Electrothermal Conversion of Methane into Hydrogen and High-Value Carbon Fibers

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Exploratory Topics
Baltimore, Maryland
Project Term:
05/01/2020 - 07/30/2023

Critical Need:

This topic would develop high value methane pyrolysis, including approaches that can economically convert natural gas to both fuel cell-grade hydrogen and higher value carbon materials (e.g., carbon fiber) with a low CO2 footprint. The emphasis of these projects is to identify scalable approaches to the development of fuel cell-grade hydrogen, while also advancing the identification, understanding, and control of new reaction conditions and processes necessary to direct carbon formation. The United States currently produces roughly 10 million tons of hydrogen per year from two processes: steam methane reforming that converts natural gas and water into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, and electrolysis of water to hydrogen and oxygen. Both of these traditional methods provide for the production of hydrogen with little or no release of carbon dioxide (through CO2 capture and sequestration in the steam methane process), but there is an inherent opportunity in hydrogen production process to create useful carbon byproducts. Developing high value methane pyrolysis becomes comparably more favorable and economically beneficial when it creates a viable carbon byproduct.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Johns Hopkins University aims to develop an energy-efficient, scalable approach to convert methane into hydrogen and valuable graphitized carbon fibers (GCFs).The team will design an electrothermal reactor to pyrolyze (decompose) methane into hydrogen and low-quality carbon products, such as graphite particles, which will then be spun and heated to GCFs. These high-quality fibers can be used for construction material applications. The fully electrified manufacturing processes will be highly scalable, and built to accommodate various feedstocks and intermittent renewable energy sources.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Jack Lewnard
Project Contact:
Chao Wang
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


University of California, San Diego
University of Maryland
Georgia Tech Research Corporation

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