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An RC Car That Runs On Soda Can Rings

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the compatible-with-classic-pull-tabs dept.

Toys 135

polyp2000 writes with an Engadget excerpt to inspire instant toy envy: "A pair of Spanish engineers have recently unveiled the dAlH2Orean (see what they did there?), a R/C car that runs on aluminum. Dropping a few soda can tabs into a tank of sodium hydroxide produces enough hydrogen to power the little speedster for 40 minutes — at almost 20mph."

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Interesting... (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876750)

Just on an intuitive level, I'm a touch surprised that they managed to get that much running time out of the system.

On consideration, of course, the energy required to coax aluminum out of whatever compound it has formed this time and into a bulk metallic state is pretty heroic. That does suggest that(while the aluminum oxide layer passivates it nicely under normal circumstances) bulk aluminum has some serious potential energy.

Re:Interesting... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35876914)

Here is a page on the projects website, which provides at least some explanation of how it works. Depending on how recently you took chemistry, you can get at least some of the general picture of it all. I have to imagine that they are hiding at least some side effect, like potential cost in extracting the Aluminium from aluminium hydroxide. I don't really know any of the specifics to say though.

http://www.dalh2orean.com/dAlH2Orean/Blog/Entradas/2011/4/15_Press_Conference.html [dalh2orean.com]

Re:Interesting... (4, Insightful)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877092)

Extracting aluminum from aluminum hydroxide is the standard method (the Bayer process [wikipedia.org] ) for refining aluminum from bauxite.

Re:Interesting... (3, Insightful)

EasyTarget (43516) | more than 3 years ago | (#35878158)

Err.. that will be the Bayer process followed by the Hall–Héroult [wikipedia.org] process.

Hall–Héroult process is the one where a vast amount of electrical energy is used to extract the Metallic Aluminium from the Alumina that is the end product of the Bayer process.. Typically plants doing this have their own power station (often Hydroelectric.. but Nuclear is used too) due to the energy required.

Not really very green huh.. it just displaces where the energy is input by several chemical steps.. The energy poured into making aluminium, is basically being extracted later on.

Essentially the Aluminium is being used like a battery.. not a fuel.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 2 years ago | (#35878736)

Essentially the Aluminium is being used like a battery.. not a fuel.

The is a very valid point, but if you take any fuel to its extreme you will find that it is just a battery for energy that was released from the sun. Arguably fossil fuels are a storage medium for energy collected from dinosaurs eating plants. Aluminum is at least relatively inert as a battery compared to gasoline, hydrogen or lead-acid.

Re:Interesting... (1)

EasyTarget (43516) | more than 2 years ago | (#35878998)

Sorry; I meant 'A very inefficient battery'.

Completely get your point, but I guess if pushed I'd reserve 'battery' for something that is deliberately created and energized or charged up in one location for later release of the energy elsewhere.. It's different from a fuel where the energy is inherent and not added by a human agency, even if it all comes from the Sun originally (entropy, like pedantry. is a terrible thing).

Re:Interesting... (1)

linuxwolf69 (1996104) | more than 2 years ago | (#35879708)

Even if it's being used as a "battery", the aluminum is already being made. Currently it's not being used for much of anything. most people don't even recycle their aluminum soda cans.

It seems to me that this technology, if it becomes widely available, will allow people to use their aluminum garbage for powering their vehicles.

Re:Interesting... (1)

VolciMaster (821873) | more than 2 years ago | (#35880498)

most people don't even recycle their aluminum soda cans.

We do in states that have deposits, and and areas where not recycling gets you fined.

Re:Interesting... (5, Interesting)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877000)

producing aluminum from boxite is extremely energy intensive. requires loads of electricity.

we recycle aluminum not because it is of scarcity, but rather because the energy invested to produce it from boxite is 'saved'.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35878264)

Bauxite.

Re:Interesting... (1)

J4 (449) | more than 2 years ago | (#35878914)

pedantry: bauxite

Re:Interesting... (2)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877560)

Aluminium as fuel has been proposed quite often for some truly insane concepts. One of my favourites was as an extremely dense energy source for long range supercavitating torpedoes - the idea was to use a quasiturbine engine that would ignite a seawater/aluminium foil mixture by compression of the combustion chamber. Essentially a hybrid of diesel engine and rocket, burning metal at white heat.

