Washington, Feb 20 : Engineers from Purdue University in US, have developed a new aluminum-rich alloy that produces hydrogen by splitting water and is economically competitive with conventional fuels for transportation and power generation.
"We now have an economically viable process for producing hydrogen on-demand for vehicles, electrical generating stations and other applications," said Jerry Woodall, a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue who invented the process.
The new alloy contains 95 percent aluminum and 5 percent of an alloy that is made of the metals gallium, indium and tin. Because the new alloy contains significantly less of the more expensive gallium than previous forms of the alloy, hydrogen can be produced less expensively," said Wodall.
When immersed in water, the alloy splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, which immediately reacts with the aluminum to produce aluminum oxide, also called alumina, which can be recycled back into aluminum.
Recycling aluminum from nearly pure alumina is less expensive than mining the aluminum-containing ore bauxite, making the technology more competitive with other forms of energy production," said Woodall.
According to Woodall, "After recycling both the aluminum oxide back to aluminum and the inert gallium-indium-tin alloy only 60 times, the cost of producing energy both as hydrogen and heat using the technology would be reduced to 10 cents per kilowatt hour, making it competitive with other energy technologies."
A key to developing the alloy for large-scale technologies is controlling the microscopic structure of the solid aluminum and the gallium-indium-tin alloy mixture.
"This technology has exciting potential, and I hope that it receives a fair and detailed evaluation and consideration from the scientific, government and business communities," said Jay Gore, the Vincent P. Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering and interim director of the Energy Center.