Run Your Car on Hydrogen From Aluminum Soda Cans and Lye

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Introduction: Run Your Car on Hydrogen From Aluminum Soda Cans and Lye

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of www.zcorp.com, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific I…

James Burgett of computer recycling fame shows me his test setup at
ACCRC for running his Lincoln on aluminum soda cans.

They threw this rig together quickly to test the concept.
The concept works.

Here's how it works.

Soda cans are dumped into a tank of Lye (sodium hydroxide and water).
The sodium hydroxide peels off the aluminum oxide surface from the aluminum allowing water to come into contact with aluminum metal. The aluminum immediately oxidizes, ripping the water's oxygen atoms away to make aluminum oxide. That releases the hydrogen which bubbles out to be burned in the Lincoln's engine.
Here's the reaction: H2O + Al -> AlO2 + H2 + heat

Step 1: Lye Tank and Water Bubbler

Here's James with the lye tank. The aluminum cans go in here.
His left hand is on the hydrogen vent hose. The gas that bubbles out of it is hot and steamy and has a fair amount of powdery white aluminum oxide in it. So next it goes into a pipe to the bottom of the white bubbler tank, where it bubbles through water. That makes it cool and clean.
Just like in a hookah or bong.

Step 2: Storage Bag

From the water bubbler bong the hydrogen goes into this black garbage bag for storage.
The reaction can take place at high pressures, so in future the lye tank and other parts of the gas generator will be pressure vessels leading into a high pressure storage tank.

Step 3: Engine Air Intake Duct

From the storage bag the hydrogen goes to the car's air intake.

James has gotten the car to run on hydrogen concentrations between 5% and 70%, so
the mix is pretty forgiving. Here it's controlled by a tuna can resting on top of the aluminum duct tee.

In the future setup it'll be replaced by a proper butterfly valve to set the mixture to some optimum.

Step 4: Soda Cans and Lye in Action

Here's what it looks like when cans dissolve in lye.

The white powdery stuff is mostly aluminum oxide with a bit of sodium hydroxide.
The water has to be replenished often as it gets cracked away to oxidize the aluminum and release hydrogen.

The lacquer and labels on the cans are a bit of a nuisance, they block the lye from getting to the outside of the cans. Shredded cans might be better.

If you want to make your own sodium hydroxide, you can leach it out of ashes.

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    94 Comments

    0
    JeremyA
    JeremyA

    13 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not trying to be negative, but this is a terrible waste. I appreciate the science behind this but it would be much better in overall energy savings to recycle the cans. That way the aluminum would be re-used and save the intensive amounts of energy that is used to produce new aluminum. Hydrogen powered cars are also completely uneccesary. I would suggest BioDiesel which is what I use, or if you prefer a gasoline style engine and have a truck you should look into The Mother Earth News wood gas generator. Both are much less offensive uses of energy. This in my eyes, is like burning gold.

    0
    albee
    albee

    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Actually. using an electrolyzer to produce hydrogen and oxygen is the best method! Theres no mess other than a quick wash out of the unit once every other week and the gas mileage gains are great! My 93 4x4 subaru 2.2L went from 17.3 in town to 25.4...ON THE HIGHWAY I WENT FROM 21.4 to (50.91 MPG) thats right 50.91....Doesn't seem like a waste to me!I paid the unit I built off on my first trip!!!

    NEW 063.jpg2008 pictures 024.jpg
    0
    meleeman01
    meleeman01

    Reply 10 months ago

    how are you implementing it? if you're using solar sure that makes sense, but if you're using the alternator of your car you basically wasting the potential of your hydrogen gas and you also have to have seperate lines to separate the oxygen and teh hydrogen, granted you have better control of the gas production, but you're converting gasoline, into electricity, into electrolysis which creates hydrogen. thus you're wasting energy through converting the energy to hydrogen in 2 steps. the aluminum hydrogen fuel cell produces more energy with less inputs.

    0
    Mr.Stein
    Mr.Stein

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    If you didn't waterproof the cylinders and exhaust system, your car is going to be ruined. Burning hydrogen and oxygen creates water, which can rust them out.

    0
    Kirk
    Kirk

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    you make a pound of water for every pound of gasoline you burn.

    0
    mtabernig.
    mtabernig.

    Reply 5 years ago

    how di you separate the gases? Maintaining the oxygen mixed with the hydrogen you have the making of a bomb!!!!!! All you need is a tiny spark and Kaboom!!!

