Catalyst for the conversion of sulfur containing fuels to hydrogen and syngas

Technology enables on-site production of hydrogen for powering fuel cells and other energy systems


The production and transport of hydrogen for field applications remain a logistical problem. The low energy density of hydrogen necessitates larger containers for storage and transport relative to those for hydrocarbon fuel.

Even with high pressurization of 10,000 pounds per square inch or metal hydride storage, a relatively large container is required to hold an energy equivalent of hydrogen. As a result, the use of hydrogen to operate a quiet and environmentally benign electricity generator in the field necessitates on-site generation of hydrogen.

Reformation–in this case, the reaction of a hydrocarbon fuel to form hydrogen and carbon monoxide–is one method to produce hydrogen on-site which gets around the transportation issues above. Unfortunately, this process is not well accepted due to tight production tolerances and the requirement of high reaction temperatures. This process also tends to foul catalysts with sulfur quickly leading to increased costs.

Driven by a need to produce hydrogen and syngas fuels in the field, Army researchers have developed a catalyst and process to directly convert hydrocarbon fuels on-site, at temperatures below 1000° C. The catalytic composition includes a noble metal cluster with an exterior structure which stabilizes it at elevated temperatures. The group has an interior volume sufficient for transport of hydrocarbons between the exterior and the noble metal cluster and for transport of syngas out of the structure.

Reformation takes place upon contacting the hydrocarbon feedstock, air, and optionally water with the catalytic composition at the reaction temperature. Hydrocarbon feedstocks include Jet-A, Jet-A1, JP-4, JP-5, JP-8, kerosene, gasoline, and diesel fuel.

Reformer output includes hydrogen and syngas which can be provided to a fuel cell or engine (ICE, turbine, or electrical generator) respectively.

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