If we know anything about a zero-emission future, it’s that diversification of technology is key. With exciting investments underway, hydrogen fuels are becoming one more tech-ready solution in our climate toolkit.

Where does hydrogen fit in the marketplace? Based on the latest research in Nature Climate Change*, here are three emerging markets where hydrogen fuels are poised to outperform alternatives within the decade:

Long-distance aviation

Once considered a difficult sector to decarbonize, aviation communities are finally making strides. With hydrogen’s significant advantage in energy density and range, airlines are shifting from stagnant battery technology — batteries remain too heavy — toward hydrogen to power their air time. One California company, ZeroAvia, aims to fly a hydrogen-powered aircraft of 50 to 100 people by 2030. Major competitors such as Boeing are not far behind.

Steel production

This popular alloy is central to infrastructure worldwide. It’s also one of the largest producers of carbon dioxide, reaching an estimated 8% of global emissions. While a variety of strategies to reduce emissions are underway, a 2020 report by McKinsey & Company showed major steel producers in Europe have already invested in hydrogen infrastructure. Why? Having done the basic research, companies found it to be the “most viable option, and the long-term solution to achieving carbon-neutral steel.” 

Industrial chemistry

Carrying a whopping 14% of all greenhouse gases, petrochemicals help make everything from plastics to glossy paints. Replacing fossil fuels here is a challenge. Thankfully, companies like Siemens now offer access to large-scale electrolyzers — equipment that can produce hydrogen for fuel — opening new doors. As with all hydrogen markets, when powered by renewable energy it boasts a carbon-free footprint.

Runner up: Long-range and heavy-duty ground vehicles

Today’s grid infrastructure isn’t capable of reducing carbon footprints using hydrogen technology for ground vehicles. In fact, the Nature report found that with the current energy grid, switching to hydrogen-powered cars too early would, on average, actually increase greenhouse gas output. However, given hydrogen’s superior capacity for long ranges and high power, there’s a good chance hydrogen fuel will be the go-to technology for everything from forklifts, semi-trucks, and more as grids clean up — and over time the benefit for passenger cars will greatly increase as well.

Know more emerging markets for hydrogen? Share with us in the comments!

*A summary at Phys.org is available for free.

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