A s we try to identify alternative energy sources, says Nick Barilo, a project manager at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, hydrogen-powered fuel cells have the potential to replace the internal combustion engine and provide power in a range of stationary and portable applications. Because its use as a fuel is still relatively new, however, the proper methods of handling, storage, and transportation of hydrogen are often not well understood by those who are affected by its use.
One problem is that hydrogen is flammable in atmospheric conditions. When mixed with air, it can form a flammable mixture that is easy to ignite and burns with an almost invisible flame. This flammability is, in part, why hydrogen safety standards, among them NFPA 2, Hydrogen Technologies Code, have been developed.
For more on the subject of hydrogen safety and the work of the Hydrogen Safety Panel, established in 2003 to support the U.S. Department of Energy's efforts to commercialize fuel cell technologies, read Barilo's article "The H Factor" in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal.