After President George W. Bush unveiled early in his first term a vision of a hydrogen economy--a vision that momentarily "killed" visions of an electric car--it did fot take long for the truth to sink in that it would decades at the least before motor vehicles would generally run on fuel cells fueled by hydrogen. So it came as rather a surprise to see, reading an account by a German Russia expert of a September 2006 meeting with Vladimir Putin, the following: "The age of oil will one day draw to a close. How is Russia preparing for the time after cheap oil, or indeed, after oil? Putin offers an optimistic perspective: 'We are working on hydrogen energy. In the medium term we will invest massively.' " So reports Michael Stuermer, in Putin and the Rise of Russia.
What did Putin have in mind? Was he still clinging to something like Bush's vision, well after most Americans had tossed it onto the dustbin of history?
Now comes a report from Siemens that it is working with the Russian National Research Nuclear University to develop turbines that would run on hydrogen. Siemens does not underestimate the challenges: "The idea of combusting hydrogen with oxygen to obtain water and extract a large amount of energy with zero environmental pollution is still a long way off at the moment. The production of pure oxygen is too costly and the combustion temperatures of 3,200 degrees Celsius are too high for the turbine blading used in the power plants. Natural gas, which burns at approximately 1,950 degrees Celsius, already requires air cooling of the blading. Siemens CT in Munich is therefore also conducting research intoheat-resistant ceramics for use in turbines."
Evidently that vision will be a long time comng too--if ever indeed it's realized--but it too is an interesting one.