(110f) High Throughput Heterogeneous Catalyst Research | AIChE

(110f) High Throughput Heterogeneous Catalyst Research


Weinberg, H. - Presenter, Symyx Technologies

With the discovery of abundant and low cost crude oil in the early 1900's came the need to create efficient conversion processes to produce low cost fuels and basic chemicals. Enormous investment over the last century has led to the development of a set of highly efficient catalytic processes which define the modern oil refinery and which produce most of the raw materials and fuels used in modern society. Process evolution and development has led to a refining infrastructure that is both dominated and enabled by modern heterogeneous catalyst technologies. Refineries and chemical manufacturers are currently under intense pressure to improve efficiency, adapt to increasingly disadvantaged feedstocks including biomass, lower their environmental footprint, and continue to deliver their products at low cost. This pressure creates a demand for new and more robust catalyst systems and processes that can accommodate them.

Traditional methods of catalyst synthesis and testing are slow and inefficient, particularly in heterogeneous systems where the structure of the active sites is typically complex and the reaction mechanism is at best ill-defined. While theoretical modeling and a growing understanding of fundamental surface science help guide the chemist in designing and synthesizing targets, even in the most well understood areas of catalysis, the parameter space that one needs to explore experimentally is vast. The result is that the chemist using traditional methods must navigate a complex and unpredictable diversity space with a limited data set to make discoveries or to optimize known systems.

We describe here a mature set of synthesis and screening technologies that together form a workflow that breaks this traditional paradigm and allows for rapid and efficient heterogeneous catalyst discovery and optimization. We exemplify the power of these new technologies by describing their use in the development and commercialization of a novel catalyst for the hydrodesulfurization of gasoline distillates having 50% more selectivity and 30% more activity for sulfur removal than the state-of-the-art commercial reference.