Nanoparticles Rip Hydrogen From Water

Hydrogen fuel is promising, and while there’s plenty of hydrogen in the air and water, the problem is extracting it. Researchers have developed a way to use aluminum nanoparticles to rip hydrogen out of water with no additional energy input. It does, however, require gallium to enable the reaction. The reaction isn’t unknown (see the video below), but the new research has some interesting twists.

Aluminum, of course, is cheap and plentiful. Gallium, not so much, but the process allows recovery and reuse of the gallium, so that makes it more cost-effective. There is a patent pending for the process and — of course — the real trick is making the aluminum nanoparticles. But if you have that, this is a simple way to extract hydrogen from water with no extra energy and at room temperature. Since the reaction of creating aluminum oxide and releasing hydrogen with gallium is pretty well-known, it appears the real research here is determining the optimal properties of the aluminum and the ratio of aluminum to gallium.

While gallium isn’t a common item around the typical hacker’s workshop — unless you count the stuff bound up in semiconductors — it isn’t that expensive and it is relatively easy to handle. Hydrogen, though, not so much — so if you do decide to use this method to produce hydrogen, be careful!

We’ve seen gallium robots and even an antenna. So if you do get some of the liquid metal, there are plenty of experiments to try.

Dead Solar Panels Are The Hottest New Recyclables

When it comes to renewable energy, there are many great sources. Whether it’s solar, wind, or something else, though, we need a lot of it. Factories around the globe are rising to the challenge to provide what we need.

We can build plenty of new solar panels, of course, but we need to think about what happens when they reach end of life. As it turns out, with so much solar now out in the field, a major new recycling industry may be just around the corner.

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An Anodiser That Does Gradients

Anodizing aluminium, the process of electrolytic build up of the metal’s the oxide layer in the presence of dyes to create colored effects, is such a well-established process that we probably all have anodized items within sight. It’s usually an industrial mass-production process that creates a uniform result, but there’s an anodizing machine from a Dutch design studio which promises to place anodized aluminium in a new light. Studio Loop Loop’s Magic Color Machine enacts a small-scale automated anodizing process driven by a microcontroller, and is capable of effects such as gradated colors.

Unfortunately their website is long on marketing and short on technical details, but the basic function of a line of chemical baths with a pulley to lower and lift the item being anodized shouldn’t be too difficult for any Hackaday reader to understand. There’s a short video clip posted on Instagram which also gives some idea. It’s a powerful idea that should lead to some eye-catching work for their studio, but its interest here lies in the techniques it might inspire others to try. We look forward to an open-source version of a gradated anodize. Meanwhile if anodizing takes your fancy, it’s a subject we’ve visited before.

Making Coffee With Hydrogen

Something of a Holy Grail among engineers with an interest in a low-carbon future is the idea of replacing fossil fuel gasses with hydrogen. There are various schemes, but they all suffer from the problem that hydrogen is difficult stuff to store or transport. It’s not easily liquefied, and the tiny size of its molecule means that many containment materials that are fine for methane simply won’t hold on to it.

[Isographer] has an idea: to transport the energy not as hydrogen but as metallic aluminium, and generate hydrogen by reaction with aqueous sodium hydroxide. He’s demonstrated it by generating enough hydrogen to make a cup of coffee, as you can see in the video below the break.

It’s obviously very successful, but how does it stack up from a green perspective? The feedstocks are aluminium and sodium hydroxide, and aside from the hydrogen it produces sodium aluminate. Aluminium is produced by electrolysis of molten bauxite and uses vast amounts of energy to produce, but since it is often most economic to do so using hydroelectric power then it can be a zero-carbon store of energy. Sodium hydroxide is also produced by an electrolytic process, this time using brine as the feedstock, so it also has the potential to be produced with low-carbon electricity. Meanwhile the sodium aluminate solution is a cisutic base, but one that readily degrades to inert aluminium oxide and hydroxide in the environment. So while it can’t be guaranteed that the feedstock he’s using is low-carbon, it’s certainly a possibility.

