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Electrochemical and Partial Oxidation of CH4

by Singh, Rahul

Abstract (Summary)
Hydrogen has been the most common fuel used for the fuel cell research but there remains challenging technological hurdles and storage issues with hydrogen fuel. The direct electrochemical oxidation of CH4 (a major component of natural gas) in a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) to generate electricity has a potential of commercialization in the area of auxiliary and portable power units and battery chargers. They offer significant advantages over an external reformer based SOFC, namely, (i) simplicity in the overall system architecture and balance of plant, (ii) more efficient and (iii) availability of constant concentration of fuel in the anode compartment of SOFC providing stability factor. The extreme operational temperature of a SOFC at 700-1000 °C provides a thermodynamically favorable pathway to deposit carbon on the most commonly used Ni anode from CH4 according to the following reaction (CH4 = C + 2H2), thus deteriorating the cell performance, stability and durability. The coking problem on the anode has been a serious and challenging issue faced by the catalyst research community worldwide. This dissertation presents (i) a novel fabricated bi-metallic Cu-Ni anode by electroless plating of Cu on Ni anode demonstrating significantly reduced or negligible coke deposition on the anode for CH4 and natural gas fuel after long term exposure, (ii) a thorough microstructural examination of Ni and Cu-Ni anode exposed to H2, CH4 and natural gas after long term exposure at 750 °C by scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction and (iii) in situ electrochemical analysis of Ni and Cu-Ni for H2, CH4 and natural gas during long term exposure at 750 °C by impedance spectroscopy. A careful investigation of variation in the microstructure and performance characteristics (voltage-current curve and impedance) of Ni and Cu-Ni anode before and after a long term exposure of CH4 and natural gas would allow us to test the validation of a negligible coke formation on the novel fabricated anode by electroless plating process. Hydrogen is an environmentally cleaner source of energy. The recent increase in the demand of hydrogen as fuel for all types of fuel cells and petroleum refining process has boosted the need of production of hydrogen. Methane, a major component of natural gas is the major feedstock for production of hydrogen. The route of partial oxidation of methane to produce syngas (CO + H2) offers significant advantages over commercialized steam reforming process for higher efficiency and lower energy requirements. Partial oxidation of methane was studied by pulsing O2 into a CH4 flow over Rh/Al2O3 in a sequence of in situ infrared (IR) cell and fixed bed reactor at 773 K. The results obtained from the sequence of an IR cell followed by a fixed bed reactor show that (i) adsorbed CO produced possesses a long residence time, indicating that adsorbed oxygen leading to the formation of CO is significantly different from those leading to CO2 and (ii) CO2 is not an intermediate species for the formation of CO. In situ IR of pulse reaction coupled with alternating reactor sequence is an effective approach to study the primary and secondary reactions as well as the nature of their adsorbed species. As reported earlier, hydrogen remains to be the most effective fuel for fuel cells, the production of high purity hydrogen from naturally available resources such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas requires a number of energy-intensive steps, making fuel cell processes for stationary electric power generation prohibitively uneconomic. Direct use of coal or coal gas as the feed is a promising approach for low cost electricity generation. Coal gas solid oxide fuel cell was studied by pyrolyzing Ohio #5 coal to coal gas and transporting to a Cu anode solid oxide fuel cell to generate power. The study of coal-gas solid oxide fuel cell is divided into two sections, i.e., (i) understanding the composition of coal gas by in situ infrared spectroscopy combined with mass spectrometry and (ii) evaluating the performance of coal gas for power generation based on the composition on a Cu-SOFC. The voltage-current performance curve for coal gas suggests that hydrogen and methane rich coal gas performed better than CO2 or D2O concentrated coal gas. A slow rate of reforming reaction of D2O than CO2 with coal and coal gas was observed during pyrolysis reaction. The coal and coke (by-product of pyrolysis) were characterized by Raman spectrometer to reveal the effect of pyrolysis on the structural properties of coal.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:The University of Akron

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:solid oxide fuel cell coking methane natural gas cu partial oxidation electrochemical electroless plating

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2008

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