Homeowner content is free. We may earn a commission when you click links through our site. Advertiser Disclosure

Fossil and nuclear fuel reserves are becoming increasingly limited, and the world’s energy future will have to include several renewable alternatives to these failing resources. A promising possibility is to exploit the energy potential of the most plentiful element in the known universe: Hydrogen.

We will look at how Hydrogen was initially discovered and how it has been used in the past. Next, we will examine methods of production, distribution, and transport of hydrogen, as well as how Hydrogen can be used safely. 

Hydrogen H

Atomic Number: 1 

Atomic Weight: 1.00794 

Electronic Configuration: 1

Hydrogen is a gaseous element that was first discovered by Henry Cavendish in 1766. It is the first element on the Periodic Table. 

Hydrogen is:

  • Colorless
  • Tasteless
  • Odorless
  • Slightly soluble in water
  • Highly explosive

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and serves as the fuel for the fusion reactions in stars. Normal hydrogen is diatomic (two hydrogen atoms chemically paired). Atmospheric hydrogen has three isotopes: protium (one proton in nucleus), deuterium (one proton and one neutron in nucleus), and tritium (one proton and two neutrons).

History of Hydrogen Energy

Paracelsus (1493-1541), a Swiss physician, naturalist and alchemist, was a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci and Copernicus. In the course of investigating what would become chemistry and medicine, Paracelsus wrote of combining sulfuric acid and iron, noting that this combination produced a gas or “air” as he conceived it at the time, and that when this air was produced it was released under considerable pressure.

Later, a French chemist named Nicholas Lemery showed that the gas produced in the sulfuric acid/iron reaction was flammable, but it was Henry Cavendish (1731-1810), a British physicist, who was credited with the discovery of hydrogen in 1766. Another French chemist, Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1793), considered the founder of modern chemistry, described one of the component elements of water as hydrogen, from the Greek words hudor (water) and gennan (generate). It was also Lavoisier who noted that the only byproduct of burning hydrogen was water itself.

In 1802 a British chemist named Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) was studying the chemical effects of electricity when he found that by passing an electric current through water, he was able to cause the water to chemically decompose into its component elements of hydrogen and oxygen. This process, which later became known as electrolysis, led Davy to theorize that chemical compounds are bound together by electric energy.

Working with the concept of chemical decomposition through applied electricity, a Welsh lawyer and non-scientist who was also a knighted judge, Sir William R. Grove, expanded on the work done by Sir Humphry Davy. Grove demonstrated that the process of chemical decomposition could be reversed, and that hydrogen and oxygen could be compelled to bind together forming water. 

At the same time, the process produced an electric current that “could be felt by five persons joining hands, and which when taken by a single person was painful.” Grove’s discoveries came to fruition in the form of the first hydrogen fuel cell, which he invented in 1839. While it would be over one hundred years before interest was rekindled in Grove’s work, it would prove to be extremely important in fuel cell technology, which today is the main source of electric power for space vehicles.

During the latter part of the 19th century, before the advent of what we now know as natural gas, a hydrogen-rich gas was produced from coal to be used in the gas lamps and heaters of European and American homes. Known in the U.S. as “town gas,” and consisting of 50% hydrogen and 50% carbon monoxide, this fuel helped lay the foundation for the safe use of hydrogen, which due to its highly volatile nature, must be handled and transported with the utmost care.

Hindenburg Disaster

For most of us, the most infamous use of hydrogen was in the lighter-than-air zeppelin. While balloons and flying air ships had been using hydrogen for almost fifty years, it was the development in 1900, by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin of Germany, of the rigid framed airship that allowed for greater speed and durability in flight than had previously been possible. With its aluminum skeleton framing a solid outer shell, von Zeppelin’s first ship, the LZ 1, was designed with military applications in mind, opening up the possibility of long range battlefield reconnaissance from the air, as well as opportunities for tactical options like dropping bombs.

