Deposition and testing of thin film hydrogen separation membranes

Pişkin, Fatih
Industrial production of hydrogen from the syngas, generated from steam reformation of natural gas or coal gasification, sets conditions for hydrogen separation membranes in terms of operating conditions. An alternative source for hydrogen is a syngas generated by gasification of municipal solid wastes which are likely to set more stringent conditions for the separation membranes. There is therefore, a growing demand for separation membranes with improved permeability and particularly of low cost. Among various alternatives, metallic membranes are particularly attractive due to their high selectivity and permeability for hydrogen, exemplified by palladium (Pd). However, due to high cost of Pd there is still a demand to develop alternative metallic membranes that are of low cost and have improved durability. Efforts have therefore concentrated on either alloying Pd so as to reduce its cost or on alternative membrane compositions of particularly b.c.c. structure. The current study deals with hydrogen separation membranes and aims to develop infrastructure for rapid identification of membrane compositions with improved permeability. The study is made up of three parts; i) development of sputter deposition system that would allow deposition of multiple compositions in a single experiment, ii) development of substrate material that would support the thin film membranes and would allow permeability measurement and iii) development of a set-up to measure the permeability of the thin film membranes. In the present thesis, a sputter deposition system incorporating three targets was successfully constructed. The system as tested with palladium-niobium-titanium (Pd-Nb-Ti) ternary system after necessary adjustment would yield thin films of homogenous thickness (≤7%) over a sample area of ≈150 mm diameter. A total of 21 substrates each in 19 mm diameter arranged in triangular form in the substrate holder could successfully be deposited where composition distributions covered a greater portion of Pd-Nb-Ti ternary phase diagram. The structure of the deposited thin films can successfully be controlled by substrate temperature as well as by the pressure of plasma gas (argon). With the help of these parameters, structural diversity can also be produced beside the compositional variation. As for substrates, two materials were investigated. These were titanium dioxide (TiO2) modified porous stainless steel (PSS) and anodic porous alumina (AAO). TiO2 modified PSS due to its associated surface roughness leads to the deposition of films with defected structure which as a result is not gas tight. AAO produced via anodization of aluminum foil had a regular (40-60 nm) pore structure that provides a suitable surface for thin film depositions which could be defect free. However, AAO is very delicate and fragile which makes it difficult to adapt it as a support material for permeability measurement/hydrogen separation purposes. Finally, a set-up was developed for measurement of hydrogen permeability which is capable of measurement over a wide pressure and temperature conditions, i.e. hydrogen pressures up to 10 bar and temperature as high as 450 °C. It is recommended that so as to identify compositions with improved permeability, Nb or a similar metal which has extremely high permeability could be used as a support material. This would tolerate the evaluation of the films which are not totally defect free.


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Citation Formats
F. Pişkin, “Deposition and testing of thin film hydrogen separation membranes,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2013.