Proxy-based accelerated discovery of Fischer-Tropsch catalysts.
ABSTRACT: Development of heterogeneous catalysts for complex reactions such as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of fuels is hampered by difficult reaction conditions, slow characterisation techniques such as chemisorption and temperature-programmed reduction and the need for long term stability. High-throughput (HT) methods may help, but their use has until now focused on bespoke micro-reactors for direct measurements of activity and selectivity. These are specific to individual reactions and do not provide more fundamental information on the materials. Here we report using simpler HT characterisation techniques (XRD and TGA) along with ageing under Fischer-Tropsch reaction conditions to provide information analogous to metal surface area, degree of reduction and thousands of hours of stability testing time for hundreds of samples per month. The use of this method allowed the identification of a series of highly stable, high surface area catalysts promoted by Mg and Ru. In an advance over traditional multichannel HT reactors, the chemical and structural information we obtain on the materials allows us to identify the structural effects of the promoters and their effects on the modes of deactivation observed.
Project description:Facile C-C bond formation is essential to the formation of long hydrocarbon chains in Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. Various chain growth mechanisms have been proposed previously, but spectroscopic identification of surface intermediates involved in C-C bond formation is scarce. We here show that the high CO coverage typical of Fischer-Tropsch synthesis affects the reaction pathways of C2Hx adsorbates on a Co(0001) model catalyst and promote C-C bond formation. In-situ high resolution x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy shows that a high CO coverage promotes transformation of C2Hx adsorbates into the ethylidyne form, which subsequently dimerizes to 2-butyne. The observed reaction sequence provides a mechanistic explanation for CO-induced ethylene dimerization on supported cobalt catalysts. For Fischer-Tropsch synthesis we propose that C-C bond formation on the close-packed terraces of a cobalt nanoparticle occurs via methylidyne (CH) insertion into long chain alkylidyne intermediates, the latter being stabilized by the high surface coverage under reaction conditions.
Project description:The Fe-catalyzed Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reaction constitutes the core of the coal-to-liquids (CTL) process, which converts coal into liquid fuels. Conventional Fe-based catalysts typically convert 30% of the CO feed to CO2 in the FT unit. Decreasing the CO2 release in the FT step will reduce costs and enhance productivity of the overall process. In this context, we synthesize phase-pure ?(')-Fe2C catalysts exhibiting low CO2 selectivity by carefully controlling the pretreatment and carburization conditions. Kinetic data reveal that liquid fuels can be obtained free from primary CO2. These catalysts displayed stable FT performance at 23 bar and 235°C for at least 150 hours. Notably, in situ characterization emphasizes the high durability of pure ?(')-Fe2C in an industrial pilot test. These findings contribute to the development of new Fe-based FT catalysts for next-generation CTL processes.
Project description:Although we often understand empirically what constitutes an active catalyst, there is still much to be understood fundamentally about how catalytic performance is influenced by formulation. Catalysts are often designed to have a microstructure and nanostructure that can influence performance but that is rarely considered when correlating structure with function. Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS) is a well-known and potentially sustainable technology for converting synthetic natural gas ("syngas": CO + H2) into functional hydrocarbons, such as sulfur- and aromatic-free fuel and high-value wax products. FTS catalysts typically contain Co or Fe nanoparticles, which are often optimized in terms of size/composition for a particular catalytic performance. We use a novel, "multimodal" tomographic approach to studying active Co-based catalysts under operando conditions, revealing how a simple parameter, such as the order of addition of metal precursors and promoters, affects the spatial distribution of the elements as well as their physicochemical properties, that is, crystalline phase and crystallite size during catalyst activation and operation. We show in particular how the order of addition affects the crystallinity of the TiO2 anatase phase, which in turn leads to the formation of highly intergrown cubic close-packed/hexagonal close-packed Co nanoparticles that are very reactive, exhibiting high CO conversion. This work highlights the importance of operando microtomography to understand the evolution of chemical species and their spatial distribution before any concrete understanding of impact on catalytic performance can be realized.
