Sulfur-Tolerant Water Gas Shift Catalyst for Fuel Processing in a Microchannel Reactor

Period of Performance: 12/09/2002 - 06/09/2003


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

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


The rapid start time, quiet operation and high efficiency, of fuel cells provide an ideal solution as a mobile power source or an auxiliary power unit (APU) for a wide range of military and commercial applications. However, the supply of hydrogen gas to the fuel cell at the point of use remains a problem. A fuel processor that provides clean hydrogen from sulfur-containing logistical fuels is needed to allow fuel cell technology to be realized. InnovaTek will provide a solution to this need by developing a catalyst and support structure for use in the water gas shift reaction to produce CO-free reformate for a fuel cell from sulfur-containing logistical fuels. The catalyst developed will function at a high space velocity (>30,000 hr-1) that will reduce the size and cost of the fuel processor. It will tolerate sulfur without loss in activity thereby allowing the use of logistical fuels without the need for prior sulfur removal. It will also be resistant to temperature excursions and exposure to air and condensate, thereby maintaining its activity through numerous start-up/shut-down cycles. In addition, the catalyst will be optimized for use in an engineered micro-channel reactor that provides a differential temperature profile for both high temperature and low temperature water gas shift reactions, thus providing a high CO conversion within a single compact reactor design. Evolution in the power generation industry has created a demand and major market opportunity for alternative power generation technologies. As an alternative technology, fuel cells have been in existence for more than 160 years, but have only recently been developed sufficiently to provide a viable alternative to conventional technologies in the automotive and power generation industries. Today, because of their clean, quiet and efficient production of power, fuel cells are widely believed to offer a number of advantages over other small to medium sized power generation methods. Analysts forecast that various sectors of the overall fuel cell market will emerge within the next five to ten years, including: portable and backup power products, residential and specialty products (including APU), micro power (compact/handheld) products, and transportation (motive) products. By providing clean hydrogen from sulfur-containing logistical fuels, InnovaTek's fuel processing technology will allow fuel cell technology to be realized earlier and in broader markets.