SBIR Phase II PRA No. 02-10ER85353.001. Molecular Separations Using Micro-Defect Free Ultra Thin Films Email Page
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Performer:  Eltron Research, Inc. Location:  Boulder, CO
Project Duration:  07/20/2009 – 08/14/2013 Award Number:  SC0000868
Technology Area:  Gasification Systems Total Award Value:  $1,100,000
Key Technology:   DOE Share:  $1,100,000
Performer Share:  $0

 SEM micrograph showing the membrane surface
SEM micrograph showing the membrane surface

Project Description

Eltron Research and Development, Inc., in a Phase II SBIR project, is developing a cost-effective means of fabricating ultra thin films for recovering highly pure methane from a syngas stream. Phase I of this research focused on material evaluation for the separation of carbon dioxide and methane, while in Phase II, the technique being developed will be applicable to all types of membrane filters, both liquids and gases, making them capable of implementation in a range of applications. The method will provide a means to repair membranes that have cracked due to fouling or aging, greatly extending their usable lifetimes. This will allow the fabrication of these membranes to become economically viable by providing a means to produce high quality thin film membranes that consistently possess a high flux for carbon dioxide with a low flux for methane. The current project plan will establish the temperature and pressure boundaries over which these materials can operate efficiently as well as the best production processes for bringing this technology to market.


Project Benefits

Gasification is used to convert a solid feedstock, such as coal, petcoke, or biomass, into a gaseous form, referred to as synthesis gas or syngas, which is primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide. With gasification-based technologies, pollutants can be captured and disposed of or converted to useful products. Gasification can generate clean power by adding steam to the syngas in a water gas shift (WGS) reactor to convert the carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide (CO2) and to produce additional hydrogen. The hydrogen and CO2 are separated—the hydrogen is used to make power and the CO2 is sent to storage, converted to useful products or used for enhanced oil recovery. In addition to efficiently producing electric power, a wide range of transportation fuels and chemicals can be produced from the cleaned syngas, thereby providing the flexibility needed to capitalize on the changing economic market. As a result, gasification provides a flexible technology option for using domestically available resources while meeting future environmental emission standards. Polygeneration plants that produce multiple products are uniquely possible with gasification technologies. The Gasification Systems program is developing technologies in three key areas to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of producing syngas: (1) Feed Systems, (2) Gasifier Optimization and Plant Supporting Systems, and (3) Syngas Processing Systems.

Syngas processing research and development underway emphasizes technologies that can be efficiently integrated into the plant, optimized with the temperature and pressure requirements of other systems, and meet product delivery specifications. A major cost element in gasification plants is converting raw syngas into a pure and specific gas used to create the plant's target product suite. High-hydrogen, low-methane, ultraclean syngas is versatile and can be used for power production with CO2 capture, fuels or chemicals production, and for many polygeneration applications. The technologies being developed are focused on high-efficiency processes that operate at moderate to high temperatures and clean syngas of all contaminants to the extremely low levels needed for chemical production—often significantly lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required levels for power plants.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), has partnered with Eltron Research, Inc. (Eltron) to develop a novel carbon capture process that uses micro-defect free ultra-thin films for molecular-sieve membrane separations. The project is funded through the DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, a highly competitive program that encourages small businesses to explore novel technological potential and provides them with incentives to profit from its commercialization.

Presentations, Papers, and Publications

Contact Information

Federal Project Manager Arun Bose:
Technology Manager Jenny Tennant:
Principal Investigator Richard A. Bley: