United States Patent Application: 0140251819

We're presenting herein a formal disclosure of technology developed by the Pennsylvania State University for, ostensibly, perhaps primarily, extracting Hydrogen from the abundant Water, H2O, molecule - - in a process which can be driven by heat energy derived from environmental sources, specifically solar, or, from industrial or chemical process waste heat.

The process is enabled through the leverage of "osmosis", coupled with membrane filtration technology, as will be seen, and to an extent explained, further on.

 

But, as useful as the Hydrogen, in and of itself, might be - - and as we will emphasize via introductory references - - as seen in closing excerpts and comments, there is more, perhaps much more, going on here, especially with regards to the productive and profitable chemical recycling of Carbon Dioxide.

That said, we've documented many times, as in:

Consol Liquid Fuels from Coal with WVU Coal Solvent | Research & Development | News; concerning, in part: "United States Patent 3,162,594 - Process for Producing Liquid Fuels from Coal; 1964; Inventor: Everett Gorin, Pittsburgh, PA; Assignee: Consolidation Coal Company, Pittsburgh; Abstract: This invention relates to an improved process for producing liquid fuels such as gasoline from coal.More particularly, this invention relates to an improved process for producing distillable hydrocarbonaceous liquid from ash-containing, non-distillable extract obtained by solvent extraction of coal.  As (previously) described ...  valuable liquid products such as gasoline may be derived from coal by initially subjecting the coal to solvent extraction ... . (The) extract is catalytically hydrocracked to yield an ash-free, distillable hydrocarbonaceous liquid (which) is suitable for refining to gasoline... . In accordance with my invention, ash-containing coal extract ... is subjected to hydrogenation.
During hydrogenation of the coal extract, hydrogen is added to the extract under conditions such that a product comprising a minor amount of an ash-free, distillable hydrocarbonaceous liquid, which is completely soluble in benzene, and a major amount of an ash-containing, non-distillable hydrocarbonaceous liquid is obtained.At least a portion of the non-distillable liquid subsequently is catalytically hydrocracked to produce additional ash-free, benzene-soluble, distillable liquid. The distillable hydrocarbonaceous liquid ... from both hydrogenation and hydrocracking is suitable for refining to gasoline. ... The hydrogen used for hydrogenating the coal extract may be supplied by extraneous hydrogen gas"; and:

Exxon Hydrogen Converts Coal into Hydrocarbon Liquids and Gases | Research & Development | News; concerning:"United States Patent 4,561,964 - Catalyst for the Hydroconversion of Carbonaceous Materials; 1985; Assignee: Exxon Research and Engineering Company; Abstract: An improved hydroconversion process for carbonaceous materials ... The improved process ... wherein said carbonaceous material is a normally solid carbonaceous material. ...The improved process ... wherein said carbonaceous material is a normally solid material (and) wherein said normally solid hydrocarbonaceous material is selected from the group consisting of coal, lignite and peat (and) wherein the hydroconversion is accomplished in the presence of molecular hydrogen"; and:

NASA 2014 CO2 to Methane | Research & Development | News; concerning: "United States Patent 8,710,106 - Sabatier Process and Apparatus for Controlling Exothermic Reaction; 2014; Assignee: Precision Combustion, Inc., CT; Abstract:A Sabatier process involving contacting carbon dioxide and hydrogen ... so as to produce a product stream comprising water and methane. ... This invention was made with support from the U.S. government under U.S. Contract No. NNX10CF25P sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The U.S. Government holds certain rights in this invention";

that, elemental, molecular Hydrogen can be of great utility in some processes for converting both our abundant United States Coal and Coal's unjustly-vilified friendly ghost, Carbon Dioxide, into immensely valuable hydrocarbon fuels, such as "gasoline" and fracking-free substitute natural gas "methane".

And, note: NASA's above technology, for "Controlling Exothermic Reaction" heat, which is the heat generated in a reaction wherein Carbon Dioxide combines with Hydrogen to synthesize substitute natural gas Methane, could, as we will emphasize further on, have special, synergistic application in the Hydrogen extraction process to be disclosed herein, as we will suggest again in closing excerpts and comments..

One of our local, Coal Country institutions of higher learning who are, as we've many times documented, very active in the development of hydrocarbon fuel synthesis technologies using our abundant Coal and our some-say too abundant Carbon Dioxide as raw materials is the Pennsylvania State University, who have developed, among others, as seen in our report of:

Penn State May 14, 2013, CO2 to Methane | Research & Development | News; concerning: "United States Patent 8,440,438 - Electromethanogenic Reactor and Processes for Methane Production; 2013; Inventors: Shaoan Cheng and Bruce Logan, State College, PA; Assignee: The Penn State Research Foundation, University Park, PA; Abstract: Increasing competition for fossil fuels, and the need to avoid release (of) carbon dioxide from combustion of these fuels requires development of new and sustainable approaches for energy production and carbon capture. Biological processes for producing methane gas and capturing carbon from carbon dioxide are provided according to embodiments of the present invention which include providing an electromethanogenic reactor having an anode, a cathode and a plurality of methanogenic microorganisms disposed on the cathode. Electrons and carbon dioxide are provided to the plurality of methanogenic microorganisms disposed on the cathode. The methanogenic microorganisms reduce the carbon dioxide to produce methane gas, even in the absence of hydrogen";

technologies which enable the productive consumption and use of Carbon Dioxide, as recovered from whatever handy source, into valuable commodities like fracking-free Methane even without the addition of elemental, molecular Hydrogen, as is required by NASA's above-cited CO2-to-Methane process of "United States Patent 8,710,106 - Sabatier Process".

And, we learn herein that the Pennsylvania State University, via a team led by co-inventor of their above "United States Patent 8,440,438 - Electromethanogenic Reactor and Processes for Methane Production", Bruce Logan, have, for use in those processes of Coal and Carbon Dioxide conversion that do require elemental Hydrogen, developed technology whereby Hydrogen can be extracted from the water molecule in a process driven, in major part, by solar energy, or another source of heat, and which, if cited appropriately, as we'll explain via inserted comment, could operate quite successfully without the addition of any additional energy, aside from solar, from an external source.

As seen in excerpts from the initial link in this dispatch to:

"United States Patent Application 20140251819 - Methods for Hydrogen Gas Production

METHODS FOR HYDROGEN GAS PRODUCTION - The Penn State Research Foundation

Patent US20140251819 - Methods for hydrogen gas production - Google Patents

Date: September 11, 2014 

Inventors: Bruce Logan, et. al., PA, IL and South Korea

Assignee: The Penn State Research Foundation, University Park, PA

Abstract: According to aspects described herein, methods and systems provided by the present invention for hydrogen gas production include a RED stack including one or more RED subunits, and use of a saline material including a heat regenerable salt. The salinity driven energy, provided by the one or more RED subunits, completely eliminates the need for an external power source to produce hydrogen gas

(They don't get around to explaining it until much further on in the full Disclosure, but: "RED" = "Reverse Electrodialysis". For more info on, and introduction to, such technology, see:.

Osmotic energy; wherein we're told, in part: "Reverse Electrodialysis: This process involves direct electrochemical conversion in dialytic cells. Dialytic cells use the potential found between solutions of different salt concentrations, which are separated by charged membranes".

The "Osmotic Energy", as per the title of the link, is actually, without having used what is becoming the more current terminology, something we've touched on in one or two previous reports. As will be seen in future reports, it is conceptually something that could enable the "tapping", as it were, of the naturally-present latent energy at the mouths of major rivers, where relatively dilute river water flows into salt-laden sea water. What might be though of as the "Osmotic" potential, sort a chemical pressure gradient, between salt and fresh water, can be harnessed there, through what we can generally label as membrane molecular, or ionic, filtration technology, and used to supplement other energy derived from other sources - as will be seen herein, for instance, "solar" heat or electricity - to drive chemical processes, which, again as herein, might include the extraction of Hydrogen from the abundant water, H2O, molecule.)