With Germany’s entrance into World War I, zeppelins were equipped with bombs and machine guns, making them dangerous targets for the fledgling efforts of early British air forces using the limited biplane technology of the time. Bombs were carried from German-held bases in France and dropped with impunity over London. While the accuracy of these attacks was very poor, they served a devastating psychological role in demoralizing Britains. By the end of the war, however, improvements in airplane design and capability, as well as the innovation of the phosphorus coated incendiary tracer bullets spelled the end of the hydrogen-filled dirigible.

Following World War I, Germany and the United States both continued with the development of rigid framed air ships, enhancing their air speed and reliability. Especially in Germany, these huge dirigibles, often over four hundred feet in length, became commonplace and were used extensively for luxurious passenger travel. In 1928, the Graf Zeppelin LZ127 was launched and would go on to fly farther than any zeppelin before or since.

Test flown initially in March of 1936, the zeppelin Hindenburg would fly into history as perhaps the most memorable air disaster of the Twentieth Century. Having made the transatlantic crossing from Germany to Lakehurst, New Jersey ten times in the year previous to May of 1937, the 804-foot airship represented the state of the art in zeppelin design, and such trips were fairly routine.

American manufactured air ships had by this time switched to the less volatile and nonflammable lighter-than-air helium gas. However, the German ship still used hydrogen as its lift medium, a fact which still generates controversy sixty years after the events that would indelibly link the Hindenburg tragedy with the dangers of hydrogen gas.

On May 6, 1937, as the Hindenburg approached its mooring tower at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, it burst into flames. While the fire consumed only the zeppelin’s cover material at first, it quickly ignited the explosive hydrogen within the massive ship. Thirty-five of the ninety-seven people aboard the Hindenburg lost their lives that day, as well as one American Navy crewman on the ground.

The continuing controversy over the cause of the Hindenburg crash is central to the issues here, as modern historians and investigators differ in their opinions as to the chain of events leading up to the disaster. There are unsubstantiated rumors of sabotage, and opinions differ as to whether the fire was started by leaking hydrogen ignited by a static electricity spark, or by static electricity starting a fire in the zeppelin’s cover material. 

Thunderstorms were passing through the Lakehurst area that day, providing ample conditions for a static discharge, but whether it was the cover material or leaking hydrogen that provided the fire with its starting place will probably never be known.

The Hindenburg experience has actually helped ensure the safe handling of hydrogen in what are primarily industrial applications in the present. Safer storage mediums have also been developed, which will be described later, replacing earlier dangerous storage. The perception that handling hydrogen is inherently dangerous has done much to hamper the public acceptance of hydrogen research and applications. 

However, properly handled, hydrogen is no more dangerous than gasoline or propane. Curiously, it was reported that no fatality from the Hindenburg accident was directly attributable to hydrogen burns, as the millions of cubic feet of hydrogen burned off in less than one minute. It was the diesel fuel, which powered the air ship’s drive engines, that burned many of the dead and injured that day, as well as feeding the ground fire which took several hours to extinguish.

It was in the United States that Francis Bacon, a descendant of the famous English scientist and philosopher, developed the first modern successful hydrogen fuel cell in 1932, which was refined until a 5 kilowatt fuel cell system was demonstrated in 1952. As the United States began its push for space flight in the late 1950s, fuel cell technology appealed to many scientists and engineers. 

It was much less dangerous than any known nuclear application, much more compact and lighter than any type of battery, as well as being simpler to deal with mechanically than any solar photo-voltaic technology available at that time. Today hydrogen fuel cells provide much of the electric power for the Space Shuttle, as well as power for electric automobiles and varied other emerging applications. With a little imagination, we can see the direct line from Paracelsus five hundred years ago to the possibilities that lay in front of us in the near future.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells – Production

If hydrogen is to be the energy alternative of the next century and thus the next millennium, we must examine whether hydrogen production can possibly keep pace with the incredible energy needs of our ever expanding international economy.

