The Aluminium Air Battery is a simple design that truly gives us hope for a pollution free future for transport and industry as a whole. Technically it is a fuel cell but with the near 100% recyclable nature of this concept, you can think of it as a battery that is recharged by an industrial process rather than plugging in the mains.
So Why has it not been done before?
The problem is that it has always required the purest aluminium to achieve a good power output in the past but now a Genius, Trevor Jackson, has made it possible with standard Drinks can grade aluminium and his secret fluid, it might be just sugar water but we don’t know just yet. I would love for him to ‘open’ this knowledge to create global change in power storage. There is a link at the bottom of the page to the Manufacturers website “metalectrique” if you are eager to find out more of their data..
Why am I so excited?
To be frank, It is great, long range electric vehicles has been a generational challenge that has been plagued with preference of convenience over environment, and I am disapointed that I did not come up with this and instead focused on capturing the pollution of older cars by compressing exhaust gas into canisters for recycling and swapping them for new empty ones when you buy your fuel. So when I first heard about this – I thought, damn what wasted research but quickly became elated as this answers not only basic transportation requirements and why we use the convenience of fossil fuels over current battery or electric vehicles as listed below which were similar to my Design Brief but the processes involved in the recycling of the batteries produces so many more benefits as mentioned later.
- Refuel anywhere or unlimited Range – Liquid Fuel vehicles have a standard fuel that is distributed to convenient, safe locations but This fuel cell can even be stocked at your newsagents so increasing availability as well as Battery exchange stations like the more traditional Petrol Stations.
- Fuel is portable if you can’t get your vehicle there – I have run out of fuel too. This fuel cell / battery is small and portable too with the potential to have a back up or smaller size emergency battery slot to overcome and make it more convenient.
- Refuel Quickly – It takes between 2 -3 minutes to refuel a 40 litre small car but this battery takes 90 seconds to swap out. This makes it a like for like, in real terms, as far as refueling or inconvenience to the journey.
- Weight – Electric cars are predominantly heavier and that weight reduces the range and performance of the vehicle as a balance. With the quick swap capability and availability, it now becomes feasible for a more performant vehicle to use this technology.
but wait, there are so many other applications too.
- Trains – Currently Electric trains require the power to be supplied from the Electricity grid via overhead wires or third electrified rail solutions. This is an amazing way to power public transport but there are so many non-electrified areas which still use diesel powered engines due to geographic, political or economic reasons. It would be possible to convert current electric trains to use an inverted battery output to give a freedom to move from an electrified system to non electrified system. Imagine just coupling a battery car that is swapped every so often when moving between the two systems. The infrastructure savings that could be achieved on expansion projects are unfathomable – Just supply the rails and run the same rolling stock. This would also free up power requirements on the electricity grids for future resilience planning.
- Backup Generators in the event of Electricity Grid Failure – Dirty Generators will No longer be required as you can just invert from a battery pack which can be resupplied after use.
- Shipping – One of the most polluting transport industries we have, These can now be powered by battery and recycled at port. This would also provide a strong argument to move away from nuclear submarines in favor of this technology.
- Automated vehicles – Firstly the Commercial Cargo Shipping industry could be pretty much operated by drone ships with the human crew requirements being to oversee and maintain.
- Low speed aircraft – I say Low speed but mainly aimed at Propellor Powered aircraft which only operate at max 0.5 mach or half the speed of sound. I think the higher speed aircraft, Jet Powered, would still be required but this is a substantial reduction in Aviation pollution to, maybe, manageable levels.
- Robotic operations – If a two battery design of robot were conceived, then they would be able to swap their own batteries from designated storage points.
- Peak lopping Power stations / Alternative power – Imagine a development on this technology to supply a maintainable industrial power pack when fresh and have it recycled onsite. Much in the way we use Hydro power and current battery technology today. The only difference is that the recycling of the material will happen onsite at the power station in low load times. Please see their website at the bottom of the page to find more about the battery life cycle..
Is this too good to be true?
Not really, and it gets better with imagination, but there are hurdles to overcome in addition to the new technology integration challenges. One such hurdle is that of Bauxite Ore to Aluminium is a highly intensive process that contributes to approximately 1% of Global Greenhouse Gas emissions. The related Carbon Trust report can be found at the below link.
It is inevitable that there would be a steep increase in production of alumina from Bauxite, in the early days to prevent a steep market price rise of Aluminium through supply and demand, Although many process facilities will derive their power from green technologies, there will still be a large proportion that do not. Having said that, It would surely balance out with the reduction in transport CO2 Emissions.
In time the above issue will be reduced as recycling the used aluminium uses approximately 95% less energy and actually create usable side products like Hydrogen, Acetylene and Ammonia.
- Hydrogen is an obvious green fuel that when burned at atmospheric pressure, produces Water and some Nitrogen Oxides which are greenhouse gases and do contribute to acid rain and smog but if captured, can be powerful oxidisers or anesthetics used in child birth.
- Ammonia is a commercially used chemical but also is used in explosives for mining and fertilisers for crop production.
- Acetylene can be burned in air – releasing energy and forming CO2 and Hydrogen. This is what happens when welding or cutting using Acetylene torches, but when CO2 is is captured in an industrial process, it can be re-used as CO2 is an important commercial gas and thus preventing the expensive recovery of CO2 by other methods.
There is another potential for Acetylene based carbon capture, is that, when Acetylene is subjected to pressure shockwaves instead of heat, it explodes creating Hydrogen and Solidified Carbon. This creates a potential to remove carbon from the air in a controlled and measured fashion as we do not want to remove so much that we start having a global cooling or destroy Plantlife that require CO2.
Having said that, these explosions can be used as another energy source if they can be controlled sufficiently and create an alternative redesigned diesel engine that could eject the solidified carbon through a side valve or maybe invert the engine operation “upside down” so the crank and camshaft swap positions. I may have to put more thought into this idea.
So I hope you want to find out more about this technology and please follow the link below to the metalectrique website to find out more specifics https://www.metalectrique.com/ . Alternatively, Searching for them in your favorite search engine should show their webpage as a result.