Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Microchannel steam-methane reforming under constant and variable surface temperature distributions

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  • Steam-methane reforming is a well understood industrial process used for generating hydrogen and synthesis gas. The reaction is generally carried out with residence times on the order of one second. By performing this reaction at microscales it is possible to take advantage of increased heat transfer rates and low diffusion times allowing equipment size and residence times to be decreased by an order of magnitude. The energy required for the steam-methane reforming reaction could be supplied by solar energy through the use of a solar collector/receiver, thus providing a "cleaner" pathway for hydrogen generation. In such reactors, it is expected that the heat flux and temperature distribution is non-uniform. This study presents a first step in characterizing reforming performance under such variable temperature conditions. The design of the channel was such that the non-uniform heat flux profile expected inside of a solar receiver could be simulated by a controllable temperature profile along the reactor surface. Experiments were conducted over four catalyst configurations and the effects of average reactor temperature, temperature distribution, residence time, steam-methane ratio, and long duration testing were all evaluated. Results demonstrated over 60% conversion of methane at 900°C and a residence time of 26 milliseconds. Methane conversion was found to be strongly dependent on reactor temperature. Ramping temperature distributions demonstrated a 46% greater hydrogen output than isothermal reactions performed at the same average temperature. This work was performed in conjunction with development of a CFD model of reacting flow through a microchannel [1]. The experiments were used to determine the pre-exponential constants of the global reaction rates.
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