• Project title: Aluminium recycling for hydrogen production - from waste through hydrogen energy to alumina - AliCE-WHy (Aluminium in a circular economy - from waste to hydrogen energy to alumina "- AliCE-WHy)
  • Project number: EEA-RESEARCH-92
  • Implementation period: 1.05.21 - 30.04.2024
  • Allocated Funding: EUR 800,000
  • Co-financing: EUR 120,000
  • CFI Financing: EUR 245,000
  • Aim of the project: The aim of AliCE -WHy is to create a technological solution for the recycling of aluminium waste, increasing the efficiency of recycling, the end result of hydrogen for energy use and the production of further low-emission alumina products.
  • Expected results:
    • Waste aluminium treatment methodology for its use in hydrogen production
    • Prototype for electricity generation from Aluminium scrap.
    • Methodologies for further processing of reaction products generated in the prototype The evaluation of the obtained technology has been approbated with the socio-economic evaluation in the context of Icelandic and Baltic aluminium waste recycling.
    • Developed methodology for aluminium waste treatment
    • A prototype for electricity generation from aluminium scrap has been developed
    • Developed methodology for obtaining alumina in processing
    • A socio-economic assessment of the developed technology has been prepared
  • Partners:
  • Contact person: Ainārs Knoks ainars.knoks@cfi.lu.lv
  • Project manager: Dr. Phys. Jānis Kleperis, Institute of Solid State Physics, University of Latvia
  • Active links: https://eegrants.lv/ and https://eeagrants.org/
  • Title of the program: “The project is co-financed by the European Economic Area financial instruments for 2014-2021”
 

Project goal:

The main idea of AliCE-Why is to tackle aluminium (Al) recycling for clean energy production. Al demand is evermore increasing as well as energy production, but recycling possibilities are relatively scarce in small country or remote location context. In addition, transportation of current waste Al requires additional costs and does not generate jobs and revenue on unused resources that are exported. Thus, a local cyclic process for recycling should be developed. Main goal of this project is to develop technology and prototype for power generation form waste Al through production of hydrogen and further recycle by-product Al hydroxide.

Fig. 1. Process diagram.

Project summary:

Currently, waste management and energy production are recognized as essential field for world sustainability assurance. Aluminium (Al) is a very important strategic material in Europe with wide variety of application areas. Unfortunately, this invokes huge amount of waste Al generation. Despite that part of waste Al is recycled, there are plenty of landfilled Al, which pollutes environment. Therefore, during this project, we will initiate scientific and engineering activities revealing innovative ways for waste Al application on electricity generation using hydrogen produced after waste Al-water reaction.

Obtained reaction by-product can be further recycled back to Al via carbon free electrolysis. Also, by-product can be used as a precursor for other valuable materials production. All the mentioned processes will be realized as a prototype.

The project will involve: investigation of the waste Al treatment for hydrogen production (Lithuanian Energy Institute); analysis of generated hydrogen gas purity (Institute of Solid State Physics University of Latvia (ISSP)); recycling of produced reaction by-product to Al and/or other useful materials (Innovation Center Iceland); evaluation of techno-economic and environmental impact of proposed process on Iceland and Baltics (University of Iceland), prototype design (coordinated by Latvian team). The project Consortium consists of four partners with main tasks mentioned above, which will ensure close cooperation and successful project realization.

Fig. 2. Concept of the Alice-Why project

 

Keywords: waste-to-resource, hydrogen, circle economy, aluminium recycling.


Project progress information

Period 01.05.2022. - 31.07.2022. | 14.09.2022.

We have reached the following milestones for the first year:

  • 2.1. Electrolyte selection – we have selected electrolyte for further experiments, but in the final analysis the electrolyte will be revised in the socioeconomic analysis

 The choice of electrolyte for the water-aluminum reaction affects the final process cost, environmental impact, reaction activity and benefit, among other aspects. Therefore, it is important to choose an optimal electrolyte. For now, NaOH has been chosen, but it will be possible to reassess the scalability and impact of this hydroxide after a socio-economic assessment by the Icelandic partner, the University of Iceland.

