(544di) Development of an Automatic Catalyst Evaluation System Controlled By a Spreadsheet Software

Hirohara, M., Tokushima University
Sotowa, K. I., Tokushima University
Horikawa, T., Tokushima University
Alcantara-Avila, J. R., Kyoto University
Many different types of heterogeneous catalysts are used in chemical industry. Development of a new catalyst often leads to an innovation in chemical industry. Many researchers are working to develop a new heterogeneous catalyst to create a new chemical production processes, or to solve the environmental problems. In the study of heterogeneous catalyst, many different catalysts must be synthesized and their performance must be evaluated. Since this is a time-consuming process, automated catalyst evaluation systems are sometimes employed. However, such evaluation systems are very expensive and thus deposition of solid substance or clogging incurs high repair cost.
This study aims at development of a new catalyst evaluation system which can be built at a lower cost, and allows flexible operation. Dehydration of ethanol over alumina catalyst was used as a model reaction. In the developed system, ethanol was fed to the reactor using nitrogen gas as a carrier. The outlet of the reactor was connected to an automatic 6-way valve, which was used as an injector for gas chromatograph. The mass flow controller for nitrogen gas and the temperature controller for the reactor were both connected to a personal computer. A spreadsheet software (Microsoft Excel) in the computer was used to build a system to send out signals for the controllers. The system also collected and recorded the data of the flow rate and the reactor temperature and instructed injection to the valve and commencement of analysis to the integration software.
To evaluate the performance the system was used to measure the reaction data at six different temperature levels. The measurement was repeated three times at each temperature. Reliable eighteen measurement data were automatically collected in 13 hours. It should be noted that the integration time for the current system was 35 minutes, and the time needed to measure eighteen data can be shortened by improving the analytical method.
The developed system was realized at a low cost, and a popular spreadsheet software was used as the platform of the measurement system. Since the measurement was fully automated, the labor time of the operator was greatly reduced.