Skip to comments.Fill your car up with aluminum?
Posted on 05/18/2007 10:29:42 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Pellets made out of aluminum and gallium can produce pure hydrogen when water is poured on them, offering a possible alternative to gasoline-powered engines, U.S. scientists say.
Hydrogen is seen as the ultimate in clean fuels, especially for powering cars, because it emits only water when burned. U.S. President George W. Bush has proclaimed hydrogen to be the fuel of the future, but researchers have not decided what is the most efficient way to produce and store hydrogen.
In the experiment conducted at Purdue University in Indiana, "The hydrogen is generated on demand, so you only produce as much as you need when you need it," said Jerry Woodall, an engineering professor at Purdue who invented the system.
Woodall said in a statement the hydrogen would not have to be stored or transported, taking care of two stumbling blocks to generating hydrogen.
For now, the Purdue scientists think the system could be used for smaller engines like lawn mowers and chain saws. But they think it would work for cars and trucks as well, either as a replacement for gasoline or as a means of powering hydrogen fuel cells.
"It is one of the more feasible ideas out there," Jay Gore, an engineering professor and interim director of the Energy Center at Purdue's Discovery Park, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. "It's a very simple idea but had not been done before."
On its own, aluminum will not react with water because it forms a protective skin when exposed to oxygen. Adding gallium keeps the film from forming, allowing the aluminum to react with oxygen in the water, releasing hydrogen and aluminum oxide, also known as alumina.
What is left over is aluminum oxide and gallium. In the engine, the byproduct of burning hydrogen is water.
"No toxic fumes are produced," Woodall said.
Based on current energy and raw materials prices, the cost of making the hydrogen fuel is about $3 a gallon, about the same as the average price for a gallon of gas in the United States.
Recycling the aluminum oxide byproduct and developing a lower grade of gallium could bring down costs, making the system more affordable, Woodall said.
A worker walks between stacks of high purity aluminum ingots at the RUSAL aluminum smelter in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk April 4, 2007. Pellets made out of aluminum and gallium can produce pure hydrogen when water is poured on them, offering a possible alternative to gasoline-powered engines, U.S. scientists say. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)
When will we see “BIG ALUMINUM” attacked by the Sierra Club?........
The second this technology shows any sign of improving the standard of living.
That is one additional concern -- how are we going to mine the aluminum without setting of the Greenie whackos. You know, since it's kind of illegal to shoot them.
It’s about time we wean ourselves off of aluminum. We must seek alternatives.
Well, the Aluminum is recyclable, so the fuel pellets, once exhausted can be turned in to be reused. Additional advantages, people would be more apt to re-cycle their cans and containers because of a higher price in face of higher demands........
Gallium is $1000 a pound.
As soon as they figure out that
THE EXACT SAME PEOPLE
are making money on this “alternative” energy source as were making money on oil.
True, but if this is going to be a large-scale replacement for petroleum products, there's going to have to be a HUGE initial influx of aluminum into the supply stream, which means intense mining. And our Green "friends" aren't going to like that, even if it means reducing vehicle emissions to nearly nothing, so best to consider how to neutralize them now, before this goes large-scale.
Of course, given the weight issue, I'm sure there will be some applications where weight is a critical factor that will still use some kind of petrochemical, but a combination of hydrogen power and biodiesel would reduce our dependency on petroleum to near nil.
And in the UK,
will it be AlYuminium?
This process releases hydrogen gas. You can't drive far on a gallon of hydrogen gas. If they are talking about the equivalent of a gallon of liquid hydrogen, that's a different story. The author needs to clarify (as usual).
Hydrogen is a pipe dream. Hydrocarbons are hundreds of times more efficient. There will be one exception. There are a few technologies in the pipe that will allow us to passively store cryogenic liquids with no boil-off. That will change the outlook quite a bit.
I will say that gallium-aluminium catalyzed water decomposition is a rather interesting technology. Without Google or Wiki I imagine that the reactions would be something like:
6H2O + 2Ga + 2Al -> 6H2 + Ga2O3 + Al2O3
Problem will be when you want to regenerate the catalyst. It would be much better to find a catalyst for this reaction that you can regenerate in situ. That would be nice. Good luck.
I imagine that this would be better served at a fuel station. Pump water into a holding tank with gallium-aluminium pellets, generate hydrogen gas and then compress it to liquid form. Deliver the liquid directly to the customer, who then stores it just like gasoline. The passive insulation technologies I mentioned earlier will allow that to happen.
I still say that hydrogen is not the answer. We will be on electric vehicles before there is a “hydrogen economy.” And even then, combustion engines will be around for a long time. Things such as airplanes, power plants, they all use combustion engines. You can eliminate that by using Nuclear power. But then you still have airplanes, and I imagine unless we have some breakthrough technology, they will be running on hydrocarbons for a long time to come.
But it doesn't get consumed in the process -- the same gallium can be reused infinitely. So, it's a one-time cost in the manufacturing of the fuel system, rather than a recurring cost. Also, it doesn't have to be high-grade gallium, a fair bit of it can come from the byproducts of the semiconductor industry.
