Mesoscale Thermocatalytic Reactor for Ammonia Decomposition

Period of Performance: 01/11/2000 - 11/30/2000


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Mesosystems Technology, Inc.
415 N. Quay, Bldg A, Suite 3
Kennewick, WA 99336
Principal Investigator

Research Topics


We propose to demonstrate the feasibility of hydrogen production from ammonia in a mesochannel-based reactor and heat exchanger. Thermocatalytic ammonia decomposition will be demonstrated in a prototype mesochannel reactor (with approximately 0.5 mm channels). Mesochannel architecture offers substantial improvements in performance compared with the conventional thermocatalytic, packed-bed reactors used in industry. Rapid heat and mass transfer in the small channels allows for significantly smaller reactor and heat-exchanger volumes, lighter system weight, and faster startup. Mesochannel reactor surfaces will be coated with conventional and/or nanocatalysts to eliminate problematic heat-transfer resistances typical of packed-bed reactors. Because heat- and mass-transfer resistances are minimized, the reactor size and weight are reduced to the greatest extent allowed by the reaction kinetics. Our heat exchanger and reactor will include ultra-low thermal conductivity aerogel insulation to keep overall size small and weight very low while maintaining excellent thermal efficiency. Finally, we will include an evaluation of surface-modified carbon adsorbents for the adsorption of residual ammonia from the product stream. These adsorbents offer up to an order of magnitude more ammonia-adsorption capacity than acid-impregnated activated carbon. BENEFITS: A lightweight ammonia-decomposition system will facilitate deployment of hydrogen/air fuel cells as power supplies for the military. Reductions in power-supply weight will improve the effectiveness of war fighters and reduce the operating and support costs associated with battery replacement and recharging. Commercial applications for lightweight power supplies are numerous.