Posting in Energy
Researchers at Purdue University are using the Earth's abundant supply of aluminum to develop a method that creates electricity -- and even potable water.
Researchers at Purdue University are using the Earth's abundant supply of aluminum to develop a method that creates electricity -- and even potable water. I spoke this week with Jerry Woodall, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. Below are excerpts from our interview.
How does the aluminum alloy that you developed create hydrogen to generate electricity?
Aluminum is a very stable metal. It will dissolve into liquid gallium. When the aluminum goes into the gallium, it will freely react with water. When it gets to the interface between the gallium and the water, it will take a water molecule and split it off into hydrogen gas and aluminum hydroxide. The reaction gives off heat, but the reaction also gives off hydrogen and aluminum tri-hydroxide.
I can make hydrogen on demand from something that is safe. Aluminum is very safe. It's the third-most abundant element on the planet's surface, so there's no sustainability issue. Once you buy a piece of aluminum, it's yours forever. You can recycle this thing over and over again.
In what situations could this be used?
There are plenty of people off the grid right here in the United States. Where this makes sense is where you do not have grid electricity. It's great for military operations. You wouldn't have to put in a road. You wouldn't have to put in electric transmission lines. This could be dropped in with a helicopter. It will be very economical to do it this way. Countries that have a lot of remote villages with no electricity, this makes great sense for them. Not only do you get electricity, you get potable water.
Why is this better than other methods of generating electricity?
It costs a lot of money and infrastructure to put in grids to places that are small. If you look at it economically, it makes more sense to supply the chemical energy to village that needs it. They can get water and electricity without having to put in electric lines. I'm in a town with plenty of electricity, but if the grid goes down I can use this as a space heater and to supply electricity. I can use it for emergency backup power.
What's the next step?
We've spent the last five years perfecting this aluminum alloy that works every time. [For the near term, I'm excited about this for] off-grid electric power and potable water for places that need it. The other one is for backup power, so you don't freeze in the winter if the power goes down. We can supply both heat and electricity. There are very few systems that will do that. We can make electricity because we have the hydrogen to do it.
You discovered this in 1968. What's it like for this work to now come to fruition?
Let's not make it that glamorous. Back in 1968, I was working on something else and I discovered it. We did a patent on it. But my day job then was to make compound semiconductor materials for the electronics industry. This thing sat dormant until about 2005. I decided I'd take a look at it again because people were getting cranked up about alternative energy and green energy. What I want to work on, it's got to be economically viable and it's got to be sustainable.
Photo, top: Chunks of aluminum alloys used to split water to make hydrogen, heat and aluminum hydroxide
Photo, bottom: Jerry Woodall
May 11, 2011
I built a aluminum lye generator and am in the phase of hooking it up. I have worked out a system to energise it and shut it down. What I want to know is since the lye and water will consume aluminum , after it has been turned into H2 and is hydrogen will it damage my aluminum heads on the car. What filters and bubelers do I need to get clean hydrogen to my combustion chamber. Have a dry carbon now. email@example.com
Until an affordable large scale energy storage means is developed to store power when wind and solar can make it for use when they can't produce power, they will never be viable replacements for fossil fuels or nuclear for the generation of large quantities of power. Even when you have adequate affordable storage you will still need to build more generation capacity than power you use, say 200 kw to supply every 100 kw of need. This is so on those days of perfect weather conditions the excess can be stored while your needs are met. Yet solar or wind proponents never mention large-scale energy storage. I guess their pipe dream does not allow them to see the big picture. They see just the small picture at the end of the pipe.
Yes, It's a battery and not a primary source of power at all. Yes (like all intermediate storage devices) it is obviously not going to be as efficient as using the original primary source. All that could have been explained in the article together with some rough figures on its efficiency and a projected likely eventual cost per KWh. And that could have been provided to the reporter by the good Professor. Perhaps it was provided in which case it's the reporter's fault. Perhaps it wasn't in which case the reporter should have asked. In which case it was the reporter's fault. So either way it was a lousy, useless report. Utterly superficiel like the majority of stories on Smart Planet - useless hype for its own sake. Perhaps it appeals to a certain kind of reader who wants to rejoice in the excitement of new ideas without caring about whether they could ever be made to work cost effectively. There is a perfect analogy with CO2 warmists and their windmills. In the UK windmills have a theoretical 'nameplate' capacity that is capable of delivering 7% of the UK's electricity. But in fact they deliver under 1% because on average the wind rarely blows at the optimum speed. But the warmists harp on about 7% because it suits their dream. The rest of us, who have the true statistices, know that windmills will never be remotely cost effective as a source of electricity. But who cares that if you are on an environmental roll?
The aluminum becomes aluminum hydroxide, which is more easily turned back to aluminum. Yes power is used to do it, but the idea is using the aluminum alloy and any dirty water source as a battery, producing heat and hydrogen, use the hydrogen in a fuel cell producing electricity and clean water. Recycle the aluminum hydroxide alloy back to what you started with, using more energy than you started with, but it's safer than carrying around a pressurized vessel of hydrogen, as it's stable. Its not supposed to be some kind of free energy source, but a stable clean portable high density energy storage process.
