A research team at Argonne national lab has developed a new type of catalyst for use in steam reformation of natural gas
that produces hydrogen
. The new nickel-based catalyst has the metal grains in small particles spread out more evenly over the metal oxide substrate rather than the large clumps typically used. This has similar advantages to the nano-particle battery technologies being used by A123 and Altairnano. The smaller particles that are spread evenly provide more surface area and promote more reactions.
The team, led by chemist Michael Krumpelt, also compared platinum and ruthenium and found that although both started to reform the natural gas at 450 Celsius, the ruthenium was more stable as temperatures climbed. The ruthenium also has the advantage of costing just one percent what platinum does. The ruthenium structure is also more resistant to poisoning by sulfur in the natural gas which degrades the performance of the catalyst.
[Source: Argonne National Lab]