According to the United States Department of Energy Office of Power, the most daunting problem associated with current hydrogen production is the energy needed to produce it and to provide for energy losses in the hydrogen-to-application chain. 

Using existing conventional technology, “Hydrogen requires at least twice as much energy as electricity, twice the tonnage of coal, twice the number of nuclear plants, or twice the field of PV panels to perform an equivalent unit of work. Most of today’s hydrogen is produced from natural gas, which is only an interim solution since it discards 30% of the energy in one valuable but depletable fuel (natural gas) to obtain 70% of another (hydrogen). The challenge is to develop more appropriate methods based on sustainable energy sources, methods that do not employ electricity as an intermediate step.”

The most cost-efficient method currently employed in the industrial manufacture of hydrogen is steam hydrocarbon reforming, where natural gas is treated with high temperature steam, causing a chemical breakdown of the natural gas releasing hydrogen. Other methods start with the gasification of low sulfur coal in an extremely high temperature industrial furnace, and the subsequent chemical “scrubbing” of this gas to extract hydrogen, along with carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. 

Both of these technologies produce hydrogen at an acceptable price for the role hydrogen currently plays in manufacturing, but are not nearly competitive with gasoline or natural gas in terms of providing economic energy for transportation or any other energy-oriented application. In industrial applications where extremely pure hydrogen is needed, electrolysis is the preferred method of production. 

Using electricity to chemically decompose water into its component elements of hydrogen and oxygen, electrolysis is very energy intensive and cannot compete economically on a large scale with other methods at this time due to the cost involved in generating electricity for the process.

It is clear that significant technological and economic barriers must be overcome before hydrogen can become the energy solution for our global future. Several alternative production methods are presently being explored in hopes of bringing down the cost of manufacturing hydrogen.

Foremost among the production methods being considered is what has become known as solar hydrogen. Solar hydrogen refers to any method of production that uses the power of the Sun to produce and collect usable hydrogen. This can be accomplished by various methods. 

The most likely approaches are:

  • Energy collection by solar “gensets,” parabolic solar collectors that focus and concentrate the light energy of the Sun
  • Applying the collected energy to a Stirling-cycle heat engine, which in turn drives an electricity-producing generator to power an electrolysis system
  • Using the heat from collected solar energy to “crack” hydrogen directly from hydrogen bearing sources like water, natural gas, and organic biomass, such as municipal and agricultural waste.

Solar hydrogen offers the greatest potential at this time for pollution-free, totally renewable energy. The primary methods of hydrogen production today, while representing a very small fraction of the total spectrum of hydrocarbon pollution worldwide, nevertheless contribute further carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, as well as sulfur dioxides that exacerbate acid rain. 

In contrast, solar hydrogen applications promise an unending source of clean usable energy along with the benefits of non-polluting collection. As current methods further deplete diminishing fossil fuel resources, solar hydrogen will use the limitless power of the Sun to manufacture hydrogen from seawater, recycled water, and even from the garbage that threatens to overflow landfills worldwide.

Other than solar hydrogen, there are several other extraction technologies being studied for their potential to produce hydrogen on a massive scale while still maintaining the integrity of our environment. This would allow remaining hydrocarbon fuel sources to be used for purposes other than energy use, such as the manufacture of plastics, synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester, and other durable goods.

The cost of producing the electricity to extract hydrogen has been a stumbling block on the path toward greater availability of hydrogen as an energy resource. One potential solution to this problem is solar generation of electric power to fuel the electrolysis process, described technically as photoelectrochemical technology, facilitated either by solar gensets or photovoltaic solar panel stacks. 

Another possible solution is the linking of hydrogen production and hydroelectric power, which has the lowest cost associated with producing electricity on the scale necessary to manufacture hydrogen for industrial as well as energy uses. Other emerging renewable technologies such as wind generation and tidal wave energy are also possibilities that may have applications in this area in the future.

