Hydrogen in our lives
Through the years, hydrogen has provided men with various applications as more information is discovered about the lightest element known to men. It has become one of the most important elements that provide men with everyday needs. Today, use of hydrogen is evident among different vehicle engines. It is used to fuel cars’ combustion engines. Nowadays, hydrogen has become the major source of fuel needed to generate energy that would support the requirement needed by mankind (J. H. Kelley, 1982). Used of wood, coal, propane and petroleum has now given way to the application of hydrogen as fuel.
Various researches have already been conducted in order to convert and produce combustion engines that will use hydrogen as fuel. Since oil and petroleum supply has always poses problems to man and with the energy crisis looming largely at hand, experts are pinning their hope to the use of hydrogen as fuel as applications provide wide array of social, economical and environmental benefits. The uses and applications of hydrogen is however not limited to car’s and motor’s combustion engines, as Hydrogen is also extensively used to produce different products in the market.
Among the different products that are manufactured largely because of Hydrogen presence is ammonia and methanol; two important compounds utilized by men (George W. Crabtree, 2004 ). Ammonia is used as fertilizers, refrigerants, disinfectants and ingredients in tobacco making. Methanol on the other hand is used to produce other chemicals which are then used as automotive fuels, anti freezing agent in pipelines windshields and sewers. Glass, refined metals, electrical conductors and various cosmetic products such as soaps and lubricant cleaners are also some of the products produced by use of hydrogen in the market.
Hydrogen is also a vital component used in producing vitamins, food supplement and preservatives. Margarine and peanut butter are common hydrogen by-products we can easily recognized. Hydrogen is also used in filling up balloons. However, balloons ignite more easily when filled up with hydrogen. Hydrogen when in liquid form is important to scientists in the field of cryogenics and studies concerning superconductivity. Tritium which is an isotope of Hydrogen is an essential component in creating a hydrogen bomb, for everyday use tritium is utilized as radioactive agent in making luminous paint (J.H. Kelley, 1982).
With the many uses of Hydrogen to the lives of the people today it is fitting then to understand how Hydrogen is produced and the methods adapted in forming the element. As of today, the major and primary source of Hydrogen comes from Natural gas or methane (George W. Crabtree, 2004 ). However, although people have relied on petroleum for the production of Hydrogen, new techniques and methods are being developed to produce a more abundant supply of Hydrogen. These two methods are production by steam reforming and production by Biomass.
Production of Hydrogen by methane steam reforming is a process of producing hydrogen from hydrocarbons. It is the most common and least expensive method of producing Hydrogen in bulk numbers. In order to produce the needed Hydrogen, methane and water, which is common around us, is made to react with a metal catalyst, which in this case nickel, at high temperature of about 700 to 1100o C and at temperature of 25 bar. Methane which has a molar mass of 16. 0425 g/mol is the chief component that comprises natural gas (Bursten, 2005).
When observed at standard room temperature and pressure methane exhibits a colorless and odorless characteristic. It has a boiling point of – 161. 6 °C, and 111. 55 K and -258. 88 °F when converted to Kelvin and in Fahrenheit respectively on the other hand melting point is observed at ? 182. 5 °C or 90. 6 in Kelvin and -296. 5 °F when converted to Fahrenheit (Bursten, 2005). Solubility in water is 3. 5 mg/100 ml at 17 °C. Extraction of natural gas done on different gas field deposits provides us with a major source of methane.
Sediments which have remained buried underneath the ground for years at high temperature give rise to natural gas which in turn is extracted to produce methane. Solid wastes landfills are also convenient sources of methane as decaying organic materials such as manure and other biodegradable wastes generates a considerable quantity of methane. This is obtained through the process of fermentation. Studies also show that plants emit methane. Nickel on the other hand is an element that belongs to the family of the transition metal (Bursten, 2005) It is hard and ductile.
It is slow to react with air but is very reactive and has a boiling point of 3186 K or 2913° C or 5275° in Fahrenheit. The melting point is 1728 K or 1455° C and 265 ° F in Celsius and Fahrenheit respectively (George W. Crabtree, 2004 ). Volcanic activities are the major natural sources of nickel. Asbestos mining and combustion of fossil fuel are methods employed to generate considerable amount of nickel. Electroplating and manufacturing of cement are also sources of nickel emissions. The reaction among the three components then produced carbon monoxide.
The reaction is described by the equation H2O + CH4 > CO + 3 H2 (George W. Crabtree, 2004 ) . After obtaining, Carbon Monoxide which exhibits odorless, tasteless and colorless physical properties, from the initial process it is then burned with water at 400° C in a presence of a catalyst. Carbon Monoxide’s boiling point is -192° C which is approximately equal to 81 K, melting point is at 205°C or 68 K when converted to Fahrenheit. The solubility in water is . 0026 g/100 mL at 20 °C. The reaction of carbon monoxide and water produces an end product of Carbon Dioxide and Hydrogen.
These two elements are then separated by various means. The other method of production of hydrogen which is obtained from Biomass is performed through gasification of Biomass materials. Biomass is an organic renewable energy resource which includes biodegradable materials and wastes such as agricultural crop, solid wastes and animal manures. Using a special equipment unit which is the gasifier, Biomass materials are broken down chemically into different components (A. Wellinger, 1991). In the process controlled amount of oxygen and steam is needed in order to produce the desired results.
Furthermore, cellulose which the major component found in Biomass is substituted in the reaction with glucose. Both have 6 Hydrogen atoms but vary with the Oxygen and Hydrogen atom they carry. They are the most combustible part and component of Biomass. Melting point is at 146° C. Glucose is an end product which results from manufacturing of plant’s own food and also from breakdown of glycogen in animals. In order to produce glucose for commercial use starch is synthesized using an enzymatic hydrolysis process. Different crops are used as sources of starch.
Cellulose on the other hand is produced commercially from cotton linters, timbers and wood pulps. The end product from the reaction is water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide is then made to react with water which results to formation of more carbon dioxide and hydrogen (A. Wellinger, 1991). Special membranes are then use to separate the hydrogen from the other components. We cannot deny the huge help hydrogen is providing us. From simple products we are able to find in our kitchen and bathrooms up to the generation of energy and fueling our engines, hydrogen has provided us with the much needed boost.
With the abundant supply of hydrogen, due to the different process employed in producing them, applications and uses of the said element will continue to develop and improve the lives of our people.
References A. Wellinger, U. B. Edelmann, K. Egger, and B. Seiller (1991) Biogas Handbuch, Verlag Wirz Ag, Aarau. Bursten, B. and Brown, T. (2005) Chemistry: The General Science, Prentice Hall Crabtree, G. W. , Dresselhaus, M. S. and Buchanan, M. V. (2004) The Hydrogen Economy. Physics Today. Kelley J. H. , Escher, W. J. D Van Deelen, W. (1982) Hydrogen uses and demands through the year 2025. Chem. Eng. Prog, 78 58-61.