(6ik) Leveraging Scale-Appropriate Principles of Metal-Oxide Reaction Engineering and Particle Technology Science for Energy Conversion Solutions

Kathe, M., The Ohio State University
The current and projected world energy supply and demand have neared a tipping point in terms of the ever-increasing global population and the corresponding need to find economic yet sustainable solutions for mitigating increased carbon-based emissions. The need for new energy technology solutions is indisputable in order to enable a robust transition to a sustainable future. The characteristics of these new energy technology solutions tend to be very different for developing countries as opposed to developed countries. Metal- derivatives based reaction engineering and particle science principles offer a unique opportunity and a versatile technology platform that can be readily amenable to address these energy challenges for both developing and developed worlds at varying scales, scenarios, and economies.

Research Interests:

Metal oxide and their derivative-based reaction engineering principles and understanding of particle science technology form the basis of solid-based chemical looping systems. My research vision is centered on leveraging these principles at various scales to provide for energy conversion solutions. The use of solids looping systems has shown potential to provide significant efficiency and cost benefits for a wide range of technology applications including energy production, CO2 capture, pollution control and production of chemicals like hydrogen, methanol, ethylene, ethanol, and syngas from both fossil fuel and renewable energy sources. I have contributed (15 papers) and innovated (7 patents) in development of these systems, resulting in technology solutions that have shown promising economic benefits for a wide range of metal-oxide applications.

For integrated and holistic system development, I have used theoretical and experimental methods at several different orders of magnitudes with a synergistic interaction between each. Methods at small-scales include reaction mechanism investigations using density functional theory investigation, kinetic modeling coupled with experiments based parameter estimations, synthesis and characterization of materials, reactivity and functional characterization using thermogravimetric analyzers, fixed bed reactors. (Example contributions: Patent #3, Patent #5, Patent #6, Report #1,)

The next scale of technology development focuses on reactor engineering and particle science technology-based principles, including design for multi-phase flows, synchronizing hydrodynamics, and fluid flows to demonstrate sub-pilot and pilot-scale operations. (Example contributions: Patent #4, Patent #7, Report #1,)

On a systems scale, I have used process simulations and mathematical optimization principles to help with techno-economic analysis to identify critical technology gaps and potential applicability of the proposed technology. The scale-appropriate leveraging of principles of reaction engineering and particle science technology remain indispensable to technological developments and have the potential to provide promising and holistic solutions for a variety of energy applications (Example contributions: Patent #1, Patent #4, Report #1).


#1 Kathe M.V., Wang W, Chung E, Tong A.; Fan, L.-S., “Systems and methods for partial or complete oxidation of fuels”, US10022693B2, 2018 (granted)

#2 Kathe, M.V.; Empfield, A.; Fryer, C.; Blair, E.; Fan, L.-S. “Chemical Looping Syngas Production from Carbonaceous Fuels”; US Patent App. 16/091,253, 2019 (2015 filing)

#3 Kathe, M.V.; Baser, D.; Fan, L.-S.; “Chemical Looping systems for conversion of low or no-carbon fuels to hydrogen”; US Patent App. 16/091,508, 2019 (2017 filing)

#4 Kathe, M.V.; Wang, D.; Fan, L.-S.; “Integrated chemical looping reactor system configured with unequal reactor operating pressures”; WO 2019/027972 A1, 2019 (2018 filing)

#5 Kathe, M.V.; Baser, D.; Sandvik, P.; Fryer, C.; Fan, L.-S.; “ Systems, methods and materials for NOx decomposition with metal-oxide materials”; US Patent App. 16/260,447, 2018 (2016 filing)

#6 Kathe, M.V.; Baser, D.; Fan, L.-S.; Metal oxide phase-change assisted partial oxidation of methane: Stable phase (SP) syngen process, provisional patent, 2019

#7 Kathe M.V.; Wang, D., Xu D.; Fan, L.-S., “High Purity Syngas Generated from Gaseous Hydrocarbons Using a Fixed (Packed) Bed Reactory Assembly with Oxygen Carrying Material”, provisional patent, 2019

Selected Publications (Total of 15, h-index: 13, total citations: 742)

#1 Kathe, M.; Empfield, A.; Na, J.; Blair, E.; Fan, L.-S.; “Hydrogen Production from Natural Gas Using an Iron-Based Chemical Looping Technology: Thermodynamic Simulations and Process System Analysis”, Applied Energy, 165, 183-201 (2016)

#2 Kathe, M.; Empfield, A.; Sandvik, P.; Fryer, C.; Zhang, Y.; Blair, E.; Fan, L.-S.; “Utilization of CO2 as a partial substitute for methane feedstock in chemical looping methane–steam redox processes for syngas production”, Energy & Environmental Science, 10, 1345-1349 (2017)

#3 Kathe, M.; Fryer, C.; Sandvik, P.; Kong, F.; Zhang, Y.; Empfield, A.; Fan, L.-S.; “Modularization strategy for syngas generation in chemical looping methane reforming systems with CO2 as feedstock”, AICHE Journal, 63 (8), 3343-3360 (2017)

