The microwave plasma reactor is green chemistry, avoiding the residual byproducts of traditional processes
The microwave-generated plasma ruptures the carbon-hydrogen bonds in methane, allowing the carbons and hydrogens to rearrange themselves so that acetylene and hydrogen gas is produced.
- Extremely high conversion rate of > 99% resulting in high throughput, efficient plant operation, and low production cost.
- Ability to utilize a flexible feedstock, methane, available from all geographies and multiple sources, e.g., natural gas, biogas, coal bed methane, flare gas and other light hydrocarbon gases. This provides source diversification, improving supply chain flexibility and reliability.
- Two valuable co-products, hydrogen and acetylene, produced at a best-in-industry cost position. Each product serves multibillion dollar markets and multiple sectors including clean energy, transportation, fabrication, materials, and vitamins to name a few.
Our technology outpaces competing processes to generate hydrogen gas: electrolysis, steam methane reforming, pyrolysis, and partial oxidation of hydrocarbons. It is cleaner and more efficient:
- Electrolysis consumes more than twice as much electricity per unit of hydrogen as Transform’s process.
- Steam methane reforming, a high-temperature, corrosive process, produces complex by-products, emits a lot of GHGs, and is only cost-effective in very large installations.
- Pyrolysis, high temperature thermal decomposition of methane produces a relatively low value solid carbon co-product, versus the versatile and higher value Transform co-product acetylene.
- Partial oxidation emits greenhouse gas and generates mixed product streams with toxic impurities, all requiring substantial purification.
Three conventional processes generate acetylene: the calcium carbide process, the partial oxidation process, and the ethylene cracker by-product process. All have disadvantages when compared with Transform’s process:
- The carbide process is extremely energy-intensive, and deposits impurities from its starting materials (coal and lime) in the acetylene produced. The process also results in large quantities of calcium hydroxide solids which are dewatered in ponds and are increasingly expensive to dispose of.
- The partial oxidation process yields acetylene as a by-product of syngas production, requiring complex separation and purification. This process is only economical at large scale.
- The ethylene cracker process yields acetylene as a minor by-product during ethylene production, requiring multiple steps for separation. This process is confined to large scale cracking facilities.
Nathan Ashcraft, VP Research & Development at Transform Materials LLC, was featured speaker in the webinar “Carbon-negative Hydrogen Production,” sponsored by Germany-based technology company Muegge and in partnership with the industry organization World Hydrogen Leaders. Ashcraft and Robert Mueller, general manager at Gerling Applied Engineering which is the U.S. branch of Muegge, discussed the highly efficient microwave plasma process for hydrogen production, with insights on:
- Utilizing microwave power to convert natural gas via plasma into hydrogen
- Repurposing carbon into a valuable acetylene co-product
- The power of the plasma and its scalability
- Applications with new materials, Power-to-X, pyrolysis, syngas and more!
Watch the webinar here>> Carbon Negative Hydrogen Production
less electricity than competing
We use methane as a feedstock because it's abundant, inexpensive, and our process offers a pathway for its use without more GHGs.
Methane, the main component in natural gas, is abundant, inexpensive, and ubiquitous. It is a highly stable molecule, with strong bonds between its carbon atom and its four hydrogen atoms. Microwave-generated plasma provides enough energy to rupture the carbon-hydrogen bonds in methane, allowing the carbons and hydrogens to rearrange themselves in the reactor so that acetylene and hydrogen gas is produced.
Methane, however, is itself a greenhouse gas, about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping atmospheric heat. When used for energy, methane is typically combusted -- burned to combine with oxygen, so that it forms carbon dioxide, another familiar greenhouse gas. Methane can also be deemed a waste gas during oil production and coal mining, so that it is discharged directly into the atmosphere, or is flared on-site by combustion, thus forming carbon dioxide.
Transform Materials' technology uses methane without combustion, instead energizing this gas to create a plasma within which the atoms of the methane can be scrambled to form other useful chemicals, in particular, acetylene and hydrogen. In addition, by using methane as a feedstock, Transform Materials' technology puts this cost-effective resource to good use, forming chemical end-products while preventing its entry into the atmosphere.
By relying on natural gas as feedstock for its plasma process, Transform Materials takes advantage of its highly favorable economics. In addition, Transform Materials offers a new pathway for using methane without adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
less electricity than
competing hydrogen technologies
We use plasma in our technology because it liberates electrons from molecules, creating ions
and radicals that recombine into new chemicals
Traditional technologies rely on combustion or other energy-intensive processes to produce chemicals like hydrogen and acetylene. Combustion combines the carbon in the fuel source with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, which then enters the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. Transform Materials has developed a powerful alternative to combustion, harnessing the energy of microwave-generated plasma to transform methane, our feedstock, into acetylene and hydrogen without combustion.
By its specialized use of microwaves to produce plasma in the absence of oxygen or water, Transform Materials' technology initiates a revolution in the chemical industry, forming valuable chemical products from methane without using processes that form greenhouse gases
The Transform Materials process begins with methane or similar light hydrocarbon gases as feedstock, all equally processable with the same equipment. Exposing the feed gas to finely tuned energy – created by microwave power – the reactor tears the gas molecules apart, allowing the fragments to combine to form different substances, including acetylene and hydrogen. The energized fragments of methane can also combine to form other compounds besides the ones that we want, but Transform has tuned its plasma energy system to maximize hydrogen and acetylene formation in high concentrations and with high purity.