Author Topic: Hydrogen from aluminum instructable  (Read 3027 times)

Offline mangyhyena

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Hydrogen from aluminum instructable
« on: November 10, 2012, 06:45:40 PM »
http://m.instructables.com/id/Run-Your-Car-on-Hydrogen-from-Aluminum-Soda-Cans-a/step1/Lye-tank-and-water-bubbler/

This shows how to use aluminum as the fuel source to release hydrogen from water, which can run a vehicle---or a generator.  Gallium is not used in this particular method, which is shown and explained well enough to replicate.  In the past, there were folks who offered this info in books that you had to purchase before you could learn how it's done.  Things change.  Knowledge is power held over others only until the information becomes freely available.  Thank Al Gore, who invented the Internet, for the info you are about to receive. ;D. (tongue is firmly in cheek, there)

It's not a cure for the world's energy needs, or even a shade of green tech, but a person could use this knowledge if they needed power during a crisis.  Really doesn't look too expensive to set up.  The lye can be made from wood ash, if necessary.

A trash bag is used to collect the hydrogen in the instructable, but there is probably a better short term storage method that doesn't involve compressing the hydrogen in tanks.  Maybe one of those big advertising balloons.

Now, how would one safely dispose of the lye and aluminum oxide crap after the reaction was finished?   If this method were necessary, where would you find the aluminum, aside from soda cans?  (would be less messy to use unpainted aluminum.)  And, how would one go about setting up an engine to accept hydrogen?

I posted this because energy options are always nice to know.  Feel free to consider or disregard this.

Offline cmxterra

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Re: Hydrogen from aluminum instructable
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2012, 07:15:40 PM »
Ya lost me when I clicked on the link and saw the mouth breathing serial killer. With that set up I don't think he is driving very far. You would do better to get a multifuel diesel or just a biofuel rated diesel.
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Offline mangyhyena

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Re: Hydrogen from aluminum instructable
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2012, 10:12:38 PM »
Using this setup would be problematic for transportation, I agree.  Biodiesel and alcohol would beat hydrogen for that, I think.

However, aluminum doesn't go flat over time like gasoline and diesel or go rancid like biodiesel.  When energy is needed, the aluminum would be ready, even years after it was stored, so it has a long shelf life and low cost going for it.

For stationary applications like fueling a generator or compressor or pump, it should get the job done.  The equipment doesn't look to be expensive or intricate.  The two main components, lye and aluminum, are fairly cheap and easy to find.

Like I said, it's just an option.  No harm in knowing about it.

Offline Mr. Bill

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Re: Hydrogen from aluminum instructable
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2012, 11:06:51 PM »
The concept is good, but this setup is, frankly, terrifying.  I want to be at least half a mile from his garage.

I just find it extremely hard to believe that he's got a hydrogen-tight system made from vacuum cleaner hoses and PVC trash bags.

My wife (a chemical engineer) also points out that the containers and hoses he's used are probably not lye-resistant, making it even more likely they will develop leaks.  (Actually, her first reaction when I showed her the pictures was "Is this a joke?")

Offline mangyhyena

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Re: Hydrogen from aluminum instructable
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2012, 11:43:04 PM »
He's using a bubbler, which should act as a flashback arrester.  There is no flame or spark between the main tank and the bubbler, so I can't see how a flashback could blow the main tank.  The hydrogen which could ignite is in the tubing leading out of the bubbler and in the trash bag.  Where did you and your wife see the airtight container necessary for an explosion?  I'm assuming you meant there was a danger of explosion when you stated you wouldn't want to be within a mile of his garage.

He's not compressing the hydrogen, which would run the risk of the explosion you fear.  He's using it as it comes out of the hose.  If a flashback happened, the flame would stop at the bubbler, unable to travel through the water and into the main tank.

The only hose that would need to be rated for lye is the one leading from the main tank to the bubbler.  The hose leading from the bubbler carries hydrogen, not lye.

For safety, another bubbler/flashback arrester could be used after the bag, then change the hose coming off the main tank to one rated for lye.  If the setup were used on a generator outside, any escaped hydrogen would disperse quickly.

Hydrogen is currently generated under the hoods of many vehicles via electrolysis.  It works safely enough because the hydrogen is used "on the fly" rather than captured and compressed and because an engine compartment is well ventilated.  This setup works no differently, aside from it being a chemical reaction instead of powered by electricity.  Aside from him doing this in an enclosed garage, which is easily fixed by taking it outside, I don't see where it is dangerous.  Please expand on your concerns and pinpoint the risks you see, pointing out those you see as insurmountable.

Offline bdhutier

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Re: Hydrogen from aluminum instructable
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2012, 06:36:35 AM »
My favorite part: "From the water bubbler bong the hydrogen goes into this black garbage bag for storage."

That sentence is awesome, especially with no context!
Tolerance is the virtue of the man with no convictions.
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So go do some PT, then by all means take some ninja classes.
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Offline Mr. Bill

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Re: Hydrogen from aluminum instructable
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2012, 09:58:46 AM »
Please expand on your concerns and pinpoint the risks you see, pointing out those you see as insurmountable.

Well, I'll give you a quick list of my concerns now, and maybe I can get my wife to expand on this later.

I'm mostly concerned about a fire, not an explosion.  The trash bag is the biggest worry, since they're not necessarily built to be gas-tight and hydrogen can easily escape through a pin-prick.  The bag is easily damaged, is too close to the hot engine, and is itself flammable.  The connections between the hoses, bag, and other containers would also be likely leak sites.

Doing this in an enclosed garage is dangerous because a hydrogen-air mixture could accumulate near the ceiling.

More later...

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: Hydrogen from aluminum instructable
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2012, 12:21:55 PM »
Interesting idea.  But I think I would rather put the effort into finding ways to minimize my need for electricity, rather than engineering a method to turn caustic chemicals and soda cans into toxic sludge and hydrogen.  You'd also have to stockpile all the aluminum cans you'd ever need, because after the SHTF, scrap metal will be a precious thing.  And this is clearly a "only in the worst case SHTF" idea if I've ever seen one...   ;) 

But you gotta love this guy's commitment to safety.  He has a garage that contains trash bags full of hydrogen and open-topped glass aquariums full of bubbling lye...
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Offline yodal

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Re: Hydrogen from aluminum instructable
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2012, 02:40:17 PM »
This guys set up is a little scary. But the idea of hydrogen power has been on my mind lately.
Glad to see I'm not the only one. I've seen cars and trucks run on it. But that was on youtube. So take that for what it's worth.
But... The idea of running things on hydrogen is a good one.
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Offline Skunkeye

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Re: Hydrogen from aluminum instructable
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2012, 08:27:46 PM »
I'm not sold on hydrogen as a fuel source.  Seems to me, if you're making it yourself, you'd be better off using a biodiesel or ethanol system and brewing your fuel that way.  Sure, hydrogen's storage life is pretty much infinite compared to liquid fuels, but its energy density is pathetically low (something like 5 times less energy per unit volume than ethanol - and that's with highly compressed hydrogen in the 10k psi range).  Liquid fuels are easier to store and handle, and don't require expensive, heavy pressure tanks (and a compressor to get the fuel into the tank) to do so.  Plus, liquid fuels and the ability to produce them would be a very valuable barter item, post-SHTF.  Hydrogen would pretty much be limited to your own use.

Apparently you can store hydrogen in black plastic garbage bags, but you can store liquid fuels that way, too...   ;)
"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people; it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” - Patrick Henry