dAlH2Orean: An RC car that runs on aluminum soda can tabs (w/ video)

Apr 19, 2011 by Katie Gatto weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- Aleix Lovet and Xavier Saluena, two researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of Catalonia, have made the world first RC car that runs entirely on soda cans. Well, to be more accurate, it runs on a combination of recycled aluminum soda can tabs and sodium hydroxide. This creates a vehicle that is completely carbon emission free and creates no planet harming waste.

The car, which have been dubbed the DAlH2Orean remote-controlled car, is a worlds first. The car uses the hydrogen power generated by a chemical reaction, when the aluminum tabs are brought together with a mixed solution of sodium hydroxide and water. After being run through a few filters, such as a silica gel to remove the moisture, and a vinegar filter to remove any lingering hydroxides, the fuel is complete. This generates hydrogen, which in turn can be used to power a and run the small car.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The car can run at a top speed of about 20 miles per hour. Its top range is roughly 40 minutes, and then it will need a refill. While this is, at this stage of research, an interesting curiosity, this research has the potential to grow into a very real world application. The research team behind the zero-emissions remote controlled hopes to one day transition the technology to cars in the real world. The cars, which the team sees as being microcars, would also be zero-emissions and could take a small number of people where they need to go. Hopefully, they will not be RC.

Explore further: Environmentally compatible organic solar cells

More information: www.dalh2orean.com/dAlH2Orean/Blog/Entradas/2011/4/15_Press_Conference.html

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5 / 5 (3) Apr 19, 2011
The problem is, once the aluminium is turned into aluminium hydroxide, you have to turn it back into aluminium somehow.

The production of aluminium from its oxides is a very energy intensive process because it has to be done through molten electrolysis, which is why soda cans are recycled instead of burned or dumped in landfills.

The energy efficiency is just 50% and combined with the efficiency of the fuel cell, you will achieve less then 25% total efficiency. And you still need to produce the electricity for the electrolyzer somehow. All in all, that makes the idea a rather poor one.
1.7 / 5 (3) Apr 19, 2011
There are some attractive points: an aluminum-aluminum hydroxide energy cycle would be a lot cleaner than the current fossil fuel-air cycle (no emissions if you get electricity from solar or wind); aluminum production from oxides is well established technology, and the engine waste would be very pure feedstock; it would be simple mechanics to feed the reaction from aluminum wire or ribbon off of a spool; most current internal combustion engines can be modified to run on hydrogen... yeah. This has possibilities.
not rated yet Apr 20, 2011
So you think it will be cleaner to have people loading aluminum and sodium hydroxide into their cars and then returning the spent aluminum oxide back to a plant to have it reduced back to aluminum. Do you really want people handling concentrated NaOH or a mixture or aluminum oxide and NaOH? What will the gas tank be made of so that it doesn't corrode over time? How will the reaction be controlled and adjusted to the power demands of the car? It's not like this is even new technology its more of a science fair project for engineers than anything. Not practical at all.

If you want to run a fuel cell car its makes much more sense (thermodynamically) to use Hydrogen (compressed or stored in a metal substrate) or a liquid fuel that can be reformed on site or directly oxidized at the fuel cell like a direct methanol fuel cell.

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