Using hydrogen as a vehicle fuel is one of the possible solutions being
touted as a replacement for oil-based fuels. Hydrogen fueled vehicles
would be preferable because their emissions are merely water vapor, rather
than CO2. But carrying around hydrogen in fuel tanks makes people
twitchy. And there is no national infrastructure to distribute hydrogen
the way we currently distribute gasoline.
Researchers at Purdue University have developed a process that
produces hydrogen gas when water comes in contact with special
pellets made of aluminum and gallium. Normally, aluminum quickly forms a
skin on its surface which inhibits this process from taking place (which is why aluminum cans don’t dissolve into clouds of hydrogen gas when filled with liquid). But the gallium
prevents the skin from forming, and allows the aluminum to remain
Of course, refining aluminum in the first place is an incredibly energy
intensive process, so the production of these gallium-aluminum pellets
won’t be cheap. But the ability to produce hydrogen as it is needed and
in a transportable form is an interesting prospect. Those of you who are patiently waiting for the hydrogen economy now have a little bit less to wait for.