For the hydrogen economy, one of the roadblocks to success is the hydrogen itself. Hydrogen needs to be purified before it can be used as fuel for fuel cells, but current methods are not very clean or efficient.
Northwestern University chemist Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, together with postdoctoral research associate Gerasimos S. Armatas, has developed a class of new porous materials, structured like honeycomb, that is very effective at separating hydrogen from complex gas mixtures. The materials exhibit the best selectivity in separating hydrogen from carbon dioxide and methane, to the best of the researchers' knowledge.
The results, which offer a new way to separate gases not available before, will be published online Feb. 15 by the journal Nature Materials. The materials are a new family of germanium-rich chalcogenides.
"A more selective process means fewer cycles to produce pure hydrogen, increasing efficiency," said Kanatzidis, Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the paper's senior author. "Our materials could be used very effectively as membranes for gas separation. We have demonstrated their superior performance."
Current methods of producing hydrogen first yield hydrogen combined with carbon dioxide or hydrogen combined with carbon dioxide and methane. The technology currently used for the next step -- removing the hydrogen from such mixtures -- separates the gas molecules based on their size, which is difficult to do.
Kanatzidis and Armatas offer a better solution. Their new materials do not rely on size for separation but instead on polarization -- the interaction of the gas molecules with the walls of the material as the molecules move through the membrane. This is the basis of the new separation method.
Tests of one form of the family of materials -- this one composed of the heavy elements germanium, lead and tellurium -- showed it to be approximately four times more selective at separating hydrogen from carbon dioxide than conventional methods, which are made of lighter elements, such as silicon, oxygen and carbon.
"We are taking advantage of what we call 'soft' atoms, which form the membrane's walls," said Kanatzidis. "These soft-wall atoms like to interact with other soft molecules passing by, slowing them down as they pass through the membrane. Hydrogen, the smallest element, is a 'hard' molecule. It zips right through while softer molecules, like carbon dioxide and methane take more time."
Kanatzidis and Armatas tested their membrane on a complex mixture of four gases. Hydrogen passed through first, followed in order by carbon monoxide, methane and carbon dioxide. As the smallest and hardest molecule, hydrogen interacted the least with the membrane, and carbon dioxide, as the softest molecule of the four, interacted the most.
Another advantage is that the process takes place at what Kanatzidis calls a "convenient temperature range" -- between zero degrees Celsius and room temperature.
Small-molecule diffusion through porous materials is a nanoscopic phenomenon, say the researchers. All the pores in the hexagonal honeycomb structure are ordered and parallel, with each hole approximately two to three nanometers wide. The gas molecules are all at least half a nanometer wide.
Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences