Highly Efficient Electrochemical Cryogenic Purge Gas Recovery System

Period of Performance: 06/13/2016 - 06/12/2018


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

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


As the price of helium has increased substantially in recent years, the interest in finding an efficient and economical method of helium recovery has never been more important. One method that can reduce the cost of rocket test operations is to recover hydrogen and helium gases using an electrochemical process. Sustainable Innovations is developing a commercial electrochemical platform that separates and compresses hydrogen using Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) technology for industrial applications such as metals and electronics processing. A Helium Recovery System (HRS), based on the same platform and constructed by Sustainable Innovations, selectively removes hydrogen from the mixed H2/He stream, leaving behind the high-value helium. The system then removes residual water vapor from this helium and compresses it to commercial storage pressure. This system featured a subsystem that captured the vented hydrogen and helium gas mixture, an electrochemical separation subsystem that purified both hydrogen and helium streams, and a compression subsystem that permitted high pressure gas delivery. A critical next step in the advancement of the HRS design is proving the scalability of this technology. The innovative step in this proposal is to increase the gas capacity capability of the electrochemical separation system while maintaining optimal operating efficiency and durability. It is expected that at least a doubling of throughput capacity per unit cell area ? largely driven by the amount of current that can be practically applied to an individual cell area without hindering longevity of critical components, can be achieved. This performance will be validated by cell durability tests. The innovation will be scaled in Phase II and integrated into a low-cost, scalable, modular package that will be delivered to SSC.