Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New material brings hydrogen fuel, cheaper petrochemicals closer to reality


A rubbery material that can purify hydrogen efficiently in its most usable form for fuel cells and oil refining has been developed by a chemical engineering group at The University of Texas at Austin.

In the Feb. 3 edition of Science, Dr. Benny Freeman details how his laboratory designed the membrane material and tested its ability, with colleagues at Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in Research Triangle Park, N.C., to successfully separate hydrogen from carbon dioxide and other contaminant gases.

This member of a new family of membrane materials with superior gas-separating ability could lower the costs of purifying hydrogen for hydrogen-fueled vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cells are considered a leading alternative energy for running cars and other devices in the future. The membrane material could also replace an expensive step in current petrochemical processing, or reduce how much energy the step requires. The membrane was tested under conditions that mimic those routinely used by the petrochemical industry to refine petroleum components (crude oil and natural gas) for use.

"A significant amount of the hydrogen in use today goes into the refining industry to refine crude oil to produce gasoline or other products, so this membrane could lower refining costs," said Freeman, the Kenneth A. Kobe Professor in Chemical Engineering.

The membrane differs structurally and functionally from previous options, with a key advantage being its ability to permit hydrogen to remain compressed at high pressure. A compressed form of the light-weight gas is needed to process fossil fuels and for it to serve as a readily replaceable fuel for fuel cells.

Freeman and graduate student Haiqing Lin designed the membrane material in Freeman’s laboratory at the university’s Center for Energy and Environmental Resources.

The engineers and RTI collaborators Lora Toy and Raghubir Gupta tested flat, disk-shaped versions of the material for its ability to separate different mixtures of hydrogen and carbon dioxide gases at different temperatures. The researchers used the three common temperatures for industrial hydrogen purification: 95 degrees, 50 degrees and minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

The new membrane not only separated these two gases better than previous membranes, but did so when additional components such as hydrogen sulfide and water vapor were present as occurs in industrial settings. The membrane worked so well that it was 40 times more permeable to (better at separating out) carbon dioxide than hydrogen.

In contrast, current commercial membranes favor the transport of hydrogen, a small molecule, over larger carbon dioxide molecules. This process results in hydrogen being transferred to a low-pressure environment that requires expensive recompression of the gas before use.

The new membrane avoids this recompression step by favoring the transport of larger, polar gas molecules as a result of the polar nature of the polymer materials making up the membrane. The polar, reverse-selective materials based on ethylene oxide interact better with polar gases such as carbon dioxide than with smaller, nonpolar hydrogen gas, which is left behind in a high-pressure state.

"The membrane likes carbon dioxide more than hydrogen, and we optimized that affinity," Freeman said. Plasticization, a process that softens materials and dilates them, was also found to improve the movement of the larger carbon dioxide through the new membrane for separation purposes. Several companies have already shown interest in collaborating to develop the material for industrial-scale applications.

Becky Rische | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease
23.03.2018 | Rice University

nachricht Sensitive grip
23.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnik und Automatisierung IPA

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>