By Brian Johnsrud
Ever since the invention of the auto-mobile, more and more it increases its effect on transportation throughout the world. Although, it wasn't until around the later 1900s that we realized gasoline isn't as abundant or environmentally safe as we thought. So we began to search for new ways to run auto-mobiles, and new sources of energy to power them. Soon, scientists realized that hydrogen was one of the best fuels we could ever need. Hydrogen is almost limitless, considering it is in the very same water that inhabits the oceans, seas, and even the water we drink.
However, obtaining it inexpensively has proposed a problem. Between electrolysis of water and processing natural gas, scientists had found a fork in their road to utilizing a safer fuel.
It wasn't until recently that the University of California and the U.S. Department of Energy stumbled upon the map to the hydrogen journey. They realized that algae, common all over the globe, gives off enough hydrogen if stimulated correctly to solve a big part of the problem. You see, all green plants give off small amounts of hydrogen.
The road block, however, has been hydrogenase, an enzyme that allows the production of hydrogen, but only when oxygen is absent. So when they stopped the production of sulfur, which is needed to complete photosynthesis, and take away oxygen, the plant starts to search for alternative sources of energy. Because oxygen is no longer available, hydrogenase is activated, causing huge amounts of hydrogen to split from water and then be released into the air.
"Within 20 hours, the algae turns on its switch, converting from oxygen production to hydrogen production," said Tasios Melis of the University of California, "We have to seal the culture to prevent exposure to oxygen. Then we collect the hydrogen as it bubbles out of the culture."
This process can not produce hydrogen non-stop, or the algae would soon die. It needs to be replenished with sulfur, oxygen, and sunlight, thus repeating the process over again.
Hydrogen would be close to ideal for many vehicles. There are already cars that run on hydrogen-powered devises. The amount of pollution is drastically dropped, emitting only water vapor from the tail pipe, not carbon-dioxide or other gases which contribute to global warming.
It is also useful for other things because of it's ability to burn hot and clean. In the space program, a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen are combined to create a rocket propellant. Normally, these two things are an explosive combination, but with a fuel cell, they can be combined to create water and electricity.
Realistically, global technology like this should be in effect in about 20 years experts say. But, it could also eventually become the main power source for many nations.