A new aluminum alloy could soon clean out water and at the same time generate electricity for afflicted areas. Purdue University researchers Jerry Woodall and Go Choi have been working on the alloy of aluminum, gallium, indium and tin that could split polluted or salt water into hydrogen and oxygen and then reunite them to generate electricity and pure water.
When submerged, the aluminum alloy would instantly split water into its two constituents, and only produce aluminum hydroxide, which can be disposed in a landfill or recycled, to re-extract aluminum. The substance is, however, non-toxic.
“There is a big need for this sort of technology in places lacking connectivity to a power grid and where potable water is in short supply,” said Woodall. “Because aluminum is a low-cost, non-hazardous metal that is the third-most abundant metal on Earth, this technology promises to enable a global-scale potable water and power technology, especially for off-grid and remote locations.”
The price at which this technology produces water and electricity are also reduced, compared to the case where complex power plants or diesel generators should be used. Woodall envisioned the price of $1 per gallon of produced water and 35 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity, which is cheap.
“There is no other technology to compare it against, economically, but it’s obvious that 34 cents per kilowatt hour is cheap compared to building a power plant and installing power lines, especially in remote areas,” he said. “You could drop the alloy, a small reaction vessel and a fuel cell into a remote area via parachute. Then the reactor could be assembled along with the fuel cell. The polluted water or the seawater would be added to the reactor and the reaction converts the aluminum and water into aluminum hydroxide, heat and hydrogen gas on demand.”
The applications of hydrogen do not end here. Along history, there have been many attempts to split water, which is so far the best recipient for hydrogen. Some even proposed installing such aluminum-based water hydrogen generators onboard cars. Of all those experiments, I think this could serve people directly in the best way possible.