Pollution. It’s in the water. It’s in the air. It is a subject of great concern all over the world and for good reason. The energy economy of today functions primarily off the burning of fossil fuels, namely oil, coal, and natural gas. Fossil fuel is essentially carbon from plants stored in the earth from many tens of thousands of years ago. When we burn these fuels we release that carbon back into the atmosphere as carbon-dioxide.
A multitude of other, more harmful chemicals are released, especially by dirtier fuels like coal. This includes carbon-monoxide (a lethal poison when inhaled) and sulfur (a key contributor to destructive acid rain). These health hazards are considerably greater for people living near concentrated sources of pollution like factories, power plants, or airports.
Renewable energy simply means making use of energy sources that are easy to convert and are very clean, meaning they don’t release carbon dioxide, sulfur, or nitrogen compounds. Fuel cells are an excellent way of producing power in smaller quantities like that needed for electronics and vehicles. A fuel cell simply reacts hydrogen and oxygen into pure water. Wide use of fuel cells would mean the near elimination of pollution from cars, planes, and trains. Vehicle pollution is the most widespread and difficult to contain source of pollution, so it is a great place to start.
Finding and storing hydrogen as a fuel source is one of the major stumbling blocks in fuel cell technology. What if we could produce hydrogen from one of the most abundant metal elements on earth—aluminum? A specially treated aluminum powder has been found to produce hydrogen when reacted with water. This creates a nice energy circle. The fuel cell produces water which is then reintroduced to the aluminum powder which produces more hydrogen to react into more water and produce more energy.
Renewable energy doesn’t have to be a chemical process at all. Many vehicles are tremendously wasteful of their energy. Every time you put on your car breaks you are converting your fuel energy into useless heat. What if that energy could be recycled back into your car battery as electricity? That is exactly how most hybrid cars work, and the technology can be applied to any vehicle.
It could be especially cost-effective with airplanes. Plane landing gears release an incredible amount of wasted heat energy during landing. It is possible to convert this energy into electrical energy to power the jet’s taxiing around the airport. This would allow jets to keep their jet engines turned off until just before they are ready to fly. This would reduce both noise and air pollution around airports and cut fuel waste.
Author Bio: My name is Allison and I am a fun-loving, adventurous being. I am a recent biomedical anthropologist with a keen interest in the environment and renewable energy research. Between my travels, I like to guest blog about recent events and post on my blog, Musings of a Curious Mind.