Scientists have found a simple way to produce hydrogen from water at room temperature

(ORDO NEWS) — Hydrogen fuel promises to be a clean and abundant source of energy in the future, as long as scientists can find ways to produce it practically and cheaply without using fossil fuels.

New research shows us another promising step in this direction, provided you can tap into existing stocks of used aluminum and gallium.

In the new study, the scientists describe a relatively simple method using aluminum nanoparticles, which are able to strip oxygen from water molecules and leave behind hydrogen gas.

The process produces large amounts of hydrogen, and it all works at room temperature.

This removes one of the big barriers to hydrogen. fuel production: it requires a large amount of energy to produce it using existing methods.

This method works with any type of water, including sewage and ocean water.

“We don’t need any power supply, and it bubbles like crazy with hydrogen,” says material scientist Scott Oliver of Unive. University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).

“I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The key to the process is the use of metallic gallium to ensure continuous reaction with water. This aluminum-gallium-water reaction has been known for decades, but here the team has optimized and improved it in several specific ways.

Using scanning electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction techniques, the researchers were able to find the best mixture of aluminum and gallium to produce hydrogen with the highest efficiency: a 3:1 gallium-aluminum composite.

The high gallium alloy performs the dual function of removing the aluminum oxide coating. (which usually blocks the reaction with water) and in the production of aluminum nanoparticles, which speed up reactions.

“Gallium separates the nanoparticles and prevents them from aggregating into larger particles,” says Baktan Singaram, professor. organic chemistry at UCSC.

“People have struggled to create aluminum nanoparticles, and here we are producing them at normal atmospheric pressure and room temperature.”

The mixing method isn’t difficult, the researchers report, and the composite can be stored for at least three months when immersed in cyclohexane to protect it from moisture that would otherwise degrade its effectiveness.

Aluminum is easier to obtain than gallium because it can be obtained from used materials such as discarded aluminum cans and foil.

Gallium is more expensive and less common, but in this process at least it can be recovered and reused many times without losing its effectiveness.

There is still a lot of work to be done, not least to make sure this can be scaled from a laboratory setup to something that can be used on an industrial scale.

However, early indications are that this is another method that has great potential for producing hydrogen fuel.

“Overall, the Ga-Al [gallium-rich gallium-aluminum] mixture produces significant amounts of hydrogen at room temperature without energy input, material manipulation, or pH changes,” the researchers conclude in their paper.


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