JUN 04, 2020 9:04 AM PDT

Hydrogen-Powered Tankers Could Be the Future Face of Global Logistics

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan


International trade heavily depends on gigantic cargo ships to transport goods across oceans, and a majority of these maritime vessels consume an enormous volume of heavy fuel oil (HFO), an inexpensive but heavily polluting fossil fuel, every year.

The shipping industry has been under pressure for a drastic change to reduce its carbon footprint. Experts have set their eyes on the hydrogen-based fuel cell as a sustainable alternative. A fuel cell converts the chemical energy of hydrogen and an oxidizing agent (say oxygen from the air) into electricity via electrochemical reactions, producing water vapor as the only byproduct.

Although the technology has been around for decades, it has not been seen as a viable method for powering ships due to the lack of analyses. In 2017, things were finally moving towards the right direction as a study report released by the Sandia National Laboratories. 

Commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Sandia researchers found that it's feasible to retrofit most existing vessels with hydrogen fuel cells, a cheaper and easier option as compared to constructing brand new ships from the ground up.

For the same amount of energy, liquid hydrogen is four times bigger than conventional maritime fuel in volume. But since the efficiency of a fuel cell doubles that of a diesel engine, a ship would only need twice as much capacity to produce the same energy output. By removing its existing internal combustion engine, an engineering team can easily find extra space for hydrogen storage.

The timing of this report coincides with the current trend of the "green" hydrogen production. The energy industry is slowly walking away from the traditional fossil fuel-based production method, while adopting new, carbon-neutral energy sources (e.g. wind, nuclear, and solar power) to produce hydrogen. 

It's hopeful that we would one day see more and more retrofitted vessels powered by hydrogen fuel cells sail in oceans, transporting goods and "cleaning" up the century-old shipping industry at the same time. 

Source: SciShow via Youtube

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
APR 21, 2020
Space & Astronomy
APR 21, 2020
Did This Interstellar Comet Reveal Vital Clues About its Origins?
Oumuamua received tons of attention from astronomers once it was confirmed to be an interstellar object of unknown origi ...
APR 22, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 22, 2020
5 Things You Didn't Know About Earth
Happy Earth Day! All though we should take action every day to appreciate our home, planet Earth. Today it gets a little ...
APR 21, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
APR 21, 2020
And you thought concrete was hard...
Findings from a study by a team from Kanazawa University have been published recently in the International Journal ...
APR 24, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
APR 24, 2020
Do you like your produce bacteria-free?
Researchers from Texas A&M University have developed a hydrophobic dual functionality coating that can be applied to ...
MAY 01, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAY 01, 2020
Giant elliptical galaxies are not likely to hold intelligent life
A previous paper published in 2015 theorized that giant elliptical galaxies would be 10,000 times more likely than spira ...
MAY 28, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAY 28, 2020
Expandable Resin Solves the Size Problem of 3D Printing
One of the current limitations of using a 3D printer is the size of the product. For someone to print a large part, they ...
Loading Comments...