Army researcher Anthony J Roberts inflates a balloon with hydrogen produced from a chemical reaction between water and an aluminum nanomaterial powder. (Photo courtesy US Army/David McNally.)
Army researcher Anthony J Roberts inflates a balloon with hydrogen produced from a chemical reaction between water and an aluminum nanomaterial powder. (Photo courtesy US Army/David McNally.)

US Army researchers have developed aluminum powder which reportedly produces high amounts of energy when it comes in contact with water or a liquid containing water.

Researchers observed a bubbling reaction when adding water to the nano-galvanic aluminum-based powder and found that the molecules split apart when coming into contact with their unique aluminum nanomaterial.

According to Scott Grendahl, a materials engineer and team leader the hydrogen that is given off could be used as a fuel in a fuel cell. ‘What we discovered is a mechanism for a rapid and spontaneous hydrolysis of water,’ he said.

This reaction does not need a catalyst, and one kilogram of aluminum powder can reportedlyt produce 220 kilowatts of energy in three minutes.

The team demonstrated with a small radio-controlled tank powered by the powder and water reaction. After mixing the powder with a small amount of water, a bubbling reaction produced a great deal of hydrogen, which was then used to power the model around the laboratory.

Since the nanomaterial powder could be 3D printed, the researchers envisioned future air and ground robots that can feed off their own structures and self-destruct after mission completion. Another possible application of the discovery is the potential to recharge mobile devices.

This story is reprinted from material from the US Army Research Laboratory, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.