Molten-Salt Methane Pyrolysis Optimization Through in-situ Carbon Characterization andReactor Design

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Exploratory Topics
Santa Barbara, California
Project Term:
05/01/2020 - 04/30/2022

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:

C-Zero will develop a novel process for transforming methane into hydrogen and valorized carbon cement additive using high temperature liquids in a multi-phase pyrolysis reactor. Unlike current hydrogen generation technologies, C-Zero’s process will not directly coproduce carbon dioxide CO2 and does not require water as an input. If successful, this technology will allow C-Zero to significantly reduce the cost of hydrogen and accelerate large-scale, domestic hydrogen production with low carbon footprint.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Jack Lewnard
Project Contact:
Prof. Eric McFarland
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