SBIR-STTR Award

Novel Plasma Catalysis Reformer of CO2 for Power to Jet Fuel and Energy Storage
Profile last edited on: 8/9/2022

Program
SBIR
Agency
DOE
Total Award Amount
$1,350,000
Award Phase
2
Principal Investigator
Leslie Bromberg
Activity Indicator

Company Information

Maat Energy Company

1558 Massachusetts Avenue Unit 22
Cambridge, MA 02138
   (503) 213-3114
   N/A
   www.maatenergy.com
Multiple Locations:   
Congressional District:   05
County:   Middlesex

Phase I

Phase I year
2019
Phase I Amount
$200,000
Two main problems have motivated the proposed research: (1) the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is altering the climate of the planet; and (2) fossil fuel reserves are dwindling, yet the demand for fuel in the aviation industry is increasing. Alternative jet fuels that use carbon dioxide as a carbon source will reduce future carbon dioxide emissions and still allow predicted growth in aviation. This proposal outlines the development of a novel microwave plasma catalysis reformer that has both high yield and selectivity in the conversion of carbon dioxide and methane into synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Fischer-Tropsch processes can then be used to convert the synthesis gas into jet fuel or other fuels and chemical products. The plasma catalysis reformers can also be used to convert excess electrical energy to chemical potential and provide stability to the electrical grid. A microwave-based plasma source provides certain advantages: (1) reduced maintenance and contamination through electrodeless operation; (2) higher throughput by operating at atmospheric pressure; (3) nearly 100% efficient coupling to plasma, and (4) inexpensive sources. The technical objectives in phase I are threefold: first, reforming carbon dioxide and methane to synthesis gas with an energy efficiency of more than 60 %; second, conversion fraction of carbon dioxide and methane into synthesis gas of more than 90 %; and third, establishment of a techno-economic and carbon life cycle basis for commercialization of alternative jet fuel production using plasma catalysis reforming and Fischer-Tropsch process with up to 90 % reduction in carbon emissions as compared to fossil-based fuel.There is significant demand for low carbon intensity jet fuel, and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is an approved pathway. The current supply of alternative jet fuel is approximately 5 million gallons per year and is forecast to rise to 120 million gallons by 2020. Initial techno-economic analysis of the combined plasma catalysis reformation and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of alternative jet fuel projected a minimum selling price near the market price of conventional jet fuel with a 30-90 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions (depending on feedstocks). If the project is successful, the environmental and economic impact is billions of gallons of displaced conventional jet fuel: for every billion gallons displaced, a potential ten million tonnes of CO2 emissions can be reduced.

Phase II

Phase II year
2020 (last award dollars: 2020)
Phase II Amount
$1,150,000
We have demonstrated a non-thermal microwave plasma catalysis reformer (PCR) that efficiently maximizes the reuse of CO2. We intend to recycle CO2 for the generation of jet fuel. While other modes of transportation may be electrified, aviation depends on safe, high energy density jet fuels. In Phase I PCR technology was demonstrated to a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 3 using a 2.45 GHz source at 1 kW. Although we were unable to test some concepts that would have improved the performance of the system because of the shutdown due to COVID19, we managed to fulfill the main goals of the program: greater than 90% methane conversion (achieved ~99%) and greater than 60% electrical efficient (achieved 60%). The experimental results have been used to benchmark the models, and provide confidence that the Phase II program will succeed. In Phase II, in collaboration with University of Massachusetts Lowell, we intend to scale up the system with the goal of reaching TRL 6 by the end of the program. We will scale to 6 kW at 2.45 GHz. Following the initial phase, we intend to scale to 100 kW at 915 MHz. The power densities of the 6 kW, 2.45 GHZ and the 100 kW, 915 MHz experiments are similar, and thus the initial experiment will minimize risks. The 100 kW PCR unit is pilot-scale; increased productivity will be achieved through multiplexing 100 kW PCR units. We will also test long term stability of the PCR unit by running long duration campaigns. Although the results in the Phase I are sufficiently attractive, we will also provide means to improve the PCR operation, by using means to drive nonthermal plasmas, by using alkali plasma seeding to control the plasma temperature, and by providing elements to recuperate the heat from the hot CO-rich exhaust. The goal of these additions is to increase the electrical efficiency. There is significant demand for low carbon intensity jet fuel, and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is an approved pathway. The current supply of alternative jet fuel is approximately 5 million gallons per year and is forecast to rise to 120 million gallons by 2020. Phase I techno-economic analysis of the combined plasma catalysis reformation and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of alternative jet fuel projects a minimum selling price near the market price of conventional jet fuel with a 50-80 % reduction of carbon dioxide emissions (depending on feedstocks). If the project is successful, the environmental and economic impact is billions of gallons of displaced conventional jet fuel: for every billion gallons displaced, a potential ten million tonnes of CO2 emissions can be reduced.