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Lower Temperature Methanol Steam Reforming Catalyst for Fuel Cells


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Trusted AI and Autonomy OBJECTIVE: Reduce the hottest components temperature through the development of a lower temperature methanol steam reforming catalyst which can be integrated into existing fuel cell systems. DESCRIPTION: C5ISR Center, in conjunction with industry, have developed wearable Soldier fuel cell systems that can provide on the move light-weight power for systems operations and battery recharge and extend mission duration and reduce Soldier load (carried weight). Current fuel cell systems have been developed based on the Reformed Methanol Fuel Cell Technology. Soldiers have commented that while using fuel cell systems, this capability increases their autonomy in the field. However, heat signature could be a potential issue, and reduction of thermal signature would be beneficial. Part of this thermal signature reduction will be achieved through a material solution focused on reducing the reformer temperature, which is the hottest part within a reformed methanol fuel cell system [1-2]. Historically, Reformed Methanol Fuel Cells have commonly used copper zinc oxide, which requires reactor temperatures in the range of 300°C [2-4]. However, recently new catalysts have emerged showing that reactor temperatures as low as 150-200°C are possible [4-7]. In these works, the catalyst is in a powdered form. C5ISR Center desires the catalyst to be pelletized. Reducing the temperature of the hottest component in the fuel cell system (reformer) has significant impacts to the War Fighter, such as potentially reducing the thermal signature and increasing soldier comfort. In addition, by reducing the temperature of the reformer, the system will have quicker startup times. This topic is appropriate for STTR investment due to an applied research solution that can significantly positively impact system development and addresses Soldier feedback. The new catalyst itself can potentially be a near drop in solution. The catalyst itself shall be a pellet or monolith configuration. The catalyst synthesis approach must be scalable to an industrial setting. The catalyst will be evaluated and characterized at C5ISR Center. If successful, the catalyst will be incorporated into existing fuel cell systems for further evaluation. PHASE I: Conduct an initial study and provide potential solutions. Provide initial samples of catalyst for evaluation. PHASE II: Develop and deliver a new low temperature catalyst with small diameter pellets that are less than 4mm in diameter or supported on a monolith surface. The catalyst should be capable of processing about ml per min of methanol water. Four sets of catalyst will be delivered. Catalyst should operate at near atmospheric conditions while maintaining full conversion 99%+. The new catalyst should be able to operate for >1000hrs, with low level of degradation. As previously demonstrated in literature [4-7] the new catalyst should have an activity of greater than135 µmolH2/gcat-sec at low temperatures, definitive numbers to be provided to firm upon selection. The catalyst should be able to support a minimum GHSV of 6000 -hr determined at reactor conditions. Catalyst will be evaluated multiple metrics. PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The catalyst developed in Phase 2 will be integrated into the existing fuel cell systems. Update as needed the balance of plant software/firmware for optimal fuel cell system performance. Deliver 5 functioning Fuel cell systems with the new catalyst. A Safety Assessment Report (SAR) shall be provided with the fuel cells. These systems will be initially evaluated at C5ISR Center for performance characterization, and then evaluated at Soldier touch points for Soldier operational use. REFERENCES: 1. EG&G Technical Services, I., 2004, “Fuel Cell Handbook,” Fuel Cell, 7 Edition (November), pp. 1–352. 2. Reformed methanol fuel cell, Reformed methanol fuel cell - Wikipedia, accessed 10/18/2022 3. Zaizhe Cheng, Wenqiang Zhou, Guojun Lan, Xiucheng Sun, Xiaolong Wang, Chuan Jiang, Ying Li,”High-performance Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 catalysts for methanol steam reforming with enhanced Cu-ZnO synergy effect via magnesium assisted strategy”, Journal of Energy Chemistry, Volume 63, 2021, Pages 550-557, ISSN 2095-4956 4. Sandra Sá, Hugo Silva, Lúcia Brandão, José M. Sousa, Adélio Mendes, "Catalysts for methanol steam reforming—A review", Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, Volume 99, Issues 1–2, 2010, Pages 43-57 5. Gao, Lizhen & Sun, Gebiao & Kawi, S.. (2008). A study on methanol steam reforming to CO2 and H2 over the La2CuO4 nanofiber catalyst. Journal of Solid State Chemistry. 181. 6. Fufeng Cai, Jessica Juweriah Ibrahim, Yu Fu, Wenbo Kong, Jun Zhang, Yuhan Sun,”Low-temperature hydrogen production from methanol steam reforming on Zn-modified Pt/MoC catalysts”, Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, Volume 264, 2020 7. Yufei Ma, Guoqing Guan, Chuan Shi, Aimin Zhu, Xiaogang Hao, Zhongde Wang, Katsuki Kusakabe, Abuliti Abudula,”Low-temperature steam reforming of methanol to produce hydrogen over various metal-doped molybdenum carbide catalysts”, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Volume 39, Issue 1, 2014, Pages 258-266. KEYWORDS: Fuel Cell, Soldier, Reformer, Methanol, Catalysis, Steam Reforming
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