Penn State University scientists and the Virginia Commonwealth University have found something that is the ultimate dream and hope of alternative energy researchers: use water as a fuel. Their findings show that water can be split into its two constituents, hydrogen and oxygen, at room temperature and without any external energy addition.
For that matter, they expose water to selected nano-engineered clusters of aluminum, acting as catalysts. What’s shocking and interesting is the new approach, detaching from the centuries-old premise that water can only be split by electrolysis, using a high amount of energy.
The research team includes Penn State graduate students Patrick Roach and Hunter Woodward, and Virginia Commonwealth University Professor of Physics Shiv Khanna and postdoctoral associate Arthur Reber, investigated the reactions between aluminum and water by combining individual aluminum clusters under controlled conditions in a specially designed flow reactor.
They discovered that a water molecule will bind between two aluminum sites in a cluster as long as one of the sites behaves like a Lewis acid, a positively charged center that wants to accept an electron, and the other behaves like a Lewis base, a negatively charged center that wants to give away an electron.
The Lewis-acid aluminum binds to the oxygen in the water and the Lewis-base aluminum dissociates a hydrogen atom. If this process happens a second time with another set of two aluminum sites and a water molecule, then two hydrogen atoms are available, which then can join to become hydrogen gas (H2).
The team found that the aluminum clusters react differently when exposed to water, depending on the sizes of the clusters and their unique geometric structures. Three of the aluminum clusters produced hydrogen from water at room temperature. “The ability to produce hydrogen at room temperature is significant because it means that we did not use any heat or energy to trigger the reaction,” said Khanna.
“Traditional techniques for splitting water to produce hydrogen generally require a lot of energy at the time the hydrogen is generated. But our method allows us to produce hydrogen without supplying heat, connecting to a battery, or adding electricity. Once the aluminum clusters are synthesized, they can generate hydrogen on demand without the need to store it.”
The only thing making them so close to discovering free energy (that’s why I said “almost free energy”) and though so far is that they have to find a way to dispose the hydroxyl group (OH-) that remains stuck to the aluminum clusters after they generate the hydrogen.
If such a method is found, and its energetic demands aren’t higher than that of the hydrogen generated, then we could use the aluminum again and again, and again, making it the perfect catalyst for free energy to flow freely. Water is abundant. I know it doesn’t sound scientific, but it’s a tremendous discovery! Of course, it will firstly go to the army because the research is funded by the Airforce Office of Scientific Research.