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Uses And Applications Of Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a gas presented by the symbol (H2). This gas is non toxic, tasteless, colorless ad odorless. It is usually non toxic at atmospheric pressures and temperatures. Hydrogen is the highest in quantity element in the whole universe. This gas is not present in the atmosphere and does not exist in single molecules. It can acquire very high velocities when it collides with molecules which are a bit heavier and consequently is removed from the air. Hydrogen however, is very much abundant in the world though it exists as part of other compounds, for example water.

This gas combusts in air and emits a flame which is pale blue, which is not easily visible. In terms of weight, it is the lightest of all existing gases, almost one –fifteenth which is equally heavy just like the air. When igniting hydrogen, it easily lights especially when it combines with oxygen to form gas which can explode called Oxy-hydrogen. Hydrogen is the most combustible gas and releases a lot of energy which is measured per unit weight for any material commonly occurring. It is this property which makes people to choose it as a source of fuel especially in the higher levels of multi-stage rockets.

(Dziadecki, 2005) The boiling point of hydrogen is the lowest in any element other than Helium. Whenever hydrogen is left to cool down to the boiling point, “-252. 760C”or “-422. 930F”, it becomes odorless and transparent liquid which is merely one-fourteenth heavier than water. This liquid, which is actually hydrogen, is usually not reactive and neither is it corrosive. During its conversion from liquid form to gas, hydrogen tends to expand close to 840 times. The resultant liquid hydrogen flows consistently. This is due to its density which is low and the low boiling point. (Krebs, 1998)

APPLICATIONS OF HYDROGEN The most common use of hydrogen is when it is combined with oxygen to form water. It is also used in the manufacture of methane gas commonly used as fuel. This is because of its combustible and flammable qualities. Hydrogen is produced during reformation of hydrocarbons through steaming. However this process is applied during large-scale manufacturing of hydrogen. Hydrogen can also be produced through the process of oxidation. Coal or hydrocarbons are oxidized partially. Other processes are water electrolysis; where the hydrogen by product is also recovered from the electrolytic cells.

The processes produce chlorine with other products and also include separation of ammonia. As a result of these processes being applied, hydrogen gas is manufactured which is usable internally and can also be sold to selected refineries and streams which manufactures different kinds of chemicals. For example tail gas, fuel gas, purge gas plus other gases or streams which are contaminated, or low-valued are produced. However, these gases can be purified through PSA method (Pressure Swing Adsorption), separation of gas membrane and cryogenic separation. (Kirchheim, 1998)

Hydrogen gas is also bought as a liquid by its users. They can vaporize it as required and hence reduce the costs, rather than having it produced at the site. Conversion of hydrogen gas into liquid is a process which is done in stages. The apparatus to be employed are refrigerators, expansion or compression loops which are supposed to produce very cold temperatures. During this process, the gas is passed through ‘para/ortho’, which is a conversion catalyst which changes ‘ortho’ hydrogen into ‘para’ form. Since this hydrogen occurs into two, they are called ‘diatomic hydrogen and their states of energy are different.

For example ‘ortho’ is the commonest and occurs at the room temperature. The nuclei possess spins believed to be ‘ant-parallel’. However, the ‘para’ hydrogen has ‘parallel spins’. ‘Ortho’ is not as stable as ‘para’ at liquid temperatures of hydrogen. It changes into ‘para’ and releases energy. This energy goes through vaporization and a small fraction of liquid becomes vapor. However, a catalyst, for instance ‘hydrous ferric oxide’ can be used to change hydrogen into a stable form. This is during the process of liquefaction. The product of liquid hydrogen is kept without ‘excessive vent losses’.

(Newton, 2006) USES OF HYDROGEN The hydrogen gas can be used in huge amounts as a raw material during the process of synthesizing ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, methanol, solvents and polymers. In most refineries, hydrogen is used in the removal of sulfur usually found in the crude oil. Catalytically, hydrogen can be combined with a number of streams during the intermediate processing. It is used together with other catalysts during cracking operations, normally to change heavy and other compounds which are unsaturated to slightly lighter and compounds which are more stable.

Most pharmaceutical industries use hydrogen during the vitamins manufacture as well as pharmaceutical products. When produced in large quantities, hydrogen is used as a purifier of gases (for example argon) which have some traces of oxygen, there is use of a catalyst which is combined with hydrogen and oxygen and is consequently followed by removing the water produced during the process. (Krebs, 1998) Hydrogen is used to prevent oxidation. This is more so in the huge tins for bathing. This process occurs during manufacturing of the float glass.

In beverages and food, hydrogen is used in the hydrogenation of fatty acids, usually unsaturated. These are found in vegetable oils and in animals. It is also employed during production of solid fats used in margarine besides other products of food. (Rigden, 2004) In electronics, hydrogen gas is in most cases used as a ‘carrier gases for very active ‘trace’ elements such as phospine and arsine in the production of half-conducting layers mostly in the circuits which need to be integrated. Most generators in huge plants produce a lot of power.

These in most cases are cooled using hydrogen, because the processes of the gas emit considerably high conductivity of thermal energy and it also offers friction with low resistance. Hydrogen is also used to protect the atmosphere when fabricating the fuel rods in the nuclear industry. (Rigden, 2004) A lot has been put forward regarding hydrogen as ‘fuel for the future’ as a result of its large quantities and the fact that it does emit pollutants during combustion. It is worth to say that there exist other forms of energy which can be used in the production of hydrogen and as a result be used as fuel.

A lot of hydrogen is combined with compounds such as methane or water. Energy must be employed to separate hydrogen from water or methane, followed by purification, compression and liquefaction of hydrogen to ease storage and transportation. The production and distribution as well as use will have to explore other innovations coupled with investments so that it becomes efficient and the production systems should also be acceptable in the environment, the storage systems, transportation systems and the usage devices.

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