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Comment Separation Processes

Liquid metal membranes improve on Pd membranes for separating hydrogen

By Scott Jenkins |

A liquid metal membrane with liquid gallium (Ga) sandwiched between two porous silicon carbide supports offers a pathway to improve the currently available membranes of solid palladium (Pd) metal for separating hydrogen after the steam reforming of methane. Pd metal is effective at allowing hydrogen to pass while excluding other species, such as CO2 and CO, but Pd has limitations. Pd is costly and so must be spread into thin layers, which can crack easily, allowing all gases through. Also, Pd membranes are adversely affected by sulfur in the gas mixture. Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI; Worcester, Mass.; www.wpi.edu) have developed a separation membrane that uses liquid Ga instead of solid Pd to separate hydrogen. The team has successfully demonstrated the system, known as a SLiMM (sandwiched liquid metal membrane), to separate H2 from gas mixtures of helium (see diagram). When H2 contacts a Pd membrane, it dissociates into hydrogen atoms, which diffuse through the membrane and recombine on the other side. At the elevated temperatures at which steam methane reforming would be carried out, liquid Ga achieves the same dissociation of H2. “The hydrogen atoms then hop from one interstitial site to another, across…
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