SBIR Phase I: Efficient Separation of Hydrogen From Reformate

Period of Performance: 01/01/2011 - 12/31/2011


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Sustainable Innovations, LLC
111 Roberts Street Suite J
East Hartford, CT 06108
Principal Investigator


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project investigates the use of electrochemical devices for separation and compression of hydrogen from low-pressure mixed gas streams which are being developed for critical industrial gas and energy applications. Many applications will derive hydrogen from reformation of hydrocarbons resulting in a product stream rich in CO2, CO and H2. It has been well-documented that low-temperature electrodes similar to those used in these devices are often contaminated by carbon monoxide, negatively affecting their operation. While state-of-the-art solutions rely upon implementation of advanced catalysts or high temperature membranes, these solutions are not viable for systems having significant levels of CO in the feed stream. This project investigates the viability of a system modification that removes CO and other impurities from the electrode surface during normal operation thereby allowing the system to operate continually at high efficiency. Research efforts will leverage results from a fluids transport model to optimize the cell and system design. Laboratory cells will be constructed and evaluated over a range of operational parameters to develop a better understanding of the performance improvement associated with this approach. Finally, durability tests will be conducted to assess the long-term viability of this design. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will help alleviate the depletion of fossil fuel reserves by advancing the prospect of hydrogen-based energy. Production, purification, and compression of hydrogen represent key technical challenges for the implementation of a hydrogen economy, especially in the transportation sector where new sources and modes of delivery of hydrogen fuel are needed. These technologies must be robust, efficient, and cost effective in order to have value in meeting our growing energy needs. Furthermore, since hydrogen energy markets are emerging, viable product solutions must meet near-term industrial gas application needs as a commercial bridge toward low-cost products for a hydrogen economy. The current market for hydrogen is large and growing, with the vast majority of hydrogen produced from hydrocarbon sources resulting in gas streams containing appreciable quantities of CO and CO2 along with hydrogen. Current methods for separation and subsequent compression of hydrogen are very expensive and these costs are passed to the end-user. Successful development of the proposed technology will integrate the separation and compression functions, and expand the applicability of this device to separation of reformate and other mixed gas streams in a low-cost configuration.