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Hydrogen and You – Where’s My Flying Car?

Depending on what generation you belong to, you may have grown up watching the Jetsons, a cartoon family on TV. The show presented a number of innovations, including Rosie (the robot maid), air tubes instead of elevators, and having everything available at the touch of a button—right down to having your teeth brushed. The greatest innovation showcased on the series was the flying car. Available in all shapes and sizes, the car could retract into a small, briefcase-sized bundle at the touch of a button, alleviating parking issues forever. Most of the show remains far-fetched, but the image of a flying car has stuck with many people over the years.

Modern technology has grown and changed at a tremendous rate during the past four decades, but the automobile changed very little until recently. This was due more to the fuel source itself than any other considerations.  As our focus started shifting from petroleum-based fuels to alternative energy sources, car design began to shift toward models that were more futuristic.

The advent of hydrogen as an alternative fuel provided the greatest promise toward a truly futuristic vehicle. Hydrogen, a potentially limitless resource, may eventually provide more power to a vehicle than petroleum-based fuels, and this fuel may one day make it possible to own a flying car.

Cars can utilize hydrogen in one of two ways: either as a fuel akin to gasoline (requiring regular fill-ups to run the vehicle), or incorporating the hydrogen into fuel cells. Fuel cells are more efficient, but they have been cost-prohibitive to this point. However, a new method of producing fuel cells could cut those costs and put them within reach of the average consumer.

The other method of using hydrogen as fuel has provided researchers with an endless series of challenges. As hydrogen is a naturally light element, it is difficult to condense enough in one place to power a car for any length of time. A new study by researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) proposes a solution to this problem.

While hydrogen is not a dense element, it possesses tremendous energy content per unit mass as versus petroleum. The critical issue is gathering enough in a confined space to create power (this is what makes fuel cells more efficient than this method of using hydrogen). “Storage” chemicals that contain hydrogen for use as fuel facilitate this type of system by making it possible to store greater amounts of hydrogen in one tank of fuel.

http://www.mysolarbackup.comThe LANL research team has determined that one specific chemical compound, ammonia borane, can store hydrogen up to 20% by weight. While this number seems low, it is very impressive in comparison with hydrogen’s atomic mass. With storage facilitated by ammonia borane, a hydrogen-powered vehicle could travel approximately 300 miles on one tank of fuel, which is equivalent to a regular tank of gas. Fuel could be added to a vehicle in several ways, most notably contained in a discrete unit that could be removed and recharged or recycled after each use.

At present, the recycling stage involves a lengthy process. Previous hydrogen fuel models required complex equipment to recycle the used fuel, and other storage mediums were inefficient. With the new chemical compound, the team thinks the recycling process can occur within one container.

When a spent fuel tank is removed from a vehicle, it’s sent to a recycling center where the ammonia borane is piped into the container. Chemical reactions within the container recharge the ammonia borane with hydrogen, and then the fuel tank is refilled with the charged medium. Finally, the tank is reinstalled in a vehicle.

As ammonia borane can store such a high percentage of hydrogen, the medium can be recycled to collect more usable fuel than previous storage mediums, which reduces overall fuel production costs and potentially speeds up the recharging process. Researchers envision the system as interchangeable fuel “tanks” that can be removed from a car, sent to the recycling center, and then returned as a fully charged fuel source.

At present, hydrogen-powered vehicles are scarce due to production and recharging costs. Few countries have infrastructure that support such vehicles (in the United States, Los Angeles is a notable exception with 16 hydrogen filling stations), and vehicle production is limited due to the high associated costs—$40,000 or more to produce one vehicle. However, each research program takes us a step closer to the day when scientists will determine the most efficient and cost-effective way to use hydrogen as a fuel source. When that happens, we may well see the flying car of the future.

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10 comments

  1. michael minner

    I know of people experimenting with under the hood Hydrogen generators. The car would start on gasoline, then using the electricity from the car,would generate hydrogen. The car would run on mostly Hydrogen and very little gas. No hydrogen storage required.
    I see almost nothing on this alternative.

    • Thats right follow the big money (oil) thats why hydrogen has been used for over 300 years i think they allready now hwo to make hydrogen on demand email me for a place to get a kit that will save you money and its not my kit so you dont think i am selling you something that made it is something i bought and am building my own.

  2. I BEEN DOING HYDROGEN CELL FOR ABOUT TWO YEARS,ALL CARS THAT I USED VARIES ON EXTRA MILLAGE,I HAS FOUND OUT THAT THE MAIN PROBLEMS ARE THE SEDIMENT PRODUCT OF THE STAINLESS STEEL AND THE SODIUM COMPOUND,IN THE OTHER HAND,Y I AM CAREFUL GIVING THE CELL A GOOD SERVICE (CHANGING WATER AND CHEMICALS) THE UNITS WILL PRODUCE GOOD MILEAGE SAVINGS, ( THE THING IS THE SERVICE).

    J.K
    Mechanical Engeneer

  3. What are your thoughts on: http://www.alcoholcanbeagas.com

  4. I have articles and instructions on Simple Water Fuel – basically how to build your own Hydrogen Fuel Cell to supplement your gas engine. Lots of warnings about internal engine rust requiring Stainless Steel valves, ceramic coated cylinders and ceramic or stainless exhaust system. I am a DIYer, electronic tech and shade tree mechanic but not convinced I want to start this yet. Perhaps when fuel costs get to $6 or $8??

  5. I don’t understand why everyone is only talking car!!! I’m building a hydrogen powered generator to power my house!! I don’t have to worry about the hydrogen in an accident, I’ve got a 20KW propane generator that supplies 120V / 240V with 200A service, MORE than enough for my home. I picked one this large,as I’d rather have it running at 1/2 or less max load. I picked propane, as the system is already set up to use a gas, I figure once I have the hydrogen producing properly, I will need to tweek the timing, is about all. That and a 5 or 10 gal storage tank should be more than large enough if I need to instantly pull more hydrogen for a large load, until the hydrogen producer can catch up. Will also have a battery backup that can last for a day or so, for when I have to change oil, etc. So far, should be able to do everything and be totally off the grid for under $7000. AND if I move……I just take the generator with me!! THIS makes more sense than a car.

  6. i’ve put together. an add on kit that only requiers a glass jar w/ plastic lid, 2 stainless steal bolts (long enough to reach the botom, and extend an inch or so out the top) some plastic tubing, stainless steal bolts and washers. all for 20 dollars. an increse of 25-50% in gas milage and power. good enough for now. but not quite independant from fuel. may be able to intagrate with ethanol.

    • Hea Jay the 2 bolt system from mother earth news the bolts are two far apart put the bolts a quarter inch apart or get 2 plates of stainless steal 1/4 inch apart big dif . email me and i will tell you about the cells iam makeing @ [email protected]

  7. Questions, on hydrogen add on kits, will give free instructions. e-mail me at [email protected]

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