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Alchemy Research: Cars Powered with Aluminum Grains

3p Contributor | Friday June 8th, 2012 | 10 Comments

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A version of this story originally appeared on NoCamels – Israeli Environment News
By Tal Sandler

The era of clean technologies is hopefully only beginning and yet we have already witnessed extraordinary advances in the field. From solar windows that power-up buildings to energy-producing roads, to desalination plants and many more, cleantech achievements are piling up.

So, if powering cars with ‘electric powder’ sounds like a scam, think again. Israeli company Alchemy Research offers a new method to power electric cars by using energy stored in aluminum grains.

Alchemy Research has developed a method of storage and conversion of energy. Their Alydro (Aluminum-Hydro) technology produces energy from a reaction between aluminum and water.

The outcome of this method, says company CEO Gideon Yampolsky, “is essentially an electric vehicle that is able to reach 2,400 km on a fuel tank that is the size of a standard fuel tank. A regular car that works on fuel is able to reach only 700- 800 km. Our fuel tank is the same size as a regular one and can last more distance.”

Releasing energy from aluminum

The Alydro energy system can store large amounts of energy inside aluminum grains and release it on demand. Since aluminum is a very dense element, it can accommodate twice the amount of energy as fuel in the same volume. According to the company it can also store 80 times more energy per kg than today’s best Li-ion batteries.

Although aluminum is known for its ability to store a lot of energy, what was missing until now was a method to release it. Yampolsky started researching alternative energies three years ago. In the process he partnered with Irad Stavi and together they founded Alchemy Research.

Their research focused on how to take this energy and release it, to use it for powering light bulbs or starting a car. The answer, they found, was water.

The alchemy

The Alydro reaction takes place in a reactor at elevated temperatures of up to 900 Celsius. The reactor, compact enough to be installed in a vehicle, feeds on aluminum grains and water and produces hot hydrogen. This hydrogen is then converted into electrical energy that replaces the battery in an electric vehicle.

The products of the reaction are warm air and water vapor which are later chilled and reused. “The water is not consumed, it is returned to the tank after it goes through the process. Even though the system works on aluminum and water, in practice it doesn’t use up the water,” Yampolsky tells NoCamels.

According to the company, none of the substances involved in the process are toxic or polluting: “Alydro is carbon-free, with zero greenhouse gas emission.” The only by-product of the Alydro reaction is solid aluminum-oxide known as alumina, which is fully recyclable. In fact, alumina is the material used for producing aluminum in the first place so it is collected for recycling back into aluminum.

Cost-efficient?

Today, the price of powering a car with fuel is the same as using aluminum. However, according to Yampolsky, this is expected to change due to the fact that gas prices are on a rise, while aluminum recycling will decline as the technology keeps improving. “We’re not mining natural resources, and technology is always perfected and becomes cheaper and more effective with time,” he adds.

The company expects that by the time the system is ready to go on the market the financial benefits will be larger than the present system of gas and fuel. They expect that “in about five years, when the price of one liter of gas probably will cost the American consumer $1.6, the price of one kg of aluminum powder will be only 1.1 dollars.”

“As opposed to gas that emits many pollutants, we just heat the air. The only cost is the electricity that heats the air. Not only does the system not pollute, it does not react with the environment; it doesn’t add anything or take anything from the environment which is a step ahead of non-pollution. It is based on renewable energy sources, and all its by-products are recyclable,” concludes Yampolsky.

“Light up an entire city”

Besides powering vehicles, the technology can also be used to solve the problem of energy storage. An electric grid, as a network for delivering electricity from suppliers to consumers, must be reliable. Still, the leading renewable energy sources – solar and wind – are intermittent. To balance supply and demand, energy needs to be stored during high availability periods and be used later on when power consumption exceeds supply.

Alydro enables energy storage and extraction in a sustainable process. The energy is stored inside the aluminum, goes into the Alydro reactor and produces aluminum-oxide that will be used again the next day for the electrolysis process.

“By day we make aluminum, and by night we turn it back to aluminum-oxide. What we get is energy in the form of hydrogen that can be used in a gas turbine and light up an entire city,” says Yampolsky.

The company states that both aluminum and aluminum-oxide are nontoxic, nonflammable and nonpolluting. With Alydro energy storage, energy can be stored for decades in the aluminum itself with no degradation.

The young company, founded in 2012, says that it is “dedicated to developing Alydro technology to make clean and sustainable transportation a reality.” They are also planning on developing systems for on-site power generation and production of hydrogen.

Photos courtesy of Alchemy Research


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  • Asterix

    9000C = 16,232F.  What, pray tell, do you use for a reaction vessel?  Iron boils at 2750C; tungsten at 5550C.  Do you really want something that hot in your car?

    At any rate, aluminum reacts with water at near room temperature just fine.  One of the classic freshman chem lab demonstrations is to hold a piece of aluminum under a pool of mercury over which some distilled water has been poured.  The oxide layer is scratched off the aluminum and the the aluminum piece is lifted into the water, where it happily bubbles away, liberating hydrogen.

    Given the amount of electrical energy needed to reduce bauxite to metallic aluminum, this proposal doesn’t appear to offer a lot of efficiency.

  • kalibanos

    Reaction temperature is 900C, not 9000C. See http://www.alcres.com

  • http://www.triplepundit.com Nick Aster

    Thanks for catching that Typo.  900C is correct.

    • Dynamikausa

      Thats more than a typo… You dont have your facts straight

  • Roperld

    What is the charge rate (kW)? What is the discharge rate (kW)?

  • Martin Winlow

    Well, containment vessel issues (or not) aside this scheme appears to offer the breakthrough that the hydrogen powered fuel cell needs to make it practical.  It gets around the major problem of having to store H2 compressed at 1000s of PSI to make it practical to to carry around as well as the need for fantastically expensive storage vessels.

    Oh!  Hang on!  But the fuel cell is only 50% efficient (at best)!  So what’s the point in going through all this nonsense and expense when even todays battery-based EV drive trains are nearly twice as efficient?  You might as well just put the electrical energy you would be using to make the H2 straight into a battery and save nearly 100% of your power.  And then there is the small question of fuel cell cost.  $50-100k buys you a lot of batteries!  Back to the drawing board, guys.

    • Irad Stavi

      Batteries are indeed efficient, but if it would have been only about efficiency, gasoline ICE with its 28% efficiency would be long gone.
      The key problem with battery is energy density – and this problem is not going away any time soon. A vehicle needs 300 kg of battery for traveling 100 miles. Enlarge the battery and the range returns are diminishing because now the vehicle is heavier. For a decent range you end up with a battery on wheels.

      Aluminum, though less efficient than a battery offers eighty-fold increase in energy density – thus putting to rest range anxiety.

      • Piotr Czekański

         Hydrogen is not mechanical form of energy. You still need H2 internal combustion engine or H2 fuel cell end electrical engines. But it is not a problem.
        Problem is how easily and cheaply convert Al2O3 into Al. It is impossible to use solar cells or wind turbines to produce power to Hall–Héroult process because you need constant power supply. And still you need 0,5 ton of carbon (C) to produce 1 ton of aluminium (Al) sending nearly 2 tons of carbon-dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. Aluminium production isn’t environmental friendly.

        • Alex Salnikov

          why to send co2 to the atmosphere? why not to use it or convert it back to carbon. 

  • Mirza Borogovac

    I am not sure what exactly is new here? Where is the breakthrough? Getting hydrogen from water with aluminum is a pretty old idea?