There was also a rather wonderful spaceplane design, proposed back in the 30s I think, that would have used aluminium wings for takeoff, then once going fast enough, grind up the wings into powder and feed them into the engine as a secondary fuel source.

Re:Interesting... (3, Informative)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877842)

The space shuttle used aluminum fuel.
http://www.nasa.gov/returntoflight/system/system_SRB.html [nasa.gov]

Re:Interesting... (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877954)

both endeavour and atlantis are scheduled to fly once more, so for now, the shuttle still uses aluminium fuel

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35880592)

Purdue came up with a solid rocket fuel that is a mix of nanoparticle aluminum and ICE! So yeah, Aluminum appears to be so reactive that it can burn with water.

Oblig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35876790)

Where we're going we don't need roads.

Re:Oblig (1)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876858)

If only they could get there dAlH2Orean up to 88mph they could have traveled back to 1955... Oh well.

Re:Oblig (1)

Magada (741361) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877982)

It's a car that runs on ring pulls ffs! What's /. coming to?

Only aluminum? (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876812)

I'm no chemist, but doesn't this also consume the sodium hydroxide? Isn't that the actual source of the hydrogen atoms?

Re:Only aluminum? (2)

northernfrights (1653323) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876960)

I'm pretty sure it mostly consumes the sodium hydroxide. At any rate, the aluminum is not the 'fuel source' so the way it's written is definitely wrong. As one of the posters down below said, this is as accurate as saying that my car runs on oxygen.

Re:Only aluminum? (2)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877962)

2 Al + 2 NaOH + 2 H2O 2 NaAlO2 + 3 H2

Aluminium uses massive amounts of electricity to produce, Sodium Hydroxide production uses massive amounts of energy .... and this process is quite inefficient ...

New fuel, no ....

Re:Only aluminum? (5, Informative)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876984)

Hehe, this gives me the opportunity to pass along an old favorite to a much younger generation. We were doing this around the time that today's college students were being born. The best part is that you can still get all the pieces for this (unlike many stories 20 years before my youth, which centered around things like large gunpowder fireworks and F-size model rocket engines).

If you were to take a square of aluminum foil, fold it diagonally in half to create a crease, fill the crease with lye (available as Red Devil drain cleaner, among others), and the roll the whole thing up like a... uh... hand-rolled cigarette, and then to fill a (preferably small, 500 mL or less) bottle with a fair amount of water, into which you then place the Drano Reefer before quickly (but firmly) closing the cap and throwing it far, far away, you'd get the Drano Reefer bomb.

The hydrogen comes from the water; the NaOH is merely a catalyst preventing the 2Al + 6H2O -> 2Al(OH)3 + 3H2 reaction from getting stopped by aluminum oxide films, etc. Done right, the gas pressure will rupture the bottle, while the hydrogen produced will add to any flame. For obvious reasons, not recommended for glass bottles.

For an encore, take a metal can (soup, tomato, soda, whatever) and add roughly 1:1 ratio by volume of brake fluid and pool chlorinator (the "shock treatment" is preferred for its high free chlorine content). Adding fluid to chlorinator produces a delayed reaction; adding chlorinator to fluid produces a much faster reaction. Work with the proportions to produce the desired effect - if done properly, you can reliably produce any effect from smoke-only to rapid bonfire. Once you're comfortable with that, you can start working with paper or styrofoam cups to produce a self-immolating container.

Re:Only aluminum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35877376)

I'm not sure how old you are but, at 30, I may or may not be very familiar with such devices. Certainly could be fun if one were to do such a thing. ;-)

Re:Only aluminum? (1)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877614)

Hehe, this gives me the opportunity to pass along an old favorite to a much younger generation.

The rest snipped. This is (Hehe) a terrible idea. Don't do it. Besides the real risk of chemical burns, you risk jail and prison. Police and prosecutors have, and will, come after people that make these for making "destructive devices". You risk ruining (Hehe) your life for making a loud bang. I agree, this is little more than popping a balloon, but I'm not (and the parent poster) a cop with something to prove (or is he?).

Re:Only aluminum? (2)

elfprince13 (1521333) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877700)

It must suck to live in suburbia. I could probably set off a few sticks of dynamite and no one would be the wiser. If anyone actually heard they would assume they noise came from one of the handful of gravel quarries within jogging distance of my house.

