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Researchers of Boreskov Institute of Catalysis suggested obtaining hydrogen and ethylene from natural gas with laser radiation

29 April 2021

Scientists of Boreskov Institute of Catalysis study the method of obtaining hydrogen and ethylene from natural gas with nanodisperse catalyst and laser radiation. Today the researchers have support from the Russian Science Foundation to create the computation model of the method necessary for scaling the technology from the laboratory level to the pilot one. According to Dr. Valerii Snytnikov, leading researcher of the Institute, the cost of the obtained products is several times higher than that of natural gas, which is important for the economy.

Methane as the basic component of natural gas is transported and utilized in the developed countries as an energy and chemical source. This relatively cheap hydrocarbon is attractive for the chemical industry in terms of obtaining products with high added value, including hydrogen. The relevance of the study is due to the development of hydrogen energetics. Ethylene as one of the most large-tonnage semiproduct is widely used in various industries, from agriculture to the manufacturing of polymer packing. 

Obtaining hydrogen and ethylene from methane is cost effective as compared with the export of natural gas. Valerii Snytnikov gives an example: the cost of the obtained products is about eight times higher than the cost of the initial materials. 

According to the researcher, there are a number of technologies of obtaining hydrogen from methane, but they have their own limitations. Thus, previously hydrogen and carbon were obtained in the form of soot for manufacturing rubber, paints, and other products, by strong heating of methane without using catalysts. But the cost of soot is low, the use is limited, and reaching high temperatures is energy consuming. 


The scientists of Boreskov Institute of Catalysis solved the problem of methane activation which requires either temperatures above 1200°C or highly active catalysts. However, these catalysts influence the conversion products even more actively than methane and decompose it into carbon, which hinders their use in the traditional form. Then the researchers turned the catalyst into nanodisperse powder with high activity and then justified the idea of obtaining hydrogen and ethylene from methane with the help of nanosized catalysts and laser radiation. 

“We direct the laser radiation into the methane flow where the catalyst nanoparticles are places. They are heated by the laser even higher than 1200°C, and methane on them starts decomposing. The products of decomposition, radicals, flow out into the cold surrounding gas where they form ethane, ethylene, and hydrogen. That is, we made two-temperature medium where activation occurs in the hot phase, and synthesis, in the “cold” one, at a temperature of 600-800°C”, - says Dr. Snytnikov.

The RSF grant recently awarded to the group is intended for the work on creating a computation model of the laser conversion of methane.

“The purpose of the project is to obtain new kinetic data on heterogeneous and homogeneous reactions of hydrogen and main components of the reaction mixture for non-equilibrium gas-and-dust medium. We need to determine the dependencies of the methane conversion and yields of the products on various parameters: composition and size of nanoparticles, medium temperature, number of active sites of methane decomposition on the surface of dust particles, etc. The obtained data will be brought together into a computation model to calculate the processes. Such model is necessary for transition from the laboratory level to the pilot reactor with higher productivity”, - explained Dr. Snytnikov.

The RSF grant with total of 18 mln rubles is given for 2021-2023.



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