Sometimes called "the other hydrogen," ammonia as a fuel source would present the benefits of hydrogen without the major difficulties of handling. Despite its recent reputation for impracticality, hydrogen is still among the best fuels for clean, quiet, efficient fuel cells. Batteries are heavy and inefficient; much energy is lost during storage and the extraction process. Most current-day batteries, particularly the highest-tech ones, rely on materials that exist in limited quantity, which again presents a problem of scarcity. Ammonia could theoretically be burned in a big, powerful fuel cell, or even a big, powerful internal combustion engine, indoors where a CO2-emitting engine would foul the air.
ane liquefies at -162°C.) The emission W o r l d T r e n d s & F o r e c a s t s byproduct is nitrogen, not carbon. Nitrogen already comprises 78% of the atmosphere, so mass emission of Technology nitrogen wouldn’t have the same cli- mate-changing effects as mass emis- sions of carbon or sulfur. Ammonia could theoretically be burned in a big, powerful fuel cell, or even a big, powerful internal com- Ammonia, the Fuel of the Future bustion engine, indoors where a CO2- Hydrogen fuel cells could get a boost from an unexpected source. emitting engine would foul the air. Like hydrogen, it’s lighter than air W and would dissipate in a leak — hat will your car run on in but unlike hydrogen, much less gas- By J. Storrs Hall 2020? Here’s a solution you oline, ammonia is not even combus- likely haven’t heard yet: tible under ordinary conditions. ammonia. Sometimes called “the This solution is not without its other hydrogen,” ammonia as a fuel gave significant support to hydrogen risks. Ammonia is a deadly chemical. source would present the benefits of fuel cell development and produc- At 2,500 parts per million, exposure hydrogen without the major difficul- tion. Hydrogen is very light and to ammonia causes laryngeal spasm ties of handling. Despite its recent fairly safe. Since it’s lighter than and rapid asphyxia, reputation for impracticality, hydro- air, it dissipates in a leak, rather gen is still among the best fuels for than forming an explo- BEN MILLS / FORESIGHT INSTITUTE clean, quiet, efficient fuel cells. sive mixture. First, a look at the alternatives, the Problemati- most notable of which is gasoline. cally, hydro- The demise of petroleum has been gen needs to predicted early and often, so it be stored at would be foolish to dismiss it out of very low tem- hand. But climate concerns and scar- peratures and city of oil cast a cloud over its future. high pres- Not even the big oil companies seem sures. It’s diffi- to believe that i
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