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[Opinion] Hydrogen Economy

Posted June. 13, 2007 03:03,   


Harlow Shapley, an American astronomer who had grappled with the origin of space, once said that if God could have created the world with one word, it would have been hydrogen. Hydrogen, H in table of elements, is the simplest of atoms. Hydrogen comprises one proton and one electron. Such a simple composition and easy-to-produce characteristic allow hydrogen to make up 90 percent of space. All stars shine because they are fueled by hydrogen. The second largest component of space is Helium, with 9 percent.

The hydrogen atom is easy to handle and has been the pet subject of many scientists. British scientist Henry Cavendish was the first to separate the atom from compounds and identified its characteristics in 1776. Lavorisier named the atom hydrogen (he was unfortunately hanged on a scaffold during the French Revolution). Einstein found that hydrogen-based nuclear fusion creates an explosive energy based on his Special Theory of Relativity. The theory was first realized in the hydrogen bomb.

The bombs were a tragedy. However, hydrogen has benefited human beings overall. American physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi and his students discovered magnetic resonance, which led to the development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). MRI is used to detect and record hydrogen atoms in the human body, benefiting many patients. Hydrogen lasers use micro fields, which vibrate at 1420 megacycles per second. The laser is used in scientific experiments as it has an error of one second per 300 million years.

As fossil fuels are running out and worries over climate change increase, a hydrogen economy based on hydro-energy has emerged as a solution. Hydrogen generates electricity energy after being combined with oxygen in fuel cells. Its byproduct is pollution-free water. Experts say that the global economy will completely move from carbon-based to hydrogen-based energy by 2040. Today, the 8th International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy (IPHE), which has brought leaders from industry, academia and government together, comes to an end in Seoul. Hopefully, the meeting will be useful for bringing Korea closer to the goal of a hydrogen-based economy.

Chung Sung-hee, Editorial writer, shchung@donga.com