Claims: A process for generating a hydrogen gas, comprising: introducing, in a system comprising: a reaction chamber having a wall defining an interior of the reaction chamber and an exterior of the reaction chamber, an anode at least partially contained within an anode compartment of the reaction chamber, a cathode at least partially contained within a cathode compartment of the reaction chamber, a conductive conduit for electrons in electrical communication with the anode and the cathode, a plurality of alternating anion-selective barriers and cation-selective barriers disposed between the anode and the cathode and defining alternating saline material compartments and lower-saline material compartments, a first flow path for a saline material through the saline material compartments and a second flow path for a lower-saline material through the lower-saline material compartments, wherein the saline material and the lower-saline material are adjacent and separated by the anion selective barriers and the cation selective barriers, a saline material having a concentration of dissolved salts into the saline material compartments; and introducing a lower-saline material having a concentration of dissolved salts which is lower than the saline material into the lower-saline material compartments, wherein an electromotive force established by a difference in the concentration of dissolved salts in the saline material compared to the lower-saline material, drives ions across the plurality of alternating anion-selective barriers and cation-selective barriers disposed between the anode and the cathode, thereby increasing the potential between the anode and cathode, decreasing the concentration of dissolved salts in the saline material to generate a saline material effluent, and increasing the concentration of dissolved salts in the lower-saline material to generate a lower-saline material effluent; heating the lower-saline material effluent to volatilize and remove a dissolved heat regenerable salt, thereby producing a regenerated lower-saline material, or heating the lower-saline material effluent to volatilize and remove water by membrane distillation, thereby producing a regenerated saline material, respectively; and introducing the regenerated lower-saline material into the lower-saline material compartments or introducing the regenerated saline material into the saline material compartments.

(Immensely complex, almost indecipherable, we know, They are, though, describing an osmotic process that can be driven only by solar energy, with the addition only of fresh water. The salty solution is regenerated, since the salts are preserved, and this needn't be something that would necessarily have to be installed at a site where fresh water enters seawater. There are, we know, growing concerns about our supply of fresh and clean drinking water. Thus, citing an installation like this in a marine estuary environment, where the water is, in essence, inexhaustible, and not useful for drinking water purposes without extensive treatment in any case, might be desirable to forestall environmental objections.)

The process ...wherein a saline ratio between the saline material and the lower-saline material introduced into the saline material compartment and lower-saline material compartment is greater than 1:1 (and) wherein the lower-saline material effluent and saline material effluent are combined to generate a saline material and the saline material is introduced into the saline material compartment.

The process ... wherein the saline material comprises a heat regenerable salt (and) wherein the dissolved heat regenerable salt is selected from the group consisting of: ammonium bicarbonate, ammonium hydroxide and a combination thereof.

(By specifying "ammonium bicarbonate", etc., as the "heat regenerable salt(s)", Penn State is clearly signaling that this is a process which could be installed anywhere enough solar energy can be harnessed to help drive the osmosis-leveraged Hydrogen extraction. It need not be something confined to estuary environments, where salt and relatively fresh water naturally come together).

The process ... wherein the saline material comprises one or more dissolved non-heat regenerable salts, wherein the total concentration of dissolved heat regenerable salt is greater than the total concentration of the one or more dissolved non-heat regenerable salt (and) wherein the heating comprises heating with waste heat from a second process, heat generated by a solar heater or solar collector or a combination of waste heat from a second process and heat generated by a solar heater or solar collector.

(The above claim makes it more interesting, since, in addition to solar heat, "waste heat from a second process" can be used to help drive the Hydrogen extraction. And, if you examine our above-cited report concerning "United States Patent 8,710,106 - Sabatier Process and Apparatus for Controlling Exothermic Reaction", and our comment concerning it, the CO2 + Hydrogen = Methane Sabatier reaction generates heat, which could be extracted and collected by NASA's technology of USP 8,710,106, and be used as the "waste heat from a second process", as specified above, to help extract the Hydrogen, via the process of our subject, for use in the CO2-consuming Methane synthesis. The heat energy, in other words, would to a certain extent be conserved and recycled within the combined processes of "Hydrogen Gas Production" and Methane synthesis from Carbon Dioxide via the "Sabatier Process").

The process ... wherein, each lower-saline material compartment is in fluid communication with each other lower-saline material compartment, wherein each saline material compartment is in fluid communication with each other saline material compartment (and) wherein saline material flows sequentially through each saline material compartment, wherein lower-saline material flows sequentially through each lower-saline material compartment, and wherein the saline material and lower-saline material flow in a counter-current direction or co-current direction with respect to each other.

The process ... wherein the saline material is a brine solution from a reverse osmosis plant and the lower-saline material is a saline seawater stream.

