Solid disks of microporous activated carbon, produced by a method that enables optimization of pore structure, have been investigated as means of storing gas (especially hydrogen for use as a fuel) at relatively low pressure through adsorption on pore surfaces. For hydrogen and other gases of practical interest, a narrow distribution of pore sizes <2 nm is preferable. The present method is a variant of a previously patented method of cyclic chemisorption and desorption in which a piece of carbon is alternately (1) heated to the lower of two elevated temperatures in air or other oxidizing gas, causing the formation of stable carbon/oxygen surface complexes; then (2) heated to the higher of the two elevated temperatures in flowing helium or other inert gas, causing the desorption of the surface complexes in the form of carbon monoxide. In the present method, pore structure is optimized partly by heating to a temperature of 1,100 °C during carbonization. Another aspect of the method exploits the finding that for each gas-storage pressure, gas-storage capacity can be maximized by burning off a specific proportion (typically between 10 and 20 weight percent) of the carbon during the cyclic chemisorption/desorption process.

This work was done by Marek A. Wójtowicz and Michael A. Serio of Advanced Fuels Research, Inc., and Eric M. Suuberg (consultant) for Johnson Space Center. For further information, contact the Johnson Innovative Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809. MSC-23233

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2005 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from the archives here.