    0
    mtabernig.
    mtabernig.

    Reply 5 years ago

    were did you get the electrical power to produce the oxygen and the hydrogen?

    If you use the electrical system of your car you are fooling yourselves. Takes more energy to brake the water molecule apart than the energy produced .

    0
    LunaEros
    LunaEros

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You must work in the fuel industry somewhere.
    There are always going to be these (insert favorite derogatory slang here) 'people' that want to slam on any possible new technology and new applications of little known existing technology. Either because they have a monetary stake in doing so or are skeptical to the point of mental problems or just think they know everything there is to know.

    0
    medicineman45
    medicineman45

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Have you ever seen water dripping out of an exhaust system at a stoplight? If not,you are not very obsevent !! One of the signs of near perfect combostion in an engine is water out of the exhaust!! Besides,well anytime you are on an intake stroke you are pulling in air! Air from the real world always has some moisture in it anyway!! How in the hell do you waterproof your cilinders? You are impractable!! And I do not think I would take advice from you! It really sucks when everyone is an expert!!! Especialy when they will confuse people that will not do research for themselves!

    0
    Mr.Stein
    Mr.Stein

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Haven't you ever seen a rusted out exhaust system? If not, you are not very observant!

    0
    medicineman45
    medicineman45

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Any exhaust system will fail over time!! I was a mechanic for years,and have seen many cases of bad exhaust pipes! The point I am trying to make is that water is a byproduct of combustion!! Go ask your mechanic to waterproof your cylinders and see what he tells you! I might be missing something here? If I were told to waterproof your cylinders I might put a snorkel on your intake manifold? The military and some off road guys do it all the time to waterproof there cylinders..

    0
    rogermyers
    rogermyers

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Albee - can you post some details about your electrolyzer on here? I'd love to know more. Almost all of my mileage in on the highway!

    regards

    Rog

    0
    HandymanL
    HandymanL

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Can you post where to get the instructions on how to make this and where to get any special materials. This looks like an easier and cheaper way to make than some of the other methods I have seen. Thanks

    0
    jj.inc
    jj.inc

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Check out my dry cell powerpoint, I'm not trying to get views I just think it would help, it has some good information on electrolizers and where to get plans.
    https://www.instructables.com/id/The-Basics-Of-A-Hydrogen-Dry-Cell/

    0
    8258groby
    8258groby

    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Where can i get plans to build this electrolyzer? Thanks Eth

    0
    Primeonly27
    Primeonly27

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Dito! After looking into my project that is similar to this. It is far cheaper and safer just to go buy 3000L of H2 gas from the welding shop for $50 get a cng composite tank and fill it.

    Frank
    Primeonly27

    0
    rogermyers
    rogermyers

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Hi JeremyA

    Have you considered how much diesel fuel is used by farmers in the harvesting of whatever oil you plan on using for your bio-diesel? Although how about using electrolysis to produce hydrogen and oxygen, which can be injected into the fuel mixture of a regular car?

    Rog

    0
    JeremyA
    JeremyA

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    nothing is free Roger. However the amount of diesel used to produce the feedstock for the oil is very little. A diesel engine running at low RPM is very fuel efficient. The total energy demands versus energy output of BioDiesel is something on the order of 3 units out/1 unit in. It is a energy gain. The nice thing about BioDiesel now, vs. when I first got into it, is that it is not just heresay anymore. It's all documented. Do some searches on biodiesel and you will see it is the way to go. I have also witnessed systems similar to albee's set up below in real life and they are spectacular. They are a great addition to any engine and wish they would take off more.

    0
    Insaneisfun
    Insaneisfun

    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    If you would look in to the number concerning what you said you would see your folly.

    0
    JeremyA
    JeremyA

    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    That is kind of a vague response. What number concerning what part of what I said. I know exactly what I am talking about, so I don't see my "folly". Besides who says folly? Are you from the USA? Have you ever been with the opposite sex? Your comment about recycling the cans putting the stored energy to waste is ridiculous too. With how many uses we have for aluminum we should not be lightly destroying it for fuel purposes. The harvesting and processing of aluminum takes tons of electricity. Recycling it for re-use in other aluminum goods saves as much as 75% of the electricity usage, which many times is produced using coal fired powerplants. The overall energy used to create the aluminum can in the first place vs. the amount of energy put out to the wheels of the car is so inefficient, you might as well just create a coal powered car. Do some more research.