Magazine article The World and I

Handling Hydrogen Safely

Magazine article The World and I

Handling Hydrogen Safely

Article excerpt

The tragic accident in which the Hindenburg was consumed in a fire in 1937 still haunts the public memory. It conveys the impression that hydrogen, the gas that filled the blimp, is too dangerous to handle. On the other hand, NASA investigators have concluded that the fire was started by the ignition of flammable surface materials and would have occurred even if helium had been the lifting gas. Moreover, while hydrogen burned upward and quickly left the scene, diesel fuel and other combustibles fell to the ground with the passengers and burned for many hours. In this sense, while hydrogen is very flammable, it is less dangerous than gasoline and other fuels that are heavier than air.

Since 1916, it has been shown that hydrogen can be stored as a compressed gas at pressures around 2,000 PSI (pounds per square inch) in ordinary steel cylinders, with no sign of degradation of the steel from long-term exposure to pure hydrogen. …

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