Nano Aluminum Offers Fuel Cells on Demand – Just Add Water

May 18, 2018

Aluminum alloy was accidentally discovered to react quite weirdly with water. The highly unusual reactions witnessed may as well be the initial steps towards a thriving hydrogen economy. If anything, it will offer a portable and convenient source of hydrogen which can be used for several applications including fuel cells. This concept has a great potential for changing the energy market. If it becomes a reality, we will finally have an alternative to liquid fuels and batteries.

The Benefits

Anthony Kucernak spoke on this saying that the main benefit that you derive from this process is that it allows you to produce systems that are far more compact than what we have today. Anthony Kucernak studies fuel cells. However, he wasn’t a part of this research. Anthony said that this could be great for systems that are required to be kept light in weight. Furthermore, they will also be perfect for systems that need to operate on hydrogen for long periods, especially where confining hydrogen to a cylinder is prohibited.

About the Breakthrough

This discovery was unveiled in January 2017. It came through when the US Army Research Laboratory researchers were working on a high strength alloy. During their work, the researchers poured water as a part of the routine test which resulted in bubbles as if there were hydrogen present. This was not normal while working with aluminum. What normally happens is that when you put water on aluminum, it quickly oxidizes. This tends to impede any further reaction by forming a protective barrier.

However, this time, the reaction did not stop. The alloy kept reacting. This was an accidental breakthrough to a problem that researchers have long been trying to solve. Hydrogen is a clean fuel but since it has a lot of weight, it was always difficult to move it around. Transportation has always been a problem, thankfully not anymore.

The Potential of Discovery

If we gain control over effectively reacting aluminum with water, it will give rise to the demand for hydrogen. Water and aluminum are already quite easy to carry since both are stable. There have been attempts previously to cause this reaction but there was always a need for a catalyst. In addition to that, these reactions were far too slow taking hours for hydrogen to be obtained. That too was only successful half of the time.

The new alloy under process is composed of a dense powder of aluminum grains. Adding water to it results in aluminum oxide and loads of hydrogen. The best part is that this method was successful 100% of the times, and it took less than three minutes! Also, the new metal formed is more powerful as compared to lithium batteries.

This metal is being used by the US army to power a radio-controlled tank. Researchers also believe that scaling up the production to massively high levels will not be a problem., especially since cheaper crap aluminum can be used in the process. This powder can be used in several different applications and the US army is already considering a lot of different applications.

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