Purdue University touts hydrogen energy breakthrough
In a potentially game-changing advancement in alternative energy, a Purdue University researcher has developed a method using an aluminum-gallium alloy to turn water into hydrogen that can be used to run fuel cells or internal combustion engines.
According to its inventor, Jerry Woodall, a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, the new technique could eventually be used to replace gasoline. A major perk of the new method is that it makes it unnecessary to store or transport hydrogen, Woodall said.
In the method, aluminum pellets are mixed into liquid gallium to produce a liquid aluminum-gallium alloy. When water is introduced to the alloy, the aluminum and oxygen pair up and form a gel; the free-standing hydrogen is then able to be collected for further use. Meanwhile, the gallium is rendered inert, and can be recovered along with the aluminum oxide gel to be reused in other applications.
The hydrogen collected in such a system could be used to power automobiles with hybrid gasoline and aluminum internal combustion engines or fuel cells with an electric motor, Woodall said. It could also potentially be used for fuel cells powering an array of personal electronic devices, or to provide heating and electricity for homes. Woodall said that the technique is especially attractive because aluminum, unlike oil, is cheap and abundant in the United States and produces no hydrocarbons in its reaction products.
"There are a whole host of ways to go with this that need to be engineered," Woodall said. "With the right kind of engineering and choices of application, this could be a very significant source for alternate energy in the coming years."
An Indiana-based start-up company, AlGalCo LLC., has reportedly received a license for the exclusive right to commercialize the process.