Soon, mobile technology to provide drinking water and electricity

Washington: Ever wondered if mobile technology could convert non-potable water into drinking water and extract hydrogen from it to generate electricity?

A team of researchers has developed an aluminum alloy that could be used in a new type of mobile technology to provide power and drinking water to villages and also for military operations.

The alloy contains aluminum, gallium, indium and tin.

It is immersed in the freshwater or saltwater which causes a spontaneous reaction, splitting the water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules, said Jerry Woodall, professor of electrical and computer engineering in Purdue University.

The hydrogen can then be fed to a fuel cell to generate electricity, producing water in the form of steam as a by-product, he said.

Since the technology works with saltwater, it might have marine applications, such as powering boats and robotic underwater vehicles.

"There is a big need for this sort of technology in places lacking connectivity to a power grid and where potable water is in short supply," Woodall added.

"Because aluminium is a low-cost, non-hazardous metal that is the third-most abundant metal on Earth, this technology promises to enable a global-scale potable water and power technology, especially for off-grid and remote locations," he said.

With this technology, potable water could be produced for about 1 dollar per gallon, and electricity could be generated for about 35 cents per kilowatt hour of energy.

"There is no other technology to compare it against, economically, but it`s obvious that 34 cents per kilowatt hour is cheap compared to building a power plant and installing power lines, especially in remote areas," Woodall said.