Re:Only aluminum? More Antics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35877742)

I used to work on PCB (circuit board) construction as a hobby.
For those who don't know:
This involves taking metal coated circuit boards, coating the places where you want the metal to stay (the circuit traces) with some kind of resistant ink or tape, and putting the board into a tray of "etchant" (acid) which will eat away the copper that's not protected. However, at room temperature, it takes long enough that the acid can eat its way underneath the tape/ink as well, so typically the tray is heated and physically agitated somehow to speed up the reaction.

One time I left the machine on too long, and the tray (which was black) ended up melting from the heat of the heat lamp. The etchant solution of course leaked out, and it ATE THROUGH the aluminum brackets which held the plastic etchant liquid tray in place.

So then I realized "hmm it eats aluminum too", which makes sense. I decided to test this with aluminum foil. Normal food aluminum foil is covered by plastic, so there is a somewhat delayed reaction as it starts only at the edges of the sheet. As it starts to dissolve, though, it heats up and makes a lot of heat, which makes the reaction go faster and faster, releasing odd smelling fumes in the process.

Next we tried another experiment, putting some solution into a coke bottle, and putting a nice sized wad of aluminum foil in there. KaBOOM! It makes a very loud sound, and quite a mess (for outdoor use only), spraying the hot etchant solution everywhere.
You can even pre-prepare these somewhat ahead of time by making the wad of foil such that it stays in the neck of the bottle until you shake the crap out of it. (I wouldn't store it inside though!!!)

Although commercial production techniques tend to use strong/pure muriatic acids, I would strongly recommend against using that for obvious reasons. On the other hand, the etching solution used by hobbyists is a relatively weak chemical called "Ferric Chloride" that you can buy at radio shack. It basically looks like liquid rust, and it will stain nearly anything.

Re:Only aluminum? More Antics (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877854)

Although commercial production techniques tend to use strong/pure muriatic acids, I would strongly recommend against using that for obvious reasons.

I don't see your reasons as being obvious at all. But then, I'm a practical guy when it comes to chemistry, not an experienced tinkerer.

I can get muriatic acid at Menards in gallon-sized tins for next to nothing: It's used for removing mortar from brick. (It's probably even cheaper, and in bigger containers, from the local masonry supply house.)

What are the reasons that I should use ferric chloride instead?

Re:Only aluminum? (1)

blackchiney (556583) | more than 2 years ago | (#35878312)

I did this when I was a kid. Besides the ka-boom it produced a nice ring of dead grass about 8 feet in diameter that only disappeared once I graduated highschool (~4 years). If you care at all about the environment please don't do this.

Re:Only aluminum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35878338)

Don't mix things with Chlorine.

The byproduct gas is extremely dangerous and you can permanently harm yourself.

 

Re:Only aluminum? (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#35878756)

So the OH comes from water and not from the more available OH in NaOH? That's hard to take. It's more likely the NaOH gets used up by this process.

Re:Only aluminum? (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#35879658)

Well if you are into things that go boom fill a hard glass container (a beer or soda bottle with a screw top is good) with sugar and then add battery acid. You might not even have to put the screw top on as the resulting reaction produces gas and black sugar ash which will clog the bottle and let the pressure build up until it reaches the bursting point of the the bottle. Not a safe idea as this will throw acid and bits of glass over a sizable area. The acid/sugar reaction is a popular science experiment producing long black snakes, but this is usually done in a large container with no obstructions. The beer bottle 'bomb' was discovered when a dumb friend of mine used the wrong container by mistake. Dumb ass had to clean up his bedroom after the thing exploded.

Real power (5, Interesting)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876814)

The real power comes from aluminum batteries though.

