Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Uncovering a reaction’s secrets

23.03.2015

A theoretical and experimental study could lead to improved catalysts for producing hydrogen fuel from waste biomass

Experimental analysis and computer simulations reveal new insights into the process by which ethanol produced from waste biomass can be converted into hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst. These insights should aid the design of more efficient catalysts for hydrogen production.


Understanding the ethanol steam reforming reaction mechanism is crucial for the design of cheap and efficient catalysts able to convert biomass to hydrogen fuel.

© pitnu/iStock/Thinkstock

Hydrogen gas is an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. Today, through a process known as steam reforming, hydrogen is obtained by using steam to break up a hydrocarbon — most commonly, methane in natural gas. However, ethanol produced by fermenting waste biomass is potentially a cleaner starting material for this process.

However, despite having been extensively studied in recent years, steam reforming of ethanol is currently too inefficient to produce hydrogen on an industrial scale. This stems partly from the complexity of its reaction, which can yield a range of different products. “Our lack of understanding of the detailed reaction mechanism hinders further improvement of a catalyst for the reaction,” explains Jia Zhang of the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore. “The reaction was a black box before we started exploring it.”

Now, Zhang and her co-workers have used experiments and computer simulations to probe how ethanol breaks down into hydrogen on rhodium catalysts supported on zirconia-based oxides1. These nanosized catalysts had previously been shown to be highly active for this reaction.

The team used gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to monitor in real time the intermediate species that form as the reaction proceeds. These measurements revealed that the C2H4O species is an important intermediate. Of the two possible structures this species can adopt, acetaldehyde (CH3CHO) was identified as the most probable one by the team’s computer calculations. The calculations also showed that water plays an unexpectedly important role in controlling the reaction pathway.

Based on this knowledge, the team proposed a mechanism for the reaction under their chosen conditions. Hydrogen is produced at most stages along the pathway, including the final step in which carbon monoxide reacts with water to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The team’s calculations showed that the success of this final step is critical in determining the amount of hydrogen produced by steam reforming.

“Our theoretical simulations and experimental analysis provide important information on the reaction mechanism,” says Zhang. “This is a fundamental step forward in our understanding of the catalyst, which is the basis of catalyst design.” The team’s ultimate goal is to design catalysts that can produce hydrogen more cheaply and efficiently than current catalysts.

The A*STAR-affiliated researchers contributing to this research are from the Institute of High Performance Computing and the Institute of Chemical Engineering and Sciences

Reference
Zhang, J., Zhong, Z., Cao, X.-M., Hu, P., Sullivan, M. B. & Chen, L. Ethanol steam reforming on Rh catalysts: Theoretical and experimental understanding. ACS Catalysis 4, 448–456 (2014). | article

A*STAR Research | ResearchSEA
Further information:
http://www.research.a-star.edu.sg/research/7208
http://www.researchsea.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals
23.08.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Treating arthritis with algae
23.08.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Treating arthritis with algae

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star

23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>