Ceramic microreactors developed for on-site hydrogen production

September 19, 2006

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have designed and built ceramic microreactors for the on-site reforming of hydrocarbon fuels, such as propane, into hydrogen for use in fuel cells and other portable power sources.

Applications include power supplies for small appliances and laptop computers, and on-site rechargers for battery packs used by the military.

"The catalytic reforming of hydrocarbon fuels offers a nice solution to supplying hydrogen to fuel cells while avoiding safety and storage issues related to gaseous hydrogen," said Paul Kenis, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Illinois and corresponding author of a paper accepted for publication in the journal Lab on a Chip.

In previous work, Kenis and colleagues developed an integrated catalyst structure and placed it inside a stainless steel housing, where it successfully stripped hydrogen from ammonia at temperatures up to 500 degrees Celsius.

In their latest work, the researchers incorporated the catalyst structure within a ceramic housing, which enabled the steam reforming of propane at operating temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Celsius. Using the new ceramic housing, the researchers also demonstrated the successful decomposition of ammonia at temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Celsius. High-temperature operation is essential for peak performance in microreactors, said Kenis, who also is a researcher at the university's Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. When reforming hydrocarbons such as propane, temperatures above 800 degrees Celsius prevent the formation of soot that can foul the catalyst surface and reduce performance.

"The performance of our integrated, high-temperature microreactors surpasses that of other fuel reformer systems," Kenis said. "Our microreactors are superior in both hydrogen production and in long-term stability." Kenis and his group are now attempting to reform other, higher hydrocarbon fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, which have well-developed distribution networks around the world.

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Netherlands bank customers can get vocal on payments

August 1, 2015

Are some people fed up with remembering and using passwords and PINs to make it though the day? Those who have had enough would prefer to do without them. For mobile tasks that involve banking, though, it is obvious that ...

Power grid forecasting tool reduces costly errors

July 30, 2015

Accurately forecasting future electricity needs is tricky, with sudden weather changes and other variables impacting projections minute by minute. Errors can have grave repercussions, from blackouts to high market costs. ...

Microsoft describes hard-to-mimic authentication gesture

August 1, 2015

Photos. Messages. Bank account codes. And so much more—sit on a person's mobile device, and the question is, how to secure them without having to depend on lengthy password codes of letters and numbers. Vendors promoting ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.