The technique of these researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) involves aluminum nanoparticles that remove oxygen from water molecules to produce hydrogen gas.
Relatively simple, this process allows you to generate large amounts of hydrogen at room temperature. Thus it solves one of the most important problems related to the production of hydrogen: the large quantities of energy necessary for its production.
“This solution, which works with any type of water, including wastewater and sea water, requires no energy input to produce hydrogen”says Scott Oliver, professor of chemistry at UCSC. “We have never seen anything like it!”
A unique process
The key to the process is to use metallic gallium to induce a continuous reaction with water. This reaction “aluminum-gallium-water“has been known for decades, but the team of researchers has greatly improved it. Using scanning electron microscopes and X-ray diffraction techniques, scientists were able to develop the best mixture of aluminum and gallium to efficiently generate hydrogen. : the composite “gallium-aluminum 3: 1“The high gallium alloy eliminates the aluminum oxide layer that normally blocks the reaction with water and generates aluminum nanoparticles that accelerate this reaction.
“Gallium separates the nanoparticles and prevents them from aggregating into larger particles“says Bakthan Singaram, professor of organic chemistry at UCSC.”These aluminum nanoparticles, which are usually complex to produce, are generated here at room temperature and normal atmospheric pressure. “
According to the researchers, if immersed in cyclohexane to preserve it from moisture, the composite material can be stored for at least 90 days.
Research in progress…
The availability of aluminum is much greater than that of gallium. The former can come from post-consumer materials such as cans or aluminum foil. Gallium is more expensive and less abundant, but the method developed by the UCSC allows it to be reused many times without any loss of efficiency.
“We still have work ahead of us …”, conclude the scientists. “We need to ensure that this technique can be applied on an industrial scale. However, early tests show that it has great potential for producing large quantities of hydrogen.”