Revisiting Hydrogen and the Hindenburg

Revisiting Hydrogen and the Hindenburg

It has long been believed that the doping on the skin of the Hindenburg is what created the flash fire and destruction of the air-ship.

A recent report on hydrogen by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has re-established that it was the fast burning properties of hydrogen that caused the destruction of the Hindenburg in under one-minute, and not the doping, i.e., painting, of the air-ship’s outer covering, i.e., skin.

The GWPF report points out that the flame of a hydrogen ignition moves at a very high speed, from “deflagration” to a near “detonation”, i.e., an explosion with a flame frontier moving at speeds greater than sound and with an accompanying shock wave. 

Quoting from the GWPF report:

“Space Science Director at NASA, A. J. Dessler, noted doped cloth of this kind does not burn very rapidly in tests. If the Hindenburg had been painted with rocket fuel, which it was not, the speed of the resulting combustion would not have explained the extreme rapidity with which the fire proceeded to consume the entire ship.”

“The rapid development of the Hindenburg fire is entirely consistent with a rapid deflagration of hydrogen, the pace of which can be very fast indeed.”

It’s this same characteristic, of very high speed movement of the flame, that requires modifications to the combustion chambers of natural gas turbines to allow them to burn hydrogen.

The Hindenburg disaster establishes that a hydrogen fire can be of an explosive nature.

It’s the ability of hydrogen to leak through pipes and threaded joints, into enclosed spaces, that, in combination with the ferocity of the fire, makes hydrogen dangerous.

Get the full report, Hydrogen and Climate Change

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4 Replies to “Revisiting Hydrogen and the Hindenburg”

  1. Very interesting report. Good thing humans don’t exhale hydrogen — that would make smoking very unhealthy.

  2. Hydrogen certainly will not “detonate” without being mixed with oxygen. However, the hydrogen was contained in many gas bags within the structure of the dirigible. Suppose that the hydrogen slowly leaked from the gas bags or piping into the spaces occupied by air between the gas bags. Then there might have been an explosive mixture within the inter-bag spaces.

    I also know (from experience) that high pressure hydrogen jetting into room can cause sparks to ignite it.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m speculating that high pressure hydrogen, jetting into a space, might create static electricity that could ignite the hydrogen.