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Hy9 to Provide Membrane Technology to ExxonMobil for On-Board Reformer Project

MHT. Hy9 Corp., a producer of membrane and fuel processing systems, will provide membrane technology for ExxonMobil’s on-board fuel cell reformer project. (Earlier post.)

Exxon Mobil Corporation is partnering with QuestAir Technologies, Plug Power Inc. and Ben Gurion University on plans to commercialize an on-vehicle hydrogen production system for use in a fuel cell-powered lift truck application. While the initial work is being done on forklifts, the partners are looking to bring such technology to passenger vehicles.

Plug Power will seek to commercialize technologies developed by ExxonMobil, QuestAir Technologies and Ben Gurion University that take liquid fuels—gasoline, diesel, ethanol or biodiesel—and convert them into hydrogen onboard the vehicle where it will be used in a fuel cell power train.

The on-vehicle hydrogen fuel system comprises an advanced reformer developed by ExxonMobil and hydrogen separation using QuestAir Technologies’ Rapid Cycle Pressure Swing Adsorption system. Sulfur is controlled by an ExxonMobil proprietary S-Trap developed in conjunction with Ben Gurion University.

Dr. Emil Jacobs, vice president of R&D at Exxon-Mobil Research and Engineering, says that onboard reforming in passenger vehicles could be 80% more fuel efficient than current engine technologies and cut CO2 emissions by 45%.

Hy9’s technology is built around a planar metal membrane that extracts pure hydrogen from hydrogen containing gas mixtures much like a filter. Hy9’s membrane technology successfully operates in membrane purifiers and, with the addition of a catalyst in the module, fuel reforming membrane reactors. Depending on the source of fuel, Hy9 can provide straight reactors (i.e. methanol), natural gas steam reforming (SMR) membrane reactors or water gas shift (WGS) reactors. All reactors incorporate Hy9’s patent-pending process intensification that combines a membrane and catalyst in a cost-effective, one-step efficient reforming process that provides high purity hydrogen.


Jeff Baker

DonFeng, the major Chinese auto maker is introducing a conventional engine that burns a cheaper mix of 65% ethanol and 35% water, with a simple add-on. This is an ethanol-water reformer attached to the engine that makes hydrogen. That would be Hydrogen on Demand, from a safe onboard renewable liquid fuel, that does Not have to be compressed into expensive high pressure tanks.

The efficiency of ethanol goes way up, when you blend it with water, instead of gasoline. When 65% ethanol is made, you can leave most of the water in the mix, and save over half the cost to distill it. The cost per gallon would drop by over 1/3. This ethanol-water solution can easily be reformed into hydrogen.

Toyota is also developing a similar onboard ethanol-water reformer, and so is MIT and Ohio State University. This technology may be similar to the ethanol reactor invented in 2004 by Lanny Schmidt, University of Minnesota professor of chemical engineering. Schmidt says his reactor, which you can hold in the palm of your hand, can reform enough hydrogen from a mix of ethanol and water to power a car or a small house. Using very little energy, the device instantaneously strips all the hydrogen from the ethanol, and it also strips half of the hydrogen from the water, as a bonus.

A recent article by Matthew McDermott, “Hydrogen Made From Ethanol With 90% Efficiency Using Inexpensive Catalyst”, appeared in “Science & Technology”. Ohio State University researchers have developed a similar method to produce hydrogen from ethanol, using an inexpensive catalyst and only a small amount of energy.

One of these reactors can efficiently provide hydrogen to a typical internal combustion engine by reforming a 2 to 1 mix of ethanol and water. However, the highest use is to mate the ethanol-water reactor to a fuel cell, which is 2-3 times more efficient. So here’s a way to leapfrog a hydrogen infrastructure, by splitting ethanol-water into hydrogen on demand, onboard the moving vehicle.

This technology could also be applied to high-torque electric farm tractors, where crops and biofuel feedstocks are being produced. For a fraction of the cost, locally produced ethanol mixed with water would be reformed onboard tractors into hydrogen, to power fuel cells 2-3 times more efficient than current diesel engines.

Ethanol-water reactors could also be added-on to existing conventional internal combustion engines to supplement gasoline consumption, increase power and mileage, and clean up unburned residues in the combustion chamber. The hydrogen would simply be added to the intake air, and a computer chip would be reprogramed. This can also be adapted to long-haul diesel trucks.

Future generation Plug-in Hybrid electric vehicles, for extended range, may soon be equipped with ethanol-water reformers, supplying fuel cells with hydrogen on demand. You may one day pull-up to a blender pump that custom mixes pure ethanol with water: W20, W30, W40, W50, W60. Contrary to what critics say, with this technology, ethanol has the potential to replace foreign oil entirely.


Jeff You must be new to this site. These guys do not like fuel cells. They will find some way to discredit this article. I fall into the less popular group that supports the "no single bullet" attitude.


Micks obviously been around.

I think Jeff refers to?
On board reforming of ethanol for
1, hydrogen boosting water /methanol ice engines and
2, emission capturing, ethanol reforming fuel cells of an apparently recent configuration that uses low 300oC cerium as a non precious catalyst.
3 ethanol cobalt ? / batteries.

I guess there is some catch up for us to get familiar with these concept. I dont know that the
'anytime soon' line is likely ready to drop just yet.

The bottled H2 Issues don't seem to be easily resolving so not much has changed there.

The idea of dry /wet and blender mixes has been discussed and when one looks at the three developing areas of interest, I think the line of argument that prevailed on this site supported mixer pumps.

There are two other technologies that do require unblended ethanol or at least ethanol water, ie that being in use on the Saab jet? aero take off injection boost? and the experimental ethanol injection system using dual injectors as researched and sponsered by Ford?

Thanks Jeff, a productive area for research.


Absolutely right. "No single bullet" can work in our energy future. We need to get comfortable with a broad range of solutions.

Couldn't find much on water ethanol blends without gasoline included. Any links?

Jeff Baker


“Ethanol Yields Hydrogen” by Kimberly Patch, Technology Research News:

For more articles search: “ethanol water reactor makes hydrogen”.

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