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View Diary: Recent DOE Break-Through with Hydrogen Fuel Cells, should make them Affordable (275 comments)

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  •  That depends on design. (6+ / 0-)

    Vaporized gasoline is just as combustible as hydrogen - the main issue with hydrogen is you cannot allow it to get to a critical mixture level  (4% at 20 degrees C and sea level pressure) and access to a source of combustion (a spark).  Most pressurized hydrogen tanks are made of non-sparking materials (aluminum and carbon fiber).  Cars can be also designed to vent their hydrogen rapidly if their fuel tanks are damaged. Fortunately, hydrogen wants to vent and rise very rapidly.  A heat-resistant firewall would protect passengers in a crash.

    The sad ironies are that the Graf Zeppelin (the Hindenburg's ancestor) had a long and safe career filled primarily with hydrogen.  In fact, some of the Graf's ballonets (internal gas bags) were filled with a mixture of combustible hydrocarbon gases for engine fuel!

    If the Nazis had never rose to power in Germany, the Hindenburg herself would have been filled with helium as Hugo Eckener, the head of the Zeppelin company, desperately wanted to.  Unfortunately, the Hindenburg had to be rapidly readapted to hydrogen gas use, with tragic results as her outer skin was badly designed for hydrogen gas. One spark ignited a leaky gas cell when she was grounded in New Jersey.  The Germans were very aware of the dangers of huge amounts of hydrogen as a hazardous gas, but they had no access to large quantities of helium, which was at the time available only through the United States.  We probably would never have had such a bad rep for hydrogen if the Nazis hadn't caused the Americans to embargo helium. (The Americans could smoke in the hulls in their Zeppelins, including the German-designed Los Angeles.)

    `Ideology offers human beings the illusion of dignity and morals while making it easier to part with them.'- Vaclav Havel

    by Black Brant on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 08:45:10 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

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