27th June 2012
According to an Alchemy Research white paper, aluminum might be the unlikely fuel of the future. Already used as a lightweight alternative metal to traditional steel, aluminum has reportedly got the potential to give vehicles a range of over 2,000km on a single tank.
Just two reactants are needed to run a so called ‘Alydro’ car, aluminum and water. The reaction between them generates huge quantities of heat, aluminum oxide, and hydrogen. And it’s the hydrogen that’s produced that can then be used in fuel cells, to generate electricity for powering a car.
Refueling would take around 5 minutes according to the paper, to fill the aluminum tank, remove the waste aluminum oxide, and top-up whatever water wasn’t replenished by the 65 percent-efficient condenser. This approach manages to deal with the two major inconveniences surrounding electric cars: batteries with a high enough energy density and a way of producing hydrogen that is energy efficient.
Aluminum is rich in energy and when combined with a turbo-generator, it can generate 6.5 kWh of power from one liter of aluminum. In terms of range, a 60 liter tank would have 390 kWh of energy, then going by current standards, and Alhydro powered car would have a range of 1,491 miles or 2,400 km, far higher than current electric vehicles.
The system is also friendly with the environment. Aluminum is not toxic and pollution is also not included since there is no burning going on. Plus, the aluminum dioxide can be recycled and used again and again. The risk of going up in a blaze is quite low when compared to gasoline, diesel, and hydrogen making aluminum easier to store.
The system isn’t without its downsides though. For example the weight of an Alydro car could be significant. Internal combustion cars, with engines, transmissions, ancillaries and fuel tanks–with gasoline at roughly 6 lbs per gallon–are heavy. Battery-electric cars, with reduction gears, power units and of course, heavy battery packs, are heavier still.
A vehicle that not only contains batteries and all the associated bits and pieces but also a water tank, aluminum tank, turbine/generator and an alydro reactor would surely weigh significantly more than either. As a result, efficiency would be compromised unless car makers spent more on serious weight-loss programs, a cost that would likely be passed on to consumers. Furthermore the process to make aluminum itself is quite expensive and energy intensive, although the use of alternative, renewable energy sources will bring costs down in the future.
So, aluminum the fuel of the future? Let us know what you think.
Read the paper at alcres.com