Producing hydrogen by means other than electrolysis means extracting hydrogen without the use of electricity. Several approaches are being studied that may develop into promising production strategies.

One hydrogen collection method that does not involve the use of electricity is a process known as photolysis. This is a process where strains of blue-green algae have been provided with proper temperature and light conditions so that the chlorophyll and enzymes within the algae can chemically split seawater into hydrogen and oxygen. Known as photobiological production, this is a very environmentally friendly process, with no need for external energy, other than perhaps maintaining the ambient temperature ranges necessary to promote the process.

Another photobiological option is the use of genetically manipulated bacteria and enzymes to “crack” seawater. The major problem to be overcome is that the bacteria that most efficiently separate water into its component elements are anaerobic, meaning that they work most efficiently in an oxygen-free environment. This causes an obvious problem, as one of the component elements released in the dissociation of water is oxygen. Here is where genetic engineering comes into play, and continued research has begun to produce strains of bacteria that are capable of sustaining their photobiological action in the presence of oxygen, increasing the likelihood that this could become a useful production method.

Biomass is a relatively recent term that means any organic material that may contain usable fuel compounds. Examples of biomass materials are wood pulp waste associated with paper manufacture, agricultural waste such as grasses and crop byproducts like corn stalks, and what is somewhat pristinely labeled MSW in the industry; municipal solid waste, a.k.a. garbage. These biomass sources can be broken down biologically by various microbes to produce usable hydrogen. This represents another non-electrical method of producing hydrogen, while at the same time offering new ways of using materials that were previously discarded into our environment, often with deleterious effects.

Biomass presents other opportunities for non-electric production of hydrogen, such as the process of pyrolysis. Using a renewable energy source such as parabolic solar collectors to concentrate heat energy from the Sun, a high temperature thermochemical reaction is established, separating biomass materials into hydrogen bearing vapors and a carbon-rich residue called char. 

By burning the char residue, further heat is created and used in the generation of high temperature steam. This steam is then applied to the hydrogen bearing gases in a conventional hydrocarbon reforming process, similar to that used in the extraction of hydrogen from natural gas. While this technology is still in its infancy, many researchers believe it holds great promise for energy production in the future, as well as providing options for the disposal of biomass wastes.

The perceived dangers of transporting hydrogen, with the lingering association of the Hindenburg tragedy, need to be addressed. Allaying these fears will play a role in determining whether governmental agencies, leaders of industry, and the public at large can align themselves to seek workable energy solutions for a common future.

Since gaseous hydrogen is 14 times lighter than air, if the gas escapes containment, it immediately disperses into the atmosphere with no toxic consequences. With improved storage mediums being developed, the likelihood of accidental release, already small, becomes an even lesser possibility. 

Metal hydrides, a chemical bonding of hydrogen with various metallic alloys, preclude the uncontrolled release of hydrogen, as heat energy must be applied to the hydrogen-bearing alloy to release its hydrogen load. Some types of hydride storage at ambient room temperatures can store larger amounts of hydrogen than an equal volume of liquid hydrogen. 

A new storage method using an experimental material known as activated carbon shows promise of storing ever greater volumes of hydrogen in smaller spaces. This is even more efficient than metal hydrides as a given volume of activated carbon can safely store 2.4 times the amount of hydrogen as the same volume of compressed gas stored at 3,000 PSI. Other ways of storing hydrogen, such as pressurized glass microspheres, and new carbon materials called Buckyballs and whisker scrolls, are also being studied and tested in hopes of even further increasing the volume of hydrogen stored while increasing safety.

Hydrogen Energy: Present and Future

It remains to be seen how scientists, engineers, governments, and their tax-paying consumer populations will adjust to the energy realities of the future. Many of the technologies we have discussed already exist, but if they are to be applied on the massive scale necessary to meet the ever-growing energy needs of an expanding world population, there is much work to be done.

