Nav: Home

Liquid hydrogen may be way forward for sustainable air travel

February 23, 2017

Transport makes up around 20 percent of our energy use around the world--and that figure is set to grow, according to the International Energy Agency. With sustainable solutions in mind, a new study published by eminent physicist Jo Hermans in MRS Energy and Sustainability--A Review Journal (MRS E&S) looks at the energy efficiency of current modes of transport--from bicycles to buses, from air transport to cruise ships-- and concludes that liquid hydrogen seems to be a realistic option for what is probably the most problematic of transportation modes in terms of sustainability, future air travel.

Professor Hermans from Leiden University's famous Huygen's Laboratory acknowledges that oil-based liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel and kerosene will be hard to beat when it comes to how much energy they pack in relation to their volume and weight--not to mention the sheer convenience of using them to get from A to B.

The author of popular books such as Physics is Fun (2012) and Energy Survival Guide (2011) acknowledges that achieving sustainable transport in the post-fossil fuel era will be a huge challenge--but finds that liquid hydrogen could offer a potential solution for future air travel.

"Given the severe weight limitations for fuel in aircraft, liquid hydrogen may be a viable alternative in the long run," he argues:
  • First, handling of liquid hydrogen would be carried out by professionals, which reduces the safety issues involved with liquid hydrogen to the same level of risk involved in handling kerosene.
  • Second, liquid hydrogen itself is very light (in fact, it is in a gaseous state at ordinary temperatures), which is an important advantage for air travel.
  • Third, the disadvantages of "boil off" (created by the low boiling point of liquid hydrogen) would be reduced in air travel because of the low outside temperature at cruising altitudes.

Hermans discounts the use of solar power for air travel without revolutionary changes in the airplane concept, but concludes that it seems wise to extend the availability of oil products as long as possible. However, he argues that the low cost of kerosene is a huge disincentive in this respect:

"It is a defect that kerosene is so irrationally cheap, which triggers much unnecessary air travel," he writes. "A worldwide tax on kerosene--if at all politically possible--should be something to pursue."

For road transport, Hermans argues that liquid hydrogen is not a viable option due to safety issues around handling it. He finds that electric vehicles offer the most promising solution. However, the challenge is to improve the performance of batteries to prolong the driving time for electric cars, as well as improving the performance of supercapacitors for more rapid charging of the batteries, he argues.

Direct driving using solar power is difficult, Hermans finds, even under a clear sky. However, students from Eindhoven University of Technology are among those that have taken up the challenge; they built a four-seater solar-powered family car that can be driven indefinitely under clear skies at a speed of about 43km/h. The only drawback is that the car is just over 1m tall and is not very comfortable. Hermans concludes that solar family cars will be feasible in future if consumers are willing to sacrifice on comfort.

Alternatively, Hermans writes, the most efficient way for us to reduce energy use in future is to reduce our mobility, for example, by having shorter distances between the workplace and home. "In other words, urban planning provides an important key," he concludes.
-end-
MRS E&S, a journal of the Materials Research Society and Cambridge University Press, encourages contributions that provide viewpoints and perspectives on the all-important issue of how humankind can work towards, and build, a sustainable future.

The contents of this press release refer to the following article which is freely available
The challenge of energy-efficient transportation, by Professor Jo Hermans
https://goo.gl/HFptW0

Cambridge University Press

Related Solar Power Articles:

Installing solar to combat national security risks in the power grid
Power grid vulnerabilities are one of the most prevalent national security threats.
Bio-inspired energy storage: A new light for solar power
Inspired by the western Swordfern, a groundbreaking prototype could be the answer to the storage challenge still holding solar back as a total energy solution.
Scientists harness solar power to produce clean hydrogen from biomass
A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge has developed a way of using solar power to generate a fuel that is both sustainable and relatively cheap to produce.
Chemists create molecular 'leaf' that collects and stores solar power without solar panels
An international research team centered at Indiana University have engineered a molecule that uses light or electricity to convert the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide -- a carbon-neutral fuel source -- more efficiently than any other method of 'carbon reduction.' The discovery, reported today in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, is a new milestone in the quest to recycle carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere into carbon-neutral fuels and others materials.
Storing solar power increases energy consumption and emissions, study finds
Homes with solar panels do not require on-site storage to reap the biggest economic and environmental benefits of solar energy, according to research from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.
Solar power plan set to bring fresh water to out-of-reach villages
A solar-powered purification system could provide remote parts of India with clean drinking water for the first time.
Tiny high-performance solar cells turn power generation sideways
University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers have created high-performance, micro-scale solar cells that outshine comparable devices in key performance measures.
Lawrence Livermore collects funds for solar power improvement
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), in collaboration with Giant Leap Technologies, received $1.75 million Thursday from the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to improve solar power efficiency.
Watering solar cells makes them grow ... in power!
Researchers clarified the relationship between air exposure and enhanced electric proprieties in perovskite solar cells.
Videos reveal birds, bats and bugs near Ivanpah solar project power towers
Video surveillance (videos available) is the most effective method for detecting animals flying around solar power towers, according to a study of various techniques used at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System facility in southeastern California.

Related Solar Power Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...