Illinois Sustainable Technology Center - University of Illinois

Splitting Any Kind Of Water With Global-Scale, Earth-Abundant, Light, Recyclable Metals To Make Hydrogen, Heat And Potable Water On-Demand


Presented by Dr. Jerry Woodall - National Medal of Technology Laureate, Epstein Distinguished Professor of ECE, Purdue University

April 5, 2012

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Any future successful global-scale energy technology must satisfy three criteria: (1) be indefinitely recyclable, (2) be capable of safe energy storage, and (3) be capable of safe transport. We believe that an aluminum based energy technology can satisfy these criteria. First, even though the current Al industry does not practice large scale recycling, there are no barriers to do this. Also, Al metal and its oxides and hydroxides are already safely transported. However, in spite of the good mass energy density and very high volumetric energy density of Al, it is not yet part of the energy storage leg of the criteria triangle. We show both theoretically and experimentally that Al meets all the conditions of a successful energy technology. Specifically we can make bulk, Al rich alloys that will split any kind of water to make hydrogen, heat and recyclable aluminum hydroxide. This breakthrough has opened a new pathway to finally realize a hydrogen energy economy. As an example, it will enable feasible solar and wind energy technologies by using the intermittent electricity generated by solar cells and wind turbines to reduce aluminum hydroxides back to aluminum by fused salt electrolysis. Once you have plentiful hydrogen and heat you can have sustainable remote power and potable water.

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