#4 Kathe, M.; Sandvik, P.;Wang, W.; Kong, F.; Fan, L.-S.; “High-Pressure Chemical Looping Reforming Processes: System Analysis for Syngas Generation from Natural Gas and Reducing Tail Gases”, Energy & Fuels, (2018) (doi: 10.1021/acs.energyfuels.8b01834)

#5 Kathe, M.; Sandvik, P.; Fryer, C.; Kong, F.; Zhang, Y.; Grigonis, G.; Fan, L.-S.; “Coal Refining Chemical-Looping System with CO2 as a co-feedstock for Chemicals Synthesis”, Energy & Fuels, 32 (2), 1139-1154 (2018)

#6 Nadgouda, S.; Kathe, M.; Fan, L.-S.; “Cold gas efficiency enhancement in a chemical looping combustion system using staged H2 separation approach”, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 42 (8), 4751-4763 (2017)

#7 Tong, A.; Zeng, L.; Kathe, M.; Sridhar, D.; Fan, L.S.; “Application of the moving bed chemical looping process for high methane conversion”, Energy&Fuels,27(8),4119-4128, (2013)

#8 Zeng, L.; Kathe, M.; Chung, E.; Fan, L.-S.; “Some Remarks on Direct Solid Fuel Combustion Using Chemical Looping Processes”, Current Opinion in Chemical Engineering, 1 (3), 290-295 (2012)

Selected Reports (1 out of more than 5)

#1- Kathe, M.V., Xu, D, Hsieh, T.-L., Simpson, J., Statnick, R., Tong, A. Fan, L.-S.; “Chemical looping gasification for hydrogen enhanced syngas production with in-situ CO2 capture” OSTI 1185194 (2014)

Proposed Research Thrusts:

My proposed research thrusts have been shaped by my doctoral and postdoctoral experiences of having contributed to, innovated, and developed several promising solids looping based technologies on multiple scales and orders of magnitudes. Each of these thrusts requires leveraging scale-appropriate principles of metal-oxide reaction engineering and particle technology science. In addition to writing journal articles, patents, and book chapters, I have spent a considerable amount of effort in leading research grant writing, and that experience is invaluable in terms of formulating potential research thrusts. The following are three examples that would be representative of my proposed independent research lab work:

  1. Development of a multi-functional catalytic metal-oxide system to convert fuels like natural gas, coal, biomass, and CO2 into value-added products like liquid fuels, solid carbon, etc. ( dopant screening, reactor design, experimental demonstration, and techno-economic analysis)
  2. Technology development to use metal-derivatives like carbonates, nitrites, and sulfides in pollution control, carbon capture and solar thermochemical applications (fundamental material development, reaction chemistry validation, reactor design, and analysis and techno-economic analysis)
  3. Rigorous validation of conventional heuristics in solids processing systems using process simulations, mathematical optimization, and surrogate modeling

Teaching Interests:

I discovered that instruction and teaching are enjoyable while serving as a teaching assistant for separation processes and transport phenomena courses during my PhD education. Following up on that experience, I choose a lecturer position over industry research in chemical engineering immediately after my PhD to explore that dimension of my career.

Chemical engineers out of college are advertised as efficient problem-solvers with competent analytical and troubleshooting skills. My focus as a lecturer has always been on imparting a fundamental understanding of specific chemical engineering principles and providing enough tools and examples to be able to apply these in independent, newer situations. The process of identifying a student’s level of understanding when they begin a class and explaining the thought and problem-solving process of teaching chemical engineering principles has been incredibly fulfilling. My teaching philosophy resonates strongly with the thought that education should reinforce a student’s critical thinking process related to solving or troubleshooting chemical engineering problems rather than merely serving as a shortcut problem-solving tool based on a superficial understanding of chemical engineering phenomena. I have implemented and developed this style of teaching in senior chemical engineering capstone process and product design course, course on chemical engineering economics and separation principles course at The Ohio State University (Chemical Engineering Department) over the last 3 years. My teaching performance earned excellent reviews for being able to communicate chemical engineering principles effectively (average student instructor of evaluation (SEI) rating of 4.7/5). Though my teaching evaluations by students and department faculty have been excellent, I am continuously working to improve on some aspects of my teaching. These include design of exams for all student learning styles in the class, balance between difficulty level of exam questions and further understanding the combination of in-class aids (on-board writing vs only PowerPoints) that contribute to the most effective student learning outcomes. My teaching experiences in terms of syllabus, exams, student evaluation, and peer evaluation comments are available for review.

Based on my doctoral education, my area of expertise is reaction engineering-based traditional chemical engineering principles and particle science technology. The following are the courses that I would be very comfortable with teaching in chemical engineering as my research and past teaching endeavors have overlapped with each in some aspect. I would also be interested in any other courses that the department requires. I would be very interested in offering a technical elective on clean energy and carbon capture.

Courses that I could teach:

  • Chemical Engineering Capstone Process and Product Design
  • Engineering Economics and Process Design Strategy
  • Principles of Separation processes
  • Chemical Engineering Kinetics and Reaction Engineering
  • Mass and Energy Balances
  • Transport Phenomena (mass, heat and momentum transfer principles)
  • Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics
  • Process Control
  • Unit Operations Lab
  • Technical Electives Based on Energy, Carbon Capture
  • Technical Electives Based on Reaction Engineering, Multi-phase flow principles


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