LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico — Hailed as a "magical" solution. Derided as a perennial fantasy. Embraced as an "earthshot."
Many have eyed hydrogen's tantalizing potential as an abundant and pollution-free energy source for transportation and beyond. Jules Verne described a method in which "water will one day be employed as fuel," and wrote hydrogen and oxygen will "furnish an exhaustible source of heat and light" in his 1874 novel The Mysterious Island.
Nearly 150 years later, hydrogen's applications are no longer confined to science fiction. But despite the straightforward chemistry involved in its production, the ascendance of hydrogen to the realm of a society-altering energy source remains elusive.
Now, after decades of pilot projects and sporadic deployments, hydrogen appears on the cusp of economic viability and widespread use. Spurred by the simultaneous global challenges of climate change and increased desires for energy independence, governments and multinational companies are spending billions to usher in a hydrogen era.