We present the technology and unit economics underlying a novel two-step concept to decarbonize natural gas building heating without increasing operating expenses.
In the first step, natural gas is split into hydrogen and solid carbon using novel scalable distributed methane pyrolysis. Onsite hydrogen generation from this process avoids several of the major limitations currently impeding use of hydrogen to decarbonize buildings: First, producing hydrogen at the location of consumption eliminates the need for transportation and storage. Second, producing hydrogen from natural gas means the hydrogen itself is low-cost and readily available. Third, using hydrogen as the fuel for continuous process heating means the lifecycle carbon intensity from generation to point-of-use can approach that of green hydrogen. Fourth, producing and capturing solid carbon means that the high cost and complexity of post-combustion CO2 capture and sequestration is avoided. Last, distributed hydrogen production negates the need to make the existing gas grid compatible with the distribution of pure hydrogen. Thus, this approach sidesteps the challenge and expense of overhauling millions of miles of gas grid and of matching hydrogen-compatible supply-side infrastructure and demand-side equipment.
In step two, the majority of hydrogen produced is used in a co-generation appliance to produce both onsite heat and power without CO2 emissions. We discuss a novel approach to residential and light-commercial co-generation using thermionic converters integrated in furnaces and hydronic heaters. Though thermionics are not new technology, recent breakthroughs in materials and electronics have improved performance.
Onsite methane pyrolysis and hydrogen use as a fuel requires more natural gas input to provide the same heat output, since hydrogen has lower volumetric energy content than natural gas. The combination of onsite hydrogen production plus energy efficiency from co-generation affords building stakeholders a path to net-zero emissions heating without changing current infrastructure and without increasing operating costs.




Dr. Vikas Patnaik joined Modern Electron as VP of Product Development in January 2021. Prior to that, he spent 25+ years in the HVAC&R industry, mostly with Trane/Ingersoll Rand in various technical and technology management roles. Most recently, he was Chief Engineer/Director, Network of Excellence, Modeling & Simulation, leading a team of 54 advanced engineers to support all BUs globally.

Modern Electron 2021 –, VP of Product Development
PoleStar Consulting, LLC 2019 – 2020, President
Ingersoll Rand 2008 – 2019,
Chief Engineer, Technology Networks of Excellence 2017–2019;
Director, Technology Network of Excellence – Modeling & Simulation 2013–2017;
Engineering Manager, Technology Analysis & Introduction, Climate Solutions 2008–2012
Trane / American Standard 1998 – 2008,
Project Lead / Product Development Engineer, Thermal Equipment Design, Engineering Tech;
Certified Black Belt & Champion (Design for Six Sigma)
Phillips Engineering Company 1994 – 1998, Research Engineer