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Title: Rh-Based Mixed Alcohol Synthesis Catalysts: Characterization and Computational Report

The U.S. Department of Energy is conducting a program focused on developing a process for the conversion of biomass to bio-based fuels and co-products. Biomass-derived syngas is converted thermochemically within a temperature range of 240 to 330°C and at elevated pressure (e.g., 1200 psig) over a catalyst. Ethanol is the desired reaction product, although other side compounds are produced, including C3 to C5 alcohols; higher (i.e., greater than C1) oxygenates such as methyl acetate, ethyl acetate, acetic acid and acetaldehyde; and higher hydrocarbon gases such as methane, ethane/ethene, propane/propene, etc. Saturated hydrocarbon gases (especially methane) are undesirable because they represent a diminished yield of carbon to the desired ethanol product and represent compounds that must be steam reformed at high energy cost to reproduce CO and H2. Ethanol produced by the thermochemical reaction of syngas could be separated and blended directly with gasoline to produce a liquid transportation fuel. Additionally, higher oxygenates and unsaturated hydrocarbon side products such as olefins also could be further processed to liquid fuels. The goal of the current project is the development of a Rh-based catalyst with high activity and selectivity to C2+ oxygenates. This report chronicles an effort to characterize numerous supports and catalystsmore » to identify particular traits that could be correlated with the most active and/or selective catalysts. Carbon and silica supports and catalysts were analyzed. Generally, analyses provided guidance in the selection of acceptable catalyst supports. For example, supports with high surface areas due to a high number of micropores were generally found to be poor at producing oxygenates, possibly because of mass transfer limitations of the products formed out of the micropores. To probe fundamental aspects of the complicated reaction network of CO with H2, a computational/ theoretical investigation using quantum mechanical and ab initio molecular dynamics calculations was initiated in 2009. Computational investigations were performed first to elucidate understanding of the nature of the catalytically active site. Thermodynamic calculations revealed that Mn likely exists as a metallic alloy with Rh in Rh-rich environments under reducing conditions at the temperatures of interest. After determining that reduced Rh-Mn alloy metal clusters were in a reduced state, the activation energy barriers of numerous transition state species on the catalytically active metal particles were calculated to compute the activation barriers of several reaction pathways that are possible on the catalyst surface. Comparison of calculations with a Rh nanoparticle versus a Rh-Mn nanoparticle revealed that the presence of Mn enabled the reaction pathway of CH with CO to form an adsorbed CHCO species, which was a precursor to C2+ oxygenates. The presence of Mn did not have a significant effect on the rate of CH4 production. Ir was observed during empirical catalyst screening experiments to improve the activity and selectivity of Rh-Mn catalysts. Thus, the addition of Ir to the Rh-Mn nanoparticles also was probed computationally. Simulations of Rh-Mn-Ir nanoparticles revealed that, with sufficient Ir concentrations, the Rh, Mn and Ir presumably would be well mixed within a nanoparticle. Activation barriers were calculated for Rh-Mn-Ir nanoparticles for several C-, H-, and O-containing transitional species on the nanoparticle surface. It was found that the presence of Ir opened yet another reactive pathway whereby HCO is formed and may undergo insertion with CHx surface moieties. The reaction pathway opened by the presence of Ir is in addition to the CO + CH pathway opened by the presence of Mn. Similar to Mn, the presence of Ir was not found to not affect the rate of CH4 production.« less
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Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
39714; 44675; 47662; BM0101010
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US), Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
syngas; mixed alcohols synthesis; Rhodium; Manganese; Iridium; catalyst; characterization; computaional; Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory