The world's first hydrogen fuel cell train officially entered commercial service in the German state of Lower Saxony on Monday.
The Coradia iLint, developed by French railway manufacturer Alstom, features fuel cells that convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, emitting nothing but steam and water. The low-noise train can reach up to 140 kilometers (87 miles) per hour and accommodate up to 300 passengers.
Two such models entered service, replacing some of the noisy, diesel-fueled trains that had been in circulation. Alstom has plans to deliver another 14 Coradia iLints to Lower Saxony by 2021, according to a company press release. The state government has invested €81 million (about $94.7 million) for the technology.
Roughly 120 diesel trains in the existing fleet will reach the end of their lifetime within the next 30 years, meaning the new trains could be a sustainable and practical replacement going forward, a transport official noted.
"The emission-free drive technology of the Coradia iLint provides a climate-friendly alternative to conventional diesel trains, particularly on non-electrified lines," Bernd Althusmann, Lower Saxony's Minister of Economy and Transport, said in the release. "In successfully proving the operability of the fuel cell technology in daily service, we will set the course for rail transport to be largely operated climate-friendly and emission-free in the future."
Passengers will be able to take the new, bright blue trains on a 100-kilometer (62-mile) line running between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde and Buxtehude on a fixed timetable.
The iLint is certainly quiet when departing. https://t.co/G6CJmhCywd— Richard Clinnick (@Richard Clinnick)1537180365.0
The two Coradia iLints are fueled at a mobile hydrogen filling station. Hydrogen gets pumped into the train via a 40-foot-high steel container next to the tracks at Bremervörde station. At a full tank, the train can run a full day with up to 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of autonomy, a range similar to diesel trains. Excess energy is stored with onboard lithium batteries.
"This is a revolution for Alstom and for the future of mobility. The world's first hydrogen fuel cell train is entering passenger service and is ready for serial production," Henri Poupart-Lafarge, chairman and CEO of Alstom, said in the release. "The Coradia iLint heralds a new era in emission-free rail transport. It is an innovation that results from French-German teamwork and exemplifies successful cross-border cooperation."
Alstom said that Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Italy and Canada are also looking into the technology, Agence France-Presse reported. France also wants hydrogen trains to be on its rails by 2022.
"Sure, buying a hydrogen train is somewhat more expensive than a diesel train, but it is cheaper to run," Stefan Schrank, the project's manager at Alstom, told AFP.
Alstom’s Coradia iLint arriving at Bremervörde station. The world’s first hydrogen train has successfully entered p… https://t.co/fZbZ1F71PL— Alstom UK (@Alstom UK)1537186362.0
This reality is inching ever closer after researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Australia developed a "solar paint" capable of pulling water vapor from the air and splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen using energy provided by sunlight.
"Hydrogen is one of the cleanest fuels, since it turns into water when burned," Daeneke told ResearchGate. "Hydrogen can be used either in fuel cells or directly in combustion engines. The first hydrogen fueled cars and busses can already be found in some cities around the globe. The key advantage here is that no harmful side products are emitted. This can drastically reduce smog, which is a serious issue in today's megacities, and greenhouse gases if the hydrogen is produced from renewable energy sources."
The paint contains a new, silica-gel-like compound—synthetic molybdenum-sulphide—that not only absorbs moisture from its surroundings but can also trigger chemical reactions that splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
"We found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air," Daeneke said in a statement. "Titanium oxide is the white pigment that is already commonly used in wall paint, meaning that the simple addition of the new material can convert a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel production real estate."
The technology is also ideal because the hydrogen created by the solar paint is not produced by fossil fuels nor is a constant supply of clean water necessary.
"The technique we developed avoids the use of liquid water altogether," Daeneke explained to ResearchGate. "Instead, our system captures water vapor from air ... This avoids all of the issues arising from the use of liquid water."
Theoretically, the solar paint could be applied or sprayed onto any surface where water vapor is present. Even evaporated moisture from salty or waste water would be sufficient, Daeneke noted.
Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, a professor at RMIT, added that "this system can also be used in very dry but hot climates near oceans. The sea water is evaporated by the hot sunlight and the vapor can then be absorbed to produce fuel."
Daeneke envisions that the paint could one day be used in conjunction with other renewable energy technologies.
"Photocatalytic paints may find application in multiple settings, one obvious one could be the local production of hydrogen as an energy carrier, side by side with photovoltaics generating renewable electricity," he told ResearchGate. "Further steps are necessary in order to fully see the scope of this technology. For example, our next targets are to incorporate this system together with gas separation membranes that will allow selectively harvesting and storing the produced hydrogen."
