The revised and expanded edition of Peter Hoffmann’s “Tomorrow’s Energy: Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and the Prospects for a Cleaner Planet” was published in 2012 by The MIT Press and is an updated edition of the original book, first published in 2001.
The book contains a foreword by Senator Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) and in it the Senator lauds Hoffmann’s work as being as relevant today as it was ten years ago, highlighting the solutions hydrogen offers in terms of energy security and emissions reduction through decarbonising transport.
The book is well written and provides a comprehensive description of hydrogen and its relevance both today and in the future. The book begins by explaining why we should look to hydrogen as the clean energy carrier of the future, before Hoffmann moves on to the discovery of hydrogen and the early scientific work that led to its characterisation and purification for use.
A comprehensive history of hydrogen is included, from possibly the earliest proposal for hydrogen mobility made in 1820 by Rev. W. Cecil at Cambridge University, through to the prescient works of Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island in 1870. The chapter touches on hydrogen’s use as a buoyancy medium and fuel for zeppelins in the 1900s (also covered in a later chapter on hydrogen safety) and the continual military interest in hydrogen for aerospace. The historical journey culminates in a timeline ending in 2011 with the Daimler F-CELL World Drive.
Later chapters cover the different methods for producing hydrogen currently available, including manufacture from water (via a range of methods including electrolysis, steam splitting and thermochemical splitting), reformed natural gas, biomass, wind and solar power. The subsequent three chapters cover fuel cell technology and the use of hydrogen in both ground-based and airborne transportation.
Hydrogen can also be used as a fuel to generate electricity and Hoffmann includes this in a chapter covering the concept of hydricity – the use of fuel cells and electrolysers to enable the interchange between hydrogen and electricity. The book also introduces some of the more esoteric uses that have been proposed for hydrogen: it has been put forward as a cure for cancer, as a means to ‘shoot’ objects into space, and even to manufacture artificial foods! The safety of hydrogen is discussed in a chapter which has the tongue-in-cheek title: Safety: The Hindenburg Syndrome, or “Don’t Paint Your Dirigible with Rocket Fuel”. This chapter looks at the misconceptions surrounding hydrogen as a fuel and the rigorous testing it has gone through to determine its safety for public use.
I enjoyed reading Hoffmann’s book and despite having worked in the fuel cells and hydrogen fields for over five years still found aspects of the history of hydrogen which were new to me. The book provides a thorough and informative coverage of hydrogen and its many uses and would be both a great reference for those knowledgeable in the field, or informative to those who are new to the subject and wish to learn more.
The book is available to buy online for around $16 (£17) on Amazon. US link. UK link.
Dan Carter Manager