FTA: There may be another way to transport electricity, using the Aluminum battery as a medium. Each kilogram of Aluminum produced represents about 14 KWh of electricity, used to produce the ingots. This means that if we ship 20,000 Tons of Aluminum to Europe, we would be transporting the equivalent of 20,000,000 * 14 KWh of electricity. This is 280 GWh of electricity, enough to power 500,000 households in Europe for a year. The question, of course, is how can we free this electricity from the Aluminum transported. Here comes the Aluminum battery. Using Aluminum electrodes in a simple electrochemical cell, filled with seawater or Sodium Hydroxide solution and using a Nickel-Manganese counter electrode, the Aluminum will be oxidized to Aluminum Hydroxide and give off 3 electrons per Al atom used up in the reaction. A large part of the electricity stored in the above 20,000 tons of Aluminum can in this way be released, generating about 280 GWh of electricity and about 60,000 tons of Al(OH)3 sludge. This sludge could be recycled back to Iceland to generate again 20,000 tons of Aluminum to start the process of electricity generation anew. http://www.zpenergy.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=717 [zpenergy.com]

Re:Real power (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877020)

Interesting point.

Re:Real power (1, Funny)

Kashgarinn (1036758) | more than 3 years ago | (#35878220)

Interesting point.

Interesting point.

Re:Real power (0)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 2 years ago | (#35878696)

Interesting point.

Interesting point.

Interesting point.

Misleading... (1)

veektor (545483) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876822)

Just like my car runs on oxygen.

Re:Misleading... (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#35879290)

But your car does ;).

The difference is that in your car's normal operating environment oxygen is easily available and doesn't need to be stored.

now we need bigger cars / trains that can run on t (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876830)

now we need bigger cars / trains that can run on this.

Global Warming (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876838)

Does this digesting bits of aluminum cans: clean up the environment; cause greenhouse gases; or generate a toxic pollutants that will cause birth defects in our future children?

Re:Global Warming (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877182)

None of the above. This is already done all the time. Dissolving bauxite in sodium hydroxide is the first step in the standard method for refining aluminum.

Overall efficiency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35876846)

Of course it's a cool little project; but I think if this scaled we would have heard about it by now.

I've heard it takes the equivalent of 1 cup of gasoline to produce 1 Al can. Then you have to account for the NaOH production. That requires energy. Then you have to consider the waste product. You can probably recover aluminum from the waste; but you still have to dispose of it properly. A proper disposal system would be closed though, instead of rejecting waste into the atmosphere as we do with ICE engines. Of course, you will probably still be rejecting waste into the atmosphere at the plant that produces the NaOH and Al powder.

Long story short, I bet the overall efficiency of the cycle isn't very good; but it's a cute hack.

Re:Overall efficiency? (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877136)

The "waste" is tetrahydroxoaluminate, which is the second phase in refining alunimum from bauxite. From there, you recrystallize it, then heat it up to convert it into Aluminium oxide and water, then you smelt it (this is the part that requires epic amounts of power).

Re:Overall efficiency? (1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877256)

But the question is, what's the efficiency? Smelting requires "epic amounts of power" but if you can get more than half of it back out on the other end then you've got a commercially viable high energy battery. Whereas if you lose 95%+ then it's just a curious toy.

Aluminum is not waste (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 2 years ago | (#35878462)

You can probably recover aluminum from the waste; but you still have to dispose of it properly

Aluminum is a major component of clays, rocks, and sands. It's not a waste, it's part of nature. According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] : In the Earth's crust, aluminium is the most abundant (8.3% by weight) metallic element and the third most abundant of all elements (after oxygen and silicon).

it uses two consumables. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35876848)

It doesn't run on aluminium, it runs on aluminium _and_ sodium hydroxide.

Re:it uses two consumables. (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877078)

But is the aluminum even a source of energy in this reaction, or is it acting more like a catalyst? (consumed or otherwise)

Isn't the sodium hydroxide the chief provider of energy? I'm not certain on this, I'm not chemist, but I know it takes a lot of energy to manufacture aluminum (in the form of electricity) but does this reaction recover any of that energy?

Re:it uses two consumables. (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877150)

The massive amount of energy is in the smelting. This doesn't require refined aluminum. What they're doing here is basically step 1 in the Bayer process for refining aluminum from bauxite. Just take the "waste" (tetrahydroxoaluminate) from this, crystallize it, and bake at 1050C to get Aluminum oxide.

Future Developements (1)

Deaths Proxy (1795932) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876872)

Next they will work on a R/C car that runs on the tears of orphans. Renewable energy FTW!

Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publicity (4, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876874)

This happens much, much too often on Slashdot.

