Coke Can Fueled Power Generator

[Experimental Fun] shows us how you can create a cola power generator that runs on nothing more than cans of cola including the container and a little bit of sodium hydroxide to speed the reaction up.

This might sound a bit crazy, but it seems you can power an engine on little more than your favorite fizzy drink and the cut-up remains of an aluminum can. What happens is that aluminum and water create a chemical reaction when mixed together, which gives off hydrogen. Normally this reaction is very slow and would take years to make any noticeable marking on the aluminum, but with a little help from sodium hydroxide the reaction is sped up to such a rate that hydrogen is produced quite quickly.

The crazy contraption they created has a reaction chamber which then feeds the hydrogen through condenser then to a bubble filter made from a bottle filled with water. After that it is on through a carbon filter to get rid of any impurities, and finally it is fed directly into a two-stroke engine’s fuel line. Then engine still needs an electric start from a battery, but after that it runs directly on the hydrogen created during the reaction from the chamber.

This is quite a cool project, however you could replace the fizzy drink with water and still get the desired effect. Since the drink comes with the aluminum cans it seems like quite a good fuel though. There are other crazy fuels out the for the avid DIY hacker, but just be careful and don’t blow yourself up.

45 thoughts on “Coke Can Fueled Power Generator

  1. Coke is pretty much irrelevant, aluminium metal is highly reactive, the reason it does not corrode in a matter of days is its oxide coating. The sodium hydroxide easily removes the oxide layer making the metal available for further oxidation. So all of the hydrogen (energy) is coming from the coke can aluminium oxidizing.

      1. I think someone tried to sell this years ago for some “green” electric supercar. Claimed it was powered by saltwater….and then with the mention of sodium hydroxide additive and a “battery” that was dissolving away to provide the gas for the fuel cell….

        what’s the waste product? some sort of aluminum oxide?

        1. Huge amount of electric power to make NaOH. Much huger amount to make Al metal. Then react for a little hydrogen? How could this note be green? Plus H2 burned with air under compression is hotter than with hydrocarbons, and makes lots of the N oxides we all love.

        2. yep, I agree all this green stuff is total BS, just like all the other ‘water powered’ devices that need electrical or chemical energy to get hydrogen to react to reform water. waterwheels and dams I can believe.

    1. I think the hydroxide might be doing more than just taking off the oxide layer. If you cut aluminium, the freshly exposed surfaces don’t react readily with water (even if you cut the aluminium under water to avoid even instantaneous reaction with oxygen). The hydroxide gets used up during the reaction and will get depleted unless you add more, it isn’t just a catalyst.

      1. Certainly true. I think the stoichiometry looks like this: 4Al + 4NaOH + 4H2O → 4NaAlO2 + 3H2. It seems there were some intermediate products that made it complicated, but maybe that was zinc and sulfur rockets and the high pressure reactions. Production of every 6 hydrogen molecule takes 8 aluminum atoms and 8 water molecules and 8 NaOH molecules. (I used H2 molecules because they get stored that way, and burn to produce H2O).

        1. Yes, that is sodium aluminate. It is yukky, sticky, soapy. I made some when I was maybe 16, around the time I reduced molten NaOH to metallic Na inside a light bulb.

          I suppose the best way to get rid of sodium aluminate is to use some sort of electrical reduction to metal. A sufficiently badly constructed experiment would allow one to sell the entire aluminum -> electricity -> aluminum cycle to suckers as an “over zero” energy scheme. Remember to ignore crucial data.

          Here’s more about sodium aluminate:

        1. what progress?? its basically a mature technology. metal-air batteries are used extensively in hearing aids but i believe zinc is mostly used there. problem is that those types of batteries are primary cells ( non-rechargeable) and “recharging” a metal oxide takes probably more power that the cell will ever provide…

  2. Pretty clever, but without liquid fuel to act as a solvent and carry the oil into the engine, my guess is that the bearings and piston bore aren’t long for this world. The “reactor” cooling system brings to mind the T2 explosion (below) that killed a few people – if ever a project looked like the “don’t do this” scene in a lab safety video, this would be it, but I’m assuming that they’re wearing protective gear of some sort.

    I do want to know where to get a pair of those scissors though.

      1. He does try to add 2 stroke oil later in the video. I’m not sure how effective his method is, as just dripping it into the carburetor isn’t going to atomize it enough for it to be carried into the engine.

        1. 2 stroke oil is way too thick to make it though the carb, I doubt it got through the diaphragm pump in the carb. Sure, it will suck the oil down but once it gets in all bets are off. That engine is toast.

  3. When I was a kid I used to dump lye into a 1 gallon jug, add cutup aluminum scraps and pull balloons over the neck to fill them with hydrogen. Much cheaper than helium. Very satisfying if you put a match to one too ;-) even if it didn’t look like the Hindenberg.

    1. Had the flow rate been smaller, it would have happened for sure. Perhaps the experimenter was counting on CO2 from the coke to help displace the air. Unfortunately, sodium hydroxide scrubbed it all, so the risk was very real.

    2. A better choice would have been to add the bypass after the bubble filter. That would be an effective flashback arrestor. He could have added a smaller bubble filter into the bypass line and achieve the same results.

  4. a little more than 10 years ago i managed to do a stupidly dangerous science experiment for my then grade 10 younger brother to run a car on lye and aluminum rods.. we build cylinders or steel tubes and a sort of gas carburetor to run a 800 cc small car… got a lot of lye burns while handling the nasty stuff. also one the reaction started we idiots didn’t have a way to stop it.. just a needle valve to control the gas going to the engine… had a few backfires in the carb also as the ignition timing was a bit off.. those sounded like we blew up the car. In the end drove the car for half a mile and then gave up as we proved a dumb point… it is way to expensive to run on lye and aluminum . approximately 500 grams of lye and 100 grams of aluminum got us just half a mile across… :)) sorry lost documentation as digital cams didn’t exist ( or it would be on hack-a-day)

    1. that would have made for a great article, I’m glad you are are both safe and sound. These type of experiments can be extremely dangerous. I like the idea of things we don’t think of fuels being used as such like sugar, plastics, aluminium etc. I often wonder if we will ever be able to make a machine that can turn food into fuel at the same rate as the human digestive system that would be a marvel. Although if it caught on I’d hate to see the rise in food prices.

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