Crystalline and amorphous metallic membranes for hydrogen separation

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In the United States, 95% of the industrially produced hydrogen is from natural gas reforming. Membrane-based techniques offer great potential for energy efficient hydrogen separations. Pd77Ag23 is the bench-mark metallic

In the United States, 95% of the industrially produced hydrogen is from natural gas reforming. Membrane-based techniques offer great potential for energy efficient hydrogen separations. Pd77Ag23 is the bench-mark metallic membrane material for hydrogen separation at high temperatures. However, the high cost of palladium limits widespread application. Amorphous metals with lower cost elements are one alternative to replace palladium-based membranes. The overall aim of this thesis is to investigate the potential of binary and ternary amorphous metallic membranes for hydrogen separation. First, as a benchmark, the influence of surface state of Pd77Ag23 crystalline metallic membranes on the hydrogen permeability was investigated. Second, the hydrogen permeability, thermal stability and mechanical properties of Cu-Zr and Ni60Nb35M5 (M=Sn, Ti and Zr) amorphous metallic membranes was evaluated.

Different heat treatments were applied to commercial Pd77Ag23 membranes to promote surface segregation. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) analysis indicates that the membrane surface composition changed after heat treatment. The surface area of all membranes increased after heat treatment. The higher the surface Pd/(Pd+Ag) ratio, the higher the hydrogen permeability. Surface carbon removal and surface area increase cannot explain the observed permeability differences.

Previous computational modeling predicted that Cu54Zr46 would have high hydrogen permeability. Amorphous metallic Cu-Zr (Zr=37, 54, 60 at. %) membranes were synthesized and investigated. The surface oxides may result in the lower experimental hydrogen permeability lower than that predicted by the simulations. The permeability decrease indicates that the Cu-Zr alloys crystallized in less than two hours during the test (performed at 300 °C) at temperatures below the glass transition temperature. This original experimental results show that thermal stability of amorphous metallic membranes is critical for hydrogen separation applications.

The hydrogen permeability of Ni60Nb35M5 (M=Sn, Ti and Zr) amorphous metallic membranes was investigated. Nanoindentation shows that the Young’s modulus and hardness increased after hydrogen permeability test. The structure is maintained amorphous after 24 hours of hydrogen permeability testing at 400°C. The maximum hydrogen permeability of three alloys is 10-10 mol m-1 s-1 Pa-0.5. Though these alloys exhibited a slight hydrogen permeability decreased during the test, the amorphous metallic membranes were thermally stable and did not crystalize.