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 Catalysis and Reactor Systems

 Investigators: Lloyd Carroll, Dady B. Dadyburjor, Andrew J. Gellman, J. Karl Johnson, John Kitchin and Götz Veser

Heterogeneous catalysis plays a key role in many of the chemical transformations that take place in fossil- and bio-fuels processing. Modern technologies for fuel cells and hydrogen production also depend on critical reactions that occur on catalytic surfaces. To provide for future energy needs, new large-scale process technologies must be developed to provide CO2-neutral energy. These processes will require new catalytic materials, and even new reactor design, to meet environmental and economic goals.

Development of catalytic processes for conversion of chemically complex reactant streams is a multifaceted problem. Modern catalysts are multicomponent materials that incorporate highly dispersed active catalysts within porous, high surface area supports. Rational design of a catalyst that delivers the activity, selectivity and stability required for a particular application is built on a fundamental understanding of the relationships between catalyst properties and the kinetics of the reactions that occur on their surfaces. Synthetic methods that allow control and stabilization of the optimal catalyst composition and microstructure within high surface area supports are needed to enable implementation of the catalyst in a practical process. Reactor and process technologies that take advantage of the unique properties of novel catalysts must also be developed and demonstrated for successful scale-up. The NETL-IAES Catalysis Thrust includes the skill set needed to address all of these issues in a complementary manner.

 The NETL-IAES Catalysis Thrust conducts a coherent, integrated research program that combines experiment, theory, and design to provide a comprehensive and fundamental understanding of catalysts, reactors, and process technology for energy-related applications. Because of the challenges presented by optimization of catalyst composition within a large, multidimensional variable space, a key component of the IAES approach is development of high-throughput tools and techniques that enable rapid screening and optimization of composition. The NETL-IAES Catalysis Thrust research portfolio currently focuses on the reactions of synthesis gas, including activation of CO2 for conversion to useful products via the reverse water-gas shift reaction. The thrust’s approach is, however, a general one that can be applied to other catalytic conversion processes, in both energy and nonenergy scenarios.

NETL-IAES Catalysis Thrust scientists and engineers are recognized experts in the fields of fundamental surface science, computational modeling, nanopreparation of catalytic materials, catalyst characterization, and reactor design, optimization and modeling. Few research groups anywhere in the world have comparable breadth and depth of expertise that are needed to conduct the full spectrum of research on catalysis from fundamental science to practical application. By assembling such a team within a single organization, the NETL-IAES Catalysis Thrust is positioned to solve problems related to catalysis that are simply intractable to other research groups