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Electrochemical separation and compression of hydrogen

By Scott Jenkins |

Hydrogen gas is used widely in industry, including in metal annealing, float-glass production and silicon wafer manufacturing, among others, but greater than 80% of the H2 used for these processes is typically vented or flared as waste. A new electrochemical system allows facilities that use H2 to recover the gas by separating and purifying it from a waste gas stream, while also compressing the gas for re-use.

Skyre Inc. (East Hartford, Conn.; www.skyre-inc.com) has developed a proprietary high-pressure electrochemical module, modeled after proton-exchange-membrane (PEM) fuel cells, to separate pure hydrogen from H2-containing mixed-gas waste streams. Known as H2 Renew, the device works by introducing a mixed gas stream to one side of a cation-exchange membrane and applying an electric potential. When H2 contacts a platinum-group metal catalyst in the membrane, it separates into protons (which pass through the membrane) and electrons (which complete the electrochemical circuit). As protons and electrons recombine on the other side of the cell, pure H2 builds up and is compressed to high pressure.

“The system works like an electrochemical filter that effectively separates hydrogen from other gases and impurities, and is able to compress the gas simultaneously without any moving parts,” says Skyre CEO Trent Molter. Recovering hydrogen that would have been wasted can reduce the costs of H2 by one half compared to purchasing new cylinders or tubes of H2, or generating the gas onsite, Molter says.

H2 Renew can produce H2 with purities up to 99.999% and pressures up to 13,000 psi. In addition to H2-recycling applications, H2 Renew can also be used for compression applications and for separating H2 from helium, which has become expensive recently due to a shortage of supply.

Based on similar technology, Skyre has also developed an electrochemical cell for converting carbon dioxide into valuable fuels and chemicals.

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