Aluminum Cubed [Image by Flickr user jpeepz]
You can virtually throw a stone these days and hit someone developing a "fuel of the future", but some do appear to show more promise than others.
Many options for future transportation have their disadvantages, but Alchemy Research believes there's one option that could solve several of our fuel problems.
Interestingly, that fuel is already very well known--it's called aluminum.
So how does aluminum become a fuel? Through Alydro technology, explains an Alchemy Research white paper.
The system uses only two reactants, aluminum and water. Those are the only two things you'd need to add to an Alydro car, the rest being dealt with under the hood.
Aluminum and water react, and that reaction generates three things - huge quantities of heat--50 percent of the reaction's energy output--aluminum oxide, and hydrogen. And, if you've not guessed already, that hydrogen 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.
Currently, a main issue with electric cars is the poor energy density of batteries compared to gasoline. That means you need big, heavy batteries for a relatively modest range. The issue with hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is creating a usable hydrogen infrastructure, and somehow generating hydrogen in a way that's more energy-efficient than simply plugging in a battery-electric vehicle.
Alydro theoretically solves both of these issues.
Aluminum is particularly energy-dense, and combined with a turbo-generator, you get 6.5 kWh of power from one liter of aluminum. Alchemy Research suggests that 60-liter tank would store 390 kWh of energy, and going by an electric car benchmark of 100 kilometers (62 miles) for every 15 kWh, total range for a 60-liter Alydro car would be 2,400 km, or 1,491 miles.
So range isn't an issue, how about the technology's green credentials?
Alchemy Research lists several environmental benefits of aluminum. It's non-toxic--food and drinks are safely stored in aluminum, so storing it in a tank isn't an issue. Nor does it pollute, since there's no burning involved in the reaction and the aluminum-oxide by-product can be recycled into aluminum, ready to be used again.
It's also easy to store (with low reactivity), and relatively abundant--even more so when you consider how much waste aluminum could be re-used from old drink cans and food packaging.
It's also not as flammable as hydrogen, natural gas or of course, gasoline--making it easier and cheaper to set up an infrastructure, and safer to transport.