October 20, 2022

Hydrogen, a chemical element at the origin of a better future?

For many years, Seres Technologies has been committed to the fight against global warming and has been assisting numerous clients in the energy transition. Working in close collaboration with pioneering companies and leaders in the automotive and railway sectors, our engineers workon a multitude of projects that are part of a global approach to pollution control. We are contributing to a greener, cleaner and sustainable future, notably with projects around electric mobility and more recently, hydrogen mobility.

The applications of the latter are varied: 

  • fuel cell
  • on-board storage and distribution systems
  • car
  • bus
  • train
  • charging station

But what is hydrogen really?

Hydrogen, a chemical element atomic number 1, is natural, non-polluting and above all available in abundant abundant quantity. It is what we call an energy carrier. It allows to transport energy from a point A to a point B. It could, with time, replace replace our fuels and become the energy of the future. It exists in 2 forms. The first, in gas, is its natural form after extraction. Its second form is liquid and this one is obtained by cooling the gas to a lower temperature of -257,87°C. But where can we find this gas? And what are its characteristics?

Unfortunately, this gas is not found in its pure state. To obtain it, it must be extracted from other elements. For example, in coal or lignite. But there are also other extraction processes.

Hydrogen is environmentally friendly, but what about the process?

Each type of extraction is defined by a certain color. This color indicates how it is made. All manufacturing methods are obviously not equal and have a greater or lesser impact on the environment.

green hydrogen

Hydrogen, a false friend of ecology?

No, in itself, it is not harmful to the environment. However, some extraction methods are. For the moment, 70% of the production is represented by grey. This method of production is therefore preferred because it is more efficient, simpler and less expensive. However, despite the financial cost, France wants to turn mainly to green hydrogen by 2030. Its use requires a fuel cell that will consume hydrogen to generate electricity, while releasing only water vapor. In the future, it is expected that this fuel will replace fuel cars, trucks, machines, planes and rocketsas this method of extraction is the most environmentally friendly.

Can it become the energy of the future?

France is going to invest 1.5 billion euros to scale up to industrial scale and therefore develop large electrolyser plants in order to generate more than 600,000 tons of decarbonized hydrogen per year by 2030 from decarbonized electricity. The market is of interest to France, which sees it as a promising solution for the future and has therefore made it a priority. So much so, that France wants to become the leader in green hydrogen. However, this implies a significant constraint.

Hydrogen and its storage

On paper, hydrogen, but especially green hydrogen, looks like a miracle solution. However, in addition to its high electrical cost, its storage can be an obstacle. It is lighter and therefore bulkier than kerosene. In other words, to use the equivalent of 1 liter of kerosene, we will need 4 liters of hydrogen.

Hydrogen Kerosene

Towards an ecological awareness of companies

Some companies, such as Airbus, are also putting this issue front and center. However, Jean-Brice DUMONT, executive vice-president of Airbus, explains in an interview for France 24, that it is "hypocritical" to use hydrogen of another production than green, because for grey, brown or black, the ecological impact would be just as important as flying with kerosene. However, the use of hydrogen is set to increase and a commercial aircraft project is planned for 2035. The first Engine tests for these 3 aircraft are scheduled for late 2026.

What if the future comes sooner than expected

Since July 2022, a discovery has shaken up the world of hydrogen. A group of Australian researchers would have found a way to transform hydrogen into powder. This is an important advance that makes it easier to move and also less dangerous. The process consists in making boron nitride powder absorb hydrogen thanks to a chemical-mechanical reaction. During the process, the powder is placed in a mill with small stainless steel balls. During the repeated contact with the powder, the gas is gradually absorbed by it.

We should therefore be able to store larger quantities more easily thanks to this discovery. It is time to wait and watch for future technological advances. The only thing we can be sure of is that the future will be greener and greener for hydrogen.

Seres Technologies

Seres Technologies

Engineering at the heart of the human being

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