Power and Mobility (P&M)

Rapid Production of Hydrogen-Rich Syngas Using a Non-Thermal Plasma Fuel Reformer

by Howard Pearlman; Brian Schwartz; Max Demydovych; Chien-Hua Chen; Alexander Rabinovich; Shridhar Shenoy; Alexander Fridman


Non-thermal plasma-assisted partial oxidation of hydrocarbon fuels (including military logistic fuels) is considered with the intent to rapidly produce hydrogen-rich syngas with the least amount of electrical power. The syngas produced can be used to fuel quiet solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) auxiliary generators, be added to engines or combustors to extend lean operation (decrease NOx and increase efficiency) or be further reformed to increase hydrogen yield (via water-gas shift and gas cleanup) for low-temperature fuel cells. Unlike catalytic fuel reformers that suffer from adverse issues involving catalyst deactivation (coking and tolerance to sulfur) and require a warmup period dependent on the thermal mass of the catalyst, plasma reforming offers a non-catalytic approach for rapid “on-demand” hydrogen-rich syngas production (quick startup). Plasma fuel reforming is also fuel flexible and can be applied to applications needing dynamic control of a varying amount of syngas such as those having a time-dependent load (e.g., engine acceleration/ deceleration). It can also be used to rapidly produced hydrogen for fuel cell powered robots used in place of batteries. In this study, experimental results using a non-thermal ‘warm’ plasma reformer are presented with a focus on the hydrogen and carbon monoxide yields, their selectivities, the efficiency of the reformer and the specific energy density (SED) - a measure of the amount of electricity needed to produce a kilogram of hydrogen or syngas. In terms of fuel feedstocks, much of our work to date has focused on plasma reforming of natural gas with recent efforts to extend the work to JP fuels.