Fuel cells and more nagging questions
Okay, I understand that this whole dream of a hydrogen economy run by fuel cells has a number of barriers, including storage, distribution and other infrastructure issues. Assuming these can all be overcome — and there are many people out there trying to do just that, boosted by another $119 million in funding from the Bush administration — let’s consider two other potential barriers: platinum and water.
A story in ScienceDaily raises the issue of sustainability of metal resources, and has this to say about platinum: “Researchers believe scarce metals, such as platinum, face depletion risks this century because of the lack of suitable substitutes in such devices as catalytic converters and hydrogen fuel cells.”
I understand a lot of work is being done to try to reduce platinum dependency in fuel cells, or to replace platinum altogether. Unless these goals are achieved, it seems that fuel cells the way they are today will simply be driving into a brick wall.
Then there’s water. If water is to be used in the future as a source of hydrogen through electrolysis, and if — correct me if I’m wrong — you need to use relatively pure water to accomplish this, then tell me where this water is going to come from when we have water shortages/crises in many parts of the world — including the United States? This may be oversimplifying things, but water is essentially being positioned as a fuel for the future at a time when we are running out of it for basic things, such as survival (and of course for keeping Arizona golf courses green).
Then again, once you run hydrogen through a fuel cell and it combines with oxygen you get the water back… so perhaps I should just shut up.