Environmental Protection

Catalyx Converts Landfill Gas to Nanofibers, Hydrogen

Catalyx Nanotech, Inc. has started operating its pilot project to convert landfill gas (LFG) to nanofibers at a closed southern California landfill. Previously, this pilot unit was operating as a production plant in Burnaby, Canada, using natural gas as the feed source and producing 2.0 Kg of nanofibers per day. The pilot project currently operates on a reduced capacity for a single shift each day producing approximately 0.5 Kg of high value Platelet Graphite Nanofibers and 2,000 liters of "green" hydrogen from a completely renewable resource. The materials are not being produced for commercial sale and will be used for extensive analyses and tests for design of large-scale commercial production plants.

The pilot will help determine the operating limits of the proprietary process, which relies on a patented catalyst to selectively crack methane and produce structured graphitic platelet fibers and pure hydrogen, with no other byproducts.

While numerous companies claim to have a process to produce carbon nanomaterials from methane, Catalyx Nanotech is believed to be the first to produce the nanomaterials on a large scale from methane, especially from landfill gas.

The company has decided to embrace a corporate social responsibility and sustainability attitude and optimize, rather than maximize, profits by using renewable sources of methane, such as landfill gas and biogas, for feed materials.

"Previously, we have operated a commercial-scale nanofiber plant using natural gas as the feed. We wanted to use this 'downtime' in the economy to achieve our next milestone of using renewable sources of methane as the feed to produce 'green' nanofibers and hydrogen," said Mustafa Jangbarwala, vice president of Business Development.

"We understand that landfill gas and biogas may end up costing us a bit more than natural gas, but the difference in costs is affordable, and regard for our environment is far more important than capturing that difference," Jangbarwala added.

"Our advantage is that we are able to produce nanofibers at greater than 99 percent purity, as well as 100 percent green hydrogen in a one-step process," says Yinan Jin, chief research scientist. "Purification of nanomaterials from typical carbon batches is an extremely expensive undertaking for commercial applications.

"Catalyx Nanotech is eliminating the extra work and, consequently, the expense of separating nanofibers from byproducts, such as amorphous carbon, soot, etc., that make nanomaterials so costly today. We expect to commoditize nanoscale graphite materials at prices comparable to high quality synthetic graphite used in electrodes and refractory applications. After some preliminary test runs, we will also integrate a small fuel cell to demonstrate how the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen can produce electrical energy, as opposed to the direct combustion of hydrogen and oxygen to produce thermal energy. This in situ generation of green electricity with a zero-carbon footprint is just one possible use of the hydrogen."

"The key to the success of a hydrogen economy is affordability and the availability of the hydrogen infrastructure," explains Juzer Jangbarwala, company founder and chair. "By default, the number of landfills is directly proportional to urban population centers. These landfills could provide local sources of low-cost 'green' hydrogen to nearby filling stations. By using renewable landfill gas, not only is the carbon footprint of the hydrogen production process eliminated, but also much of the footprint associated with transportation of hydrogen -- often hundreds of miles -- is also eliminated.

Catalyx Nanotech's approach all but eliminates the transportation that accounts for approximately 50 percent of hydrogen's cost and the 10 percent lost to leakage, according to the company's press release.

Juzer concludes, "Our approach offers a viable way to a greener transportation economy while employing environmentally friendly production processes."

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