I would hope that the alumina and alloy may be able to reconstituted in a reversing mechanism run by electricity.
You guys are way ahead of the game!............
That's what yesterday's article said; so I believe it's possible.
Better info at the previous article posted for economics
What about the availability of Gallium?
I really only recall hearing about it in Chemistry class.
Just a slight correction -
you have more than water as a combustion product, as natural gas is carbon based (CH4).
So you’d get some CO (incomplete combustion), CO2, and H2O when it burns.
Pure H2 being burned only produces H2O.
There is valuable metal in the catalytic converter of the exhaust system. When they first started being used it was estimated they would last 50,000 miles and have to be replaced, not cheap, even though the catalyst was recoverable. Likely the gallium would have to be recycled, so the entire unit would be replaced when the aluminum is oxidized. If they start putting gallium in cars, the quantity would be large. How much would come from the leftovers of the semiconductor industry?
It's used in the semiconductor industry, but I don't know where the natural resources come from, nor do I know how much or little is needed for this process.
China is a source of gallium.
No, Natural Gas combustion produces CO, CO2 and NOx. Burning Hydrogen in our atmosphere is also going to produce NOx.
Did it say that mechanism could be incorporated into a removable module so that one would have two modules — one charging at home, and one discharging? I guess market economics would make it preferable to sell recharged alumina modules, rather than own-your-own.
The NOX is coming from the nitrogen in the air used for combustion, right?
Gallium does not exist in free form in nature, nor do any high-gallium minerals exist to serve as a primary source of extraction of the element or its compounds. Gallium is found and extracted as a trace component in bauxite, coal, diaspore, germanite, and sphalerite. The United States Geological Survey (USGC) estimates gallium reserves based on 50 ppm by weight concentration in known reserves of bauxite and zinc ores. Some flue dusts from burning coal have been shown to contain as much as 1.5 percent gallium.The statements from the scientist seem to indicate that 99.9999% purity wouldn't be required, so I would imagine the same sources could be used to produce less pure versions at a lower cost, pending supply issues.
Most gallium is extracted from the crude aluminium hydroxide solution of the Bayer process for producing alumina and aluminum. A mercury cell electrolysis and hydrolysis of the amalgam with sodium hydroxide leads to sodium gallate. Electrolysis then gives gallium metal. For semiconductor use, further purification is carried out using zone melting, or else single crystal extraction from a melt (Czochralski process). Purities of 99.9999% are routinely achieved and commercially widely available.
As of 2006, the current price for 1 kg gallium of 99.9999% purity seems to be at about 400 US$.
Another lunatic scheme from the hydronauts.
If you want to run your car on aluminum, why not do it with a mechanically recargable battery. You would get nearly 100% of the electrical energy stored in the metal. PEM fuel cells are less than 50% efficient and you would lose even more energy in the chemical process to release hydrogen. You also would have much less complexity and expense.
There have been mechanically recargable marine batteries for about 40 years.
People are just grabbing at straws trying to figure out how to make a hydrogen car.
I think the previous article speculated that module exchange would be better, that way "spent" modules could be recharged at the power source, rather than having to deal with expensive and lossy power distribution.
Aluminum is produced with heavy use of electric power. Using aluminum to give back some of that power makes some sense, but as with hydrogen by electrolysis from other means it is only a medium not a primary source. This is not a something from nothing situation.
Thanks, I’ll check it out.
And Gallium is a toxic substance, if I remember correctly.
Agreed. This clearly isn’t about “something for nothing”, it’s about a mechanism to store the potential hydrogen energy until the moment it’s needed for use. A hydrogen “battery”, so to speak, without the volatility of actual hydrogen.
I am referring to smoke, odor, and particulates.
Details can be found at:
However - the gallium is not used up - it’s a catalyst. and the aluminum is turned into alumina - which can be re-smeltedback into pure metal alloy.
How does the car perform in winter when the water in the tank is frozen?
Also, would you have to manufacture expansion joints in the tank to allow for the ice to expand and prevent the fuel tank from rupturing?
The technology is interesting even if it doesn’t actually get to the general marketplace.
True. I think the talk of using it to power cars may just be a way to grab attention. The practical applications might be less... profound.
Right, we discussed that.
Yes, I do not know how you could have combustion in our nitrogen rich air and not generate NOx. Maybe if the combustion was at relatively low temperature, but then it would not be effective as an energy source.
What about the other costs?* It appears that they haven’t factored in the costs of taxes, and transporting, and retailing the hydrogen fuel. If they can get the cost per mile driven to match that of gasoline — then this could be one more useful alternative.
(*Assuming that they meant that the hydrogen would have the energy equivalent of a gallon of gas.)
“Hydrogen is seen as the ultimate in clean fuels, especially for powering cars, because it emits only water when burned.”
And when it burns, boy does it burn!
The catalytic exhaust converter would have to be retained.
If thats the case then a gallium-coated vessel may well provide equally effective catalysis. I wonder if poisoning
of the gallium catalyst occurs over time?