Hydrogen power is only one of many alternative energy options being currently experimented with. The actual solutions that are adopted as hydrocarbon and nuclear fuels become further depleted will most likely embrace several of these options. While investigations continue into solar power, geothermal energy, wind and wave power generation, as well as nuclear fusion, the Earth continues to absorb the consequences of our past technological decisions. This adds impetus to the growing international movement toward cleaner, safer, affordable energy that will need to be available for the ever increasing numbers of future generations.

Economic factors will have perhaps the greatest influence on when and how energy alternatives are implemented, as modern consumer economies become a reality for more and more emerging nations across the globe. At present, fossil fuel being the cheapest and most easily available energy medium, consumption in the form of gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, coal, and natural gas continues to grow. While this growth facilitates modernization and more opportunity for economic development in the present, it could be viewed as shortsighted, when some of the other less obvious factors are considered.

One way to illustrate this problem is to examine the use of hydrocarbon deposits for fuel versus the manufacture of durable goods from those same deposits. Petroleum products are used in the manufacture of many items used daily by people everywhere from plastics to synthetic fibers, from semi-conductors that fueled the computer revolution to medicines, cosmetics, industrial chemicals, and lubricants. 

When the cash value of these durable goods is assessed and compared to the cash value of fuels produced from the same amount of hydrocarbon material, especially when the dwindling nature of these materials is also considered, the disparity in value is staggering. The resale value of those durable goods, which due to their chemical nature may also be capable of being recycled, is over 30 times the value of the fossil fuel, which is burned once, and after the energy is used, gone forever. It does not take an economist or an accountant to see that dramatic economic opportunities are lost every day as we continue to let these potential profits go up in smoke.

Viewed in this light, it is evident that our energy choices are part of a many faceted international economic equation, and that it will take continued optimism to face the challenges ahead. Looking forward with a more future-oriented vision, we can perhaps glimpse some of the possibilities that lie before us, especially within the context of the applications for hydrogen energy.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells – Transportation and Distribution

Transportation of hydrogen for industrial use has been ongoing since the early part of this century. As demand for gasoline and heating oil became greater, the need for hydrogen to process these fuels also increased, as did use in making carbon dioxide. Storage methods initially consisted of gaseous hydrogen held in steel cylinders, pressurized up to 2,000 pounds per square inch (PSI). After many years of successful use, steel hydrogen tanks show no sign of corrosion or degradation of any kind, as hydrogen is not caustic or toxic. 

More recently, storage tanks have been reinforced with composite carbon fibers, making them ten times stronger than steel, greatly enhancing the safety with which gaseous hydrogen can be handled. Roy McAlister, writing for Natural Science magazine, states that these composite fiber tanks can “readily resist the impact of a 100-MPH collision, an attack with a .357 magnum pistol, or a bonfire test in which the tank’s surface reaches 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.”

In the 1990s, most conventional transportation of hydrogen took place with hydrogen in the form of a cryogenic or super-cooled liquid. Hydrogen becomes a liquid at temperatures below -423 degrees Fahrenheit, requiring a complex and energy-intensive process consisting of treatment with liquid nitrogen and a sequence of compressors. 

Once liquefied, the space requirements for storage are greatly reduced, although proper insulation must be assured to keep the liquid hydrogen from boiling off, as it will quickly evaporate if temperatures rise. Stored in large pressurized tanks, the liquid hydrogen can then be transported by ship, barge, train, or truck.

Safety issues surrounding conventional storage and transportation of hydrogen focus on the flammability and explosive qualities of gaseous hydrogen, as any accident involving the exposure of liquid hydrogen to the environment means evaporation into a gaseous state. The possibility also exists of a leak in piping or industrial equipment, presenting problems of detection and fire suppression. As hydrogen ignites in air in very low concentrations, and ignition can be instigated by something as simple and commonplace as a static electric spark, these potential problems must be monitored very carefully.

