Hydrogen isn't the key to Britain's green recovery

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firemonkey
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23 Jul 2020, 3:32 am

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The EU recently published its strategy for delivering net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Alongside reducing the amount of energy consumed by buildings and industry, the appliances that currently rely on fossil fuels, like cars and domestic and industrial boilers, are to be replaced with electrical alternatives, for example batteries and heat pumps.

Where energy efficiency and electrification aren’t possible or cost effective, such as in heavy-duty transport (think trains and lorries), hydrogen fuel is expected to fill in these gaps.

But in the UK, a large number of organisations are touting hydrogen as key to our own efforts to reach net zero carbon emissions. One recent headline blared: “The hydrogen revolution is a marvellous chance for Britain, if it does not throw away the prize”.


https://theconversation.com/hydrogen-is ... 1595489109


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PhosphorusDecree
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23 Jul 2020, 7:07 am

The prospect of pure hydrogen gas being piped into people's homes is alarming, I have to say... Many people can't even be trusted with natural gas!


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Aristophanes
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23 Jul 2020, 5:32 pm

Couldn't read the article for some reason, but Hydrogen isn't the answer for a few reasons:

1. There are only two ways to make it, electrolysis and reformation. Reformation takes natural gas and breaks it down into smaller carbon chains, extracting the pure hydrogen that dots those chains, and you get two products as a result: pure hydrogen and CO2. So you haven't really solved the CO2 problem, it's still a byproduct. With electrolysis you're separating water (H2O) into it's individual parts (H + O) through electricity, the problem is it takes a long time to separate using electrolysis and is thus very cost inefficient and almost impossible at the scales you'd need for 7.5 billion people.

2. Hydrogen can be corrosive, especially at high pressures, any metals used can absorb free floating hydrogen and thus will have a low lifespan.

3. Hydrogen is highly explosive. Human = accident waiting to happen. Not to mention the potential for abuse (i.e. terrorist taking the fuel out of the cell and refashioning it for a highly explosive bomb is not that difficult).



QuantumChemist
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23 Jul 2020, 7:00 pm

Aristophanes wrote:
2. Hydrogen can be corrosive, especially at high pressures, any metals used can absorb free floating hydrogen and thus will have a low lifespan.


That is especially true with nickel and any alloys that contain nickel. It can absorb massive amounts of hydrogen gas molecules to make a nickel hydride form (soft like putty, but extremely flammable). Once that has formed, the structural integrity of the metal and alloys) is compromised. This is the reason why nickel cannot be used in gas regulators for hydrogen gas cylinders.

There is another way to produce hydrogen gas, but it is not on a commercial scale yet. There exists bacteria with modified enzymes that can digest oil and plastic. They give off hydrogen gas as a byproduct of their digestion processes. This is still in the research stages at this point in time.



naturalplastic
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24 Jul 2020, 9:36 am

QuantumChemist wrote:
Aristophanes wrote:
2. Hydrogen can be corrosive, especially at high pressures, any metals used can absorb free floating hydrogen and thus will have a low lifespan.


That is especially true with nickel and any alloys that contain nickel. It can absorb massive amounts of hydrogen gas molecules to make a nickel hydride form (soft like putty, but extremely flammable). Once that has formed, the structural integrity of the metal and alloys) is compromised. This is the reason why nickel cannot be used in gas regulators for hydrogen gas cylinders.

There is another way to produce hydrogen gas, but it is not on a commercial scale yet. There exists bacteria with modified enzymes that can digest oil and plastic. They give off hydrogen gas as a byproduct of their digestion processes. This is still in the research stages at this point in time.


Whoa...

There are bacteria that can digest plastic? And petroleum biproducts?

Do they exist in nature, or is this the result of genetic engineering?



Aristophanes
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24 Jul 2020, 10:00 am

naturalplastic wrote:
QuantumChemist wrote:
Aristophanes wrote:
2. Hydrogen can be corrosive, especially at high pressures, any metals used can absorb free floating hydrogen and thus will have a low lifespan.


That is especially true with nickel and any alloys that contain nickel. It can absorb massive amounts of hydrogen gas molecules to make a nickel hydride form (soft like putty, but extremely flammable). Once that has formed, the structural integrity of the metal and alloys) is compromised. This is the reason why nickel cannot be used in gas regulators for hydrogen gas cylinders.

