National Center for Hydrogen Research

GSA Projects

Atlas Project:

James has modified a senoir design project, Osirus, to create a research aircraft durable enough to act as a model flight plateform for hydrogen fuel cell power plants.

James has founded the FIT Model Airplane Club, which builds every Thursday evening and flies every Flyday morning (weather permitting).


Production of Hydrogen from Sodium Borohydride

Primary Project Name: "Production of Hydrogen from Sodium Borohydride by a Continuous Flow Packed Bed Reactor"
Lab Name: "Sodium Borohydride Research Lab"
Project Information: Professor: Dr. M. H. McCay - Ensures the continued operation and safety of the lab.
Grad Researcher: Kenneth Bukowski - Conducts research into the technology and conducts all experiments. Reports directly to Dr. M. H. McCay.

The primary objective of this research is to develop an alternate hydrogen storage method to liquefaction, hydrogen gas compression, and metal hydride technology. Sodium Borohydride (NaBH4) is a powder that is stable in air and water solutions. An aqueous solution of sodium borohydride is very stable and un-reactive and provides a safe method of hydrogen storage and transport because the hydrogen is bonded to other atoms and held in a solid state. When reacted, an aqueous sodium borohydride solution releases not only the four hydrogen atoms from the compound, but also the hydrogen from the water molecules. The reaction is simple in nature and controllable.

Initial experiment were conducted with a batch system where a known amount of catalyst and sodium borohydride solution were added together at once and allowed to react until the solution was used up. These experiments were necessary to characterize the conditions that would be encountered in a continuous flow system. The next step was to design and build a continuous flow system. With the technical considerations discovered in the batch experiments, a continuous flow packed bed reactor system was designed. This system uses a known mass of cobalt catalyst supported on Amberlite(r) IRA-400 ion exchange resin beads contained in a stainless steel tube. A large, known concentration of sodium borohydride is pumped through the reactor bed, and hydrogen is released. From there, the remaining fluid and products proceed to two separation stages. The first stage separates the fluid, consisting of water and sodium metaborate (NaBO2), and the gas, consisting of hydrogen and water vapor. The gas proceeds to the second separation stage where it is cooled to condense the water vapor before they hydrogen enters a mass flow meter. The ideas behind the system are simple and straight forward. In order to truly experiment with solution concentrations and catalyst mass, the system has been designed to handle various flow rate, pressures, temperatures, and mass of catalyst. The reactor bed is isolated from the system by two Swagelok(r) filters and it sits in a water bath to control temperature. On opposite sides of the reactor bed are two pressure transducers, and the reactor bed has thermocouples welded into the tube.

Originally, this project was headed by Mr. Greg Peebles and Mr. Adam Cherwinski who started research in Fall 2005. In Spring 2006, research was continued under the current researcher and by the end of Spring 2006, batch experiments were complete. From that time forward, the continuous flow system was designed, built, and tested. Experiments for the new system will be completed and analyzed by the end of April 2007.