PITTSBURGH, PA - The Department
of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and Carnegie
Mellon University have developed a new computational modeling tool that
could make the production of hydrogen cheaper as the United States seeks
to expand its portfolio of alternative energy supplies.
The research, supported by the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and
reported in the current issue of the prestigious journal “Science”
published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science,
predicts hydrogen flux through metal alloy separation membranes that could
be used to produce pure hydrogen.
Mounted Hydrogen Membrane
“This research demonstrates our vision of coupling computational
and experimental methods to facilitate rapid research and development
of advanced technologies,” said Anthony Cugini, focus area leader
of Computational and Basic Sciences at NETL. “In essence, we are
developing the computational tools to prescreen hydrogen separation membranes.”
These membranes allow pure hydrogen to pass through, while blocking impurities
that are present with other gases in the production of hydrogen from fossil
energy resources. Separation is a critical component of hydrogen production.
Impurities lessen the effective use of hydrogen. Membranes have the ability
to remove virtually all of the impurities from the hydrogen stream.
The use of advanced computing to determine the ability of candidate membranes
to produce pure hydrogen would be a time- and money-saving step for hydrogen
researchers. Instead of having to produce a large suite of alloys with
various proportions of metals—such as palladium and copper—and
then test them to determine optimum compositions for maximum hydrogen
purification, they could predict in advance which compositions would have
the desirable properties.
The research team at NETL in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon is investigating
a new hydrogen membrane material—a copper palladium alloy—that
allows hydrogen to be processed without contamination by other gases such
as hydrogen sulfide during the purification process.
“We coupled computational modeling with experimental activity to
develop a predictive model for hydrogen flux through copper palladium
alloys,” said David Sholl, associate professor in chemical engineering
at Carnegie Mellon. “We now have a solid method in the screening
of other complex alloys for the future production of hydrogen,”
“Ultimately, we see our new computational tools helping to take
us into the new hydrogen economy as we scramble to harness this clean
fuel, increasingly driven by our long-term worries about oil supplies
as well as environmental challenges,” Sholl said.
“Efficient techniques for large-scale purification of hydrogen
are of world-wide interest as we work toward a hydrogen-based economy,”
said John Winslow, technology manager for Coal Fuels and Hydrogen at NETL.
“If high flux membranes that resist chemical contamination can be
developed, the impact of these devices on industrial hydrogen purification
would be dramatic.”
For more information, contact:
The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is a science, technology,
and energy laboratory owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Energy
(DOE). As part of DOE’s national laboratory system, NETL supports
DOE’s mission to advance the national, economic, and energy security
of the United States. NETL has sites in Fairbanks, Alaska; Morgantown,
West Virginia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
About Carnegie Mellon:
Carnegie Mellon is a private research university with a distinctive mix
of programs in computer science, robotics, engineering, the sciences,
business, public policy, fine arts and the humanities. More than 8,000
undergraduate and graduate students receive an education characterized
by its focus on creating and implementing solutions to solve real problems,
interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A small student-to-faculty
ratio provides an opportunity for close interaction between students and
professors. While technology is pervasive on its 110-acre campus, Carnegie
Mellon is also distinctive among leading research universities because
of conservatory-like programs in its College of Fine Arts. For more information,