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Novel System for Low-Temperature Methane Reforming Activated By Electric Field

Researchers at Waseda University in Japan are investigating a novel catalytic system, activated by an electric field, for the ultralow temperature steam reforming of methane. The team presented a paper on their work at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Washington, DC.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a very stable molecule due to its symmetric structure; activation for chemical utilization of methane requires high temperatures. The most commonly-used process for this is the steam reforming of methane to produce hydrogen; this process typically uses temperatures of 1000 K (727 °C, 1340 °F). However, the Waseda team’s process successfully reforms methane to hydrogen at a (relatively) very low temperature of 423 K (150 °C, 302 °F).

A Pt supported on CeO2 catalyst without an electric field showed no activity at 423 K (150 °C); however, the addition of an electric field to the catalyst promoted the reaction, and higher conversion of methane was observed at the same temperature.

All the carbon atoms reacted were converted into carbon dioxide via water gas shift. At such low temperature, thermodynamic equilibrium is far from such high methane conversion. Catalytic reactions in an electric field proceed under mild conditions and show a quick response. This novel hybrid system seems to be a promising fuel processing catalytic system at low temperature, the team concluded.

The Waseda process differs from other investigations of combined systems of electric power and catalysis such as plasma-catalytic reaction systems, electrolysis, direct heating of catalysis by electric conduction, and so on. The Waseda researchers says they require only 0.4 to 0.7 W of electric power for the activation of catalyst by impressing an electric field to the catalyst bed.



This might make a good reformer for home CHP FCs - once they become more reliable.

Henry Gibson

Electricity is expensive energy both because of the the thermodynamic efficiency and the capital and operating costs.

Honda has taken a big step in reducing the cost of electricity by introducing its Combined-Heat-Power unit for the home. A similar unit that incorporates a long lived compression ignition engine that runs on natural gas will be much cheaper than any fuel cell, have the same efficiency and be simpler to run.

Since present boilers have less than zero mechanical efficiency, even low efficiency CHP units can save energy, carbon and money. ..HG..

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