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September 01, 2007



First off, this isn't new.
Second off, it's a complete joke.


* 2/3rds of the energy in the aluminium is wasted as low-grade heat, 1/3rd goes towards producing hydrogen.

* A car would require about $160,000 worth of Gallium metal, in addition to the Aluminum.

* It's not very clear how you would be able to control the reaction rate, and thus it is not able to produce hydrogen on demand.

* Every equivalent 1.00 pound of gasoline would require 2.76 pounds of water carried onboard.

* It would require 1 pound of aluminum per mile.



Me, I just figure that Hydrogen is so DIRTY when it's produced from anything but exclusively renewable sources, that we might as well skip it entirely.


At best if it comes from Natural Gas, it's virtually no better than merely burning Natural Gas. Which is no better than burning Diesel.


By comparison, even driving Electric cars using coal electricity would be a drastic improvement over conventional gasoline cars.


Besides which, when you can charge a Lithium Polymer battery up to 80% in 1 minute, (6 to full) why would we even consider hydrogen?



Especially when in the meantime, plugin electric hybrids solve virtually all the "recharge" issues with conventional electric car batteries and chargers.


REGARDLESS what technology method you use.
Hydrogen from electricity will always be atleast 3-4x dirtier than simply using raw electricity in the first place.

Gee Grey, you sure are hard on those Purdue boys. Haha... JohnBo


Purdue is known for it's hairbrained ideas about transportation.

For instance, the one which would require 250% more electric generating capacity to make liquid fuels out of electricity, water, and carbon.

While great news for petrochemicals, but it's not very practical for energy.

Especially when Smog may be one of the biggest reasons the glaciers are melting, and this project would do nothing to reduce that.


I'll have to jump in here and confirm that this is complete garbage. Mr Woodall at Purdue pretends that aluminum production (via alumina recycling) is clean and uses imaginary economics as he himself describes.

1) Mr Woodall at Purdue says: "Spent aluminum (alumina) is easily recycled to Al." and later describes the electrochemistry of reducing Al(3+) to Al(0) and has the Hall-Héroult process in his flowsheet in his presentation. This well known electrochemical process proceeds like so:

Cathode (reduction):
2 Al2O3 -> 4 Al + 3 O2
Anode (oxidation):
3 C + 3 O2 -> 3 CO2

( see wikipedia entry for instance )

Thus ideally, for every 4 mol Al, you produce 3 mol CO2. At the 50% efficiency Woodall cites, we're at 6 mol CO2 per mol Al.

Being the only economical Al production process, he is tying hydrogen production to a process that directly and inflexibly produces CO2 much more than even coal power plants would in electrolyzing H2O. Both hydrogen extraction from methane only and electrolytic hydrogen from a fossil source produce *far* less CO2. (And of course non-fossil electrolysis is even less. BTW I am not an advocate of the hydrogen economy at all but if you're going to produce hydrogen, please avoid Mr Woodall's process.)

2) In his presentation PDF (above) he shows his economics calculations, which depend on imaginary economics: he wants to "build the aluminum production plant" (the one I just described above) next to a nuclear power plant and the resulting Al being produced for about "20 cents/lb" (as the blog above mentioned as well), instead of "80 cents/lb". Or a factor of 4 reduction in Al production cost. However, 80 cents/lb Al could be had in 2005; the current price is well about $1.20/lb, so he bases his economics on a factor of 6 cost reduction of aluminum.

Who is this guy?


I made a typo:

At the 50% efficiency Woodall cites, we're at 6 mol CO2 per 4 mol Al.

(forgot the 4. 1.5 mol CO2 per mol Al)

Saul Wall

It has been getting a lot of criticism and as a transportation solution it may very well deserve it. But I wonder if there might be some industrial applications where the ability to create hydrogen quickly on demand without having to store it in advance might make the low efficiency of the process less important. While controlling the process in a vehicle would be hard it would be a simple matter of controlling the amount used for an industrial setting wouldn't it? A bad solution to one problem can be a good solution to a different one. Wasn't the laser thought to be a solution in search of a problem when it was first developed?


For industrial purposes they can simply electrocute water.


