If you’re reading ZME Science from home, chances are that you’ve got a can of beer or soda in someplace handy, and you’ll probably throw the can away after you finish your drink, hopefully in a designated recycling bin. What if I told you that the aluminum from your soda can could be used to power your car? Before you yell rubbish, read on and find what how Alchemy Research, an Israeli company, managed to power electric vehicles using energy stored in aluminum grain.
Aluminum is a very dense element that can accommodate twice the amount of energy as gasoline fuel in the same volume. According to the company it can also store 80 times more energy per kg than today’s best Li-ion batteries. It’s also dirt cheap, easily available and easy to manipulate. The energy potential here is great, like Alchemy Research CEO Gideon Yampolsky first noticed, but how to value it? Aluminum itself can’t be used as a fuel – not by itself that is.
This is how the Alydro (Aluminum-Hydro) technology was born – a reactor which produces energy from a reaction between aluminum and water. For the Alydro reaction to occur, the temperature needs to be elevated to 900 Celsius, so that the aluminum grains and water may produce hot hydrogen, which is converted into electrical energy that replaces the battery in an electric vehicle.
The products of the reaction are warm air and water vapor which are later chilled and reused. “The water is not consumed, it is returned to the tank after it goes through the process. Even though the system works on aluminum and water, in practice it doesn’t use up the water,” Yampolsky tells NoCamels.
The by-product, aluminum-oxide known as alumina, is non-toxic and non-polluting, making the system carbon-free, with zero greenhouse gas emission. Aluminum-oxide is fully recyclable; in fact, alumina is the material used for producing aluminum in the first place.
Alchemy Research’s reactor is compact enough to fit in a car, and the company’s founder boasts some impressive figures.
The outcome of this method, says company CEO Gideon Yampolsky, “is essentially an electric vehicle that is able to reach 2,400 km on a fuel tank that is the size of a standard fuel tank. A regular car that works on fuel is able to reach only 700- 800 km. Our fuel tank is the same size as a regular one and can last more distance.”
Currently, aluminum is priced the same as gasoline in terms of powering a vehicle. However, as gas price is ever rising, aluminum is expected to get even cheaper. Alchemy Research claims that within a few years, using aluminum grains as a primary fuel component will certainly be a lot more cost-effective than conventional fuels, currently on the market.
“As opposed to gas that emits many pollutants, we just heat the air. The only cost is the electricity that heats the air. Not only does the system not pollute, it does not react with the environment; it doesn’t add anything or take anything from the environment which is a step ahead of non-pollution. It is based on renewable energy sources, and all its by-products are recyclable,” concludes Yampolsky.
Now, although this might seem like the perfect fueling system, there are some points that the company doesn’t seem to mention and prefers to leave out. In theory everything sounds perfect, however in practice things can be different. In the came of the Alydro, for one, an electric vehicle is heavy, very heavy, compared to a typical gasoline running car. Add a water tank, reactor, aluminum tank and so on, and you’ve got yourself a beast! This might work for heavy duty trucks (would they still be cost effective or reliable?), but not normal automobiles. Also if demand grows for aluminum, like in the case of gasoline, expect the material’s price to skyrocket as well.
Yes, Alydro looks very promising, but it also looks very complicated. A lot of infrastructure would need to be dedicated to aluminum power vehicles, a lot of issues that need to be taken into consideration, but again to Alchemy Research’s credit, their system does indeed seem promising. If not for powering vehicles, expect to hear more of Alydro in the energy storage department, where it would be much more welcome, especially when today’s energy sector is faced with a dire issue – how to store energy coming from the sun?