  • 2.2. Small scale H2 production set-up

The Lithuanian partner, the Lithuanian Energy Institute, has created a small-scale experimental facility for aluminum-water reaction research. Both the technical aspects of the creation of this device and the effect of the electrolyte on the release of H2 at different temperatures were studied. It has been observed that increasing the temperature also increases the rate of H2 release, but the amount of precipitated alumina, hydroxide and oxyhydroxide materials mixes with other by-products, thus reducing the amount of useful alumina obtained at the end.

  • 3.1. Inline GC and MS reactor set-up (Fig.1). In order to analyze the purity and composition of the obtained gases, depending on the various waste products of aluminum in the reaction with an alkaline aqueous solution, a reactor was created with the possibility of gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectroscopy (MS) measurements. Evidence has been obtained that at least 98% of the gas released in the reaction is hydrogen.

  • 4.1. By-product investigation
   

Participation in FM&NT – NIBS conference July 2022

Presentation by Dr Camila Pía Canales, “The decade of hydrogen: where are we heading to?

Organisation: Faculty of Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Computer Science, University of Iceland. Overall idea can be represented by the figure below

As a result of the reaction with water, solid aluminum forms aluminum hydroxide, oxide, oxide-hydroxide and other compounds. In order to evaluate the quality of the deposits and how much useful material can be obtained from these deposits, deposits were dried, analyzed and calcined, after which the mass change, surface area and amount of aluminum oxide of the obtained material are evaluated. At this stage of the project, a preliminary analysis has been carried out and it can be seen that it is necessary to assess the impact of the formed carbonate in more detail; as well as the real source/reaction.

All partners have actively participated in the project, even though formally, some packages have not started yet. That has proven to be very valuable Extensive knowledge of treatment by LEI has shown great promise in H2 production efficiency (up to 3 times compared to non-treated) Chemical and industry knowledge of UI and IceTec has been irreplaceable in identifying important parameters, results and possible use of investigated reactions and materials such as industrial use, source of raw materials, possible contamination by environment and others With valuable input from partners ISSP UL has created testing set-up and first drafts of the reactor prototype

Presentation by Dr. Sarunas Varnagiris “Plasma treatment application for green hydrogen production via hydrolysis of waste aluminum in alkaline water

Lithuanian Energy Institute

 

Conclusions:

Plasma increased hydrophilicity of Al powder surface and greatly improved H2 production yield. The effect of plasma on Al chips did not appear to be as good as on powder, and more alkali was required to obtain a similar yield of H2. The reaction byproduct could be a promising precursor for the production of ceramics or catalyst substrates.

 

In addition poster presentation were given at the same conference:

 

Raitis Kaspars  Sika et al. “Reactor design investigation for Hydrogen production from Aluminium -Water reaction

       Presented thesis

  • The simulated flow of liquid is practically identical to real life; the simulation can predict particle settling location with good accuracy which is important for the further development.
  • Additional simulations, with different sized meshes should be carried out for further data gathering and reactor design improvements.
  • The gained results can be used in future for more efficient reactor designs and current reactor development

Ainars  Knoks et al. “Electrochemical Corrosion Behavior of Aluminum Foil – investigation of kitchen wastes

       Presented thesis

From the semicircular forms in high-frequency region, charge transfer can be estimated.

The increase of temperature should influence the charge transfer thus impedance should decrease, on the other hand during the process oxides and hydroxides are created, which should lower the activity; electrolyte composition can mitigate the passivation of the active sites i.e. promotion of hydrogen production. Currently gained results show charge transfer impedance is growing with the increase of temperature which could indicate growth of oxide/hydroxide. At the same time impedance of the electrolyte through the deposition layer is decreasing and double layer capacitance is also decreasing. This indicates corrosion is happening, alternatively, it could be cracks in the electrolyte/particle boundary layer. And on the last note, the electrolyte ion diffusion impedance seems to be increasing.

 

Ansis    Mezulis et al. “On the efficiency of hydrogen production from plasma-treated aluminum waste with NaOH and KOH promoters

       Presented thesis

Concluding that applied pre-treatment of aluminum by hydrogen plasma gives obvious results: in the first stage, hydrogen production efficiency increases up to 10 times, whereas the activation energy reduces by 18%. The most likely explanation for the benefit is that surface irregularities, created by the plasma treatment, could initiate the formation of the cracks in a natural aluminum oxide layer and help the water to penetrate into depths of material and react with pure aluminum.