Green Energy for the Future
We release 5,833 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year in the United States alone (“Each Country’s Share of CO2 Emissions”). That CO2 comes from the need for energy, and lots of it. That’s why green energy production is of great importance. What is green energy? Green energy is energy that is created with no CO2 emissions at all, or, add no new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I already knew that some of today’s energy is green, such as nuclear power and hydroelectricity. I knew all the most common sources of green energy: hydrogen, solar, wind, nuclear, bio-fuel, and hydroelectricity. I also knew that green energy right now is really expensive. I want to know the best form of green energy there is. What is the cleanest, cheapest, most efficient way of producing energy? The world’s energy needs need to be supplied by a combination of all forms of green energy: solar, wind, nuclear, bio-fuel, hydrogen, and hydroelectricity.
Hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements in the Universe and its quite useful in creating energy through the use of fuel cells. Fuel cells are devices that use the natural attraction between hydrogen and oxygen (the elements in water), to make electricity. There are many different types of fuel cells, some that need pure hydrogen, and some that can use fuels that have hydrogen in them, such as natural gas, and some that can use both. An example of this is the BloomBox, a device that can use both pure hydrogen and fuels that contain hydrogen like natural gas, and many bio-fuels. There are 6 types of hydrogen fuel cells, each with their own qualities. Alkaline, proton exchange membrane, direct methanol, phosphoric acid, molten carbonate, and solid oxide. The main difference between the types of fuel cells are the materials they use for the anode, cathode and electrolyte. The three are sandwiched together with the electrolyte in between the anode and cathode. In all types of fuel cells the hydrogen is put in through the anode layer, and oxygen is put in through the cathode layer. The two gases, being attracted to each other, come together. In an alkaline fuel cell, the oxygen moves through the electrolyte, to the anode. The electrons from the oxygen, stripped from the oxygen because of it moving through the electrolyte, travel up the anode to where it is needed to the cathode to complete the circuit. In the proton exchange membrane fuel cell, direct methanol fuel cell and the phosphoric acid fuel cell, the hydrogen moves toward the oxygen instead of the oxygen moving toward the hydrogen. The molton carbonate fuel cell is different from the other fuel cells. It is made to supplement the fossil fuel power plants that we use today, such as coal power plants. It uses the carbon dioxide produced by the plant to help the oxygen through the electrolyte to the hydrogen, and is recycled back to the oxygen side. Because these fuel cells operate at high temperatures, they can be made of less precious materials. But all hydrogen fuel cells have one major problem. “...Hydrogen is not a readily available fuel.” (Larminie and Dicks 14). Right now the biggest source of hydrogen is water (The H in H2O). To get hydrogen from water, you have to apply an electrical current, the thing we are trying to get in the first place. There are some experimental ways of getting hydrogen from algae, but those operations have not been large-scale. Until we find a viable solution to supply the world with all the hydrogen it needs, fuel cells must wait.
The Sun provides the energy than each human on Earth uses in one year in a mere one hour (Crabtree and Lewis 37). There are three ways that solar energy (energy from the Sun) can be used: solar electric, solar thermal, and solar fuel. The two that are most common today are solar electric and solar thermal. Solar electric is the most familiar to us today because they are in the form of solar panels on residential and commercial buildings....
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