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Running a vehicle by burning aluminium?

  1. Apr 16, 2012 #1
    Apparently aluminium has the highest energy density per unit volume of any material.

    It can be smelted from ore or recycled oxide using green electricity.

    People have made batteries using aluminium but they have problems like getting gunked up with Aluminium hydroxide etc.

    How about burning two aluminium wires by striking up an electric arc between them?

    If the temperature is high enough I guess the aluminium oxide will come off as a vapour rather than coating the wires and stopping the combustion.

    The light and heat could be turned into electricity using photovoltaic cells and thermocouples and could be used to run an electric motor to drive a vehicle.

    The oxide ash could be captured and recycled.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 16, 2012 #2


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    Nothing wrong with this in principle but, in practice, there would be many difficulties. Re-cycling Aluminium Oxide may not be as good value as using the vast quantities of readily available Aluminium Ores (however offensive that may seem) because you would have to harvest small quantities of waste from all the engines and get it to the sources of green electricity. To be worth while, I think the reduction process needs to be done on a big scale.
    Also, using the energy from the 'flame' might be better achieved with a conventional Heat Engine. Perhaps an Aluminium Powder fuel could be used to fuel a boiler?
  4. Apr 16, 2012 #3
    Iron thermite is VERY hot: Fe2O3 + 2 Al → 2 Fe + Al2O3
  5. Apr 16, 2012 #4


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    Poor man's welding kit. Watched some rails being welded together once. Very impressive. But high thermodynamic efficiency - if only you could make a suitable engine / cycle.
  6. Apr 16, 2012 #5
    Also Aluminum thermite ....makes a wonderful explosion when coupled to ice....as shown by Mythbusters here (wait 'til end of clip):

    Care to speculate why.?

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
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