Aluminum takes a terrible lot of energy to refine from ore. The one good thing about that is that it's really easily recycled, so those aluminum cans sometimes get to be part of something again. But when you dissolve it in draino, and then, inevitably, dispose of the result in your landfill or sewer, you lose all of that energy and make some nasty pollution. What you get back in energy isn't a tiny fraction of what went in.

But they got a patent. Because the patent office doesn't care if your work is good, only that it's original. So, a lot of ignorant people will be impressed by their "innovation".

This would have been cool for a high-school science-fair project. Much too much bad science runs here.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (2)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876928)

This happens much, much too often on Slashdot.

Aluminum takes a terrible lot of energy to refine from ore. The one good thing about that is that it's really easily recycled, so those aluminum cans sometimes get to be part of something again. But when you dissolve it in draino, and then, inevitably, dispose of the result in your landfill or sewer, you lose all of that energy and make some nasty pollution. What you get back in energy isn't a tiny fraction of what went in.

But they got a patent. Because the patent office doesn't care if your work is good, only that it's original. So, a lot of ignorant people will be impressed by their "innovation".

This would have been cool for a high-school science-fair project. Much too much bad science runs here.

But given the fact that most people don't get paid for dumping their aluminum in the recycle bin, this could be a good invention. You get to extract energy from the aluminum in your cans and use it yourself, rather than give it away to someone else for free.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876942)

But given the fact that most people don't get paid for dumping their aluminum in the recycle bin, this could be a good invention. You get to extract energy from the aluminum in your cans and use it yourself, rather than give it away to someone else for free.

Is it really costing you that much to power all your RC toys? Or are you taking an article about a toy car way too seriously? (Granted, so was Mr. Perens...)

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (1)

Americium (1343605) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877444)

It's about 12 cent a kwh where I am, and considering my entire 1500 milliamp hour 7.2 volt pack takes a whole 10.8 watt hours of energy to charge, that's roughly 0.12 cents for each charge.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (3, Insightful)

Kazymyr (190114) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877072)

Sure. Let's all do this. Let's power up our cars by improvised H2 generators using discarded aluminum cans. Ignore practical considerations such as: does the average household generate enough alumionum waste to cover its energy requirements, prioce and safe handling of sodium hydroxide, disposal of aluminum sodium oxide etc.

Fast forward 1 year. Most people who had started using the aluminum powered cars have abandoned the system.
Why? Not enough waste aluminum generated by the household.
Why? The price of canned soda has skyrocketed.
Why? The deposit on cans has suddenly gone up from 5-10cents per can to %1.50 per can
Why? Canners can't get cheap aluminum anymore
Why? Aluminum doesn't get recycled anymore because it gets burned instead. So canners need to buy "new" aluminum, which costs a lot more. Why? It takes a lot of electricity to refine from ore.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (2)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877166)

disposal of the waste (tetrahydroxoaluminate) would be "sell it to the smelters". This is the first step of the Bayer process for refining aluminum from bauxite.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35877480)

Oh sure, "sell it to the smelters", thanks for offering a non solution, you might want to try it before suggesting it.

Here's an easy test with a readily available toxic product, take an old 12 volt lead/acid car battery to a Lead Smelter and see how long they Laugh at you before they turn you away.

"sell it to the smelters" indeed.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (2)

adolf (21054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877816)

Oh sure, "sell it to the smelters", thanks for offering a non solution, you might want to try it before suggesting it.

Here's an easy test with a readily available toxic product, take an old 12 volt lead/acid car battery to a Lead Smelter and see how long they Laugh at you before they turn you away

One word: Scale.

Take a small amount of n to an n smelter, and they'll laugh at you -- it's not worth their time to deal with such quantities.

Offer to sell a few railcars full of n to them, and you'll have their interest immediately.

(Where n is this funky spent aluminum, or lead-acid batteries, or steel, or iron, or copper, or...)

This is where recycling centers and scrap yards come into play. They consolidate the goods into sufficient quantities that they are worth transporting and bargaining for. There's a place not far from here that pays $8 for old car batteries, and they're happy to buy them one at a time, but they're not a smelter.

