Boston Startup Makes H2 From Al Scrap
Boston-based startup Found Energy has successfully produced 20 kW of continuous, hydrogen-based thermal power in an experimental reactor using 1kg (2.2lbs) of aluminum scrap as a fuel source.
The scrap is treated with a proprietary catalyst that causes it to liberate hydrogen particles contained in a water bath, which can either be burned for thermal energy or stored in a fuel cell.
Once the reaction is over and the heat and hydrogen dissipate, aluminum hydroxide is left behind. Aluminum hydroxide is a chemical precursor to alumina that is used by primary smelters to make pure aluminum metal.
Found hopes to market the low-emission power source to heavy industrial energy consumers such as aluminum smelters, long-haul trucking and ocean-going freightliners, which are all fueled by petroleum-based products with more extensive carbon footprints. Found’s process is focused on using hard-to-recycle aluminum scrap grades such as foil or automotive shredder byproduct zorba.
The reactor, capable of producing electricity in the kilowatt range, is only the company’s initial offering. Found plans in the third quarter to begin testing a model capable of producing electricity in the megawatt range. The average US home consumed 886 kWh of electricity per month in 2021, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
GH Power, based in Canada, has also been working on their own aluminum scrap and hydrogen reactor. The company has promised to build at least six reactors by the end of 2025, all between 1-60 MW, according to a slide deck from last year.
GH did not provide an update on operations to Argus in time for publication.
While producing hydrogen gas using aluminum scrap has been tried by others for decades at the research level, advances in sustaining the reaction and recycling catalysts for reuse have been the limiting factors for commercial applications, an industry consultant told Argus.