Hydrogen Separation Facilities
NETL is working to help produce and deliver hydrogen from fossil fuels including
coal in commercially applicable, environmentally acceptable ways. To achieve
this strategic national goal, advanced hydrogen separation technologies are
needed to supply tomorrow's energy and transportation systems with affordable
NETL's Hydrogen Separation Group investigates, evaluates, and develops hydrogen
separation membranes and materials. Researchers are focused on developing stable
and robust membranes that are suitable for the rapid, selective removal of
hydrogen from mixed gas streams. These membranes also must be resistant to
chemical impurities such as sulfur, an abundant component of coal and a key
feedstock for producing hydrogen.
NETL's Hydrogen Separation Facilities support research in four main areas:
- Membrane Materials investigate and develop materials and fabrication
techniques for producing suitable membranes for separating hydrogen.
- Membrane Performance Testing characterize the performance of promising
novel membranes by using continuous gas feed streams and conditions similar
to industrial processes.
- Water-Gas Shift Membrane Reactor Development develop a membrane reactor
for enhancing hydrogen production from the water-gas shift (WGS) reaction
at high temperature and pressure with no added catalyst.
- Advanced Separation Science explore new concepts and conduct fundamental
studies to reduce hydrogen production costs, for example, by studying CO2 -selective membranes and the chemistry of hydrogen transport and sulfur
NETL also conducts membrane performance testing on novel prototypes in collaboration
with other R&D groups including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge
National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, REB Research, and Ames Laboratory/Iowa
State University. The purpose of this testing is to validate results and to
develop a baseline for future research in this area.
State-of-the-art facilities and instrumentation include:
- Hydrogen Membrane Test (HMT) Units: These three units
provide a unique capability to measure high-pressure, high-temperature hydrogen
membrane flux at conditions of up to 1,000 psi at 900 ºC. The units
can accommodate both disk and tubular membrane configurations at a wide range
of flow rates for process gases. In addition, the HMT units have the flexibility
to be used for both membrane separation testing and membrane reactor testing.
- HMT-1 dedicated to studies that utilize sulfur-laden, dirty gas
streams without concern for cross-contamination with clean gases.
- HMT-2 used as a clean system to compare gas mixtures containing
no sulfur compounds.
- HMT-3 optimized for testing membrane reactor systems, such as the
WGS system, but also can be used for membrane separation testing.
- Membrane Screening Systems: Laboratory membrane screening
systems (MSS) are used for small-scale, low-pressure analysis of membrane
permeability under different environments, to establish their capacity for
hydrogen separation. These systems also are used to study conditioning of
materials prior to characterizing their properties. Using these systems,
for example, researchers can conduct short-term tests of membrane materials
with different gas mixtures containing sulfur at varying temperatures.
- Materials Lab: Membrane fabrication resources include
a well-equipped laboratory for preparation of inorganic materials. Equipment
includes high-temperature, controlled atmosphere furnaces (used for material
synthesis as well as brazing), a precision tungsten inert gas (TIG) welder,
presses, and cold plasma sputter coaters. Machine shop facilities are also
available, and a capability for small-scale in-house alloy preparation has
- ASPEX PSEM: An Aspex PSEM 2000 personalized scanning
electron microscope, equipped with an energy dispersive x-ray detector (EDS),
is used for membrane and materials characterization. Changes in membrane
morphology, element migration, layer thickness, and pore size are among the
- PANalytical XRD: A PANalytical X-Ray Diffraction instrument,
with a hot stage and high-speed detector, is used to determine and observe
membrane material crystal structure under realistic operating conditions.
Other analytical capabilities at NETL that may be utilized for membrane and
materials characterization include:
- Multitechnique Omicron Surface Analysis and Imaging System
- STM (scanning tunneling microscopy)
- AFM (atomic force microscopy)
- XPS (X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy)
- AUGER (auger electron spectroscopy)
- ISS (ion scattering spectroscopy)
- LEED (low energy electron diffraction)
- Standalone instrumentation
- XPS with small spot capability
- IRAS (infrared reflection absorption spectroscopy)
- FTIR (Fourier transform infrared) and Raman spectroscopy (both with
- BET ( Branauer-Emmett-Teller ) surface area analysis
- Chemisorption and physisorption analyzer
WGS Membrane Reactor
For more information contact: Richard