Experimental study on the fabrication of advanced materials for energy applications using high energy mechanical milling

Ashvin Kumar Narayana Swamy, University of Texas at El Paso


The reaction of aluminum (Al) powder with water has the potential for on demand hydrogen generation. Conventional Al powders, however, react with water slowly due to a highly protective oxide layer on the particle surface. Current methods for Al activation involve harmful and expensive materials. The nano-scale Al powders also remain very expensive and have problems such as a large amount of oxide on the surface. The use of aluminum in an energy generation cycle is also hindered by the fact that, although Al is the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust, its recovery from ore consumes a lot of energy. Recycling aluminum hydroxide, formed as a result of Al reaction with water, would also require large amounts of energy. The energy consumption for production of Al powder and hence its cost could be significantly reduced by using recycled aluminum scrap and waste where aluminum is contained in metallic, non-oxidized form. The research work presented here investigates the preparation of an activated aluminum powder from aluminum foil that is widely available as scrap and waste. The obtained results demonstrate that a highly reactive, fine powder can be obtained from Al foil by high-energy ball milling with sodium chloride (NaCl). The obtained powder readily reacts with hot water, releasing hydrogen. Note that NaCl is an environment-friendly additive that can easily be removed after milling and recycled. After washing NaCl out, the powders retain a high reactivity with respect to hot water. As compared to previously studied activation of commercial Al powders, a major advantage of the investigated process is the feasibility of using secondary aluminum. Another area of research presented here is the synthesis of gallium oxide (Ga2O3) nanostructures for their use as high-temperature sensors. Quasi one-dimensional nanomaterials are of great interest due to increased focus on their importance in physics research and also their applications in the nanodevices industry. Since the mid 1950's, considerable research has been reported on the synthesis of filamentary crystals from alloys and metals. Since the discovery of carbon nanotubes (CNTs), there has been a tremendous surge in research activities for development and characterization of one-dimensional nanostructures. Most of the research is targeted towards the development of semiconductors such ZnO, Si, SnO2, and GaAs. Gallium oxide nanostructures have the ability to withstand high temperatures and also act as high-temperature sensors. In particular, they can be used as oxygen sensors at temperatures over 900 °C. These properties make gallium oxide nanostructures attractive for use in exhaust systems of the combustion chambers in power plants. β-Ga2O3 nano-rods and nano-sheets were successfully synthesized by a simple method based on heating GaN in inert gas environment with traces of oxygen. Characterization of the obtained products showed nano-belts in the size range from 10 nm to 15 nm. Several other unique nano-structures were also synthesized. The results show a vapor-solid mechanism to be the prevailing growth route for the synthesis of nano-structures.

Subject Area

Mechanical engineering|Environmental engineering|Materials science

Recommended Citation

Narayana Swamy, Ashvin Kumar, "Experimental study on the fabrication of advanced materials for energy applications using high energy mechanical milling" (2013). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3594355.