Sunday, June 24, 2007

Better than lead to gold

Unlike this guy, Purdue scientists have found a way to turn water into hydrogen without an external power source.

And like so many brilliant advances, it happened by accident.

"I was cleaning a crucible containing liquid alloys of gallium and aluminum," said Purdue University professor Jerry Woodall. "When I added water to this alloy--talk about a discovery--there was a violent poof. I went to my office and worked out the reaction in a couple of hours to figure out what had happened."

CNET explains some of the hurdles that have stood in the way of hydrogen going mainstream:

Many of the major automakers, including Honda, and General Motors, have invested heavily in developing fuel cell-powered cars. However, to date hydrogen has faced significant obstacles to becoming a viable alternative to gasoline, principally the expensive (and often carbon-fueled) process of isolating it, and the lack of a fueling infrastructure. The Purdue development has the potential to address both of these issues.

Sure enough, the quest for hydrogen that can be produced in vehicles is a bit like a dream of modern alchemy. It looks like the scientists at Purdue have had the eureka! moment they were looking for.

Of course, if this does go mainstream, the price of oil will drop significantly. Still, a pollution-free way to power our vehicles without building new infrastructure and completely severing our reliance on foreign oil? Jackpot. If I owned the patents, I'd license it out while retaining ownership. Dang. Talk about big bucks. BILLIONS.

Instead, maybe I'll invest in aluminum.