Advanced Catalyst For Microchannel Fuel Reformer

Period of Performance: 01/15/2002 - 07/14/2002


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Innovatek, Inc.
3100 George Washington Way
Richland, WA 99354
Principal Investigator


InnovaTek proposes to further develop a robust sulfur-tolerant steam reforming catalyst based on a proprietary formulation. As a component of an advanced fuel processor, this catalyst will be capable of reforming various hydrocarbons, including readily available fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. The research will also include determination of the optimal operating conditions such as temperature, space velocity, steam/C ratio, pressure, etc. where the catalyst has high activity and selectivity and also maintains stable and durable performance. At such conditions, carbon formation (coking) on the catalyst and catalyst support shall be minimized. The effect of various parameters on the performance of the catalyst will also be investigated. These include catalyst composition, total loading amount, the effect of different promoters and additives, and preparation method. Performance of the catalyst will be tested in a microchannel reactor that is designed to produce enough hydrogen to power a 100-watt fuel cell. Fuel cells are clean power generators with high-energy efficiency, and are projected to be a significant portion of total energy produced in the next three decades. Due to their high power density, quick dynamic response to power demand, and low operating temperature, polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells are envisioned to be useful in a wide range of power applications, such as vehicular (50-200 kW), residential (5-10 kW), portable (10-1000 W), and stationary (MW). The projected commercialization of PEM fuel cells requires the availability of economical pure hydrogen. Reforming of various hydrocarbons, such as methanol, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel for the production of hydrogen, is being considered for both stationary and mobile applications because it offers higher hydrogen density (for example, 12.7% for gasoline) than metal hydride (1.7%), carbon nano-tube (5.8%) and other technologies of hydrogen carriers. Due to the existing distribution and supply infrastructure, gasoline and diesel are attractive choices as primary fuels to generate hydrogen for use by fuel cells. Gasoline has sulfur concentrations in the range of 50 to 300 ppm, and the concentration of sulfur in diesel is higher than that of gasoline. For small and portable power applications it is unlikely that adding a desulfurization unit to the reformer is practical because of size and weight constraints. Therefore, catalysts with improved sulfur and coke resistance for steam reforming of readily available hydrocarbons, such as gasoline and diesel would be highly desirable. Such catalysts must also have high activity, selectivity, and durability.