NASA has worked in concert with the International Standards Organization and the U.S. Department of Energy to establish worldwide codes and standards for the safe handling of hydrogen. As the largest consumer of liquid hydrogen, NASA has also led the way toward greater safety by sharing some of its technological developments with the energy industry. 

This includes an enhanced ability to detect hydrogen leaks and fires, which pose a tremendous but hidden threat, as burning hydrogen produces no visible flames. Discussions continue as to whether an odorant should be added to hydrogen gas, as it is to the natural gas we use in our homes so we can smell a gas leak, or whether more work needs to be done on sensing equipment for leak detection.

Pipelines carrying natural gas are also capable of delivering hydrogen gas, and these two gases can even be transported together and separated at the point of use. Natural gas, labeled chemically as methane, has a greater density than hydrogen, which means it takes three times the volume of hydrogen to equal the energy in a given amount of natural gas. But at its lower density, hydrogen can be pumped through a pipeline at three times the flow rate of methane, balancing a delicate energy equation. 

An extensive network of natural gas pipelines have been efficiently delivering natural gas from the fields where it is collected to the refineries where it is processed for many years, and from those refineries to millions of homes in the U.S. and abroad, demonstrating that this type of transportation is safe and dependable. As long as industrial codes and safety standards are stringently followed, the same should be true of transporting hydrogen.

Another factor to be examined when considering pipeline delivery of hydrogen gas in a municipal energy setting is the efficiency with which the energy can be transported from its point of origin to the consumer. Delivery of electric power from large power plants over high voltage power lines has a certain energy loss factored in, increasing its cost. With efficient pipeline delivery of hydrogen gas, a well-maintained system at our present level of technical ability can give the consumer equal or greater value for their energy dollar, as more of the energy put into the system actually reaches the customer.

Hydrogen Power, Proton Power, Inc. & Toyota

Toyota has been working on hydrogen-fueled cars since 1992. In 2014, they announced the development of a highly functional, nonpolluting car, called the Mirai (future), powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The only emission would be clean water. They also stated hydrogen was the most abundant material in the universe. They, however, failed to mention there is very little free hydrogen available on the planet.

Having one proton, and orbited by one or two electrons, hydrogen is the lightest of all gases, and floats to the upper atmosphere, where it then moves to the vacuum of space. This has been a long term problem for the hydrogen fuel cell industry. While hydrogen can be released from other materials, invariably carbon dioxide is also released during the separation process. 

Historically, processing hydrogen from other materials has been costly and has produced large amounts of pollutants, making it a poor alternative energy resource. Currently, for purposes of transportation, electric cars and trucks are much more efficient.


The Toyota Mirai via Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, there has been some political nonsense, with Republicans favoring hydrogen fuel cells because Democrats supported battery technology. (After becoming president, George W. Bush cut a Clinton administration effort to help automakers develop super-efficient cars, replacing it with ‘The Freedom Car,’ a sudden shift away from batteries toward hydrogen fuel cells. Later, Bush used federal authorities to block California’s efforts to promote battery electric vehicles.)

The biggest problem for Toyota is fueling the car. Where does one purchase hydrogen? On the East Coast, there is one hydrogen filling station in Connecticut, called SunHydro, where the hydrogen is separated by way of solar energy. 

In California, where hydrogen-fueled vehicles are more common, there are 9 hydrogen fueling stations across the state, (though 20 more are planned for 2015, and another 20 for 2016). Hydrogen fueling stations would need to be built across the nation, possibly combining with the current gas stations.

The question then becomes, why is Toyota investing in fuel cells when, at present, batteries do a better job, and the technology is cleaner? In part, it is because Toyota believes lithium-ion batteries are nearly maxed out, in terms of its technological evolution. The potential for new hydrogen fuel cell technology, on the other hand, is wide open.

