Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Chemical and Biomedical Engineering

Committee Chair

Fernando V Lima

Committee Co-Chair

Debangsu Bhattacharyya

Committee Member

Jeevan Madalla


Due to the recent increase of natural gas production in the U.S., utilizing natural gas for higher-value chemicals has become imperative. Direct methane aromatization (DMA) is a promising process used to convert methane to benzene, but it is limited by low conversion of methane and rapid catalyst deactivation by coking. Past work has shown that membrane separation of the hydrogen produced in the DMA reactions can dramatically increase the methane conversion by shifting the equilibrium toward the products, but it also increases coke production. Oxygen introduction into the system has been shown to inhibit this coke production while not inhibiting the benzene production. This thesis introduces a novel mathematical model and design to employ both methods in a multifunctional membrane reactor to push the DMA process into further viability. Multifunctional membrane reactors, in this case, are reactors where two different separations occur using two differently selective membranes, on which no systems studies have been found. The proposed multifunctional membrane design incorporates a hydrogen-selective membrane on the outer wall of the reaction zone, and an inner tube filled with air flow surrounded by an oxygen-selective membrane in the middle of the reactor. The design is shown to increase conversion via hydrogen removal by around 100%, and decrease coke production via oxygen addition by 10% when compared to a tubular reactor without any membranes. Optimization studies are performed to determine the best reactor design based on methane conversion, along with coke and benzene production. The obtained optimal design considers a small reactor (length = 25 cm, diameter of reaction tube = 0.7 cm) to subvert coke production and consumption of the product benzene as well as a high permeance (0.01 mol/s.m2.atm1/4) through the hydrogen-permeable membrane. An independent optimal design of the oxygen permeable membrane calls for low oxygen flux (permeance = 2.09 mol/s.m 2.atm1/4, diameter of air tube = 0.5 cm) so oxidative reactions do not inhibit benzene production. This modeling and design approach sets the stage for guiding further development of multifunctional membrane reactor models and designs for natural gas utilization and other chemical reaction systems.