Hydrogen attracts growing attention for its potential as an energy source in the drive to attain carbon neutrality. It is accordingly vital to establish energy-saving and highly efficient hydrogen recovery and purification technologies to cater to swift hydrogen demand growth in coming years.
Membrane separation offers considerable potential because it can secure high-purity hydrogen by removing impurities during hydrogen production and usage, saving energy and space by employing pressure differences and enabling separation without phase changes. Polymeric separation membrane modules experience low performance degradation from water vapor and are light. There are issues, however, with hydrogen permeation purity and amounts. Toray accordingly developed a separation membrane in 2018 that precisely controls pore structures.
Cutting CO2 emissions
The company recently used a technology that it cultivated with reverse osmosis membranes to develop a separation membrane with a highly controlled pore structure by deploying a material with a high hydrogen affinity. Toray used this membrane to attain a hydrogen permeation purity of 98%, which they claim to be unmatched anywhere. This technology can boost permeated hydrogen purity with a single separation instead of the several required with regular modules and cuts initial investment expenditure. It also reduces energy consumption and can cut the CO2 emissions of conventional separation membrane modules by more than 50%.
Reducing number of elements
When modularizing, Toray optimally designed the channel materials of key components to reduce flow resistance. The membrane thus has double the area of conventional separation membrane modules. This improves the hydrogen permeability of a module and more than halves the number of module elements needed for the hydrogen purification process. Combining the Toray-developed separation membranes can reduce the number of module elements by more than 75%, representing a tremendous space saving.
The company will partner with engineering companies in Japan and abroad while drawing on process technologies from water treatment to establish mass production techniques.