Researchers from Purdue University are on the cusp on creating a new type of mobile technology that not only coverts non-potable water into drinking water, but also extracts hydrogen to generate electricity. The technology revolves around an aluminium alloy that the team believes could bring both water and power to poor villages around the world.
Leading the team is Jerry Woodall, a Purdue University distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering. Speaking to Science Daily, he stated that by immersing the new alloy (which contains aluminum, gallium, indium and tin) into water, you can create a spontaneous reaction that splits the water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. The hydrogen can then be used to fuel power cells, while clean drinking water is produced in the form of steam.
“The steam would kill any bacteria contained in the water, and then it would condense to purified water,” Woodall said. “So, you are converting undrinkable water to drinking water.”
The technology even works with saltwater, which means it could be utilised on boats and marine vessels around the world to providing drinking water to sailors. A prototype has yet to be created and a patent is pending, but Woodall believes the portable technology could transform villages that aren’t connected to a power grid.
“There is a big need for this sort of technology in places lacking connectivity to a power grid and where potable water is in short supply,” he said. “Because aluminum is a low-cost, non-hazardous metal that is the third-most abundant metal on Earth, this technology promises to enable a global-scale potable water and power technology, especially for off-grid and remote locations.”
It would be cheap too, as water could be produced for about $1 per gallon, while electricity could be generated for about 35 cents per kilowatt hour of energy. “There is no other technology to compare it against, economically, but it’s obvious that 34 cents per kilowatt hour is cheap compared to building a power plant and installing power lines, especially in remote areas,” Woodall said. “You could drop the alloy, a small reaction vessel and a fuel cell into a remote area via parachute. Then the reactor could be assembled along with the fuel cell. The polluted water or the seawater would be added to the reactor and the reaction converts the aluminum and water into aluminum hydroxide, heat and hydrogen gas on demand.”
Simple! And as aluminum hydroxide waste is non-toxic it can be disposed of in a landfill.
Via Science Daily