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
The world's largest artificial sun is now shining at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in the town of Jülich. On Wednesday, German scientists switched on project "Synlight" to test ways to make carbon-free fuel.
The honeycomb-like setup involves 149 individually adjustable xenon short-arc lamps that can produce about 10,000 times the intensity of the natural solar radiation on Earth's surface. To illustrate how powerful the lamps are, a single one can light a projector for a large cinema.
"We use the lamps because their light is the most similar to the sun," project manager Kai Wieghardt explained to Spiegel.
If all the lamps are targeted to a single spot, Synlight can produce temperatures of up to 3,500 degrees Celsius or 5,432 degrees Fahrenheit.
The goal of the experiment, as the Guardian reported, "is to come up with the optimal setup for concentrating natural sunlight to power a reaction to produce hydrogen fuel."
The 350-kilowatt array is housed in a specially constructed facility in Germany.DLR
You've probably heard of concentrated solar before. Concentrated solar facilities, like the ones being built in Nevada, Dubai and Morocco, involve a large field of movable mirrors that can harness sunlight and power a steam turbine to generate electricity.
Likewise, Synlight researchers are "investigating the possibility that a similar setup could be used to power a reaction to extract hydrogen from water vapor, which could then be used as a fuel source for airplanes and cars," according to the Guardian.
Hydrogen fuel—which has zero pollutant emissions and no greenhouse gases—has been touted as the fuel of the future. Hydrogen is produced by electrolysis, the process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, and requires large amounts of electricity. Hydrogen fuel projects are seen as cost-prohibitive on a commercial scale.
World's First Zero-Emissions Hydrogen Train Unveiled in Germany https://t.co/xbP2JdAWrx @Act4Renewables @euenergyweek— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478296512.0
Or, as DLR put it, Synlight researchers will be focusing on so-called "solar fuels."
The Jülich experiment currently uses artificial light and requires a lot of electricity to operate. Running the array for only four hours sucks up as much electricity that a four-person household would use in a whole year. The project was also very expensive, costing $3.8 million to build.
But the researchers hope to eventually use actual sunlight to produce hydrogen. Bernhard Hoffschmidt, director of DLR's Institute for Solar Research, explained to AP that once researchers have mastered hydrogen-making techniques with Synlight, the process can be scaled up ten-fold on the way to reaching a level fit for industry.
Although Hoffschmidt noted that hydrogen can be incredibly volatile, by combining it with carbon monoxide produced from renewable sources, scientists could potentially make eco-friendly kerosene for the aviation industry.
Germany will soon launch the world first hydrogen-powered, zero-emission passenger train.
The Coradia iLint, developed by French rail transport company Alstom, was presented last month at InnoTrans, the railway industry's largest trade fair.
The hydrogen, aka "hydrail," train is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and emits nothing but steam and condensed water, making it a much quieter and eco-friendly alternative to the 4,000 diesel trains currently in circulation in the country, according to a company press release.
The train claims speeds of up to 87 miles per hour and a hydrogen storage capacity for a 497-mile range. Excess energy is stored with onboard lithium batteries.
As CityLab pointed out, the train's fuel source is effectively carbon neutral since the hydrogen used by the train actually came from waste byproducts from the chemical industry and other manufacturers.
"Typically, this hydrogen is simply burned, so using it to power trains would not place any new, additional burden on the environment," CityLab wrote. "Admittedly, the production of such chemicals is itself not always carbon-neutral, but given that these substances are already being manufactured, the train project will at least ensure that this process is more productive."
According to German publication Die Welt, testing will be carried out by the end of the year. Pending successful results, the 300-passenger train will be open for the public on the Buxtehude-Bremervörde-Bremerhaven-Cuxhaven line in the German state of Lower Saxony in December 2017.
It's likely that other German states will host these trains. Letters of intent to use the model were also signed back in 2014 with North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg and the Public Transportation Authorities of Hesse.
Netherlands, Denmark and Norway have expressed interest in the trains as well, the
"Alstom is proud to launch a breakthrough innovation in the field of clean transportation which will complete its Coradia range of regional trains. It shows our ability to work in close collaboration with our customers and develop a train in only two years," said Henri Poupart-Lafarge, Alstom chairman and CEO in a statement.
Watch here to learn more about the Coradia iLinit: