Introduction: Soda Can Hydrogen Generator for Alternative Energy

Picture of Soda Can Hydrogen Generator for Alternative Energy

Make Hydrogen On Demand from Activated Aluminum and Water.

This invention has been patented!

I use a drop of liquid metal that I bought from eBay and aluminum from a soda can to produce hydrogen from water.

This reaction solves the problem of hydrogen storage for the hydrogen economy. Energy dense activated aluminum acts as the storage medium, liberating hydrogen on demand when exposed to water.

After the exhaustion of the reaction, the resultant aluminum oxide (alumina) is shipped to a power generator plant that reduces it back to aluminum. Since alumina is a suspension in water it can be delivered via pipelines to the power station.

Liquid metal is available here:

It is usually listed on the internet as

Coollaboratory LiquidPro Fluessigmetall Waermeleitpaste

My other Instructables:
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Make a Voltage Controlled Resistor and Use It
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Step 1: Prepare the Aluminum

Picture of Prepare the Aluminum

Cut the soda can into strips.
Sand the plastic off a strip.
The finished strip should be clean and shiny.
Proceed swiftly to step 2.

Step 2: Activating the Aluminum Strip

Picture of Activating the Aluminum Strip

Add a drop of liquid metal (I got mine on eBay.)
Smear the liquid metal on the shiny aluminum surface.
When the liquid metal "wets" the aluminum surface, the strip is ready.
I sort of stir the liquid metal on top the aluminum, scratching the aluminum beneath.
The aluminum is wetted when the liquid metal sticks to the surface.

The idea is that gallium stops the aluminum from forming an oxide layer.
When aluminum gets in contact with water usually nothing happens because the oxide layer acts as a buffer. When the oxide layer is scrapped off aluminum, a new layer rapidly forms preventing any reaction.

Liquid metal is an alloy of gallium, indium, and tin so it acts as a source of gallium. Liquid metal is non-toxic (but I advice against injecting yourself with liquid metal... just in case that crosses your mind).

Step 3: The Reaction

Picture of The Reaction

Drop the activated strip in water. Watch the aluminum as it is converted into alumina and hydrogen bubbles off.

the reaction is 2Al + 3H2O --> 3H2 + Al2O3 + heat

Collect the hydrogen to run your car.

Step 4: Recovery of Liquid Metal

Picture of Recovery of Liquid Metal

Initially, I used to filter the alumina and squeeze the liquid metal out. Obviously some remained in the Alumina cake.

So I dissolved the alumina in a solution of NaOH, caustic soda, (you can use Drano). The liquid metal precipitated immediately.

This shows almost 100% recovery of liquid metal which makes this type of reaction economically sustainable.

In the hydrogen economy, separation of the gallium will be done at the power plant. The alumina is reduced back to aluminum using the Hall-Heroult process. The first aluminum plant in history was powered by the Niagara falls, a green source of energy.

However, this instructable can be scaled for individual use. The amount of gallium to proceed the reaction is small and recoverable. Ardent green energy enthusiasts can run their car and home using this instructable.

Step 5: UPDATE

Picture of UPDATE

Ironsmiter turned my attention to the fact that transporting mercury in aircraft was a danger to their aluminum structure. He referred to a pop-sci article titled "The Amazing Rusting Aluminum". Apparently mercury can "rust" aluminum in a few hour.

So i decide to test if the same happens with liquid metal.

I placed a drop on the bottom of the soda can and left it in the open air. It made a little grey fuzz on it's surface. Nothing spectacular happened, unlike mercury. That was two days ago.

I inspected the drop today and I COULD NOT FIND IT! IT LOOKED LIKE IT DRIED UP! Metal drying up, go figure! but there was a large blotch on the aluminum.

I added a little bit of water and the thing went INSANE! It bubbled like a volcano. There was so much heat the water dried up!

The reaction was much more violent then freshly applied liquid metal!

Step 6: UPDATE: Slow Corrosion of Aluminum by Liquid Metal (Galinstan)

Picture of UPDATE: Slow Corrosion of Aluminum by Liquid Metal (Galinstan)

I left an activated soda can bottom for at least three month. While I was cleaning the laboratory I rediscovered the can and to my surprise the bottom has disintegrated into a gray dust. I am puzzled by this, but it looks like liquid metal (Galinstan) does corrode aluminum like mercury but at a very slow rate, on the order of months compared to hours with mercury.

The last pictures shows what happens when mercury reacts with aluminum.

Step 7: HydroPak Water-activated Portable Power Generator

Picture of HydroPak Water-activated Portable Power Generator

In January 2008 Millennium Cell Inc. and Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies had announced the completion of a pre-production version of the HydroPak portable power generator.

The HydroPak product combines Horizon's fuel cells with Millennium Cell's Hydrogen on Demand storage technology. The Hydrogen on Demand storage technology, or HOD systems, is in a form of a dry cartridge. Hydrogen on Demand utilizes sodium borohydride (NaBH4) as a hydrogen storage medium. It offers infinite shelf-storage life and 400 Watt hours of "instant power" by just adding water.

The HydroPak provides the power through a common AC outlet and two USB connectors allowing low power devices to operate for more than 16 hours when the electrical grid is unavailable.

Millennium Cell Inc.
Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies

Step 8: Icelandic Aluminum Batteries

Picture of Icelandic Aluminum Batteries

Dr. Pieter van Pelt proposes charging Aluminum batteries from cheap green energy produced in Iceland. Then the batteries are shipped to any location in the world and discharged in a power grid. The empty batteries go back to Iceland for recharging. Here's the logic:

Aluminum batteries "are being developed by Europositron in Finland. They claim the following specifications for their technology:

Energy density : 2100 W.h/litre or 1330 W.h/kgr

Cycle times : 3000+ cycles

Working temperatures : -40 C to +70 C

Lifetime battery : 10 to 30 years

Let's assume, we equip a large ship with 200 giant batteries, each the size of a 40 foot shipping container. Each battery will weigh about 220 tons, so a 50,000 BRT ship can carry these. The batteries are charged fully in Iceland, making use of cheap electricity from hydropower or geothermal power. The 200 batteries will contain about 50 GW.h electricity when fully loaded. The ship (electrically powered of course) sails to the west coast of Denmark or England, or to the East coast of the USA. There it delivers its electrical charge into the national grid, but it keeps some batteries charged for the return trip to Iceland. It sails back and charges again. It can do so 3000 times before the batteries are worn out and must be replaced. A simple calculation shows that the electricity can be delivered at the end market for a very low price, roughly 20 to 25 Euro per MW.h (substantially below residential rates of 45 to 50 Euro per MW.h). The trick is, of course, that large quantities of hydropower or geothermal power in Iceland are very cheap (roughly 12 to 15 Euro per MW.h), that transportation of bulk goods over sea is very cheap (hence the economy of processing bauxite ore from New Zealand in Iceland to make Aluminum ingots), and the large investment in Al-batteries has an extended lifetime (3000 or more cycles). "


Julia AbbyV (author)2015-08-24

Umm.. excuse me could i ask when did you made this experiment? Biotele

eko.priyanto.980967 (author)2015-01-29

you think it is easy to charge aluminium battery ?
i can see for reference.
charging aluminium battery is complex process

eko.priyanto.980967 (author)2015-01-29

you think it is easy to charge aluminium battery ?
i can see for reference.
charging aluminium battery is complex process

Danajavue (author)2014-02-23

The gallium is keeping the surface of the aluminum from having an oxidative film which would stop the oxygen reduction reaction. This concept is not new, countries such as Iceland where geothermic energy is plentiful convert heat into electricity and store it in alumina as it converts to aluminum. It can then be exported to other places as stored energy. Aluminum is light and relatively energy dense. The resulting bi product after electrical extraction (alumina) is shipped back to the original energy source. Attempts have been made to infuse gallium and aluminum into one alloy but it has proven difficult due to the low melting temperature of gallium. It was discovered that by slowly lowering the temperature of molten gallium and aluminum over several days the alloy could be achieved. However this again makes the feasibility of aluminum as a sustainable energy storage system only cost effective for energy rich (heat) sources such as geothermic. Experiments with aluminum foam during electrolysis by infusing gallium gas through the alumina while it is solidifying to aluminum could give a increased surface area for gallium particulates stored innately within the resulting poris aluminum. I don’t know if anyone is working on this it is only a theoretical idea I pondered in this discussion.

Biotele (author)2009-12-30

BTW, I will be very happy if you use it for commercial use. It is a good thing to pay inventors because it promote innovation and inventors make more things for commercialization thus perpetuating the economy. If you don't pay inventors then they won't share their ideas.  Would like to live in a world were no one share ideas and nobody invents?

The SYNer (author)Biotele2013-01-01

I do believe that inventors should be paid for their ideas, but regardless of if we were paid a real inventor doesn't invent just for money. We invent for the love of inventing.

Biotele (author)The SYNer2013-05-06

Inventing is a calling, you can't stop it, and you might go broke pursuing it, which is the sad story of the majority of inventors in history, from the alchemists to Nikola Tesla. Society now see the true value of inventors and the situation has changed a bit for the better.

Biotele (author)The SYNer2013-05-06

Inventing is a calling, you can't stop it, and you might go broke pursuing it, which is the sad story of the majority of inventors in history, from the alchemists to Nikola Tesla. Society now see the true value of inventors and the situation has changed a bit for the better.

