If you think of metals in a battery, you probably think of lithium, mercury, lead, nickel, and cadmium. But researchers in Australia and China want you to think about aluminum. Unlike most battery metals, aluminum is abundant and not difficult to dispose of later.
Their battery design uses water-based electrolytes and is air-stable. It is also flame retardant. The battery can provide 1.25V at a capacity of 110 mAh/g over 800 charge cycles. The idea of using aluminum in a battery isn’t new. Aluminum is potentially more efficient since each aluminum ion is equivalent to three lithium ions. The batteries, in theory, have higher energy density compared to lithium-ion, but suffer from short shelf life and, so far, practical devices aren’t that close to the theoretical limits of the technology.
Both the body and neck of the electric guitar are made out of aluminium. It’s an impressive effort, as manufacturing a usable neck requires care to end up with something actually playable when you’re done with it.
Producing the guitar started with a big propane furnace to melt all the cans down so they could be cast into parts for the guitar. 38 lbs of cans went into the project, and were first dried out before being placed into the furnace for safety reasons. Aluminium cans aren’t made of the best alloy for casting, but you can use them in a pinch. The cans were first melted down and formed into ingots to be later used for producing the neck and body.
[Burls Art] then built sand casting molds for his parts with a material called Petrobond. Wood plugs were used to form the sand into the desired shape. The neck casting came out remarkably well, and was finished with a grinder, hacksaw, and sandpaper to get it to the right shape and install the frets. The body proved more difficult, with its multiple cavities, but it came together after a second attempt at casting.
Fully kitted out with pickups and hardware, the finished product looks great, and weighs 12.3 pounds. It sounds remarkably like a regular electric guitar, too. It does pick up fingerprints easily, and does have some voids in the casting, but overall, it’s a solid effort for an all-cast guitar.
[Attoparsec] wondered what if you could carry a typewriter in your pocket, then followed through with that and built one. (Video, embedded below.) Kind of. The plan was to use an existing set of striker bars, but not wanting to destroy a perfectly good typewriter, they realised that you can easily source just the bar set on eBay.
The first problem was that the striker bars are shaped to allow the typewriter mechanism to operate, but that would not make for a compact arrangement. After a spot of straightening in a big vice, and drilling in a custom jig, they were in a suitable state to be arranged inside the case. The casing is milled from a chunk of aluminium, complete with a nice recess to hold an ink-impregnated felt pad. To prevent this pad from drying out when stowed, and to keep the whole thing clear of pocket lint, a U-shaped metal cover was bent from some sheet. This slides into a set of slots that are milled near the edges, in a very satisfying manner. This last bit was causing them a little trouble, so a custom slotting tool was created especially for the job. And a good job was indeed done. The final results look as you might expect from a manual ‘typewriter’ quirky, a bit wonky, but fabulous all the same.
Steve Martin had a bit that was like a fake infomercial where he says, “You can be a millionaire and never pay taxes!” The instructions were, “First, get a million dollars. Then,…” [Brandon’s] instructions for how to convert your MIG welder to do aluminum for under $25 is not quite like that, but you do need the right kind of MIG welder to make it work. In particular, you need an actual MIG welder that has a provision to connect external gas. The instructions show a Hobart Handler 140 that meets the criteria and has sufficient power to handle aluminum.
The main task is to replace the liner for the torch. The stock liner is steel which is fine for its intended purpose, but it is too rough for aluminum wire. A PTFE liner is inexpensive and will work fine with the aluminum wire. If you want to do normal welding later, you’ll need to put the original liner back in.
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.
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.
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.