(Thus, as above, this process could be operated even in the middle of the ocean, since a "brine solution" exiting the "reverse osmosis plant" with an enhanced salinity could be counterpoised via the membrane technology to "seawater" of ordinary salinity).

The process ... wherein the cathode compartment contains a catholyte, the catholyte including a heat regenerable salt (in concentrations specified, and) wherein the system further comprises: a conduit for transport of a lower-saline material effluent from the lower-saline material compartment to a container having a first liquid containing portion adjacent a heat source, a vapor condenser portion and a second liquid containing portion for containing condensed vapor; a conduit for transport of a regenerated lower-saline material from the second liquid containing portion for containing condensed vapor to a lower-saline material compartment.

A system for generating a hydrogen gas, comprising: a reaction chamber having a wall defining an interior of the reaction chamber and an exterior of the reaction chamber; an anode at least partially contained within an anode compartment of the reaction chamber; a cathode at least partially contained within a cathode compartment of the reaction chamber; a conductive conduit for electrons in electrical communication with the anode and the cathode; a plurality of alternating anion-selective barriers and cation-selective barriers disposed between the anode and the cathode and defining alternating saline material compartments and lower-saline material compartments; a first flow path for a saline material through the saline material compartments and a second flow path for a lower-saline material through the lower-saline material compartments, wherein the saline material and the lower-saline material are adjacent and separated by the anion selective barriers and the cation selective barriers; and a bipolar membrane disposed adjacent the anode compartment, a lower-saline compartment adjacent the anode compartment or a bipolar membrane disposed adjacent the anode compartment and disposed between the anode compartment and a lower-saline compartment adjacent the anode compartment.

Field: Processes and systems described herein relate generally to production of hydrogen gas. In specific aspects of the present invention, reverse electrodialysis processes and systems are provided for generation of hydrogen gas".

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We'll close our organized and contiguous excerpts there so that we can emphasize, in general, additional points that are made by the Penn State University in their extended disclosure of other "aspects" and potential "embodiments" of their Hydrogen generation process.

They go into extended detail clearly demonstrating that this a process which can be operated virtually anywhere water and heat are available.

A combined seawater-fresh water system can be employed, as well as just seawater, in which case differences in solute concentrations, for use in generating the osmotic, so to speak, pressure, are created by the actual processing of the seawater. Further, the process can be operated where only fresh, non-saline water is available by employing the specified "ammonium" heat-regenerable salts. 

Again, the needed heat can be supplied either by "solar", or, as per our discussion above, "waste heat from a second process", which "second process" might even be intended by Penn State University to be the exothermic Methane synthesis, from Carbon Dioxide, Sabatier process. 

And, that relates to our opening comments, far above.

Penn State might, in fact, intend the two processes to be integrated, since, as seen in one further "Aspect", as excerpted from the full Disclosure of their "US Patent Application 20140251819 - Methods for Hydrogen Gas Production":

"[0008] Systems for processes of generating hydrogen gas are provided according to aspects of the present invention which include a reaction chamber having a wall defining an interior of the reaction chamber and an exterior of the reaction chamber; an anode at least partially contained within an anode compartment of the reaction chamber; an air cathode at least partially contained within a cathode compartment of the reaction chamber;a gas collection system in gas communication with the cathode compartment for collection of hydrogen or methane gas";

It is feasible, perhaps even desirable, to couple the Hydrogen-generation feature of "Patent Application 20140251819" with an integrated, internal Sabatier process, like that of NASA's above-referenced"United States Patent 8,710,106", and to thereby generate, from Carbon Dioxide, substitute natural gas Methane.

The Pennsylvania State University indicates that to be an option in their full Disclosure, and, the exothermic Sabatier CO2-to-Methane reaction, as per NASA's "US Patent 8,710,106", could well provide the specified "waste heat from a second process" to help drive, in the first place, extraction of the needed Hydrogen from water.

All that we would need to add to such a combined, integrated process would be some Carbon Dioxide.

There are even additional implications, concerning the use of Methane made from CO2, as well, as anyone who's followed our reportage for any length of time will know.

But, this seems a good place to close this over-long dissertation, and a good place to urge our Coal Country journalists to follow up with detailed inquiry of the Pennsylvania State University, before Cap and Trade carbon taxation and related grotesqueries lurch any further towards being made manifest.


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