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Efficient Recovery of Dilute Helium Gas Using Molecular Sieve Membranes

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-AR0001659
Agency Tracking Number: 1954-1859
Amount: $240,772.38
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: N/A
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2018
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2022-09-26
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2024-09-25
Small Business Information
750 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
DUNS: 118135309
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: Unavailable
Principal Investigator
 Holden Lai
 (415) 623-8616
Business Contact
 Holden Lai
Title: Chief Technology Officer
Phone: (415) 623-8616
Research Institution

Diminishing domestic helium supplies and a growing dependence on foreign sources of helium, such as helium produced in Russia, have created severe shortages of this critical gas for various facets of the U.S. economy, including medicine, research, manufacturing, and consumer goods. This proposal aims to address this vulnerability in the U.S. supply chain through the development of a novel family of ultra-permeable and ultra-selective polymer membranes that can efficiently capture dilute sources of helium from feedstocks that are otherwise wasted. To this end, we will simplify synthesis of our proprietary polymer and develop thin-film composite membranes for helium recovery from natural gas streams. The current two-step polymer synthesis procedure will be reduced to a single step, saving upwards of 50% of material costs, and enabling rapid scale-up. The polymer will then be formed into an ultra-thin membrane film on a mechanical support to access high fluxes, and performance will be verified through multi-component tests at various pressures, temperatures, and compositions of interest for U.S. natural gas wells. Using this collective information, a techno-economic process model will be developed to minimize the production price of helium as a function of helium feed composition.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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