Hydrogen fuel cells are reducing many types of pollution (not just in the air)September 7, 2023
Though the focus is on its zero carbon emissions into the air, it reduces other forms of pollution.
Hydrogen fuel cells have been making massive headlines because the technology makes it possible to operate machinery from cars and other vehicles to backup generators and from industry machinery to aircraft and shipping tankers without releasing carbon emissions into the air.
The pollution reduction from the use of H2 can extend beyond what is released into the air.
Hydrogen fuel cells work using an electrochemical process bringing H2 and oxygen together for an output of electrical energy, water, and a bit of heat. It is the reverse process of electrolysis, one of the methods of producing the H2 for use in hydrogen fuel cells in the first place. As such, using this option as an alternative to fossil fuels makes it possible to power the same engines without releasing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Carbon emissions are, of course, a top pollutant contributing to the warming planet and the climate change that results from those rising temperatures. The majority of the globe is now working on decarbonization in various forms in order to reduce the human impact on climate change, which is already producing more severe storms, droughts and extreme temperatures – among other critical and costly issues.
To a large degree, this includes the decarbonization of vehicles, industry, heating, shipping and transport, and many other areas that require substantial energy and currently release immense quantities of greenhouse gases into the air.
Using hydrogen fuel cells goes a step beyond the reduction of pollution into the air.
Among the added pollution-reducing advantages of using hydrogen fuel cells to power vehicles and machinery is that it can be considerably quieter. When using the hydrogen in a fuel cell as opposed to an internal combustion engine (ICE), engines operate notably more quietly than their conventional fossil fuel-fed ICE counterparts.
This might sound like it simply decreases a common irritant for people in developed area, particularly in big cities, but it goes beyond that level. A substantial body of reputable research has shown that there are serious health consequences to prolonged exposure to high noise levels. Among those health consequences includes a measurable increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.
A recent study led by Rick Neitzel of the University of Michigan Environmental Health Sciences examined the health outcomes of 130,000 participants in the research which was conducted in New York City. The participants used a noise detector feature on the Apple Watch.
According to Neitzel, the preliminary findings of the study showed that as many as one in three Americans are exposed to sound levels that can be harmful to their health. They also found that certain communities are at a notably higher risk of exposure than others.
“We’ve also found that not everybody is equally exposed,” said Neitzel. “In fact, our participants who are Black or Hispanic have tended to have higher noise exposures than folks from other racial and ethnic groups.”
Cutting transportation noise for better health
Separately, Massachusetts General Hospital researchers found a link between prolonged exposure to noise and significant health issues which can potentially cause death.
“From our data and the work of others, it appears that noise has been under-recognized and independent risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease,” said the study’s lead researcher Dr. Michael Osborne, a cardiologist from the hospital.
Osborne’s study determined that people particularly at risk of these major cardiac events lived in areas with high transportation noise such as major roadways and airports.
“We found, basically, that there was a pathway linking noise to cardiovascular disease that came through the brain and involved inflammation of the arteries leading to this downstream consequence, it’s likely an under-recognized risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” said Osborne.
Using hydrogen fuel cells reduces harmful noise pollution.
By powering noise producing vehicles and machinery with hydrogen fuel cells in order to reduce their carbon emissions, the sound they cause is also greatly reduced, which could simultaneously decrease the negative health impact on people in the surrounding area, particularly those most vulnerable populations.
When using green H2 for hydrogen fuel cells, that noise and air polluting impact can be further increased, as renewable energy sources such as solar, tidal and hydroelectricity do not contribute any meaningful sound to their regions when compared to other types of polluting power plants.
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