Energy / Climate Change

June 10, 2006


New Ceramic Membrane Reformer Produces Hydrogen Faster

Keywords: Environmental Technology Government Renewable Energy University / Research institute 

A research group led by Dr. Hitoshi Takamura, an associate professor at Tohoku University, Japan, has successfully developed a prototype of a compact reformer using an oxygen-permeable ceramic membrane that can produce hydrogen from natural gas. This new development was announced at the Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology (CREST) Joint Symposium hosted by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) on January 31, 2006. This research group has focused on the development of hydrogen production technologies for residential fuel cells that employ partial oxidation.

Through partial oxidation, hydrogen can be produced from natural gas mostly composed of methane without a heat supply. This method requires a shorter start-up time compared to the steam reforming method, which is widely used for hydrogen production but requires more than 30 minutes before the reaction process starts up. The key technology enabling highly efficient partial oxidation is the provision of an effective supply of pure oxygen to combine with the methane.

The group succeeded in developing an oxygen-permeable ceramic membrane by miniaturizing particles of cerium oxide, which conducts oxygen ions as well as particles of ferrite, which conducts electrons. The membrane has a network structure onto which particles of cerium oxide and ferrite oxide are closely bound.

The new reformer equipped with this membrane is six centimeters square, and can produce 10 liters of hydrogen per minute, a volume sufficient for a one-kilowatt fuel cell. Compared to conventional hydrogen generators, it is extremely small, about 20 liters in volume. The group is seeking assembly manufacturers to work with as partners.

Posted: 2006/06/10 11:18:28 AM
Japanese version