(645b) Microfibrous Entrapped Catalyst Structure for Highly Exothermic Reaction: Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis

Cheng, X., Auburn University
Tatarchuk, B. J., Auburn University

Abstract Submission to 2017 AICHE Meeting

Session: Alternative Fuels

Topical Area: Catalysis and Reaction Engineering Division

Entrapped Catalyst Structure for Highly Exothermic Reaction: Fischer-Tropsch

Xinquan Cheng and Bruce J. Tatarchuk*

Center for
Microfibrous Materials Manufacturing, Department of Chemical Engineering, 212
Ross Hall, Auburn University, AL 36849

author. Tel.: +1 334 844 2023; fax: +1 334 844 2065; E-mail address:



synthesis (FTS) is a well-known technique for converting gas to liquid fuels.
However, FTS is a highly exothermic reaction, which producing extremely amount
of heat during the reaction process. More important, the product distribution
of FTS is strongly dependent on the reaction temperature. High temperatures
favor the formation of undesirable light products like methane. Therefore, a
reactor system with an excellent heat transfer property is necessary for highly
exothermic reaction like FTS. Our group developed a novel catalyst structure
called Microfibrous Entrapped Catalyst (MFEC) structure. MFEC is a catalyst
network supported by micron-sized metal fibers with high thermal conductivity.
Previous efforts on this unique catalyst structure have shown significant
enhancement in intra-bed heat transfer and maintains a stable reaction

this investigation, both iron-based and cobalt-based FTS catalysts have been
tested for FTS reactions in a large tubular reactor (34.0 mm I.D.) packed with
Cu MFEC. Typically, the MFEC reactor can be prepared in two steps: 1) the
prepared catalyst particles were entrapped into a sintered copper microfiber
media to form a Cu MFEC structure; 2) circular disks with a diameter of 36.0 mm
were punched out from the Cu MFEC structure to pack into the tubular reactor.
The disk size (36.0 mm) were designed 6 % larger than the inside diameter of
the tubular reactor (34.0 mm) in order to increase the contact points between
the copper fiber media and the reactor wall. By doing this, the inside wall heat
transfer coefficient increased greatly when compared with the traditional
packed bed. A four-point thermocouple was sticked in from the side when the
reactor was loaded half way, and then loading the other half. In that way, the
radial temperature distribution profiles can be measured precisely. Take
iron-based catalyst as an example, the reaction demonstrated a radial
temperature gradient around 5 ºC. While with the same test conditions, the
comparative packed bed reached a radial temperature gradient around 139 ºC. It
was also found that the Cu MFEC based FTS reaction required negligible amount
of time to reach its steady state compared with the traditional packed bed.
Considering these attributes and advantages, Cu MFEC structure is a promising reactor
system for highly exothermic reactions such as the FTS reaction.