Aluminum oxide and water

Here’s how you can produce hydrogen to power cars, homes, or even toys. Hydrogen is the cleanest energy carrier in the universe, and is also easily obtainable from recycled soda cans and water that you can find virtually anywhere.

The process sitting at the base of this experiment is a simple one you probably learned in elementary school (but don’t remember):

2Al + 3H2O –> 3H2 + Al2O3 + heat

Basically, you need just one other element: liquid metal, also known as, which is non-toxic, recyclable and can be easily procured from eBay. With Galinstan you activate the aluminum and turn it into what’s called “activated aluminum” (obviously).

The gallium in Galinstan prevents the aluminum from creating that oxide interface that prevents further hydrogen-producing reactions from happening. However, when gallium is inserted in the reaction, aluminum reacts with water and produces hydrogen and aluminum oxide (alumina).

So, let’s begin. You first take a drop of liquid metal and treat the aluminum surface (soda can) with it. Make sure you scratch the aluminum surface first, or otherwise the reaction won’t happen, because of the plastic foil that’s already applied to it from the factory.

Drop the “activated” aluminum in water, and you’ll start noticing how hydrogen bubbles start to emerge to the surface (see picture). There you go!

Now, to recover the liquid metal you can drop the resulting alumina suspension in caustic soda (NaOH) and the liquid metal will quickly come to surface, ready to be reused. The alumina can be sent for recycling. Learn more on how to do that here.

This article has been inspired by Biotele‘s instructable, to whom I thank for sharing the wisdom for creating a greener world. Hydrogen IS the ultimate energy carrier, but people have to know how to produce it first and not rely on industrial processes that make it from gas.

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