Computational study of intermetallic and alloy membranes for hydrogen separation
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Metal membranes are useful for hydrogen separation from mixed gas streams. They can exhibit perfect selectivity for hydrogen. However, in order to be commercially viable, in addition to providing high hydrogen fluxes, they must also be resistant to poisoning, possess long operating lifetimes and be cost effective. Many types of metal membranes such as pure metals, disordered alloys and amorphous metals have been studied for this application. In this work, we aim to identify intermetallic stoichiometric compounds of two or more metals that could be used as potential membrane materials for hydrogen separation. In the past, first principle calculations combined with Monte Carlo methods have been developed that can accurately predict H₂ fluxes through metal membranes at different hydrogen pressures and temperatures. Although these models are accurate, they are computationally intensive. In this work, we use these methods and develop screening criteria based on calculated properties that enable us to perform detailed calculations on a diminishing set of materials and rapidly identify the favorable candidates for hydrogen separation. We screened 1059 intermetallics at this high level of theory, which is the largest set of materials studied for this application. We divided the intermetallics into Pd-based and non-Pd based materials using additional screening algorithms to reduce the number of calculations required to identify potential candidate materials. 8 intermetallics were identified that had permeabilities that was comparable or higher to that of pure Pd. MgZn₂ and MnTi were found to have the highest H permeabilities among all the intermetallics studied. In addition to ground state structures, metastable structures were also found to be stabilized in the presence of hydrogen. Our work demonstrates the ability of these computational methods to identify potential novel materials for specific applications from large sets of materials that would not be possible experimentally. In the models for hydrogen permeability developed above, H-induced metal lattice rearrangements were not considered. Experimental evidence suggests that hydrogen heat treated (HHT) Pd-Au alloys undergo lattice rearrangement that results in an ordered structure which has a higher solubility than the non-HHT alloys. Using a combination of cluster expansion methods developed for predicting hydrogen permeability of disordered alloys and Monte Carlo methods, we predicted the extent of H induced lattice rearrangement in Pd₉₆Au₄ and Pd₈₅Au₁₅ alloys. We also predicted the solubility, diffusivity and permeability of these rearranged phases and found that their H permeability is higher than the non-rearranged phases. Our models capture the H-induced lattice rearrangement and provide useful insight of the conditions where this phenomenon is significant. Using the tools developed in this work, similar alloys that have a tendency to undergo lattice rearrangement that results in enhanced H permeability can be identified.