Experimental and Numerical Investigations of Ion Transport Membrane Reactors

Ahmed Ghoniem, Patrick Kirchen, James Hong, Daniel Apo

Overview and Motivation

Ion Transport Membranes (ITMs) hold the potential to improve the cycle efficiency and reduce the cost of oxy-combustion for power generation with carbon capture. In addition ITMs can be used for a host of other processes such as the production of syngas, gas separation (eg. CO2 , O2, or H2 separation), and the production of chemical feedstocks such as C2H4 and C2H6.

To further investigate the use of ITMs, we have established a multi-disciplinary research project and are broadly considering the following three topics:

         Combustion and fuel conversion: The Reacting Gas Dynamics Lab is seeking to better understand the coupling between fuel conversion and oxygen flux through detailed numerical and experimental investigations.

         Materials: The Electrochemical Energy Lab (Prof. Shao-Horn) is characterizing and developing novel ITM compositions and architectures to maximize membrane stability and flux, as well as investigating the fundamental processes governing the oxygen transport through such membranes

         Systems and optimization: Professor Alexander Mitsos is developing tools to identify and optimize the integration of an ITM in a power cycle for maximum plant thermal efficiency


Through intense collaboration between these three groups, as well as with our partners at the KFUPM in Saudi Arabia, this project follows a wholistic approach allowing the full breadth of the problem to be considered. This enables each group to further the state of the art in their respective field using tools and knowledge from the other groups. This collaboration includes activities such as cross-validation of measurements and simulation results, co-development of simulation tools considering the state-of-the-art from both materials and fuel-conversion aspects, definition of real-world constraints and goals based on considerations from each of the three fields.

Activities at the Reacting Gas Dynamics Laboratory

We are developing new numerical and experimental tools, to investigate the fundamental thermochemical processes governing the use of ITMs for fuel processing and combustion. This complimentary approach enables in-house cross-validation, while at the same time providing higher fidelity knowledge than would be possible with either experimental on numerical investigations alone.

Experimental Investigations

Contact: Pat Kirchen

A novel experimental reactor has been developed at the Reacting Gas Dynamics to investigate the use of ion transport membranes for gas separation and reaction.

Description: IMG_1886.jpgImplemented Diagnostics:

         Agilent MicroGC 490 Quad for oxygen flux and reaction product characterization

         ETAS/Bosch electrochemical O2 sensor for online flux measurements

         Impac pyrometer for optical measurement of membrane temperature

         Sierra mass flow controllers (CO2, CH4, Air) for inlet flow rate and composition control

         Matlab/National Instruments based data acquisition and control system


Reactor Features:

         Optically accessible reaction zone

         Inconel construction for high temperature durability

         Planar finite gap stagnation (Hiemenz) flow with adjustable geometry



Numerical Investigations

Contact: James Hong

A novel numerical tool is being developed in parallel to the experimental reactor and will be used to provide information not available from experimental investigations. This includes detailed investigations of the localized phenomena (such as heterogeneous fuel conversion), as well as identifying suitable operating conditions for an ITM reactor. This model has been developed based on an existing, in-house code developed for flame investigations and considers the conservation of mass, momentum, energy, and species, including detailed gas phase chemistry (GRI Mech). The model has been modified to accurately consider the heat and oxygen transfer across the ITM as well as the flow configuration used in the experimental reactor. Using this model, it is possible to investigate the influence of operating parameters such as feed gas flow rates, gas compositions and membrane temperature on the fuel conversion and oxygen permeation.


M. A. Habib, H. M. Badr, S. F. Ahmed, R. Ben-Mansour, K. Mezghani, S. Imashuku, G. J. la O, Y. Shao-Horn, N. D. Mancini, A. Mitsos, P. Kirchen, and A. F. Ghoniem. A review of recent developments in carbon capture utilizing oxy-fuel combustion in conventional and ion transport membrane systems. International Journal of Energy Research, 35: 741764. doi: 10.1002/er.1798.

Sponsors and Collaborators

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Ceramatec Inc.