Biotele (author)The SYNer2013-05-06

Inventing is a calling, you can't stop it, and you might go broke pursuing it, which is the sad story of the majority of inventors in history, from the alchemists to Nikola Tesla. Society now see the true value of inventors and the situation has changed a bit for the better.

kooool (author)2012-04-18

Ignoring all of the obvious problems with just telling people to go run their cars off hydrogen:
If you were planning on using hydrogen as a fuel source, why not just use electrolysis?

Biotele (author)kooool2012-04-18

As you said it is not a good idea to run an ICE engine with hydrogen. Better supply the hydrogen to fuel cell. But this invention is better suited for Jet engines. Jets power source should always be light weight and this packs as much punch as gasoline per weight.
You need a energy source for electrolysis.

adamwd84 (author)Biotele2012-05-18

What about doing the electrolysis on the ground and the aircraft only carries the fuel? Especially since your own updates indicate gallium would be dangerous to have on an aircraft.

Eagle Research has a book with detailed information on building a Brown's Gas (oxyhydrogen) electrolyzer at various scales.

Brown's Gas, Book 2

Check it out.

Biotele (author)adamwd842012-05-19

the problem remains the same, the storage of gaseous hydrogen needs heavy tanks. Gallium like mercury is bad for aluminum aircrafts but not carbon composite or titanium aircrafts.

AChillyDog (author)2012-05-17

How much hydrogen does the average H-powered car need to go 100 miles at 60 mph?

InfDeath (author)2007-06-16

Have you used this to run an engine? I'm curious as to what the output is. Would it be possible for you to do a write up on the cost of this method as compared to using gasoline? Also is there any use for the alumina?

kooool (author)InfDeath2012-04-18

There are many variables in running a vehicle off hydrogen, for one, running a normal car, straight on it, would melt the engine.
Even mixing it with the gas, in newer cars at least, gives you a rich mixture, which can actually bring down your mileage. :/
There are many sites solely dedicated I suggest you explore if you already haven't. :)

rickharris (author)InfDeath2007-06-16

You ned to look at it this way - A 1 litre engine running at 40 MPH at 40 MPG is using 4.8 liters of fuel per hour. BUt that is a liquid and much more dense than a gas such as hydrogen. The problem is storing enough to get any distance let alone the issues of storing a gas nder pressure.

Biotele (author)InfDeath2007-06-16

Go to site below and download the presentation, it has all the economics in detail.<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href=""></a><br/><br/>The interesting thing, is that my method requires a small amount of gallium to produce hydrogen. Maybe not as fast as aluminum dissolved in gallium but nonetheless most of the Aluminum strip is consumed.<br/>

ameenkhan (author)2010-10-24

i need to know where i can find it liquid metal

Lefrançois (author)2010-10-01

For the manufacture of "liquid Metal", is here (toner powder + vegetable oil):

Biotele (author)Lefrançois2010-10-02

This is not the same thing. But absolutely cool!

ankit_mait_07 (author)2010-03-04

I have a small question.
Are there any rechargeable/refillable Hydrogen fuel cells having same power specification and size specs as a AA battery?


oui ici:
(bottom of page)

Biotele (author)Lefrançois2010-10-02

Merci mon ami. Facinant.

TheGoodLife (author)2009-03-06

Wouldn't it be cheaper to sail the ship once. During the journey, the ship lays a grid interconnector to the US or UK. Iceland can then distribute its excess power at a lower cost than shipping it.

Biotele (author)TheGoodLife2009-03-06

No. 80% of the power will be lost transmitting power through cable from iceland to UK/US.

wilecoyote22 (author)Biotele2010-08-31

you have your numbers backwards. 80% of the power would reach the UK/US while 20% (approximate) would be lost to natural resistance in the cable. All of this means nothing though. We are forgeting that charging the batteries will be wasteful as well. No battery has zero resistance. If electric rates are really so cheap then why not just lay a superconducting cable like are used in the US for extreme distance? Sure they are expensive but nothing compared to building and operating a ship at sea. Besides, cables don't sink or crash

Biotele (author)wilecoyote222010-08-31

The most ambitious submarine to date is a cable of 450-miles being installed across the South China Sea to carry power from a recently completed 2400MW hydroelectric power dam in Sarawak province to mainland Malaysia. "If electric rates are really so cheap then why not just lay a superconducting cable like are used in the US for extreme distance? " You must be a time traveler from the future, we don't have that yet.

wilecoyote22 (author)Biotele2010-09-08

Ok I admit that I dont "Know" of a superconductive power cable in commercial use exactly. I am assuming since they were doing demonstrations as early as 2007 over several hundred miles that they probably are being used commercially today.

Biotele (author)wilecoyote222010-09-08

It will be great to have commercial superconductive cables. They have been working on them for 30 years. When they become commercially viable, they will be a game changer.

I will be careful about company announcements, they are meant to boost investors sentiment. This one was dated 2007. Any updates?

