Hydrogen Recovery by Methane Pyrolysis to Elemental Carbon



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49th International Conference on Environmental Systems


Use of a Sabatier reactor to recover the oxygen from the carbon dioxide exhaled by the crew on the International Space Station has been limited by the loss of the hydrogen contained in the methane it generates. Maximizing the oxygen recovered requires the hydrogen to be recovered from the methane product and recycled back to the Sabatier reactor. We describe the use of a tailored methane pyrolysis reactor to completely recover this hydrogen. The carbon-containing byproduct is elemental carbon, which is generated in the form of easily handled, non-sooty material that may have various uses. The effects of byproducts on Sabatier recycling was evaluated by test and compared with models based on similar catalyst material. The process of creating this tailored carbon vapor deposition process involved exploration of the effects of temperature, pressure, substrate design and other variables to develop a high yield process that cleanly generates the desired products. Reaction kinetics and kinetics modelling were used to specify the temperature, pressure and reactor volume required to achieve the target conversion and to assure that the final average density was as high as possible. Reactor design included the selection of materials that will survive the high temperatures and environment in the pyrolysis reactor, and thermal modeling to achieve the required temperatures with minimum power consumption. The successful construction and demonstration of a brassboard prototype will allow the results of the chemical, thermal and mechanical models to be validated and should provide a useful alternative for a completely closed loop ECLS system. Integration of this technology with state-of-the-art (SOA) Sabatier hardware on ISS requires a complete understanding of the effects of impurities in the product hydrogen on the Sabatier catalyst. SOA Sabatier catalyst was evaluated over short and long-term exposure to anticipated contaminants to identify effects.


Stephen Yates, Honeywell International Inc., USA
Amanda Childers, Honeywell International Inc., USA
Nicholas Brom, Honeywell International Inc., USA
Charles Lo, Honeywell International Inc., USA
Sean Skomurski, Honeywell International Inc., USA
Morgan Abney, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA
ICES302: Physio-chemical Life Support- Air Revitalization Systems -Technology and Process Development
The 49th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA on 07 July 2019 through 11 July 2019.


methane pyrolysis, ECLS, Sabatier