Study Suggests Reconsidering Use Of Airships To Create Cleaner Hydrogen Economy

As the world desperately searches for new ways to cut carbon emissions and make transportation more environmentally friendly, a new compelling study is suggesting that we should reconsider using hydrogen airships.

The shipping industry that crosses the ocean on a daily basis only makes up three percent of carbon emissions, and even it is looking at past technology to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

Overall, however, the transportation sector as a whole is responsible for 25 percent of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.

Air travel contributes the lion share even though it is working to reduce emissions, even considering using biofuels.

Obviously, airships won’t totally replace air and sea transport, and lots of people are understandably nervous about them considering the tragedy of the Hindenberg several decades ago that put an end to airships as an option for decades.

However, as The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis points out:

Since then, considerable advances in material sciences, our ability to forecast the weather, and the urgent need to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, have steadily been bringing airships back into political, business, and scientific conversations as a possible transportation alternative.

Indeed, at sporting events we often see blimps flying around above the stadium. Clearly, technology has advanced to make airships a safer option.

The study suggests using airships to transport cargo and propelling them using the jet stream to save fuel consumption. A round trip this way would actually take less time than using a cargo ship at sea.

The hydrogen also has alternative uses that would directly benefit a planet that is facing a freshwater crisis as global temperatures rise.

The process of generating energy from hydrogen produces water – one ton of hydrogen produces nine tons of water. This water could be used to increase the weight of the airship and further save energy in its descending trajectory. Another possible application for the water produced is rainmaking, which involves releasing the water produced from the stratosphere at a height where it will freeze before entering the troposphere where it would then melt again. This reduces the temperature and increases the relative humidity of the troposphere until it saturates and starts raining. The rain will in turn initiate a convection rain pattern, thus feeding even more humidity and rain into the system. This process could be used to alleviate water stress in regions suffering from shortages.

That’s right, we could totally make tons of water by using airships. Airplanes can’t do that. And any excess hydrogen could be emptied into tanks to fuel cars that run on it. So we could alleviate water crises around the world and reduce carbon emissions at the same time. It’s a really interesting idea that merits further exploration and experimentation.

“Airships have been used in the past and provided great services to society,” lead researcher Julian Hunt says. “Due to current needs, airships should be reconsidered and returned to the skies. Our paper presents results and arguments in favor of this. The development of an airship industry will reduce the costs of fast delivery cargo shipping, particularly in regions far from the coast. The possibility to transport hydrogen without the need to liquefy it would reduce the costs for the development of a sustainable and hydrogen-based economy, ultimately increasing the feasibility of a 100% renewable world.”

That’s the kind of world and future we should all want and most certainly need.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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