Hydrogen Recovery by ECR Plasma Pyrolysis of Methane

Period of Performance: 01/01/2007 - 12/31/2007


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Umpqua Research Company
P.O. Box 609
Myrtle Creek, OR 97457
Principal Investigator
Firm POC


Development of a microgravity and hypogravity compatible microwave plasma methane pyrolysis reactor is proposed to recover hydrogen which is lost as methane in the conversion of carbon dioxide to water via the Sabatier process. This will close the hydrogen loop which currently requires 50% resupply. Efficient production of hydrogen from methane was conclusively demonstrated during Phase I using microwave plasmas with power levels ranging between 50 - 120 W. In the plasma reactor, formation and deposition of solid phase elemental carbon was shown to be far less problematic than for current methods of catalytic methane decomposition in fixed bed and fluidized bed reactors. This new technology has strong potential for continuous hydrogen production over extended time periods, with minimal maintenance and operator intervention. Microwave plasmas produce extremely high temperatures localized within very small volumes, resulting in low overall power requirements. Microwave plasmas also produce minimal thermal effects on downstream piping and other system components. These features provide the basis for a small, light, and low power method for hydrogen reclamation. By recovering all of the hydrogen which is lost as methane in the Sabatier reactor, the requirement for production or resupply of hydrogen is reduced to the absolute minimum.