Project description:Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of lower olefins (FTO) is a classical yet modern topic of great significance in which the supported Fe-based nanoparticles are the most promising catalysts. The performance deterioration of catalysts is a big challenge due to the instability of the nanosized active phase of iron carbides. Herein, by in situ mass spectrometry, theoretical analysis, and atmospheric- and high-pressure experimental examinations, we revealed the Ostwald-ripening-like growth mechanism of the active phase of iron carbides in FTO, which involves the cyclic formation-decomposition of iron carbonyl intermediates to transport iron species from small particles to large ones. Accordingly, by suppressing the formation of iron carbonyl species with a high-N-content carbon support, the size and structure of the active phase were regulated and stabilized, and durable iron-based catalysts were conveniently obtained with the highest selectivity for lower olefins up to 54.1%. This study provides a practical strategy for exploring advanced FTO catalysts.
Project description:The imaging of catalysts and other functional materials under reaction conditions has advanced significantly in recent years. The combination of the computed tomography (CT) approach with methods such as X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy (XANES) now enables local chemical and physical state information to be extracted from within the interiors of intact materials which are, by accident or design, inhomogeneous. In this work, we follow the phase evolution during the initial reduction step(s) to form Co metal, for Co-containing particles employed as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS) catalysts; firstly, working at small length scales (approx. micrometre spatial resolution), a combination of sample size and density allows for transmission of comparatively low energy signals enabling the recording of 'multimodal' tomography, i.e. simultaneous XRF-CT, XANES-CT and XRD-CT. Subsequently, we show high-energy XRD-CT can be employed to reveal extent of reduction and uniformity of crystallite size on millimetre-sized TiO2 trilobes. In both studies, the CoO phase is seen to persist or else evolve under particular operating conditions and we speculate as to why this is observed.This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Providing sustainable catalytic solutions for a rapidly changing world'.
Project description:The development of synthetic protocols for the preparation of highly loaded metal nanoparticle-supported catalysts has received a great deal of attention over the last few decades. Independently controlling metal loading, nanoparticle size, distribution, and accessibility has proven challenging because of the clear interdependence between these crucial performance parameters. Here we present a stepwise methodology that, making use of a cobalt-containing metal organic framework as hard template (ZIF-67), allows addressing this long-standing challenge. Condensation of silica in the Co-metal organic framework pore space followed by pyrolysis and subsequent calcination of these composites renders highly loaded cobalt nanocomposites (~?50 wt.% Co), with cobalt oxide reducibility in the order of 80% and a good particle dispersion, that exhibit high activity, C5?+?selectivity and stability in Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.
Project description:The development of efficient catalysts for Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis, a core reaction in the utilization of non-petroleum carbon resources to supply energy and chemicals, has attracted much recent attention. ?-Iron carbide (?-Fe<sub>2</sub>C) was proposed as the most active iron phase for FT synthesis, but this phase is generally unstable under realistic FT reaction conditions (> 523?K). Here, we succeed in stabilizing pure-phase ?-Fe<sub>2</sub>C nanocrystals by confining them into graphene layers and obtain an iron-time yield of 1258??mol<sub>CO</sub> g<sub>Fe</sub><sup>-1</sup>s<sup>-1</sup> under realistic FT synthesis conditions, one order of magnitude higher than that of the conventional carbon-supported Fe catalyst. The ?-Fe<sub>2</sub>C@graphene catalyst is stable at least for 400?h under high-temperature conditions. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations reveal the feasible formation of ?-Fe<sub>2</sub>C by carburization of ?-Fe precursor through interfacial interactions of ?-Fe<sub>2</sub>C@graphene. This work provides a promising strategy to design highly active and stable Fe-based FT catalysts.