Jimmy Proton (author)2010-08-21

another way to make large amounts of hydrogen and oxygen is to put steel into acid in a bottle with a balloon on the top or something

DRY HHO (author)2010-08-15

While the idea is interesting the resources from Iceland is not. Currently there are major conflicts over Alcoa trying to industrialize Iceland. We now that industrialization didn't work. The only thing it did was add to how we pollute and destroy the environment. There 200 years too late for industrializing Iceland. Iceland is a place of natural beauty that should not be harvested for profit. Aluminum has great uses for these types of designs... we just need to be aware of where we get it from. These ideas are to protect the earth not pollute it in another fashion.
Dry hho

alter baron (author)2010-06-26

It's sad how academics always rush to patent such simple discoveries, especially when the discovery holds a great deal of promise for the future. Patents on processes such as this one do not help to stimulate innovation; rather, the drive to innovate is extinguished because the very roots of that innovation are owned by individuals. Until we can emancipate ourselves from the profit-motive, we may never see a truly green society.

Biotele (author)alter baron2010-06-28

I am not an academician, I am an inventor. And inventors have the right to make a living. But, Academia and corporations have hijacked the innovation process, because patenting has become too expensive for the lone inventor. The researchers in academia and corporations get little benefits from their inventions.

thefunktopus (author)2010-06-28

Regarding the icelandic scheme 1) the US does not have a national grid as such, grids are independent of state so electricity cannot be transferred between them and 2)would it not be better to invest in electricity transimission lines between iceland and the uk. If a high enoughvoltage could be created, it may be viable.

Biotele (author)thefunktopus2010-06-28

Yes, this is a viable alternative. but the economics must be calculated. I am not sure how much it will cost. however the EU is planning a supergrid between the middle east, africa and Europe. Iceland fits in that scheme.

DrStoooopid (author)2007-08-20

You let it set long enough for the liquid metal to penetrate the aluminium, thus accounting for the violent reaction, as there wasn't a way for their any oxidation to occur, because the liquid metal thoroughly "wetted" the aluminium. You should be able to recover your gallium from that dried up mess on top there, just like normal.

Biotele (author)DrStoooopid2007-08-20

Have you ever came across a reaction were a metal permeates another metal like it was a sponge? If you look carefully in the second picture, the liquid metals does not wet and spread on the surface, but actually mixes with the aluminum giving a different shine from the original aluminum. Yes the gallium is recoverable after the reaction.

DrStoooopid (author)Biotele2007-08-20

that's what true wetting is...the liquid metal soaks into the other metal. That's supposed to happen. It didn't happen before because you didn't let it sit long enough before.

Biotele (author)DrStoooopid2007-08-21

I am not expert on metal on metal interaction, do you have some papers that describes this phenomena? Personally, I never heard of metal soaking into other metals. I thought wetting process involved the loss of surface tension in the liquid metal because of surface boundary amalgamation.

Austringer (author)Biotele2007-08-29

The terminology is different, but ask a jeweler about eutectic melting. If you have a drop of a low melting alloy (lead, tin, antimony, etc.) on a piece of sliver or gold and heat it up enough to melt the low melting alloy, it will tend to pull the high melting alloy into solution. This tends to eat big pits (at least at the jewelry scale) into whatever it is that you are working on and cause no end of cursing.

Biotele (author)Austringer2007-08-29

I am not sure it is the same thing. Did you see the second picture in step 5? There is no hole, the only change is a shine that is different from the surrounding aluminum, and it's that shiny area that is extremely reactive with water.

merseyless (author)Biotele2010-05-08

just hypothesising here but the mercury might have removed the unreactive aluminium oxide and revealed the aluminium, which does react with water, dont know if it would have reacted that vigorusly though...

Kryptonite (author)Biotele2010-01-12

How so?

gateon (author)2010-03-07

Or, you could just use the works to make hydrogen.

Kryptonite (author)2010-01-12

Is this "liquid metal" Galinstan?

Biotele (author)2009-12-30

This was patented prior to publication, and even if it was not, an inventor has one year after publication to patent according to US law. I am using Instructable as a new way to promote patent ideas.

Hunter4000695 (author)2009-04-27

I hait to burst your bubl but Iceland can't supply all the world with power. It's not possible.

macrumpton (author)Hunter40006952009-06-06

Oh, It's not possible! Why didn't I see that? Seriously if you are going to say something is impossible, at least have some kind of concept behind your assertion, and ideally have some links and figures showing how you have come to this conclusion.

Hunter4000695 (author)macrumpton2009-06-12

In 2005 we as a world yoosd 5*1020j.
Let me give a agsampl of that 1j is a nuf energy to rase 1kg 1m.we could of
raisd 1kg 500000000000000000000m
if it wus in mile it would be 3.106855961e+17mi from erth.
And you think that one countrie could do this?
not taking in to the risk of puting all your eggs in one baskit.

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