Glide Underground

Aluminum Fuel

Articles / Personal Stuff/Random News
Date: May 21, 2007 - 12:00 PM
In the quest to replace gasoline, a new possible option: Aluminum/Gallium pellets with water. The chemical reaction produces hydrogen, which you can then burn.

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, such as those on lawn mowers.

"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," Woodall said.

This reaction splits the oxygen and hydrogen contained in water, releasing hydrogen in the process.
The trick to controlling generation? Don't add water until you need the hydrogen.

It can work fairly well - they're still working on the details of fueling up and managing the system, though. No sign of a fuel capacity gauge (something you definitely want in a vehicle), and no sign of whether this will be cartridges, or pellets you roll in.

Major issue: instead of an empty tank (what you get with hydrogen or liquid fuel processes), when you're out of fuel you've got a tank/cartridge/whatever full of aluminum oxide and liquefied Gallium to clean out.

There's also a worry over the range of travel and efficiency:

"How does this compare with conventional technology? Well, if I put gasoline in a tank, I get six kilowatt hours per pound, or about two and a half times the energy than I get for a pound of aluminum. So I need about two and a half times the weight of aluminum to get the same energy output, but I eliminate gasoline entirely, and I am using a resource that is cheap and abundant in the United States. If only the energy of the generated hydrogen is used, then the aluminum-gallium alloy would require about the same space as a tank of gasoline, so no extra room would be needed, and the added weight would be the equivalent of an extra passenger, albeit a pretty large extra passenger."
He goes on about the projected cost, too:

A midsize car with a full tank of aluminum-gallium pellets, which amounts to about 350 pounds of aluminum, could take a 350-mile trip and it would cost $60, assuming the alumina is converted back to aluminum on-site at a nuclear power plant.
For the record: a tank of gas will get someone about 300 miles, and currently costs about $30 for a decent-sized (non-SUV) car.

Keep working on it. I'm not convinced yet.

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