There is another way to produce hydrogen gas, but it is not on a commercial scale yet. There exists bacteria with modified enzymes that can digest oil and plastic. They give off hydrogen gas as a byproduct of their digestion processes. This is still in the research stages at this point in time.


Whoa...

There are bacteria that can digest plastic? And petroleum biproducts?

Do they exist in nature, or is this the result of genetic engineering?


I don't know about bio-engineered, but a few do exist in nature. Here's a short article on a recent one that's been found.

https://phys.org/news/2018-04-oil-eating-bacterium-pollution.html

Also, plastic is an oil by-product, made up mostly of hydro-carbons (other molecules can be present, but the majority is hydrogen and carbon), therefore it's not surprising that bacteria that uses oil for energy could also convert plastics to energy. The world isn't completely bleak, there are some positive things we've learned in the last few decades that could reverse the damage we've done to our environment. :D I'm just not sure we'll have the political will power to do so.

Hopefully QuantumChemist replies, if I remember correctly he's actually got an advanced degree in one of the sciences, and he could probably explain how hydro-carbon polymers break down.



QuantumChemist
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25 Jul 2020, 12:40 pm

Aristophanes wrote:
naturalplastic wrote:
QuantumChemist wrote:
Aristophanes wrote:
2. Hydrogen can be corrosive, especially at high pressures, any metals used can absorb free floating hydrogen and thus will have a low lifespan.


That is especially true with nickel and any alloys that contain nickel. It can absorb massive amounts of hydrogen gas molecules to make a nickel hydride form (soft like putty, but extremely flammable). Once that has formed, the structural integrity of the metal and alloys) is compromised. This is the reason why nickel cannot be used in gas regulators for hydrogen gas cylinders.

There is another way to produce hydrogen gas, but it is not on a commercial scale yet. There exists bacteria with modified enzymes that can digest oil and plastic. They give off hydrogen gas as a byproduct of their digestion processes. This is still in the research stages at this point in time.


Whoa...

There are bacteria that can digest plastic? And petroleum biproducts?

Do they exist in nature, or is this the result of genetic engineering?


I don't know about bio-engineered, but a few do exist in nature. Here's a short article on a recent one that's been found.

https://phys.org/news/2018-04-oil-eating-bacterium-pollution.html

Also, plastic is an oil by-product, made up mostly of hydro-carbons (other molecules can be present, but the majority is hydrogen and carbon), therefore it's not surprising that bacteria that uses oil for energy could also convert plastics to energy. The world isn't completely bleak, there are some positive things we've learned in the last few decades that could reverse the damage we've done to our environment. :D I'm just not sure we'll have the political will power to do so.

Hopefully QuantumChemist replies, if I remember correctly he's actually got an advanced degree in one of the sciences, and he could probably explain how hydro-carbon polymers break down.


Yes, there are bacteria that have developed enzymes through evolution that can break down carbon-carbon (and carbon-hydrogen) bonds. Both of theses bonds are found in most plastics. These special enzymes lower the activation energy of the chemical process, acting much like a catalyst. Normally it would cost a large amount of energy to cause the plastic to break completely down. That is why plastic takes so long to degrade in the environment. It can be done with heat and light, but at a high energy cost. You can use microwave radiation to break down plastic, but it costs more for the electricity that you use than what you would be able to recover as a product (crude oil). There are YouTube videos of such inventions if that happens to be of interest.

Scientists are currently working with those bacteria to do genetic engineering on the enzymes to see if they can improve the process. The other thing that they are after is a synthetic version of theses enzymes that could be made in mass amounts in a laboratory. This would be useful for landfills to convert the waste plastic into a higher valued product (upcycling process to create fuels) that they could sell to make the waste pay for itself over time.

If you think that those bacteria are strange, there exists bacteria that can oxidize mercury metal. If a human was to drink mercury metal, most of it would make its way out of their bowls over time as the metal form. It would be an interesting bathroom break to say the least. But, some people have these particular bacteria in their bodies that start removing electrons from the metal. The byproduct is extremely toxic to humans and other organisms, as it causes Mad Hatters disease of the neurons within the brain. It bioaccumulates and can cause major damage if not stopped. This oxidation process can be used to trace mercury dumping areas in the environment, even in an vast ocean.