IP protection

PART B: VALORISATION PLAN

 

1

Please provide a short description of the state-of-the-art and/or current trends in the field? How does the result fit into it?
Hydrogen is considered the most attractive form of energy for the near future because its combustion, in a fuel cell, is non-polluting. When hydrogen is combined with oxygen from the air, it releases the chemical energy stored in the H-H bond, producing just water vapor as the combustion product. Although H2 can be produced by reforming natural gas, naphtha, heavy fuel oil or coal, the higher H/C (hydrogen-carbon) atomic ratio in CH4 compared to other molecules suggests that natural gas – of which the main component is CH4 – is the best suited precursor for hydrogen production. Steam reforming of methane is a process that has been used to produce hydrogen for several decades. This process is currently used to produce hydrogen industrially, as it is the most economic technology. The natural gas reacts with the steam over a nickel catalyst in the primary reformer at high temperatures and pressure levels.

It is also possible to use bioethanol for industrial hydrogen production instead of methane. In this process the ethanol is reacted with the steam over a catalyst to produce H2.  In synthesis, the very central point in the process is represented by catalysis.

Catalysis is process in which the rate of a chemical reaction is increased by means of a catalyst. The influence on the reaction rate depends on the frequency of contact of the reactants in the rate-determining step. In general, catalysts increase the reaction rate and lower the activation energy by providing an alternative reaction pathway to the reaction product. For this the catalysts react with one or more reactants to form intermediates that subsequently give the final product. By lowering the activation energy, more molecular collisions have the energy needed to reach the transition state. Heterogeneous catalysts, where the catalyst is in a different phase to the reactants, are used in most of chemical processes in the chemical and petroleum industries as well as in environmental applications.

Many projects are focused in the catalysis for the production and purification of hydrogen for fuel cells. The R&D result aims to develop a methodology for the preparation of the an active and stable heterogeneous catalyst. The idea is to create metal nanoparticles embedded into different porous oxides. The surrounding porous oxide shell effectively protect the active metal nanoparticles from undesirable metal sintering and therefore from catalyst deactivation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

What is the problem/need/knowledge gap that the research result is responding to?  How was it addressed before?
Keywords: Heterogeneous catalysis, hydrogen production and purification

Given the demand for hydrogen, the basic need is to create a catalyst with a good performance level in terms of activeness, stability and lifetime. Obviously  the lifetime is strictly related to the recurring costs of a production process. From a higher viewpoint, the R&D result may find a field of application in one of many other contexts where catalysis is used. In other words, the idea may be customized to different application thanks to the experience of the researchers. On the other hand, even if many scientific publications are present in literature, the industry leaders are keeping reserved the knowledge on how to get the best performance from their production plants.

These are the reasons why  it is pretty difficult to compare the R&D result to other methods currently applied or available from the market. In fact, as an example, a Spanish company, Ibercat (http://ibercatsl.com/en/hydrogen-production-line), offers researching contracts assigned to processes for the production/purification of hydrogen from fossil or biomass resources, design and fabrication of custom-made catalysts for the production/purification of hydrogen, design and construction of prototypes for hydrogen generation. Details are not published since knowledge is an asset of the company.

 

 

3

What is the potential for further research?
The idea applied to the hydrogen production is applicable to many other processes and the team may adapt and customize the method to different requirements coming from the industry.

 

4

What is the proposed method of IPR-protection? (patent, license, trademark etc.)
The research result is currently in a lab stage. In a later stage, a patent could be applied to the method or an apparatus using the method.

 

5

What are the steps that need to be taken in order to secure the IPR-protection? What is the cost of IPR-protection?
If R&D team decides to protect the method by a patent, a careful investigation is needed  to analyze the current protected methods. In fact, patents potentially relevant to the project keywords are shown by common patent search engines. Some examples are reported at the following links.

Heterogeneous catalysis, hydrogen production and purification

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7824656.html

Heterogeneous catalysis, nanoparticle

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2005/0058587.html

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2008/0220296.html

Protecting the methods at international level has a cost in the order of tens of k€.

 

 

6

What is you overall assessment of the scientific maturity of the research result?
At scientific level the research result is at good level of maturity. The work has been tested in small reactors in a laboratory. The next step – test and optimize the method a production plant – needs a not negligible engineering effort that is likely to be performed in a partnership with an industrial entity. Some issues may arise with existing (and possibly patented) products or methods.

 

 

 

 

KEYWORDS QUANTITATIVE ASSESSMENT (0-5).

Please put X as appropriate. 1 2 3 4 5
Scientific maturity       X  
Synergies     X    
State-of-the-art/innovation     X    
IPR-potential     X    

 

 

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