Does this mean if I get an old Aluminium pressure cooker and connect a tube with a few modifications( natural gas conversion ) to my car engine add lye it will produce hydrogen gas to run it? maybe I can buy a few hundred old pressure cookers or just drop old sauce pans into pressure cooker & some water & lye every so often? More important what is the Patent number of this device so we can get straight how it works...
This is one of those ideas that will go nowhere. Since electricity is used to make aluminum then the aluminum is used to make hydrogen which is used to make electricity with losses at each stage the result is an overall loss. The process might be useful in certain cases to make potable water when other processes are not available but it would really only be of value when the aluminum is waste aluminum.
If you are correct that the good professor is using Aluminum metal to produce hydrogen gas, and believes this to be an efficient means to produce electricity....WOW, and he got a patent for it, double WOW. One can produce copious quantities of hydrogen gas from aluminum by simply adding Aluminum (tin foil works great) to a container of water to which Lye (NaOH) has been added. No patent required !!
Though interesting, it makes little sense. At this time. First you expend considerable energy by producing the aluminum alloy, then more by transporting it to where it is needed, then more to recycle the by-products of this reaction - the gallium and the aluminum oxide that are left over. More cost to transport these left over materials to produce more fuel pellets. The 'potable' water is the 'exhaust' of a hydrogen engine. Also, 2.5 times the weight of this alloy is needed to create the same amount of energy from gasoline. This added weight will substantially reduce the fuel economy of a car, especially since the car will always have to keep hauling what is left over from this process (how do you get it out of the tank? and where do you put it?). An idea for an alternate fuel, perhaps. But I don't think that at this time the process actually creates a positive energy balance, especially when there is talk of utilizing nuclear energy to make/recycle the alloy. More detail is here: http://www.physorg.com/news98556080.html By the way, I agree with the poor reporting. Plus, this dates back to 2007. Hardly news. An update if there has been any progress would have been news.
It takes copious amounts of electricity to extract metalic aluminum from ore. Using the stuff to make hydrogen for fuel cells doesn't really make much sense unless it is very difficult to transport electricity to the location. . . I'd expect the Electricity > Aluminum > Hydrogen > Electricity chain to be runiously inefficient.
From the description, it USES water to create Hydrogen, nowhere in the description does it say that you get potable water? Why are news reports/reporters such morons?
I am curious about this aluminum alloy. What temperature range is the liquid state? Is the hydrogen split from water then used in a fuel cell to generate electricity? Does this work with dirty water or does the water have to be mostly purified? This sounds interesting but more details would help.
The critical thing with wind, and also solar, is placement. I don't know much about UK weather, but the anecdotal bits that I do know make it seem to be less than ideal for wind or solar. However I've seen mention of rooftop solar there as well. Large wind or solar projects should have detailed research done to determine what the actual production will be. If that research was skipped, there may be criminal negligence. Wind does best in places that are windy more than not, with speeds that are in the range needed by the turbines. There are locations on coasts, and off coasts, and some places near mountains that are good for wind. The same as with solar, there are places with 300+ days of sun, with latitudes below 37, rather than the UK with it's latitude above 50 and far less than 300 days of sun. If solar broke even on the investment in the UK, the southwest US would become a major producer of power, as the real world output per panel would me so much higher.
In theory, you could run run a line directly from your hydrogen generator into your fuel line and run your car, albeit rather slowly, on the H gas produced. That is, until the Al vessel disintegrated or the people in white coates brought you your special jacket.
Because most "contributing editors" are more than willing to report on topics that they have done no basic background research into and consequently are totally clueless - especially regarding the level of detail necessary to make their article not only interesting, but more importantly - credible.
hydrogen used in ICE or fuel cell will provide water. It's really the reason why people wants to use hydrogen as energy source. Relatively high energy density and no carbon trace after its reaction, which is water. Also water can be obtained by steam as Mr. Jackbp73 has described.
Wait just a minute you are talking bad about the person that wrote the article but the article as someone has already pointed out does explain everything that was mentioned in the beginning of it that water, energy both by the exchange of electrons and the compound breaking down into more simple elements is being generated. When Hydrogen breaks down it will automatically bind with oxygen in the atmosphere and will either develop into a base (H)ydrogen (O)xygen molecule where one of each molecule is present to 2 parts Hydrogen and one part Oxygen thus forming H20. It's basic elementary chemistry that any 5th grader should know. Plus by breaking down an alloy which is a "compound" hence "Aluminum Alloy" or the silvery white member of the boron group of "chemical elements". That has the symbol Al that's atomic number is 13. From it's solid state could be broken down "chemically" to a simpler elemental state without the expense of very much "energy" at all. Energy can also be produced by chemicals hence "fuel cells" etc. Please before you go debunking something educate yourself about the subject first.