Tomsk Polytechnic University introduces methane pyrolysis for EV hydrogen

An effective method for pyrolyzing methane to create hydrogen, which can be used in electric vehicles and power generators, has been devised by researchers at Tomsk Polytechnic University.

For the first time, they suggested adding a plasma-chemical unit for the synthesis of radicals to the bubbling reactor, which is where pyrolysis occurs. The rate of the pyrolysis reaction can be multiplied by dozens thanks to the employment of non-equilibrium radical-chain chemical processes, which also boosts the installation’s productivity. The Priorities 2030 federal initiative and an industrial partner supported the study’s completion as part of a pilot project. The information gathered will be applied to the creation of a hydrogen filling station installation.

As its use does not result in carbon dioxide emissions or have an impact on climate change, hydrogen is a significant and promising component of energy systems. It can primarily be used to feed electric vehicles’ fuel cells. The best technology for producing pure hydrogen for fuel cells is methane pyrolysis.

A bubbling reactor offers a straightforward solution to the major challenge of methane pyrolysis, which is the collection of finely dispersed carbon. Methane gets bubbled (passed) through the coolant in it. It rises in the form of microbubbles, passing upward from the bottom, where it breaks down into carbon and hydrogen. Hydrogen “passes” further and is collected in cylinders while carbon floats to the surface as tiny particles. The results of pyrolysis are separated in this manner. Even at a temperature of 1000 °C, the methane pyrolysis process in a bubbling reactor has a low productivity because of the slow reaction rate. The methane-to-hydrogen converter at the gas station should produce 5 to 10 kilogram of hydrogen per hour at the same time.

To boost the productivity of a bubble reactor, experts from the School of Engineering for Innovative Production Technologies advised utilizing a non-equilibrium radical chain mechanism of methane pyrolysis. They used the Kintecus tool to simulate the processes that would take place while using plasma to speed up the reaction as part of the study.

According to calculations, a plasma-chemical source of radicals and a bubble reactor in the methane converter work together to significantly speed up reactions and enhance conversion rates up to 100%. In addition, the volume of the installation itself might be cut in half by speeding up reactions and enhancing transformation kinetics. It can be integrated into an existing methane converter or constructed in a separate room on the property of an automobile gas storage station.

The project will next move on to the creation and testing of a prototype unit. The project’s start date is the second quarter of 2023.

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