Development of a Microwave Regenerative Sorbent-based Hydrogen Purifier



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46th International Conference on Environmental Systems


This paper describes the design and fabrication of a Microwave Regenerative Sorbent-based Hydrogen Purifier (MRSHP). This unique microwave powered technology was developed for the purification of a hydrogen stream produced by the Plasma Pyrolysis Assembly (PPA). The PPA is a hydrogen recovery (from methane) post processor for NASA’s Sabatier-based carbon dioxide reduction process. Embodied in the Carbon dioxide Reduction Assembly (CRA), currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the Sabatier reaction employs hydrogen to catalytically recover oxygen, in the form of water, from respiratory carbon dioxide produced by the crew. This same approach is base-lined for future service in the Air Revitalization system on extended missions into deep space where resupply is not practical. Accordingly, manned exploration to Mars may only become feasible with further closure of the air loop as afforded by the greater hydrogen recovery permitted by the PPA with subsequent hydrogen purification. By utilizing the well-known high sorbate loading capacity of molecular sieve 13x, coupled with microwave dielectric heating phenomenon, MRSHP technology is employed as a regenerative filter for a contaminated hydrogen gas stream. By design, freshly regenerated molecular sieve 13x contained in the MRSHP will remove contaminants from the effluent of a 1-CM scale PPA for several hours prior to breakthrough. By reversing flow and pulling a relative vacuum the MRSHP prototype then uses 2.45 GHz microwave power, applied through a novel coaxial antenna array, to rapidly heat the sorbent bed and drive off the contaminants in a short duration vacuum/thermal contaminant desorption step. Finally, following rapid cooling via room temperature cold plates, the MRSHP is again ready to serve as a hydrogen filter.


United States
UMPQUA Research Company
Umpqua Research Company
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
ICES302: Physio-chemical Life Support- Air Revitalization Systems -Technology and Process Development
Vienna, Austria
Richard R. Wheeler, Jr., Umpqua Research Company, USA
Ross H. Dewberry, Umpqua Research Company, USA
Bryan D. McCurry, Umpqua Research Company, USA
Morgan B. Abney, NASA – Marshall Space Flight Center, USA
Zachary W. Greenwood, NASA – Marshall Space Flight Center, USA
The 46th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Vienna, Austria, USA on 10 July 2016 through 14 July 2016.


Hydrogen, Purification, Sorption, Microwaves