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Chapter 1

Hydrogen and Solar Hydrogen

The structure and properties of molecular hydrogen are presented and discussed, focusing on the use of hydrogen's energy. Current production methods, and updated market data and trends in the main hydrogen manufacturing technologies, are highlighted. Hydrogen obtained from water electrolysis is unique as it can also be used in the same electrochemical cell as a fuel to generate electricity and low temperature heat. Provided that hydrogen gas is handled according to well established safety procedures developed in the course of a century of massive industrial utilization, its usage is regarded to be as safe as handling natural gas. Its environmental sustainability, however, clearly depends on the production method employed, with solar hydrogen – H2 obtained from water splitting caused by the action of sunlight – clearly emerging as the unique truly sustainable production process. Storage of large amounts of renewable energies via the energy carrier hydrogen is essential because our societies need a non-intermittent, endless flow of energy. Hydrogen is well suited to storing renewable energy efficiently. Two main technologies, we argue, will emerge: distributed solar hydrogen production via electrolysis coupled to photovoltaic electricity, and thermochemical water splitting via concentrated solar radiation. The use of solar hydrogen as the energy carrier in fuel cells will result in both exergizing the energy system and its decarbonatization. An outlook on the current international science and technology network is presented.

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15 Jun 2012
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