SBIR Phase II: Efficient Separation of Hydrogen From Reformate

Period of Performance: 01/01/2012 - 12/31/2012


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

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


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project investigates the viability of an electrochemical device for separation and compression of hydrogen from low-pressure mixed gas streams that are critical for industrial gas and energy applications. Previous studies have shown that hydrogen derived from reformation of hydrocarbons produces a gas 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. Specifically the project will focus on solving electrode contamination issues through a series of design modifications; 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. This program will culminate in the construction of a fully-integrated system package that will be tested and validated with real-world reformate chemistries. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project relates to the fact that depletion of fossil fuel reserves and a global requirement for the development of a sustainable economy, the prospect of hydrogen-based energy is of growing importance. 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 are needed. These technologies must be robust, efficient, and cost effective in order to have value in meeting our energy needs. Since hydrogen energy markets are emerging, viable product solutions must meet near-term industrial needs as a commercial bridge toward low-cost energy products. 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 and hydrogen. Current methods for separation and 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 which offers significant commercial appeal.