In a world increasingly plagued by pollution, where limited availability of fossil fuels creates international tensions, and where global disaster from proliferating technology lurks on the horizon, the search for alternative synthetic fuels is no longer an idle scientist's dream—it is necessity. Hydrogen—with its vast and ready availability from water, its nearly universal utility, and its inherently benign characteristics—is one of several attractive synthetic fuels being considered for a "post-fossil-fuel" world, and it may well be the miracle fuel of the future. It is of special interest because, technically at least, it is so easily produced and because it produces simple water vapor in the combustion process rather than loading an already burdened environment with more hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide and monoxide, sulfur, particulate matter, and even more exotic pollutants. Journalist Peter Hoffmann describes worldwide scientific work toward a future hydrogen economy, looking at the auspicious prospects of this potential fuel, at its applicability to powering everything from automobiles to airplanes, and at the principles and technologies involved in making hydrogen a viable energy alternative. He examines how—and how soon—nature's simplest element may become available as an energy carrier, as well as the economic conditions that will accompany its introduction and the social impact of "clean" hydrogen energy. The picture he paints of the fuel future is a welcome alternative to the now-common prognostications of impending doom.
A Hydrogen Song -- Introduction -- The Basic Element: The Discovery of Hydrogen -- Early Visions: The History of the Hydrogen Movement -- Hydrogen from Natural Gas, Electrolysis, Thermochemistry: Present and Future Production -- Solar and Nuclear Power: Hydrogen’s Primary Energy Sources -- Water Vapor from the Tailpipe: Hydrogen as Automotive Fuel -- Clean Contrails over Lake Erie: Hydrogen as Aircraft Fuel -- The Invisible Flame: Hydrogen as Utility Gas -- Fertilizer, Steel, and Protein-Producing Microbes: Nonenergy Uses of Hydrogen -- The Hindenburg Syndrome: Is Hydrogen Safe? -- Scenarios for the Future