In a nutshell, Hydrogen takes up as much of our universe as water does on our very own Earth.

Taking the mystery out of Hydrogen and a simple explainer on how it can be used.

Hydrogen Systems Australia how does it work

For those of us at Hydrogen Systems Australia who talk about Hydrogen all day, every day, the concept of this wonderful element and its potential is pretty ingrained in our DNA – literally and figuratively.

But for others, the concept is a little more alien – figuratively and quite possibly literally! In this article, we will break Hydrogen down – NOT literally – into more simple terms; terms that take the mystery out of Hydrogen and how it can be used.

So… let’s go all the way back. Back to the beginning of time.

About 13.7 billion years ago, all matter in the universe was created by the Big Bang explosion. About 380,000 years later, the first atoms were formed, including helium and our very own Hydrogen – THE most abundant element in the universe.

To put it into perspective, about 70% of the universe is made up of Hydrogen, followed by Helium which accounts for about 28%. The remaining 116 elements on the periodic table make up the final 2-ish percent of elements in the universe.

In a nutshell, Hydrogen takes up as much of our universe as water does on our very own Earth.

Hydrogen is a colourless, odorless, tasteless, flammable gas that has multiple potential as an energy source here on Earth. If we think about the history of energy, the very first source of energy for humans was the sun.

Since then, coal, gas, oil, wind, nuclear power and water have all contributed to our energy needs, but some more than others.

As humans have relied more and more on energy sources that spewed out greenhouse gases, the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased by more than 40% between 1750 and 2011.

Relying on fossil fuels for too long

For far too long, our energy requirements relied on fossil fuels – mainly coal, crude oil and natural gas. Power stations burn coal as an energy source to power our homes and businesses, natural gas is used for heating and cooking, crude oil makes petroleum, diesel and jet fuel to run our cars, trucks and planes.

These fossil fuels are not renewable. That means that they have a finite amount of them on this planet. And fossil fuels are also a little dirty. Okay, they are very dirty. When these carbon heavy materials are burned, they release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which is the number one contributor to global warming.

Global warming (also called climate change) damages ecosystems, increases water and atmospheric temperatures, causes our sea levels to rise and affects our weather and climate systems.

As humans have relied more and more on energy sources that spewed out greenhouse gases, the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased by more than 40% between 1750 and 2011.

HSA renewable energy

Let’s talk about renewables

So, where does hydrogen and other renewable energy resources come into the picture, you ask?

First, let’s talk about renewables. Renewables are natural resources that can be replaced. They never run out.

Solar is a renewable energy source provided from the sun.

Wind is renewable energy source – do you have any wind turbines in your area?

Hydropower is renewable energy powered by water.

Geothermal is another source of renewable energy. It uses the heat from within the earth to create power and heat.

Bioenergy uses organic, renewable materials to produce heat an energy.

The planet has a LOT of renewable energy options. We just need to know how, when and where to use them for maximum benefits.  The challenge is how to store the energy, as currently, if more energy is generated than is needed, it goes to waste. This is called abandoned energy.

But what about batteries? Batteries are a great option, but they do have some downsides: they are expensive, they are made from materials which are not great for our environment (particularly when it comes to end of life) and once they are full of energy, any further excess power for storage would still be abandoned.

green hydrogen fuel car

Different types of Hydrogen

Hydrogen offers a solution to the storage problem. But not all hydrogen is equal.

Brown Hydrogen is created from coal. Yep- a fossil fuel! This process still throws high levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Grey Hydrogen is created from methane gas. Again, this is another fossil fuel and carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

Blue Hydrogen (sounds good, yeah?) is created from gas or coal. But this time, the carbon dioxide is captured and used in the production of textiles or plastics. Still not the best.

Green Hydrogen is hydrogen created from renewable resources. This is the hydrogen that will change the world!

Green Hydrogen is created from renewable resources- mainly solar and wind power. The solar panels or wind farms power an electrolyser. When water is run through this electrolyser, it splits the H2O into Hydrogen and Oxygen. The process is a little more “sciency” than that, but for this blog posts sake, simplicity is better! The hydrogen (and oxygen if required!) is then compressed and stored in tanks awaiting use. When energy is required, the hydrogen is run through a fuel cell. This neat little piece of equipment turns the hydrogen into power, with the only by-product being pure water!

The applications for this type of system are many.

Imagine remote, island and indigenous communities no longer having to rely on diesel generators for their power.

Imagine agricultural properties being able to offer us 100% renewable milk, meat, fruit and vegetables for our consumption.

Imagine silent marine vessels cruising through our waters, no engines spluttering smoke everywhere and impacting not only our atmosphere but marine environments.

Imagine attending a winery concert, powered not by diesel generators but renewable energy- perfect for the surrounding ecosystem.

Imagine driving cars that no longer required petrol, but hydrogen to run.

Imagine Australia’s export opportunities if we could create and ship hydrogen to those around the world that don’t have the land space to create it for themselves!

Let’s put this into perspective once again. To power the world, we would need 115,625m2 of solar energy. This solar energy would be transferred into hydrogen and shipped worldwide to power cities, towns, regional communities and more. Australia’s land mass is 2,900,000m2. This means that we could allocate an area of 4% of Australia’s entire land mass and power the ENTIRE PLANET!

Sounds brilliant but there are still some challenges.

First, we would need a lot of equipment over a long period of time. Next, we would need resources to create and store the energy created. We would also need transportation options to distribute the hydrogen, and we would need the fuel cell infrastructure to power homes and communities.

Most of that costs a LOT of money which doesn’t make the technology cost effective. Yet.

For our world to be powered by 100% renewables, it is a long-term vision that would require multiple countries, agreements and methods. It would also require economies of scale to make it affordable to many. Not impossible, but definitely challenging.

Hindenburg hydrogen myth

Taking small steps for a green future

So here at Hydrogen Systems Australia, we help our clients take small steps to contribute to a future renewable planet. We don’t power countries.

We don’t power cities. We help power the small guys; remote communities, agricultural properties, islands, small towns and the supply of emergency energy for disaster relief.

These systems are still expensive but manageable with grants and supports from government and investment. These trailblazers now that they are powering not only their future but helping to clean our planet and provide for future generations.

But what about the safety? The Hindenburg was filled with hydrogen! It took many years for the true cause of this tragedy to be revealed, but in time, it came to be known that it was not the hydrogen that caused the ferocious fireball that engulfed the ship.

It was the external craft material, partially created with material that is also used to create jet fuel.

However, the stigma of hydrogen and the Hindenburg unfortunately remains to this day. If you spill hydrogen, it evaporates immediately as it is 14 times lighter than air. This means no soil or surrounding contamination. Hydrogen gas is explosive, yes. But so is diesel fuel, jet fuel and petrol!

Check out this cool YouTube video that explains it perfectly in reference to hydrogen cars.

So that is Hydrogen in a nutshell. In the future, our blogs will cover some of these topics in greater detail, but for now, review and let it sink in about this marvellous gas and its potential. As always, if you have any questions about Hydrogen, drop us a line- who knows, we may dedicate a future blog to you and your question!


At Hydrogen Systems Australia, our goal is to help create a cleaner planet with a greener approach to renewable energy production and needs. Our foundations are based on Lean Engineering and manufacturing principles, continuous improvement, as well as on highly collaborative relationships with suppliers, business partners, governments and academia to ensure our solutions always meet our customers’ needs. To chat more with us about hydrogen, send us an email or give us a call: +61 407 802 424.

Renee Golland

About Renee Golland

Experienced Marketing, Communications and Product Manager with a history of working in the scientific and renewable energy industries for more than 15 years.