(241c) Radio Frequency Driven Catalytic Reactors for Portable Green Chemistry | AIChE

(241c) Radio Frequency Driven Catalytic Reactors for Portable Green Chemistry


Mishra, N. K. - Presenter, Texas A& M University
Patil, N., Texas A&M University
Green, M., Texas A&M University
Wilhite, B., Texas A & M University
Roughly 80% of all chemical manufacturing processes employ heterogeneous catalytic reactions. Typically, these processes driven by external heating of the catalyst via fuel-fired furnaces or utility steam relying heavily on combustion of fuel limiting distributed chemical production due to economy of scale, requiring additional infrastructure and large reactor size to accommodate combustion zones and insulation around the reactor. They also have thermal gradients in reactors which often compromises performance, utilization, lifetime, and selectivity of the catalyst. Also, around ~10% of global energy consumption and ~7% of greenhouse gas emissions is contributed by the chemical and petrochemical industries.

Direct heating of catalytic processes by employing direct electrically heating or external electrical fields (termed ‘power-to-chemicals’) can transform the chemical industry overcoming the limitations of distributed, modular, and intensified processes. If the electricity is harnessed from renewable sources, the volumetric heating methods for power-to-chemical approach will pave a way for carbon neutral chemical production. Uniform volumetric heating of catalyst can also improve catalyst utilization, avoid homogeneous side reactions, and improve reactor portability. Microwave organic synthesis has been studied for various endothermic catalytic reactions at high power, however, these are limited due to temperature hotspots, runaway reactions, penetration depth, reflection losses, and stringent safety exposure limits.

In this work, we demonstrate a multidisciplinary approach to make portable reactors by using novel materials like carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and silicon carbide (SiC) fibers as additives in catalyst. We utilize interaction of these materials with radio frequency fields (1 MHz-300 MHz) to selectively heat catalysts. A proof-of-concept is demonstrated for methanol steam reforming reaction using platinum as a catalyst. The conversion of methanol for different reaction temperatures was compared to conventional ovens. This power to chemical method has application in modular reactors for on-site and on-demand production of chemicals using electric power.