Commercial Uses for Hydrogen
Hydrogen is used in a variety of applications in different elemental states. As a liquid, it forms the base of a fuel in space applications. It is incorporated into fuel cell technology that we can see in modern hybrid vehicles; it is used in food and pharmaceutical technology during chemical processing. In electronics, metallurgy and glass production and manufacture, it is used to control the atmospheric environment. It functions as a cooling element for power generators and is used to refine crude oil and petroleum into usable products.
Hydrogen fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into water through ionization. Electrons pass through an external circuit and are harnessed as electricity. Using hydrogen has advantages over combustion-based energy fuel extraction methods because its efficiency is more than doubled and the by-products created consist solely of water and heat. An example of hydrogen fuel cells can be seen in electric motor vehicles.
Hydrogen is used as a raw material in the chemical synthesis of ammonia, methonal hydrogen peroxide, plastics, solvents and fertilizers. It is also used in the refinement of petroleum, by removing organic sulfur from crude oil, converting heavier unsaturated compounds into a lighter, stable product. An example of this in food technology is the creation of margarine and similar foods, where unsaturated fatty acids are hydrogenated from oils to form a solid product.
In metallurgy, to obtain the right environment for heat treating, welding, altering strength and hardness properties of stainless steel, magnetic steel alloys, brazing copper and sintering, hydrogen is mixed with inert gases to produce a reducing atmosphere. In electronics, hydrogen is used in a similar way, controlling the atmosphere, in the manufacture of semi-conducting layers in integrated circuits. In glass and ceramic manufacturing, hydrogen prevents the oxidation of large tin baths.
Liquid hydrogen gas has been employed by NASA to power a number of different vehicles, such as rockets and space shuttle vehicles. Future technology sees hydrogen heavily involved in the quest to develop transportation energy, electrical power through fuel cell technology and breathable air for life support.
Hydrogen is used extensively in power generation, as a cooling device for high speed turbines. In nuclear power generation, it functions as a method of preventing cracking and corrosion of the cooling system.