It’s the first and lightest element in the Periodic Table and the most abundant chemical in the universe. An atom of hydrogen contains just one proton and one electron—and that could be all that’s needed to cleanly power our future.
A team of scientists from CoorsTek Membrane Sciences (Golden, Colo.), the University of Oslo (Norway), and the Institute of Chemical Technology (Spain) has developed a promising new ceramic membrane that could reduce the cost and enhance the feasibility of hydrogen generation far enough to bring the technology to the forefront of clean energy solutions.
The new ceramic membrane—made from oxides of barium, zirconium, and yttrium—can separate hydrogen from natural gas in a one-step process with incredibly high efficiency. Incorporated into a protonic ceramic fuel cell, the membrane can generate high-purity compressed hydrogen using just natural gas and electricity. The team recently published its results in Nature Energy.
“By combining an endothermic chemical reaction with an electrically operated gas separation membrane, we can create energy conversions with near zero energy loss”, Jose Serra, co-author of the paper and professor at the Institute of Chemical Technology, says.
The membrane consists of a dense film of a BaZrO3-based proton-conducting electrolyte on a porous nickel composite electrode, a combination that has high proton conductivity at 400ºC–900ºC—allowing it to separate primarily hydrogen protons out of methane, the primary component of natural gas, with incredibly high efficiency.