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Hydrogen-generating technology shows advances in development of clean energy carrier

30 08 07 - 07:25


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Hydrogen-generating technology shows advances in development of clean energy carrier


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W. Lafayette, IN - Ongoing research at Purdue is showing advances in hydrogen-generating technology with a recent breakthrough aluminum and gallium alloy that contains more of the aluminum which breaks water molecules down, releasing the hydrogen gas for power generation.

The technology produces hydrogen by adding water to an alloy of aluminum and gallium. When water is added to the alloy, the aluminum splits water by attracting oxygen, liberating hydrogen in the process. The Purdue researchers are developing a method to create particles of the alloy that could be placed in a tank to react with water and produce hydrogen on demand. Hydrogen-generating technology shows advances in development of clean energy carrier


AEN News





W. Lafayette, IN - Ongoing research at Purdue is showing advances in hydrogen-generating technology with a recent breakthrough aluminum and gallium alloy that contains more of the aluminum which breaks water molecules down, releasing the hydrogen gas for power generation.

The technology produces hydrogen by adding water to an alloy of aluminum and gallium. When water is added to the alloy, the aluminum splits water by attracting oxygen, liberating hydrogen in the process. The Purdue researchers are developing a method to create particles of the alloy that could be placed in a tank to react with water and produce hydrogen on demand.

The gallium is a critical component because it hinders the formation of an aluminum oxide skin normally created on aluminum's surface after bonding with oxygen, a process called oxidation. This skin usually acts as a barrier and prevents oxygen from reacting with aluminum. Reducing the skin's protective properties allows the reaction to continue until all of the aluminum is used to generate hydrogen, said Jerry Woodall, a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue who invented the process.

Since the technology was first announced in May, researchers have developed an improved form of the alloy that contains a higher concentration of aluminum.

Recent findings are detailed in the first research paper about the work, which will be presented on Sept. 7 during the 2nd Energy Nanotechnology International Conference in Santa Clara, Calif. The paper was written by Woodall, Charles Allen and Jeffrey Ziebarth, both doctoral students in Purdue's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Because the technology could be used to generate hydrogen on demand, the method makes it unnecessary to store or transport hydrogen - two major obstacles in creating a hydrogen economy, Woodall said.

The gallium component is inert, which means it can be recovered and reused.

"This is especially important because of the currently much higher cost of gallium compared with aluminum," Woodall said. "Because gallium can be recovered, this makes the process economically viable and more attractive for large-scale use. Also, since the gallium can be of low purity, the cost of impure gallium is ultimately expected to be many times lower than the high-purity gallium used in the electronics industry."

As the alloy reacts with water, the aluminum turns into aluminum oxide, also called alumina, which can be recycled back into aluminum. The recycled aluminum would be less expensive than mining the metal, making the technology more competitive with other forms of energy production, Woodall said.

In recent research, the engineers rapidly cooled the molten alloy to make particles that were 28 percent aluminum by weight and 72 percent gallium by weight. The result was a "metastable solid alloy" that also readily reacted with water to form hydrogen, alumina and heat, Woodall said.

Following up on that work, the researchers discovered that slowly cooling the molten alloy produced particles that contain 80 percent aluminum and 20 percent gallium.

"Particles made with this 80-20 alloy have good stability in dry air and react rapidly with water to form hydrogen," Woodall said. "This alloy is under intense investigation, and, in our opinion, it can be developed into a commercially viable material for splitting water."

The technology has numerous potential applications. Because the method makes it possible to use hydrogen instead of gasoline to run internal combustion engines, it could be used for cars and trucks. Combusting hydrogen in an engine or using hydrogen to drive a fuel cell produces only water as waste.

"It's a simple matter to convert ordinary internal combustion engines to run on hydrogen. All you have to do is replace the gasoline fuel injector with a hydrogen injector," Woodall said.

The U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal of developing alternative fuels that possess a "hydrogen mass density" of 6 percent by the year 2010 and 9 percent by 2015. The percent mass density of hydrogen is the mass of hydrogen contained in the fuel divided by the total mass of the fuel multiplied by 100. Assuming 50 percent of the water produced as waste is recovered and cycled back into the reaction, the new 80-20 alloy has a hydrogen mass density greater than 6 percent, which meets the DOE's 2010 goal.

Aluminum is refined from the raw mineral bauxite, which also contains gallium. Producing aluminum from bauxite results in waste gallium.

"This technology is feasible for commercial use," Woodall said. "The waste alumina can be recycled back into aluminum, and low-cost gallium is available as a waste product from companies that produce aluminum from the raw mineral bauxite. Enough aluminum exists in the United States to produce 100 trillion kilowatt hours of energy. That's enough energy to meet all the U.S. electric needs for 35 years. If impure gallium can be made for less than $10 a pound and used in an onboard system, there are enough known gallium reserves to run 1 billion cars."

The researchers note in the paper that for the technology to be used to operate cars and trucks, a large-scale recycling program would be required to turn the alumina back into aluminum and to recover the gallium.