Saul, Grey said it. The concept described is only valid for portable applications and such that water can be the hydrogen carrier on board a vehicle, which is a lot denser than the hydrogen it contains. Carrying the Al and spent Al of course negates that benefit.

In an industrial setting there is no need for denser (or pseudo-denser in this case) storage; hydrogen can be stored in a compressed gas state for on-demand use as it has been for many years.

I still cannot believe the guy wants to make an entire proxy-aluminum industry to feed his aluminum-hydrogen cycle. If he's really serious about this, he had better invent a new low-emissions and 6x cheaper Al production process.

Angus Campbell

What is the effect of injecting hydrogen into crude oil or natural gas? Does it enhance/degrade or neutral the final energy output from the refined products?


Well first off,
Petroleum and Methane is primarily made out of hydrogen.

They are "Hydrocarbons" i.e. Made entirely out of hydrogen, carbon, and a little bit of oxygen.

The carbon itself is primarily merely a glue to hold the hydrogen energy together.


That said, using hydrogen from reformed natural gas or LNG, and then injecting it into crude oil is what they do at Oil refineries.

It separates out the different fractions of oil into jetfuel, heating oil, gasoline, diesel, etc.

That said, hydrogen is also used in a process to clean out the sulfur from diesel fuel.


Should it come as any surprise that you would see Shell's President testifying before congress about the wonders of hydrogen?

All the while trying to talk down any ideas that we should prioritize on using electricity instead.


G. R. L. Cowan, boron combustion fan

Woodall's work seems to be getting media attention not despite of the fact, but exactly because of the fact, that journalists can see there's something wrong with it, although maybe they can't easily put that wrongness into words.

Would it be interesting to try to fix it? It is true that aluminum's oxidation by water is almost as energetic as its oxidation by oxygen ... I'm getting 55.04 percent. The energy this makes available in hydrogen is, of course, the other not-quite-45 percent.

So to get a hydrogen joule, you must load 2.224 aluminum joules into your car.

There's a chance, though, that over the years you have picked up a clue or two -- the Muskingum River event might be one of those clues -- and no longer want a hydrogen joule in your car. Aluminum can't just burn in high-pressure oxygen, can it?

Then you would want to use inert anodes at the electrolysis plant, so as to fix the non-ideality of having some carbon emitted there; or anyway that's one option. I suppose you could also use pyrolysed biomass for those electrodes, and feel virtuous that way.

Michael Cain

So if you're going to oxidize aluminum for power, why not an aluminum-air fuel cell straight into an electric drive train? Rather than producing hydrogen which then has to run through either an ICE or a fuel cell in order to be useful. Of course, zinc-air is already commercially available on a limited basis, and the zinc oxides are much easier to recycle than the aluminum oxides.


Catch being Zinc has half the energy density.

The other catch being that it's prohibitively expensive for anything but uninteruptable power supplies.

Paul Dietz

I wonder if metallic sodium could be used as a fuel for ships. It's lighter than water, after all, and once oxidized the sodium hydroxide could be released into the ocean to increase its pH to make it absorb more CO2. We'd need a sodium production technology that didn't produce chlorine, though.


ul Dietz wrote: We'd need a sodium production technology that didn't produce chlorine, though.

Why? Chlorine has market-value.


Hydrogen can be made from solar or wind power. that makes the whole thing very different from what you guys are saying.
The reason the oil companies want hydrogen to be off the table is that to make it with wind or solar power decentralizes production: we could each have a hydrogen generating fuel cell in our garage hooked to a windmill on the roof. Not much profit for the big oil companies in that.

ENV Bike

Yes, lets put the oil companies out of business with hydrogen powered products. The ENV Bike can go 100 miles on one tank of hydrogen at a cost of $3.

Paul Dietz

Why? Chlorine has market-value.

Because too much of it would be produced for the markets to absorb. I guess you could dispose of it by reacting it with reduced minerals, like olivine, but that's a rather heroic approach.

Releasing large amounts of chlorine into the air over the oceans might be a good way to scrub the atmosphere of methane, though (photolytic Cl radicals react almost immediately with trace hydrocarbons).

Run your car on water

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