To use a computer analogy: Try to buy a single CPU from Intel and see how long they Laugh at you before they turn you away.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35878524)

You don't actually get it back for free - the fact that many/most cans are recycled is part of the purchase price. If nobody recycles their cans, the price will increase. The usual tragedy of the commons.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35878692)

So pay the recyclers then, here in Sweden we get payed when recycling cans and bottles.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (2)

Anti_Climax (447121) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876962)

Because the patent office doesn't care if your work is good, only that it's original

They do?
;)

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (3, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877494)

I suppose I should have put the period after "the patent office doesn't care."

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (1)

rgviza (1303161) | more than 2 years ago | (#35879166)

I believe he meant "not registered with the patent office yet" as opposed to "original" although even this distinction doesn't always matter.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877056)

This doesn't need refined aluminum. Dissolving bauxite in sodium hydroxide is the first step of the Bayer process for refining aluminum.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877538)

And I'm sure that refiners have recovered the hydrogen from that process. This isn't inventing new chemistry, just a new application. And IMO, not a very good one.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877080)

But they got a patent. Because the patent office doesn't care if your work is good, only that it's original. So, a lot of ignorant people will be impressed by their "innovation".

That's very true and something I never really considered. As odd as it seems, I suppose that's a good thing!

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35877190)

You're too quick to dismiss this. As a chemist I'm able to appreciate the simplicity and energy density of aluminum metal. The problem with this and other powerful reducing agents (fuels) is that they are dangerously flammable under the wrong conditions. Nevermind the energy demands associated with producing it - the key is really to heat the aluminium oxide/fluoride ore bauxite up and get it good and melting in a big iron container which serves as the cathode for the electrochemical cell. The anode of choice, at least my best guess is good old carbon or graphite. Yes, it takes a lot of current to reduce the aluminum, but that's the freaking point. It's an energy storage medium. But anyhow, if you have a ready source of thermal energy and/or electricity, like say a nuclear reactor, this is moot. Aluminum is hella lot better to cart around than hydrogen gas ( very poor energy density ).

The idea of reducing/oxidizing a metal for energy is the principle for many existing battery designs, so the idea isn't new. Many of the problems are already apparent in other implementations, like the infamous "exploding" (I doubt they exploded, but they surely burnt hot and bright) lithium batteries.

Indeed, lithium (metal) and aluminum are powerful, energy-dense fuels. Lithium is so reactive (and yet the least among group I metals) that it reacts spontaneously with oxygen in the air while its oxide dissolves in whatever atmospheric moisture it can suck up. Aluminum is probably nearly as electro-positive (I'm not checking a periodic table) and sports three electrons' worth of reducing power relative to lithium's one donor electron. Its self-passivization just might make it the right tool for a bunch of cool applications where lithium and other alkalis are too reactive, too. Unfortunately its a solid and not readily mechanically metered like gasoline so it may be some time before we find it as a direct source of mechanical power in our automobiles, but you never know.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35877228)

And yet it's still more original than anything you, or your offspring will ever create/invent.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35877246)

LOL [wikipedia.org]

And with a Slashdot ID that low, I'm pretty sure he's the real one.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877388)

If only we had a way to produce plentiful amounts of cheap energy, all our problems would be solved.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35877680)

They're called uranium, thorium, and breeder reactors.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877698)

Pbbfft... Name me one thing, ONE, that is better than RC cars. Go ahead, I can wait. Now don't you think powering such inventions should be humanity's sole purpose on this planet?

Thought so.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35878288)

RC planes. (Posted anon 'cause I modded up thread.)

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35878364)

RC Helicopters.

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 2 years ago | (#35878466)

RC Cola.

"Publici"? Weren't they one of the classes of Roman citizens?

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (1)

koreanbabykilla (305807) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877992)

They got a patent on this???? TFA is really short, but this is BASIC chem shit.

"Strong bases attack aluminium. Sodium hydroxide reacts with aluminium and water to release hydrogen gas. The aluminium takes the oxygen atom from sodium hydroxide (NaOH), which in turn takes the oxygen atom from the water, and releases the two hydrogen atoms. In this reaction, sodium hydroxide acts as an agent to make the solution alkaline, which aluminium can dissolve in. "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide#Reactions [wikipedia.org]

if ya just want some H2, from a reaction of a metal and a solution, seems easier to me to throw some zinc in some HCL

Zn + 2HCl = ZnCl2 + H2

Safety wise, I know given the choice of getting HCL or NaOH spilled on me, I would choose HCL.
I think zinc is cheaper too.
I KNOW HCL is cheaper. You can pick up a 55 gallon drum CHEAP at the pool supply store.

hell, zinc and NaOH does the same thing, also.