"In the meantime, there are other promising potential markets, including lawn mowers and personal motor vehicles such as golf carts and wheelchairs," Woodall said. "The golf cart of the future, three or four years from now, will have an aluminum-gallium alloy. You will add water to generate hydrogen either for an internal combustion engine or to operate a fuel cell that recharges a battery. The battery will then power an electric motor to drive the golf cart."

Another application that is rapidly being developed is for emergency portable generators that will use hydrogen to run a small internal combustion engine. The generators are likely to be on the market within a year, Woodall said.

The technology also could make it possible to introduce a non-polluting way to idle diesel trucks. Truck drivers idle their engines to keep power flowing to appliances and the heating and air conditioning systems while they are making deliveries or parked, but such idling causes air pollution, which has prompted several states to restrict the practice.

The new hydrogen technology could solve the truck-idling dilemma.

"What we are proposing is that the truck would run on either hydrogen or diesel fuel," Woodall said. "While you are on the road you are using the diesel, but while the truck is idling, it's running on hydrogen."

The new hydrogen technology also would be well-suited for submarines because it does not emit toxic fumes and could be used in confined spaces without harming crew members, Woodall said.

"You could replace nuclear submarines with this technology," he said.

Other types of boats, including pleasure craft, also could be equipped with such a technology.

"One reason maritime applications are especially appealing is that you don't have to haul water," Woodall said.

The Purdue researchers had thought that making the process competitive with conventional energy sources would require that the alumina be recycled back into aluminum using a dedicated infrastructure, such as a nuclear power plant or wind generators. However, the researchers now know that recycling the alumina would cost far less than they originally estimated, using standard processing already available.

"Since standard industrial technology could be used to recycle our nearly pure alumina back to aluminum at 20 cents per pound, this technology would be competitive with gasoline," Woodall said. "Using aluminum, it would cost $70 at wholesale prices to take a 350-mile trip with a mid-size car equipped with a standard internal combustion engine. That compares with $66 for gasoline at $3.30 per gallon. If we used a 50 percent efficient fuel cell, taking the same trip using aluminum would cost $28."

The Purdue Research Foundation holds title to the primary patent, which has been filed with the U.S. 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.

In 1967, while working as a researcher at IBM, Woodall discovered that liquid alloys of aluminum and gallium spontaneously produce hydrogen if mixed with water. 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 television remote controls and new types of lighting displays. That work also led to development of advanced transistors for cell phones and components in solar cells powering space modules like those used on the Mars rover, earning Woodall the 2001 National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush.

Also while at IBM, Woodall and research engineer Jerome Cuomo were issued a U.S. patent in 1982 for a "solid state, renewable energy supply." The patent described their discovery that when aluminum is dissolved in liquid gallium just above room temperature, the liquid alloy readily reacts with water to form hydrogen, alumina and heat.

Future research will include work to further perfect the solid alloy and develop systems for the controlled delivery of hydrogen. Used tags: , , ,

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Hydrogen-generating technology shows advances in development of clean energy carrier

Thursday 30 August 2007 at 07:25 am


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Hydrogen-generating technology shows advances in development of clean energy carrier


AEN News





W. Lafayette, IN - Ongoing research at Purdue is showing advances in hydrogen-generating technology with a recent breakthrough aluminum and gallium alloy that contains more of the aluminum which breaks water molecules down, releasing the hydrogen gas for power generation.

The technology produces hydrogen by adding water to an alloy of aluminum and gallium. When water is added to the alloy, the aluminum splits water by attracting oxygen, liberating hydrogen in the process. The Purdue researchers are developing a method to create particles of the alloy that could be placed in a tank to react with water and produce hydrogen on demand. more

Western States, BC to cut greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent

Saturday 25 August 2007 at 05:34 am


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AEN News






Western States, BC to cut greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent






Reno - British Columbia, Canada has joined California and four other Western States in agreeing to cut greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 as part of an initiative to curb global warming.

Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon agreed in February to a plan to cut greenhouse gas emission levels by targeting a level those states believed they could achieve. Those states along with the British Columbia province of Canada today announced that target. more

USDA global conference on biofuels begins in Minneapolis

Wednesday 22 August 2007 at 2:40 pm


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USDA global conference on biofuels begins in Minneapolis

AEN News



Washington - Scientists, economists and policy experts representing
government and public institutions from more than 40 countries are
meeting at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Global
Conference on Agricultural Biofuels: Research and Economics in
Minneapolis, Minn., August 20-21, to exchange the latest information
on economic and technological opportunities in bioenergy.

http://www.ars.usda.gov/meetings/Biofuel2007/

Several USDA agencies, the Agricultural Research Service, the
Foreign Agricultural Service, and Rural Development and the
University of Minnesota are sponsoring the conference. more

Hurricane Dean, the first Atlantic hurricane of the season heading toward the Gulf of Mexico

