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Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Lab Dr. Jacob Leachman

Cryocatalysis Hydrogen Experiment Facility (CHEF)

Orthohydrogen-parahydrogen conversion is the largest effective phase-change of any material at cryogenic temperatures from an energy or entropy standpoint. More information on ortho-para conversion here. The Cryocatalysis Hydrogen Experiment Facility (CHEF) was designed in 2011 to control the ortho-parahydrogen conversion of condensed hydrogen through careful material selection and catalyst implementation. The cryostat itself was retrofitted from WSU faculty members using it for plasma research.

With a total liquid hydrogen capacity approaching 5 liters, CHEF has been the most heavily utilized cryogenic system in the first decade of the HYPER lab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catalyst test service specifications:

Thermodynamic state point delivery (at catalyst process start):

  • Maximum temperature:..415 K (w/o cryogenic liquefaction, normal-hydrogen only) | ~100 K (w/ warmed LH2 boiloff)
  • Minimum temperature:…………………………………………………..……………~17 K (w/o thermodynamic expansion techniques)
  • Maximum pressure:…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….1800 psig (124 barg)
  • Minimum pressure:…………………………………………………………..……………………near vacuum (w/o flow) | ~ 15 psig (w/ flow)
  • Phase type:…………………………………………………………………………………..….…………..…………………….vapor, liquid, supercritical

Specie delivery (at catalyst process start):

  • Maximum ortho-hydrogen fraction:………………………………….……………………………………………………75% (normal-hydrogen)
  • Maximum para-hydrogen fraction:…………………………………………………..……………………………………….99.8% (w/ LH2 boiloff)

Test flow capacity:

  • Maximum flowrate:…………..594 SLPM (H2, STP) | 830 mg/s (flowmeter limited, max test duration: 8 minutes w/ LH2)
  • Minimum flowrate:….…..0.06 SLPM (H2, STP) | 0.084 mg/s (flowmeter limited, max test duration: 2+ months w/ LH2)

Other measurement specifications:

  • Maximum LH2 volume:…………………………………………………………….…………………….…………………………….6.7L (~0.5 kg LH2)
  • Test cycle time:……………………………………..…….< 24 hours (w/o interim warmup)   |    < 48 hours (w/ interim warmup)
  • Ortho-parahydrogen ratio measurement method:…….In-situ Raman Spectroscopy fiber optic flow cell (3 total cells)
  • Ortho-parahydrogen ratio measurement accuracy:………..……………………………..……………………………….………within ±2%
  • Ortho-parahydrogen ratio measurement time:……………………………..semi-real time (< 30 seconds per measurement)

Other facility specifications:

  • Automatic hydrogen detection, safing, and purge system with dedicated external hydrogen vent stack
  • Emergency power from 1kW fuel cell to maintain safety systems
  • All 1st and 2nd stage pressure relief systems designed to CGA standard
  • Factor of Safety on all process plumbing: 3.0
  • All welds certified to ASME B31.12
  • Varian TwisTorr 84FS turbomolecular pump backed by IDP-7 dry scroll pump
  • Sumitomo RDK-500E single stage GM cryocooler
  • Processed hydrogen purity: 99.999% from A-L Compressed Gases

 

Read the stories below about the individual projects and research highlights CHEF has enabled.

2016-Present: Carl Bunge and Optimizing the Heisenberg Vortex Tube

An up to 40% increase in cooling capacity of hydrogen boil-off can be realized when equilibrium parahydrogen-orthohydrogen conversion occurs at 50K. This equates to more energy extraction per mass of boil-off and enables longer-duration liquid hydrogen storage. Such mass savings are advantageous when considering use of the most high-performance chemical and nuclear rocket propellant today in liquid hydrogen. Experimentally grounded Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models can further identify flow optimization strategies able to minimize entropy generation and maximize catalysis. The parahydrogen-orthohydrogen conversion in the outer flow enables entropy generation absorption to further improve performance. Tools such as CHEF provide the ability to sample the effects of Heisenberg Vortex Tube (HVT) optimization through fully calibrated temperature, parahydrogen-orthohydrogen composition (Raman spectroscopy), and mass flowrate measurement of outlets. Batch liquefaction cycle time has been reduced from 1 week to less than 2 days thanks to an upgraded closed-loop cryocooler. Software tools such as OpenFOAM can then be used with the experimental data to understand the fundamental physics of high Mach number reactive swirling flow.

Previous HVT experimental setup in CHEF with liquefaction tanks and HVT shown.

Current HVT setup in CHEF.

 

CHEF control box with autonomous (and E-Stop) safety valve circuit. Also home to the Raman Spectroscopy components and pressure transducer DAQ.

 

OpenFOAM visualization from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Peregrine HPC system. Temperature is imposed on streamlines at left. The pressure field is shown on the iso-surface at right.

Research Highlights:

Project Sponsor:

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Publications:

C D Bunge, E D Shoemake, K I Matveev, J W Leachman. “Experimental Performance of a Catalyzed Vortex Tube with Cryogenic Hydrogen”, Cryogenic Engineering Conference, (Hartford, CT) 2019.

C D Bunge, K A Cavender, K I Matveev and J W Leachman. “Analytical and numerical performance estimations of a Heisenberg Vortex Tube”, Cryogenic Engineering Conference, (Madison, WI) 2017. https://doi.org/10.1088/1757-899X/278/1/012132

2015-2017: Eli Shoemake and the Heisenberg Vortex Tube

Elijah Shoemake assembling condenser tanks in CHEF.
Plumbing manifold with redundant pressure relief and automated safety emergency valve.

Research Highlights:

Project Sponsor:

U.S. Department of Energy

Publications:

E D Shoemake “Design of a Cryogenic Ranque-Hilsch Vortex Tube for Hydrogen Cooling” School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Washington State University, 2018.

2014-2015: Brandt Pedrow and Para-orthohydrogen Scrim Blankets

Brandt Pedrow (right) working with Casey Evans (left) to install condenser indium seals.

Research Highlights:

Project Sponsor:

Ultramet

Publications:

B Pedrow “Parahydrogen-Orthohydrogen Conversion on Catalyst Loaded Scrim for Vapor Cooled Shielding of Cryogenic Storage Vessels” School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Washington State University, 2016.

2011-2013: Ron Bliesner and Proving Para-Orthohydrogen Conversion

An initial WSU faculty seed grant to begin testing devices for liquid hydrogen fueled drones garnered initial attention for our research. With little reserves left from the lab’s startup package, Ron (Matt) Bliesner had the monumental task of transforming an old cryostat utilized for plasma research into one capable of handling cryogenic liquid hydrogen. The United Launch Alliance (ULA) heard about the capability and provided our first external research grant to the lab to show that parahydrogen-orthohydrogen conversion was a reversible reaction that could be used to enhance Thermal Vapor Shielding (TVS) systems for reducing cryogenic boil-off.

Ron Bliesner during initial CHEF build.

Research Highlights:

Project Sponsor:

The United Launch Alliance (ULA)

Publications:

Justin Bahrami, Patrick Gavin, Ronald Bliesner, Su Ha, Patrick Pedrow, Ali Mehrizi-Sani, and Jacob Leachman, “Effect of orthohydrogen-parahydrogen composition on performance of a proton exchange membrane fuel cell,” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Vol. 39. No. 27 (2014), pp. 14955-14958. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2014.07.014
Washington State University