Overcoming equilibrium limitations in hydrogen production

In this BEI Seminar, Professor Ian Metcalfe, Newcastle University will explore how we overcome equilibrium limitations in hydrogen production via the water-gas shift reaction by employing a new reactor concept. 

We report on the design and operation of a chemical reactor that is able to operate in a thermodynamically-reversible manner. The reactor functions in a 'chemical looping' mode whereby a fixed bed of solid oxygen carrier is exposed to gaseous oxidising streams and reducing streams in a periodic fashion. The oxygen carrier material is a non-stoichiometric oxide, La0.6Sr0.4FeO3-d, which is capable of approaching equilibrium conditions with the gas streams as a result of its variable degree of oxygen non-stoichiometry and consequently its variable oxygen capacity as a function of oxygen chemical potential. One attribute of this mode of operation of the reactor is that equilibrium limitations can be avoided.

We have applied the reactor to the water-gas shift reaction (carbon monoxide plus water to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide) and shown that the lack of equilibrium limitations allows us to produce a nominally pure hydrogen product stream and a pure carbon dioxide product stream. We here demonstrate that under operating conditions the oxygen carrier material develops a gradient of oxygen chemical potential within the fixed bed. This gradient is probed by using time-resolved, spatially-resolved x-ray powder diffraction.

Professor Ian Metcalfe 

Ian Metcalfe obtained his first degree in chemical engineering from Imperial College where he was awarded the Hinchley Medal. He then performed his graduate study at Princeton University obtaining his MA in 1984 and his PhD in 1987. He returned to the UK to take up a position as a Lecturer and later Senior Lecturer at Imperial College. In 1997 he was appointed to the Chair of Chemical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh and in 2001 he became Professor of Chemical Engineering at UMIST. In 2005 he moved to Newcastle University as the Professor of Chemical Engineering.

Ian is a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) in 2012. He has held both an Esso Centenary Education Award (1989) and an ICI Fellowship (1993). Whilst at Imperial College he received the Imperial College Award for Excellence in Teaching (1996).  He has held a European Research Council Advanced Grant and acts as director of the virtual UK membrane centre (EPSRC – SynFabFun). He currently holds an RAEng Chair in Emerging Technologies.  He has authored a text book on chemical reaction engineering which has sold 10 000 copies and has published more than 150 refereed research articles. He has supervised more than 50 PhD students.

His research is in the area of the thermodynamics of chemical conversion with an emphasis on energy processes.  He has a particular interest in membrane processes, solid-gas reactions and the application of solid state ion-conductivity.



  • Name


Your data matters to us!

For details on how we manage your personal data, please read our up-to-date information regarding events. The information supplied on this form may be used by the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences to contact you by either telephone or email with details about this event only.

Please visit the University's Data Protection Policy [PDF] page to read more.