Fuel cells are considered an alternative to electric drives with batteries. They need oxygen and hydrogen as fuel. The latter is difficult to compress and correspondingly complex transport and storage. Attempts to produce the hydrogen in the vehicle, and thus only have to refuel water, have so far failed. Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have now achieved their first successes: in a saltwater solution, they had an aluminium plate reacted with an alloy of gallium, indium, tin and bismuth. The result was aluminium hydroxide and hydrogen.
The water splitting device fits easily into a vehicle and reliably supplied hydrogen in the first series of tests. For example, the researchers from China lit an LED with 80 millilitres of salt water for more than an hour. However, the process is still years away from being ready for the market and is not completely problem-free: “An acidic or alkaline solution can dissolve the by-product aluminium hydroxide, but it also causes problems due to corrosion and contamination,” says the Researchers. However, if these obstacles were removed, fuel cell vehicles and even portable units with a water tank would be conceivable.