So given scrap aluminium and an assortment of jars it’s possible to make a cup of hot coffee. It’s pretty obvious that this technology won’t be used in the home in this way, but does that make it useless? It’s not difficult to imagine energy being transported over distances as heavy-but-harmless aluminium metal, and we’re already seeing a different chemistry with the same goal being used to power vehicles.

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You Can’t Put The Toothpaste Back In The Tube, But It Used To Be Easier

After five years of research, Colgate-Palmolive recently revealed Australia’s first recyclable toothpaste tube. Why is this exciting? They are eager to share the design with the rest of the toothpaste manufacturers and other tube-related industries in an effort to reduce the volume of plastic that ends up in landfills. It may not be as life-saving as seat belts or the Polio vaccine, but the move does bring Volvo and OG mega open-sourcer Jonas Salk to mind.

Today, toothpaste tubes are mostly plastic, but they contain a layer of aluminum that helps it stay flattened and/or rolled up. So far, multi-layer packaging like this isn’t accepted for recycling at most places, at least as far as Australia and the US are concerned. In the US, Tom’s of Maine was making their tubes entirely out of aluminum for better access to recycling, but they have since stopped due to customer backlash.

Although Colgate’s new tubes are still multi-layered, they are 100% HDPE, which makes them recyclable. The new tubes are made up of different thicknesses and grades of HDPE so they can be easily squeezed and rolled up.

Toothpaste Before Tubes

Has toothpaste always come in tubes? No it has not. It also didn’t start life as a paste. Toothpaste has been around since 5000 BC when the Egyptians made tooth powders from the ashes of ox hooves and mixed them with myrrh and a few abrasives like powdered eggshells and pumice. We’re not sure what they kept it in — maybe handmade pottery with a lid, or a satchel made from an animal’s pelt or stomach.

The ancient Chinese used ginseng, salt, and added herbal mints for flavoring. The Greeks and Romans tried crushed bones, oyster shells, tree bark, and charcoal, which happens to be back in vogue. There is evidence from the late 1700s showing that people once brushed with burnt breadcrumbs.

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Water And Molten Aluminium Is A Dangerous Combination

It is not uncommon for a Hackaday writer to trawl the comments section of a given article, looking for insights or to learn something new. Often, those with experience in various fields will share kernels of knowledge or raise questions on a particular topic. Recently, I happened to be glazing over an article on aluminium casting with interest, given my own experience in the field. One comment in particular caught my eye.

 And no, the water won’t cause a steam explosion. There’s a guy on youtube (myfordlover, I think) who disproves that myth with molten iron, pouring the iron into water, pouring water into a ladle of molten iron and so on. We’ll be happy to do a video demonstrating this with aluminum if so desired.

Having worked for some time in an aluminium die casting plant, I sincerely hope [John] did not attempt this feat. While there are a number of YouTube videos showing that this can be done without calamity, there are many showing the exact opposite. Mixing molten aluminium and water often ends very poorly, causing serious injury or even fatalities in the workplace. Let’s dive deeper to see why that is.

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A Walking Robot With A Single Servo

We’ve all been there — you see somebody do something cool on YouTube and you just have to give it a go. For [lonesoulsurfer], the drop-everything-and-build happened to be a little four-legged walker robot that runs on a single servo. Though it may be simple, there really is nothing like seeing a robot you created take its first steps.

[lonesoulsurfer]’s walker is made mostly from scrap aluminium and other scavenged parts like coat hangers, paper clips and the metal bits and bobs from banana jacks. The Dremeled and bent body would likely be the hardest to imitate for a first-time builder, but any sturdy chassis that allows for things screwed and bolted to it should work. Also, don’t expect it to work right away. It will take a bit of tuning to get the gait right, but it’s all part of the fun. So is modifying a 180° servo for continuous rotation.

We really like the way this robot walks — it saunters around like a long bulldog and looks like it can handle almost any terrain. Watch it walk after the break, and stick around for the build video.

There’s just something about simple robots without microcontrollers. If you’ve never heard of BEAM robots, cut your teeth on this ‘bot with circular legs.

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