Sunday 19 August 2007 at 10:50 am

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AEN News

Houston - Hurricane Dean, the first Atlantic hurricane of the season, was heading toward the Gulf of Mexico Thursday with wind speeds of 80 MPH this morning and could reach a category 4 storm level by the time it reaches Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. more

US Automakers Misleading the Public about Benefits of Stronger Fuel

Saturday 18 August 2007 at 06:01 am US Automakers Misleading the Public about Benefits of Stronger Fuel


Well, you can never understand the logic behind (formerly) the big three's
decisions regarding CAFE standards because it defies all logic! Other than the fact that they are so beholden to big oil and special interests, they would have us believe that they can't accomplish the new proposed standards and thousands will lose their jobs. Scare tactics don't work
Simply enough, there is no longer any reason (technical or otherwise) not to be able to produce an affordable plugin hybrid vehicle for the masses. Advanced battery technologies have been delayed more for contractual, patent litigation, special interests and corporate b.s. rather than the know how to get the technology in to rechargable vehicles.

Let's face it..Toyota and others are leaving u.s. auto co's in the dust as
they ramp up full scale production of fuel efficient vehicles.
Sad indeed.


The Union of Concerned Scientists has a good item on this here. more

Pollution-seeking miniature leaping robot debuted

Friday 17 August 2007 at 2:57 pm Send this article to a friend





Pollution-seeking miniature leaping robot debuted


AEN News


New York - A small robot capable of leaping like a flea to cover vast areas of ground was debuted which sniffs out pollution. The insect-like robot was developed to detect mercury poisoning in the ground and leaps from place to place the way fleas or frogs jump.

The robot measures 10cm long and weighs 80g and can fit easily in the palm of your hand. The inventors debuted the pollution-seeking robot in Switzerland during a symposium. more

Book shows life on Earth without humans

Friday 17 August 2007 at 2:25 pm

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Book shows life on Earth without humans



By Jess Davis

Washington - The scenario the whole of humanity disappears one day, leaving worldly possessions, buildings and trash behind.

What happens next is the subject of a new book, "The World Without Us," by Alan Weisman, a journalism professor at the University of Arizona and a science writer.

It's an implausible situation, but gives a fresh take on the environmental challenges Earth faces because of human actions.

"If we theoretically wipe people off the earth, we have a much clearer vision of what's here without us," Weisman said in an interview. more

Peanuts could become next celebrity biodiesel fuel

Friday 17 August 2007 at 09:28 am

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Peanuts could become next celebrity biodiesel fuel

Washington - With lawmakers pushing hard to pass legislation that would benefit the developers of biofuels, most of that action has focused on corn with any new resource quickly jumping to an almost celebrity status if there is any merit to its use as an alternative fuel crop. Now, peanuts could be doing just that, says the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

Peanuts could become next celebrity biodiesel fuel

Washington - With lawmakers pushing hard to pass legislation
that would benefit the developers of biofuels, most of that action has focused on corn with any new resource quickly jumping to an almost celebrity status if there is any merit to its use as an alternative fuel crop. Now, peanuts could be doing just that, says the USDA's Agricultural Research Service. more

Ban Ki-Moon sides with EU leaders over climate change

Wednesday 15 August 2007 at 4:36 pm Send this article to a friend






Ban Ki-Moon sides with EU leaders over climate change


New York - UN Attorney-General Ban Ki-Moon sided with European Union leaders Tuesday over climate change, urging decisive action on a global scale to combat the challenges it poses.

"We cannot continue with business as usual," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a General Assembly meeting on the issue at UN Headquarters in New York, citing the findings of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which affirmed earlier this year that global warming is directly linked to human activity. more

When the oil dries up there's still solar, says Algeria

Wednesday 15 August 2007 at 2:51 pm

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AEN News


New York - Algeria looks to develop solar energy as an export resource, knowing that its reserves of oil and natural gas will one day dry up.

It was an idea being considered by Algerian planners for years but now work has begun on the construction of its first solar power plant at Hassi R'mel, 260 miles south of Algiers, the capital. The solar plant will be a hybrid, using both sun and natural gas to generate 150 megawatts. Of that, 25 megawatts will come from giant parabolic mirrors stretching over nearly 2 million square feet, which is roughly the size of 45 football fields.

The solar hybrid plant is the first of its kind and is expected to be online by 2010. In the future, Algeria hopes to generate enough solar power that it can export 6,000 megawatts to the European market by 2020, which would be equal to a tenth of current electricity consumption in Germany. more

GM sparks buzz about 2010 release of Chevy Volt

Tuesday 14 August 2007 at 08:11 am Send this article to a friend






GM sparks buzz about 2010 release of Chevy Volt

Washington - Picture a car that eliminates those costly trips to the gas pump.

Not even the trendy, environment-friendly hybrid cars can do that, but the next generation of fuel independence might be only a few years away.

With a worldwide tour of its prototype of the Chevy Volt, an electric vehicle
set to be released in 2010, General Motors is amping up public curiosity about the car that can run entirely on the charge from a standard 120-volt outlet. more