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Catalytic Membrane Reactors

Description: http://inside.mines.edu/fs_home/cwolden/pics/CarbideTEM.png In this work, a collaboration with Dr. Way’s group, we are developing membrane reactors for process intensification and improved efficiency. There are two aspects of these project. The first is developing state of the art metal membranes for H2 separation. Professor Way's group is an expert in electoless deposition of Pd and related alloys. In addition, we are developing a new class of dense metal membranes for H2 purification based on low cost BCC metals such as vanadium and niobium. These materials have much greater theoretical permeability than Pd, but are unable to dissociate molecular hydrogen. To overcome this challenge we have developed composite membranes comprised of BCC metals and transition metal catalysts. These membranes are synthesized by magnetron sputtering in the customized system shown at left. We are developing composite membranes specifically for the extraction and purification for emerging fusion based power plants in collaboration with Idaho National Laboratory.

The second aspect focuses on the development of catalytic membrane reactors. The photograph at left shows the innovative reactor design. The conventional approach supplies the catalyst in a packed bed surrrounding the membrane. In this approach we begin with asymetric ceramic suppport. Catalyst is preferentially deposited into the microporous region at the exterior of the support, to which the hydrogen selective metal membrane is applied. Well-dispersed catalysts provides high activity, and its proximity to the membrane mitigates transport limitations. The resulting reactors enhable reduced temperatures and high productivity relative to conventional designs. Processes of interest include steam methane reforming (SMR), ammonia synthesis and decomposition, and dehydrogenation reactions. This is a large interdiscplinary project and we are collaborating with Professors Carreon and Jechura.  

Support for these projects is currently provided by ARPA-E through awards DE-AR0001004 and DE-AR0001368.