Re: hydrogen powered planes

From:         Steve Lacker <>
Organization: applied research laboratories
Date:         21 Nov 95 01:19:23 
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  or MIME structure (Gaia  1) wrote:
>When is the aviation industry going to be serious about the looming
>shortage of fossil fuels and their disastrous effects on the atmosphere--
>CO2 contributes over 59% of the greenhouse gases to global warming?
>When is the new airplane going to be reinvented? So much is happening with
>the reinvention of the automobile.
>In 1957 NASA already tested a hydrogen powered engine in order to find a
>new powerplant for a super spyplane that would escape detection.
>Astronauts take hydrogen and oxygen into space for their electricity needs
>and their H2O. It seems that Germany and Japan are ahead of the US in
>respect to research in the use of hydrogen, not only as an industrial
>product but also as a transportation fuel.
>How long have particulalry those communities that suffer most from large
>airports with their concomitant noise, land, water and airpollution wait
>for a fuel cell powered airplane????

Just recently, a fuel-cell (hydrogen) powered bus came through my city on a
"tour" of the US to demonstrate this "zero emissions" technology (stick with
me, this applies to aircraft as well!). The news stations all showed footage of
our state Land Commissioner drinking water produced by the fuel cell, and
talking to school children about "zero emissions" vehicles. The kids asked
questions, and he answered. He held up a jug of carbon black, and proclaimed
"this is the amount of diesel soot (substitute 'jet soot' for the sake of this
newsgroup) produced by one conventional bus in a day".

I eagerly awaited just *one* bright schoolkid to say "But sir, where does the
hydrogen come from? How many *hundreds* of pounds of coal does a powerplant
have to burn to split enough water for H2 for this bus to operate for one day?
How inefficient is it for us to burn coal to boil water to spin a turbine to
turn a generator to send electricity through several transformers to split
water (losing energy as waste heat along the whole chain)to make H2 and O2
which then get consumed in a less-than-100% efficient fuel cell to make
electricity to turn a motor, rather than just work a little more on the diesel
or jet engine? Or I guess we could just use nuclear energy to generate the
electricity... (but what a stir THAT comment might cause!)" But of course, no
schoolkid said all that, and if one did the news crews wouldn't air it anyway.
Reason does not prevail on the "environmental" bandwagon lately. Anyone who
calls attention to any fallacies in current "green" policies, will be summarily

Don't get me wrong, the environment needs our concern. But, there are no "zero
emission" vehicles. Planes, cars, buses, whatever- they just don't exist. c
Before you start pushing fuel cells, or batteries (I could talk about the tons
of hazardous waste from battery manufacture/disposal..) just stop and THINK for
a minute about the real implications, rather than the pipe dreams. Before you
start shouting to get all the old cars and planes off the roads and out of the
skies, think about how many TONS of waste are produced just preparing the raw
materials for building new cars and planes.  Think about how many more years
the old equipment could be used (presuming it is well maintained) before it
produced enough more pollution than new equipment does to compensate for the
pollution caused by building new equipment in the first place!

Plus- can you imagine the safety issues of carrying enough H2 and O2 to power a
reasonable sized airplane with today's technology?!? Please, lets be rational-
maintain, preserve, and use what we have, while new technology continues to

Steve Lacker	/	Applied Research Laboratories, The University of Texas
512-835-3286	/	PO Box 8029, Austin TX 78713-8029