Fuels are the chemical substances containing mainly carbon, hydrogen and some elements of minerals such as sulfur, which are burnt in the presence of oxygen to generate energy usually in the form of heat. They are found in all forms of matter and the most used examples include the following; coal, petroleum, oil products and even methane which are commonly used in the domestic kitchen. For most years of use, some of the types of natural fuels have led to the extremely adverse effects on both marine and terrestrial life not mentioning the social conflicts plus the greenhouse effect. This is clearly shown through the basic elementally chemistry, in evaluation of the contribution of these different fossil fuels to carbon dioxide. The effects on the environment have led to the use of the alternative sources of energy other than the petroleum products such as hydrogen fuel cells where their combustion leads to the production of water.
Dynamics of transportation, use and effects of the source to the environment are the determinants to the best source of energy. Gasoline, a byproduct of petroleum, burns freely creating extensive heat energy as it contains carbon and hydrogen. Despite having a high octane rating and being more efficient, engines using leaded gasoline have been eliminated because they emit harmful hydrocarbons thus polluting the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports shows that, Spokane’s carbon monoxide levels which are usually produced through incomplete combustion of the gasoline fuels are among the poorest in the nation and this will only worsen if the world continues using these forms of energy. The emission of this combustion gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and carbon dioxide are the major contribution to environmental pollution and development of the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere (Nadis and MacKenzie 14). Use of the alternative fuels has therefore proved to be cleaner and environmental friendly as compared to gasoline or diesel (Nadis and MacKenzie 69). Burning crank case oil produces hydrocarbons in the process of gasoline fuel combustion, whereas heat the engine heat emits nitrogen oxides which are environmental hazards.
Use of alternatives such as the hydrogen in the modern society to generate energy has been extremely important in reducing environmental pollution and maintaining a clean and healthy environment. Hydrogen is viewed as the best pollution-free alternative as compared to batteries and gasoline fuels. Hydrogen is used in a pollution-free chemical reaction and not combustion as in gasoline in a fuel cell. This energy is actually generated by the fuel cell by simply combining hydrogen and oxygen chemically to produce energy in terms of electricity, water, and waste heat (MacKenzie 62-3). Unlike the non renewable sources of energy such as gasoline, hydrogen which has often been referred as the perfect fuel is the most abundant element in the universe (about 93% of all atoms) and major reserve is in fact inexhaustible. Hydrogen can be extracted from natural compounds such as water through the application of electricity in splitting water molecules or using electrolysis process.
There are various techniques of harnessing electricity from fuel cells and natural gas. The emissions associated with the generation of electricity could be largely reduced through the use of hydrogen cells despite its underdevelopment. The Proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells used in hydrogen fuels are compact and lightweight (atomic number of one) which is a big advantage for cars due to its maximum efficiency of 60% and about 3 times greater than the efficiency of internal combustion engines used in gasoline fuels (heat and friction renders to the loss of most of the energy generated during combustion before being delivered to the pistons). Electricity is distributed to the wheels direct from the engines via batteries the locomotives that use hydrogen fuel cells. As compared to gasoline fuels, hydrogen as a form of fuel is not particularly dangerous fuel and even if it leaks or spills, it only disperses and evaporates, which minimizes the explosion hazard” (Nadis and MacKenzie 86).
Hydrogen is therefore advocated as an energy medium due to its properties; it has the lightest atomic weight of 1.0, which gives it a high storage ability for energy (about 2.6 times) per unit mass but it requires about four times the volume to generate the same amount of energy as gasoline. The other thing is during combustion the main product is water plus traces of nitrogen which have to be controlled and this gives it more benefit to gasoline as a form of energy as it emits carbon dioxide. Hydrogen which is available in nature in compounded forms can be obtained by steam methane reforming or alternatively use electricity for water splitting to give hydrogen and water. Because of all these factors Hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered cars may give a better environment friendly alternatives for the gasoline-powered polluting cars for several reasons including: water is the combustion product thus the cars are completely emission-free, loss of energy through friction is reduced as the fuel cells have no moving parts, hydrogen is renewable and naturally inexhaustible, the fuel cells due to the low atomic weight are compact and lightweight, due to a high storage ability for energy of hydrogen in the cells the cars are about 3 times as efficient compared to the gasoline ones, locomotives using the hydrogen-powered fuel cells are quieter than diesel engines (Hall), tanks will be refueled quickly, and hydrogen has been tested rigorously for use in vehicles, and is being used in many vehicles already and has been proven safe.
Bryan Woodbury, Hydrogen: The perfect fuel. 1997. Web.
Hall Mike. Engine for change, The Topeka Capital- Journal. 2008. Web.
MacKenzie, James J. The Keys to the Car. Baltimore: World Resources, 1994.
Nadis, Steve, and James J. MacKenzie. Car Trouble. Boston: Beacon, 1993.
Taftan Data, Fuels. 1998. Web.