Toyota also believes its business model for fuel cells is very sensible. This is because their business model is fairly similar to the one used for internal combustion engines. As with internal combustion engines, fuel cell technology will be manufactured in-house by automakers. Batteries, on the other hand, are bought from outside suppliers, or manufactured in joint ventures. While it is true building a national hydrogen distribution system will be expensive, these filling stations will look almost like today’s gas stations, providing a certain level of cultural comfort.

Toyota has also indicated it has “additional long term plans” for hydrogen power. They have, for example, made all the 5680 patents on their hydrogen cell technology free and available to the public (very unusual). They have also made the statement, “A fully fueled vehicle can provide enough electricity to meet the daily needs of an average Japanese home (10 kWh) for more than one week” (a little odd). Both behaviors suggest plans for large scale changes in the way electricity is produced.

After water dams fell out of favor as a means of generating electricity, coal became the traditional fuel of choice to accomplish this task. While coal is fairly cheap, just as with hydrogen power, it is also a major source of air pollution. This is how we currently get electricity for our lithium-ion battery powered cars, and our homes. Not significantly better than gasoline powered cars.

Enter Proton Power, Inc. Proton Power, Inc. was the winner of the Innovator Award at the 2015 Pinnacle Business Awards from the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce. Proton Power has developed technology capable of producing hydrogen from biomass on demand, which is significantly more efficient than other systems. 

Their technology achieves a 65 percent gas output, which is well above the industry average of 15 percent. The heating value of hydrogen produced by Power Proton’s technology is 230 BTUs per standard cubic foot of gas versus the industry average of 150 BTUs.

The technology is the brainchild of Proton Power President, Sam Weaver, a former Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher. The hydrogen gas is released by a process called Cellulose to Hydrogen Power, or ChyP. It is used to power generators producing low-cost electricity. Perhaps, more importantly, energy produced by the CHyP process is carbon-neutral and “cost competitive with fossil fuel,” Weaver stated. 

“The bottom line is, the planet eventually must transition from its dependence on fossil fuels to sustainable energy production. We’re just happy to help enable the transition to any technology that will help us be sustainable.”

Proton Power’s technology provides on-demand hydrogen, eliminating the need for storage and distribution systems. But there is one additional benefit. Their process creates biochar. Biochar is carbon in a solid form. Instead of releasing carbon into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases, their system captures the carbon, storing it in solid form. The biochar can be used as a soil additive to increase crop yields by up to 150 percent or more. 

“We planted tomatoes and conducted our own tests and saw a 300 percent yield increase,” Wampler, a sausage manufacturer using the equipment stated. Proton Power, located in Lenoir City, Tennessee, has provided an environmentally-friendly solution to hydrogen waste disposal.

For businesses with large electrical needs, such as Wampler’s Farm Sausage, the new hydrogen technology can mean huge savings in production costs. It is hoped the technology will eventually “take us to a zero electric bill and we should wind up with a total energy cost that’s 25 percent of what it was when you factor in what we pay for the biomass,” said Ted Wampler.

In the last few years, people in the power industry have become aware of Proton Power. Word has spread of the technology’s effectiveness. In February 2015, business officials from six different Eastern European countries toured the Power Proton installation at Wampler’s Farm Sausage, including representatives from Russia and Ukraine. Proton Power, Inc. currently has a customer in Singapore, and officials from the Philippines have also visited.

Proton Power, Inc. (PPI) has developed a patented, renewable energy process that produces clean, inexpensive hydrogen from biomass and waste. This new technology is ideal for clean energy applications and has the additional benefit of also producing synthetic fuels such as renewable gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel. Proton Power, Inc. has successfully tested a wide variety of biomasses in its CHyP system, including switch grass, various kinds of sawdust, and processed municipal solid waste. 

The Future of Hydrogen Energy

It will be interesting to see how this all fits together over the next few years. The quest for understanding the natural world around us is as old as human consciousness. 

This quest continues in the present day, as scientists and researchers delve with increasing intensity into the mysteries of physics, chemistry, and biology to unlock the secrets inherent in the physical universe.