Alternative energy is a general term that is used to refer to any source of energy that is serviceable and is intended to be used as a substitute for other fuel sources without undergoing any undesired consequences. Hydrogen is therefore ideal alternative fuel energy for Army after Next (AAN) platforms. However, considering the current technology, use of Hydrogen as a form of alternative energy, has two setbacks that hinder its use as substitute energy. One of the setbacks is that, Liquid Hydrogen which is the ideal form of hydrogen needs four times storage space of convectional petroleum –based fuels. The other setback is that, production of hydrogen merely depends on the accessibility of a nonrenewable resource, petroleum. Presently, hydrogen is being obtained from the raw petroleum from the industrial use, and it is presumed that in the near future petroleum may become obsolete (Morgan, 2007).
In this respect, liquid Hydrogen becomes the best alternative form of energy fuel for AAN platforms. However, in order to increase its usability and availability there is a growing demand of developing hydrogen technologies from their trial stage to a usable military hardware and optimize their use in internal combustion engines, gas turbines among others.
With the use of hydrogen energy in such engines, it is presumed that in one decade to come, there would be a significant decrease in petroleum production. According to the current statistics, annual oil production is approximately 25 billion barrels on an annual basis, and if AAN becomes operation, the volume might decrease and the barrels might range from 18-19 million barrels per year. Such productions will the least that has ever been produced even when there were oil shortages around 1970’s. The foreseen decrease in oil production besides the disrupted importation of oil from Arab countries will mean an increase in the oil prices (Wilson & Griffin, 2008).
There are two reasons which attribute hydrogen to be used as an alternative fuel; one of the reasons is that, Hydrogen is a renewable element and is considered as the most abundant substance on planet earth. This is endorsed by the fact that, hydrogen gas consists of 75% of the total volume of air in the atmosphere. This will therefore mean that if it becomes an alternative energy fuel all the other foreign sources of fuel will became depleted. This reason may however be opposed by the fact, hydrogen does not exist on its own but in combination of other many gases. For it to be used as energy it has to be freed from other gases and exist on its own as (H2). One of the common and reliable sources of hydrogen is water and weighs 11.2 % hydrogen. Additionally, hydrogen can also be produced from biomass (plant matter). A fuel cell (electromagnetic engine that converts chemical energy in the hydrogen molecule into electronic energy) also uses hydrogen as a fuel (Jim, 2010).
This happens when hydrogen combines with oxygen to produce electricity which is used to run the engine. Both the physical and chemical features of hydrogen can be attributed to it being used as a form of energy. At a normal atmospheric form, hydrogen gas exhibits a colorless and unscented smell. It is also stable at this state and harmlessly mixes with free oxygen to exhume a form of energy after an exothermic reaction and the end result is the formation of water. Its features of being the lightest element; with the lowest density as compared to the petroleum –based fuels gives it a comparative advantage to be used in favor of other energy fuels. The characteristic however, gives hydrogen both advantages and disadvantages to be used as an alternative energy (Morgan, 2007).
The chief advantage in this case is that, hydrogen is able to store an approximate of 2.8 times the energy per unit mass as compared to the gasoline. Its disadvantage is that, hydrogen gas requires four times the volume for a given amount of energy.
Extortion and use of Hydrogen gas
There are two main ways that may be employed in extraction of energy that is contained in the hydrogen. One of the ways is through the simple combustion in the ICE’s or the turbine engines while the other one is by conversion of the hydrogen gas to electricity in a fuel cell. BMW’s and Mazda are some of the vehicles that have used as test gadgets for confirming that hydrogen gas can be used as fuel. Besides hydrogen gas being used to drive car engines it has also been affirmed that, it has potential to power aircraft gas turbines. This was an affirmation that was made in 1998, when liquid hydrogen used as fuel powered a triple jet; modified Tupolev-154 airliner was flown in the former Soviet Union.
However, there are some drawbacks that are associated with the use of liquid hydrogen in powering the vehicles and the aircrafts. The manufactured parts and components have to be adjusted so that they can be to handle the liquid hydrogen. The concept used in the fuel cell drive with a high efficiency of electric current in their drive system is able to provide a high capacity of fuel that is efficient to propel a vehicle. Its efficiency is double or triple that of the ICE’s that are driven by transmission of the mechanical systems. Fuel cells are favored since they are able to directly convert chemical energy to electrical and only a small energy is lost (Christopher, 2007).
Hydrogen has its uniqueness when it comes to its production in that unlike other fossil fuels that can either be mine or extracted hydrogen must undergo the process of being produced. It is produced from a variety of feedstock which may comprise the oil, coal, natural gas biomass or even water. The main feedstock in this respect is the natural gas and this is because of its high efficiency and the low costs used in its production. Other sources that may be used in production of hydrogen gas are the coal and the residual oil which is extracted from the treatment of the crude oil. Though, there is an increased effort in production of hydrogen from biomass, the process is still under research and unless a reliable and efficient method of producing it is implemented, the method of using a high-temperature process in converting biomass into hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide will still be in use. Electrolysis is another method that can be used to detach water into its basic constituents of hydrogen and oxygen. There are varieties of power sources that can be used in producing the electric current used, but of all this hydro electric current prove to be the best due to its efficiency and low price. Storage of hydrogen gas is quite different from the rest of the gases and therefore it’s the only gas that can be stored through a variety of technologies. It can be stored in the compressed gas cylinders and these are similar to those that are used in hydrogen gas powered vehicles (Jim, 2010).
Fuels that contain gases have a comparative small energy per unit volume, so the platforms that use hydrogen gas may have rather a reduced range of energy compared to those platforms that make use of other liquid fuels, such as those of the gasoline or diesel. Hydrogen that is stored in liquid from cools at very low temperatures which and therefore there is always a need to store it in specialized tanks which regulates by keeping it cool and thus preventing it from losing. Hydrogen being used as an alternative source of energy means that its safety should always be a concern. There is therefore a need to have the AAN be properly engineered in order to reduce the risks to the users. Though hydrogen has diverse features compared to other fossil fuels and petroleum – based products, it is safe in relation to the gasoline, diesel and kerosene (Christopher, 2007).
The capability of hydrogen gas exploding ranges from 13- 79 % concentration in the atmosphere. Its explosive capability together with its low energy ignition is very disadvantageous since if poorly handles in a closed room may explode with ease. The least ignition energy that is used to ignite energy equals to the static electric discharge produced by a spark (Jeffery &Barclay, 2008).
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