Faculty Advisor

Yi Hua Ma

Faculty Advisor

Satya Shivkumar

Faculty Advisor

Nikalaos Kazantzis




Composite thin Pd/Ag alloy membranes with long-term thermal and chemical stabilities have potential applications for H2 separation via catalytic membrane reactors and may be one of the key determinants to achieve the 21st century's global hydrogen economy. This work provides a detailed microstructure characterization study and a better understanding of the fundamental principles involved in the synthesis of a novel Pd/Ag intermetallic diffusion barrier formed by the bi-metal multi-layer (BMML) deposition technique. The BMML deposition technique formed an extremely effective Pd/Ag intermetallic diffusion barrier and significantly improved the thermal and long-term stability of the composite Pd and Pd/alloy membranes over a temperature range of 500-600oC. In addition, high temperature annealing studies over a temperature range of 500-800oC in H2 atmosphere led a thorough understanding of the surface interactions and the phase changes between the Pd and Ag metals and the porous metal support elements (Fe, Cr and Ni) and it was shown by the SEI, EDX and X-ray phase analyses that the Ag/Fe and Ag/Ni binary systems exerted complete immiscibility compared to the completely miscible solid solutions of Pd/Fe and Pd/Ni phases. A novel characterization method of in-situ time-resolved high temperature X-ray diffraction (HTXRD) analysis was used to elucidate the mechanistic details of the isothermal nucleation and growth kinetics of the Pd/Ag alloy phase over a temperature range of 500-600oC in H2. The nucleation of the Pd/Ag alloy phase was instantaneous where the growth mechanism was through diffusion-controlled one-dimensional thickening of the Pd/Ag alloy layer. The Pd/Ag alloy phase growth was strongly dependent upon the deposition morphology of the as-synthesized Pd and Ag layers due to the presence of the heterogeneous nucleation sites. Based on the empirical rate constants derived from the solid-state reaction models, the estimated activation energies for the Pd/Ag alloy phase transformation were 236.5 and 185.6 kJ/mol and in good agreement with the literature values of 183-239.5 kJ/mol. The successful utilization of surface modification techniques and modified plating conditions led to the synthesis of several dense Pd/Ag layers, which were as thin as 5-15 µm with a bulk Ag content in the 10-40 wt% range. The long-term testing of the composite Pd/Ag membranes (5-15 µm) at 500oC showed stable hydrogen permeances as high as 30 to 54 m3/m2-h-atm0.5 with H2/He selectivities ranging from 200 to 14000. Furthermore, the atomic absorption flame analysis was used for the first time to elucidate the effects of temperature, initial metal ion concentration, initial hydrazine concentration and bath agitation on the electroless plating rates of Pd and Ag. The electroless plating of both Pd and Ag were strongly affected by the external mass transfer in the absence of bath agitation. The external mass transfer limitations for both Pd and Ag deposition have been overcome at or above an agitation rate of 400 rpm, resulting in a maximum conversion of the plating reaction and dramatically shortened plating times with the added advantage of uniform deposition morphology as evidenced by the SEI micrographs. Finally, the agitation rate of 400 rpm was successfully employed for the synthesis of composite Pd and Pd/Ag membranes. The H2 permeance for a 4.7 µm thick pure-Pd membrane at 400oC was as high as 61 m3/m2-h-atm0.5 with H2/He selectivity over 310 after a total testing period of 690 hours.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Chemical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





Composite Pd and Pd/Ag Membranes, Alloying, Pd/Ag Barrier, Intermetallic Diffusion, Bi-Metal Multi-Layer (BMML) Deposition, Electroless Plating Kinetics, High Temperature X-Ray Diffraction, Aluminum Hydroxide Surface Grading, Porous Sintered Metal Supports, Hydrogen Separation, Electroless plating, Silver-palladium alloys, Hydrogen