Ongoing research projects

IMMC

Ongoing research projects in iMMC (August 2022)


This a short description of research projects which are presently under progress in iMMC.
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List of projects related to: hydrogen production




Multi-scale modeling of a structured catalytic reactor for steam methane reforming
Researcher: Florent Minette
Supervisor(s): Juray De Wilde

Methane reforming is the most widely practiced process for the production of hydrogen and syngas. The process is however strongly limited by heat transfer between the furnace and the process gas, pressure drop and intra-particle diffusion limitations. Structured catalytic reactors are promising in order to intensify the process and deal with the limitations encountered in conventional reformers.
The multi-scale modeling of ZoneFlow structured catalytic reactors is addressed. The intrinsic reaction kinetics is experimentally studied in a micro-packed bed reactor. The Langmuir-Hinshelwood-Hougen-Watson-type rate equations are derived and non-linear regression is applied to estimate the rate parameters. A pseudo-continuum approach description of the catalyst coating is used to account for intra-catalyst diffusion limitations. The complex flow pattern is described by means of a CFD model. To bridge the scales of turbulence, the RANS approach is adopted and the k-epsilon turbulence model is applied. Thermal conduction and radiative heat transfer are included. The reactor model is validated using specific experiments including cold flow pressure drop, inert heat transfer and pilot plant tests under reactive conditions.
The developed model is then used to study and optimize the performance of ZoneFlow reactors under commercial operating conditions.



Improvement of gas quality in small-scale biomass gasification facilities through steam injection
Researcher: Arnaud Rouanet
Supervisor(s): Hervé Jeanmart

Biomass, as a renewable fuel, can be converted in a gasifier to produce a synthetic gas that is easier to transport and has a wider range of applications than solid biomass, including bio-fuels, chemicals or energy production.
In order to improve the quality of the produced gases, we will investigate how steam can be used instead of air as the oxidizing agent, to limit the syngas dilution with inert nitrogen and increase its heating value. The project will focus on improving an existing small-scale two-stage gasification unit owned by UCLouvain, on which ad-hoc modifications will be brought and experimental campaigns will be performed.
Theoretical calculations and literature reviews will be performed to confirm and precise the potential for improvement of syngas composition. The design and ideal location of steam injection points will be studied, and experiments will be conducted on the modified gasifier to complement the theoretical calculations. Advanced tools and methods will be used for the characterisation of the syngas composition, to increase the accuracy of the experimental results. Finally, a numerical model of the gasification process will possibly come as complement for a more accurate prediction and confirmation of the experimental results.
This research project will take place in the frame of the project ENERBIO, in collaboration with ULB, UMons and CRA-W.



NEXTAEC
Researcher: Renaud Delmelle
Supervisor(s): Joris Proost

My current research revolves around alkaline water eletrolysis, with pulsed electrical power and forced electrolyte flow. Focus is made on the development of 3D electrodes, both on laboratory scale and on pilot plant level. I am notably working on the development of 3D printed Ni electrodes.



Simulation and experimental validation of electrochemical hydrogen production via pulsed water electrolysis on 3D electrodes
Researcher: Fernando Saraiva Rocha da Silva
Supervisor(s): Joris Proost

In the context of global warming, there is an increasing effort to decarbonize energy systems. With renewable sources such as windmills and solar panels increasing their share in the electric grid, energy storage is a must, since these sources are intrinsically intermittent. Among all the storage solutions, hydrogen production from water electrolysis has proven to be the best one for long-periods and high energy quantities. The principle is that the electricity is used to produce hydrogen and oxygen gases in electrolyzers and when needed, the produced hydrogen can be burned or used on fuel cells to recover electric energy. The main goal of the thesis is to intensify electrolytic hydrogen production by different methods, such as the use of 3-D electrodes, forced electrolytic flow, and pulsed power. Some questions are addressed such as: will the 3-D electrodes increase the performance in comparison with the conventional 2-D electrodes? Can the forced electrolytic flow remove all the gas bubbles trapped in the 3-D structure? To how extent a pulsed power can help the gas bubble removal and improve the performance? What is the best 3-D structure to intensify hydrogen production? To answer these questions, several approaches are proposed. They include electrochemical measurements like cyclic voltammetry, pulsed voltage and pulsed current experiments, and galvanostatic experiments. Additionally, hydrogen gas will be collected to estimate the production rate. All these experiments will be performed with varying 3-D structure, electrolyte temperature, and concentration. Some of the tested electrodes will be designed and produced at UCLouvain. Computational fluid dynamic simulation is also proposed as a way to better understand the electrolytic cell. As a first result, it was seen that current pulses presented a better result than voltage pulses. Furthermore, pulsed power could increase the hydrogen production rate during the time the voltage was on. Nevertheless, when considering the average production rate, including the period the voltage was off, pulsed power had the worst performance. It was observed that pulse frequency was inversely proportional to performance and that decreasing duty cycle could increase efficiency. Furthermore, it was observed that forced electrolytic flow was capable of enhancing the process performance, especially for electrodes with a high surface density (m2/m3).



Robust integration of carbon capture in renewable methanation
Researcher: Dierderik Coppitters
Supervisor(s): Francesco Contino

Robust and antifragile design optimization of energy systems, considering computationally-efficient uncertainty quantification methods.

Improvement of computational efficiency of surrogate models for uncertainty quantification, using active learning methods.

Process simulation and optimization of direct air capture systems in power-to-gas systems.