Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Physics Today: The Hydrogen Economy

The December 2004 edition of Physics Today has an excellent article on the challenges facing the hydrogen economy. The article provides an in-depth, but accessible discussion of the current technological dilemmas that hinder the production, storage, and use of hydrogen as a major energy source.

The article's authors start off by emphasizing that "the gap between the present state of the art in hydrogen production, storage, and use and that needed for a competitive hydrogen economy is too wide to bridge in incremental advances. It will take fundamental breakthroughs of the kind that come only from basic research." But the article careful walks the reader through the type of basic research that's still necessary for the hydrogen economy to reach its full potential, laying out a realistic road map for tackling the challenges ahead, and offering some insight into the technologies that made lead to these fundamental breakthroughs.

The article also emphasizes the importance of government support in current research efforts:

government plays a key role in the move from fossil−fuel to hydrogen technology. The investments in R&D are large, the outcome for specific, promising approaches is uncertain, and the payoff is often beyond the market's time horizon. Thus, early government investments in establishing goals, providing research support, and sharing risk are necessary to prime the emergence of a vibrant, market−driven hydrogen economy.
The article also points out that it will take a dramatic, multi-disciplinary effort -- spanning chemistry, physics, biology, and material technologies -- to overcome the current hurdles facing the industry.

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