Got this read through my workplace news email, thought I should share it with you:
New process created to generate hydrogen from
aluminum alloy to run vehicle engines and fuel cells
An engineer at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, U.S.A. has developed a method that uses an aluminum alloy to extract hydrogen from water for running fuel cells or internal combustion engines. The technique could be used to replace gasoline. The method makes it unnecessary to store or transport hydrogen – two major challenges in creating a hydrogen economy, says Jerry Woodall, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering who invented the process.
“The hydrogen is generated on demand, so you only produce as much as you need when you need it,” he said. The technology could be used to drive small internal combustion engines in various applications, including portable emergency generators, lawn mowers and chain saws. The process could, in theory, also be used to replace gasoline for cars and trucks, said Woodall.
Hydrogen is generated spontaneously when water is added to pellets of the alloy, which is made of aluminum and a metal called gallium. The researchers have shown how hydrogen is produced when water is added to a small tank containing the pellets. Hydrogen produced in such a system could be fed directly to an engine.
“When water is added to the pellets, the aluminum in the solid alloy reacts because it has a strong attraction to the oxygen in the water,” said Woodall. This reaction splits the oxygen and hydrogen contained in water, releasing hydrogen in the process.
The gallium is critical to the process because it hinders the formation of a skin normally created on aluminum's surface after oxidation. This skin usually prevents oxygen from reacting with aluminum, acting as a barrier. Preventing the skin's formation allows the reaction to continue until all of the aluminum is used.
The Purdue Research Foundation holds title to the primary patent, which has been filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and is pending. An Indiana startup company, AlGalCo LLC, has received a license for the exclusive right to commercialize the process.
Woodall discovered that liquid alloys of aluminum and gallium spontaneously produce hydrogen if mixed with water while he was working as a researcher in the semiconductor industry in 1967. The research, which focused on developing new semiconductors for computers and electronics, led to advances in optical-fiber communications and light-emitting diodes, making them practical for everything from DVD players to automotive dashboard displays.
The approach could enable the United States to replace gasoline for transportation purposes, reducing pollution and the nation's dependence on foreign oil. If hydrogen fuel cells are perfected for cars and trucks in the future, the same hydrogen-producing method could be used to power them, according to Woodall.
The hydrogen-generating technology paired with advanced fuel cells also represents a potential future method for replacing lead-acid batteries in applications such as golf carts, electric wheel chairs and hybrid cars, he said. (United Press International, Space Daily)