B y Ana Carolina Cabral Murphy
Previous efforts in creating hydrogen technology as an alternative fuel source have proved to be cumbersome and expensive. However, two recent studies have reported technological breakthroughs in using hydrogen as a feasible source of clean energy.
First, in January 2009 a group of researchers at the University of Illinois announced the development of a new fuel cell that is only 3 mm in length and 1 mm in thickness.
Using the same kind of battery technology used in hybrid cars, the fuel cell can be used in the development of tiny hydrogen electricity generators, which could eventually, replace current batteries for a variety of small portable products. In the near future, this technology could be used to power laptops, I-pods, cameras, and cell phones with clean energy and reduce the dependence of Lithium batteries, which are harmful to the environment when disposed.
A second study, published in August 2008, focused on water electrolysis techniques. The techniques explored in the study by UNESP and UNIOESTE used sugar and ethanol processing as a means of producing energy. The water electrolysis method will basically use the left over electricity yielded during cane sugar conversion to generate a clean form of energy using electrolytic hydrogen. Not only is the energy renewable, but production costs range from US$ 0.50 to US$ 0.75 per kWh Nm−3 (kilowatt hour cubed). This innovative and low-cost technique is comparable with other sources of energy, making hydrogen an environmentally and economically viable alternative.