scientists are hoping that enormous funding, competition, and the economics of scale will push down this cost within affordable levels, and make the usage of this technology practical.
Although it might seem impossible that our cars will run on graphene supplemented Hydrogen someday, just remember that Science has pleasantly surprised us in the past as well. I strongly hope that the scientific community has a few more miracles up its sleeves.
Note:- All the opinions stated in the above article are the author’s own.