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ENEA - Fusion division

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Membrane Laboratory

Contact: Silvano Tosti
e-mail: silvano.tosti@enea.it
tel.    : 0039 06 9400 5160
fax.   : 0039 06 9400 5314

The laboratory develops and produces metallic membranes (Pd-Alloy) for the separation in gaseous phases of hydrogen and its isotopes. Starting from an initial technology for the production of thin wall (50µm) tubes in Pd-Ag by rolling and diffusion bonding, membrane modules with different configurations (finger-like, use of metal bellows, multi-tube, etc.) have been developed. Then, using these membranes, several processes for producing hydrogen from the reforming of hydrocarbons or alcohols have been studied.
The main characteristic developed in the laboratory is the ability to selective separate hydrogen from gas mixture (ultrapure hydrogen production). The reduced thickness of the tubes can reduce costs and increase benefits in terms of high permeation fluxes. The following sections briefly describe the main activities of the membrane laboratory.


Membranes Characterization

Membrane module Membrane characterizationMembrane module and experimental apparatus used
for membrane characterization

The membrane laboratory can perform gas (air, nitrogen, helium, argon, hydrogen, etc.) permeability measurements through membranes, both organic and inorganic, dense or porous, with different configurations (tubes, disks, etc.). With the laboratory equipments, is also possible to make the characterization of some physical and mechanical properties (i.e. resistivity, elongation, etc.) at different operative conditions (temperature, pressure, etc.) of the membrane materials.

In recent years, the research activity of the membrane laboratory, have mainly involved Pd-Ag alloy thin wall tubes (50µm).


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Membrane Reactor

In the laboratory there is a membrane reactor pilot plant to perform dehydrogenation reactions of hydrocarbons or alcohols. This system allows to measure the hydrogen yield of the membrane device. In order to evaluate the composition of the gas stream entering and exit the membrane module, gas-chromatographic analysis can be performed. The main activities of the laboratory with this apparatus concern the hydrogen production from ethanol.

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Experimental apparatus used for reaction testsExperimental apparatus used for reaction tests
inside a membrane reactor
Gas-chromatographyParticular of the gas-chromatography


Multi-tube Membrane Reactor

particular of the multi-tubeparticular of the multi-tube
Multi-tube membrane reactor plantMulti-tube membrane reactor

Inside the activities related to the MIUR Project Propulsore elettrico per la trazione di veicoli: studio di un reformer a membrana per la produzione di idrogeno da idrocarburi, a multi-tube membrane recator has been realized.
The plant consists of a traditional reformer (high temperature) and a multi-module composed of 19 Pd-Ag alloy membranes. Inside the 19 membranes the water gas shift reaction and the hydrogen separation, produced in the whole process, take simultaneously place.

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Membrane Reactor for Detritiation Process

Design of the membrane reactor used in detritiation process. membrane reactor used in detritiation process.Design and real picture of the membrane reactor
used in detritiation process

Regarding applications in the fusion reactor fuel cycle, membranes reactors using palladium alloy thin wall tubes have been developed for tritium separation from tritiated water or tritium containing gas mixture.
One of the activities has involved the purification of the tokamak machine “plasma exhausts”. For this process a membrane reactor, consisting of a palladium alloy tube (6 mm of diameter, 500 mm of length, and wall thickness of 50µm) and an isotope exchange promoting catalysts, has been designed and realized.

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