Zn + NaOH ----> Na2ZnO2+ H2

Or zinc and sulfuric acid(the shit in your car battery)

Zn + H2SO4 ==> ZnSO4 + H2

this is HARLDY novel.
You learn these reactions in a high scool chem class, not even AP. Where are you seeing anything about a patent bruce?

Re:Headline: Bad Student Work Gets Tons of Publici (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#35878846)

Here's a paper [nationalhy...dation.org] on the reaction, by different people at the same university, and there's also this 2003 patent [justia.com] by two people named Erling Andersen, who don't seem to be at Barcelona, and a corresponding European patent EP1301433. The Andersen patent is cited in the Barcelona paper. I didn't find a patent on the battery application by the folks who made the model car. It looks like there's abundant prior art for the Andersen patent. This whole thing reads like a parody of patent abuse.

Lye (3, Insightful)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876894)

For those who don't recognize it, sodium hydroxide is more commonly known as lye. Not sure I would want to be in an accident in a full size vehicle powered by lye.

Re:Lye (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876930)

For those who don't recognize it, sodium hydroxide is more commonly known as lye. Not sure I would want to be in an accident in a full size vehicle powered by lye.

Yeah... most children's toys would not make good full size vehicles.

Re:Lye (1)

bane2571 (1024309) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877054)

On the plus side, roadkill would be so much easy to clean up...

Re:Lye (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35877236)

For those who don't recognize it, sodium hydroxide is more commonly known as lye. Not sure I would want to be in an accident in a full size vehicle powered by lye.

I would not want to be in an accident in a full size vehicle powered by gasoline.

Re:Lye (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35878772)

I would not want to be in an accident at all

Re:Lye (1)

rasherbuyer (225625) | more than 2 years ago | (#35879288)

For those who don't recognize it, sodium hydroxide is more commonly known as lye.

For those who don't recognize it, sodium hydroxide is more commonly known as caustic soda. A much more descriptive name...

Re:Lye (1)

UpUpDownDown (972439) | more than 2 years ago | (#35880166)

So - you'd rather be in a full size vehicle with 20 +/- gallons of Gasoline on board? The Ford Pinto comes to mind....

Amazing (1)

Rizimar (1986164) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876904)

If I had this engine, I could use all of my empty energy drink cans to power everything in my room!

Why slashdot, why? (2)

northernfrights (1653323) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876992)

Since when is this a place to so drastically misrepresent something that the readers only think it's cool because they don't understand it? This happens all the time now. Sensationalism is growing threat to society's collective scientific comprehension.

Sodium Hydroxide (1)

xkr (786629) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876996)

AND !

With all that left over lye, you can open a few clogged drains!

Kurt Vonnegut dream came true? (2)

4wdloop (1031398) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877012)

Self-powered, self-recycling cars made of.... aluminum?

such negative comments! (1)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877186)

Such negative comments by supposedly gadget-loving geeks. I suppose you've never heard of the Chem-E-Car Competition [aiche.org] . Although this is an RC car and the Chem-E-Car rules don't allow that.

Re:such negative comments! (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877874)

the negative comments are because it's so boring because it's stuff that's been done for .. about a century? perhaps more? plenty of other material pairs you could use for the same effect, with all of them being about as boring and non-feasible for large scale with current energy prices(prices of materials).

My car runs on Air. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35877410)

And some diesel off course, but that is unimportant.

A good way to transport H2, perhaps (1)

cowtamer (311087) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877456)

I remember reading (years ago) in a popular science magazine that someone was proposing using iron filings and steam to generate H2 on-board for use in fuel cells. Iron oxide is a heck of a lot easier to re-form back into iron than any Aluminum salt or oxide is, I'm sure. (You could use electricity, or better yet, coal, which would make the "clean" coal people throw money at the idea).

(Fe + 3H20 = FeO3 +3H2 I believe)

Of course, getting H2 out of reacting a metal with an acid or a base is not necessarily a novel idea...but I haven't heard of anyone using it to run a fuel cell yet...

