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Comparison of methods for separating small quantities of hydrogen isotopes from an inert gas

Description: It is frequent within tritium processing systems that a small amount of hydrogen isotopes (Q{sub 2}) must be separated from an inert gas such as He, Ar and N{sub 2}. Thus, a study of presently available technologies for effecting such a separation was performed. A base case and seven technology alternatives were identified and a simple design of each was prepared. These technologies included oxidation-adsorption-metal bed reduction, oxidation-adsorption-palladium membrane reactor, cryogenic adsorption, cryogenic trapping, cryogenic distillation, hollow fiber membranes, gettering and permeators. It was found that all but the last two methods were unattractive for recovering Q{sub 2} from N{sub 2}. Reasons for technology rejection included (1) the method unnecessarily turns the hydrogen isotopes into water, resulting in a cumbersome and more hazardous operation, (2) the method would not work without further processing, and (3) while the method would work, it would only do so in an impractical way. On the other hand, getters and permeators were found to be attractive methods for this application. Both of these methods would perform the separation in a straightforward, essentially zero-waste, single step operation. The only drawback for permeators was that limited low-partial Q{sub 2} pressure data is available. The drawbacks for getters are their susceptibility to irreversible and exothermic reaction with common species such as oxygen and water, and the lack of long-term operation of such beds. More research is envisioned for both of these methods to mature these attractive technologies.
Date: March 1, 1998
Creator: Willms, R.S.; Tuggle, D.; Birdsell, S.; Parkinson, J.; Price, B. & Lohmeir, D.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department