Foiled by Research


When I think of aluminum foil, the nerd in me thinks of those cone-shaped caps made out of foil and worn to keep aliens from reading people’s minds. Don’t ask me why, I just do. In fact, that’s what I thought of when I read on the website,, that over 75% of all aluminum foil produced in the United States is used for food packaging, much of which ends up in landfills. Apparently not as many people are worried about alien mind control as I assumed.

I looked into aluminum foil waste because ground-breaking research has just been published about a new approach to using it in a new process to make biofuel. The headline was intriguing enough to lead me to and the research article titled, “A Facile Green Synthetic Route for the Preparation of Highly Active γ-Al2O3 from Aluminum Foil Waste.” It’s a very, very scientific read.

The lead researcher, Ahmed Osman is from Queen’s University’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in the UK. Instead of landfilling used aluminum foil, which is often contaminated with grease and oil, it’s used in an innovative crystallization method that extracts 100% pure single crystals of aluminum salts from the used foil. Those crystals are used to make alumina catalyst, which is then employed in the production of biofuel.

Usually the alumina comes from mining bauxite ore. Osman’s method is cheaper, more effective, and more environmentally friendly than the commercial catalyst being used for the production of the biofuel, dimethyl ether (DME)—a diesel substitute. He plans to continue his research to try to improve his method to make DME more commercially viable.

I find this to be a much better use of used foil than alien-mind-probe-caps or tin foil figures…

  • Paul Sgriccia.

    Arturo, another post that left me smiling. First it was the image of an aluminum anti-alien cap then it was the video of how to make a stick figure with a piece of 12 x 12 aluminum foil. The narrator’s voice certainly didn’t go with the artist’s hands. Thanks, Paul

  • Clint White`.

    This isn’t a funny subject to me. We should be talking about how to incorporate this tech in future recycling program sorting. A rollout in a single city to collect foil waste would prove viability. Mining and refining aluminum is one of the worst industrial activities for the environment, and people use the material like it is paper. Trashing it all is incredibly wasteful and short-sighted. Future generations will look back at this like the helium balloon, a resource we can’t get back after wasting it.

    • Arturo S.

      This is a serious subject to me as well, Clint. I just chose to present it in a more comfortable, easy-going manner. I’m excited about all of the technology and innovation that marks progress or repairs our mistakes of the past.


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