Re:A good way to transport H2, perhaps (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 2 years ago | (#35878504)

Bit more exotic: there was the proposal to use magnesium [wardsauto.com] as a storage medium for hydrogen. Also some process for using nanoparticle shavings of boron or the like. Dumping rusty nails into your tank would be that much more cool, of course.

Re:A good way to transport H2, perhaps (1)

sensei moreh (868829) | more than 2 years ago | (#35878634)

(Fe + 3H20 = FeO3 +3H2 I believe)

2Fe + 3H20 = Fe2O3 +3H2

Seriously? (3, Interesting)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877496)

Aluminium takes about 15kWh per kilogram to produce. Even if a larger car consumes only half as much mass relative to its own mass, a 1kg RC car using 10g of aluminium would scale up to a 1 ton car using 5kg, or 75kWh, for 20*2/3 miles, or approximately 20 kilomaters traveled, or 325kWh/100km.
For comparison. a Tesla Roadster uses 17kWh per 100km.

Re:Seriously? (2)

rgviza (1303161) | more than 2 years ago | (#35879480)

That works out to around 1kg Al per 5km.

Aluminum is around $2.65 USD per kg, wholesale, on the metal exchanges.(http://www.metalprices.com/pubcharts/Public/Aluminum_Price_Charts.asp?WeightSelect=KG&SizeSelect=M&ccs=1011&cid=0)

Gasoline is $3.75 per gallon USD.

My car gets ~61km per gallon on a flat open highway cruising at 55mph with properly inflated tires.
Operating costs:
Gasoline: $.06/km
Aluminum: $.53/km (just for the aluminum, assuming my car is one ton, which it's not, it's heavier)

Given the fact that half the street urchins in the world are scavenging aluminum cans, often nearly immediately after someone tosses a can, and that there are metal recycling guys running around with trucks picking up every piece of scrap metal that isn't bolted to the ground (often they unbolt and steal stuff that is), the likelihood of running your car on free aluminum is nearly nil.

You might get Al at wholesale prices if you buy a ton at a time. I'm not sure how that industry works. Sit a ton of aluminum in your back yard and see how long it takes to get stolen. Well maybe in a lot of places it wouldn't be, but in my neighborhood, it'd be gone in a day.

You are right, it's not a great way to run a car.

Nothing to see here, move along....

Yet another incomplete "green" energy "solution" (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877728)

How much energy does it take to make the aluminum? Considering that 2/3 of the electricity in the US is coal that could be an issue.
How environmentally friendly is the production of lye?
Same question for the vinegar.
How will the waste products be collected and refined considering that it will be mostly water?

This process focuses on one "green" section of the chain and shows how simple it is. It neglects the other steps because they will be shown to be not green. It is the same thing for plug in electric cars. Sure the car has zero emissions but the coal power plants that generated the electricity to charge the car have lots of emissions.

Re:Yet another incomplete "green" energy "solution (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#35880170)

While electric cars just seem to move the 'pollution' and greenhouse gases from the automobile to the power plant, you over look the matter of scale. A single well maintained large power plant can be more efficient than thousands of smaller internal combustion engines in various stages of poor adjustment. It's easier to control pollution at a single point then at thousands of points.

Guys, guys... (1)

Weaselgrease (2050100) | more than 3 years ago | (#35877802)

Don't worry so much over this. As soon as this is refined to pose a legitimate threat to petroleum fuel engines General Motors will purchase the patent for ungodly amounts of money and lock it away with the vegetable oil engine patent and the dawn dish washing liquid engine patent to make sure they keep their stock holders' investments in petroleum nice and inflated.

Re:Guys, guys... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35878600)

That would be what the law required them to do. The law requires that the board take all reasonable and prudent measures to maximize shareholder value. To allow someone to develop and profit from a competing fuel would be a breach of fiduciary duty, which is actionable.

They would only be complying with the Law.

Fuel Cell (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#35879736)

The video wasn't too clear on just HOW the car runs on hydrogen, but it looks like there is a fuel cell that converts the H2 into electrical power to run the RC cars' electric motors. I suppose they could have converted a 4 cycle gasoline RC engine to run on H2 (normal RC engines using glow plugs run on Alcohol on a semi diesel principle).

Urban legend comes true. (1)

Stavr0 (35032) | more than 2 years ago | (#35879800)

Has anyone thought of making a pull-tab powered wheelchair?

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