Ambition of MEMPHYS
The current yearly annual global production of hydrogen is 50 megatons, a majority of this is obtained through steam reforming of natural gas. The produced hydrogen is mainly used in the production of transportation fuels, fertilizers and chemicals. Some of these processes use up the hydrogen, others produce a by-product, something like polluted hydrogen.
The amount of hydrogen used for fuel cells is slowly increasing, however fuel cells require pure hydrogen and the polluted hydrogen is very much unsuitable for use in fuel cells. Recycling of polluted hydrogen exists, but it is only effective in large-scale applications. This leaves out the possibility of recycling in many smaller-scale cases, which amounts to a lot of recyclable hydrogen being discarded.
MEMPHYS intends to come up with a system to purify polluted hydrogen and at the same time compress the purified hydrogen, reducing waste of hydrogen and increasing its cycle life.
The heart piece of the project is the electrochemical purification membrane based on the PEM (polymer electrolyte membrane) technology. It consists, like every electrochemical energy converter, of an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte. Because only protons are pumped through the electrolyte, a membrane based purification effect occurs with high selectivity for hydrogen.
Furthermore, because the proposed purification process is driven by electrochemistry, the storage and transport of the energy carrier hydrogen becomes significantly simplified due to the possibility to combine the two processes of purification and compression into one unit. Therefore, the hydrogen can be easily stored at a high pressure and later transported to the consuming system, whether it is for example a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle or an industrial process powered by hydrogen.
Sample applications for MEMPHYS include:
- In fermentation processes like in biogas plants, landfill gases or even sewage.
- Used hydrogen from processes like cooling in power plants or storage in underground caverns.
- Industrial processes like the semiconductors or photovoltaics branch where hydrogen is used as a carrier medium.
When the need arises, the MEMPHYS system can be scaled up easily for use in larger applications.