Project description:The Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis converts synthesis gas from alternative carbon resources, including natural gas, coal, and biomass, to hydrocarbons used as fuels or chemicals. In particular, iron-based catalysts at elevated temperatures favor the selective production of C2-C4 olefins, which are important building blocks for the chemical industry. Bulk iron catalysts (with promoters) were conventionally used, but these deactivate due to either phase transformation or carbon deposition resulting in disintegration of the catalyst particles. For supported iron catalysts, iron particle growth may result in loss of catalytic activity over time. In this work, the effects of promoters and particle size on the stability of supported iron nanoparticles (initial sizes of 3-9 nm) were investigated at industrially relevant conditions (340 °C, 20 bar, H2/CO = 1). Upon addition of sodium and sulfur promoters to iron nanoparticles supported on carbon nanofibers, initial catalytic activities were high, but substantial deactivation was observed over a period of 100 h. In situ Mössbauer spectroscopy revealed that after 20 h time-on-stream, promoted catalysts attained 100% carbidization, whereas for unpromoted catalysts, this was around 25%. In situ carbon deposition studies were carried out using a tapered element oscillating microbalance (TEOM). No carbon laydown was detected for the unpromoted catalysts, whereas for promoted catalysts, carbon deposition occurred mainly over the first 4 h and thus did not play a pivotal role in deactivation over 100 h. Instead, the loss of catalytic activity coincided with the increase in Fe particle size to 20-50 nm, thereby supporting the proposal that the loss of active Fe surface area was the main cause of deactivation.
Project description:The effectiveness of Mg as a promoter of Co-Ru/?-Al2O3 Fischer-Tropsch catalysts depends on how and when the Mg is added. When the Mg is impregnated into the support before the Co and Ru addition, some Mg is incorporated into the support in the form of MgxAl2O3+x if the material is calcined at 550°C or 800°C after the impregnation, while the remainder is present as amorphous MgO/MgCO3 phases. After subsequent Co-Ru impregnation MgxCo3-xO4 is formed which decomposes on reduction, leading to Co(0) particles intimately mixed with Mg, as shown by high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. The process of impregnating Co into an Mg-modified support results in dissolution of the amorphous Mg, and it is this Mg which is then incorporated into MgxCo3-xO4. Acid washing or higher temperature calcination after Mg impregnation can remove most of this amorphous Mg, resulting in lower values of x in MgxCo3-xO4. Catalytic testing of these materials reveals that Mg incorporation into the Co oxide phase is severely detrimental to the site-time yield, while Mg incorporation into the support may provide some enhancement of activity at high temperature.
Project description:Colloidal synthesis of nanocrystals (NC) followed by their attachment to a support and activation is a promising route to prepare model catalysts for research on structure-performance relationships. Here, we investigated the suitability of this method to prepare well-defined Co/TiO2 and Co/SiO2 catalysts for the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis with high control over the cobalt particle size. To this end, Co-NC of 3, 6, 9, and 12 nm with narrow size distributions were synthesized and attached uniformly on either TiO2 or SiO2 supports with comparable morphology and Co loadings of 2-10 wt %. After activation in H2, the FT activity of the TiO2-supported 6 and 12 nm Co-NC was similar to that of a Co/TiO2 catalyst prepared by impregnation, showing that full activation was achieved and relevant catalysts had been obtained; however, 3 nm Co-NC on TiO2 were less active than anticipated. Analysis after FT revealed that all Co-NC on TiO2 as well as 3 nm Co-NC on SiO2 had grown to ?13 nm, while the sizes of the 6 and 9 nm Co-NC on SiO2 had remained stable. It was found that the 3 nm Co-NC on TiO2 already grew to 10 nm during activation in H2. Furthermore, substantial amounts of Co (up to 60%) migrated from the Co-NC to the support during activation on TiO2 against only 15% on SiO2. We showed that the stronger interaction between cobalt and TiO2 leads to enhanced catalyst restructuring as compared to SiO2. These findings demonstrate the potential of the NC-based method to produce relevant model catalysts to investigate phenomena that could not be studied using conventionally synthesized catalysts.