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Heterogeneous Catalysis for Organic Reactions

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This honors thesis is focused on two separate catalysis projects conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Javier Pérez-Ramírez at ETH Zürich. The first project explored ethylene oxychlorination over supported europium oxychloride catalysts. The second project investigated alkyne semihydrogenation over nickel

This honors thesis is focused on two separate catalysis projects conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Javier Pérez-Ramírez at ETH Zürich. The first project explored ethylene oxychlorination over supported europium oxychloride catalysts. The second project investigated alkyne semihydrogenation over nickel phosphide catalysts. This work is the subject of a publication of which I am a co-author, as cited below.

Project 1 Abstract: Ethylene Oxychlorination
The current two-step process for the industrial process of vinyl chloride production involves CuCl2 catalyzed ethylene oxychlorination to ethylene dichloride followed by thermal cracking of the latter to vinyl chloride. To date, no industrial application of a one-step process is available. To close this gap, this work evaluates a wide range of self-prepared supported CeO2 and EuOCl catalysts for one-step production of vinyl chloride from ethylene in a fixed-bed reactor at 623 773 K and 1 bar using feed ratios of C2H4:HCl:O2:Ar:He = 3:3 6:1.5 6:3:82 89.5. Among all studied systems, CeO2/ZrO2 and CeO2/Zeolite MS show the highest activity but suffer from severe combustion of ethylene, forming COx, while 20 wt.% EuOCl/γ-Al2O3 leads to the best vinyl chloride selectivity of 87% at 15.6% C2H4 conversion with complete suppression of CO2 formation and only 4% selectivity to CO conversion for over 100 h on stream. Characterization by XRD and EDX mapping reveals that much of the Eu is present in non-active phases such as Al2Eu or EuAl4, indicating that alternative synthesis methods could be employed to better utilize the metal. A linear relationship between conversion and metal loading is found for this catalyst, indicating that always part of the used Eu is available as EuOCl, while the rest forms inactive europium aluminate species. Zeolite-supported EuOCl slightly outperforms EuOCl/γ Al2O3 in terms of total yield, but is prone to significant coking and is unstable. Even though a lot of Eu seems locked in inactive species on EuOCl/γ Al2O3, these results indicate possible savings of nearly 16,000 USD per kg of catalyst compared to a bulk EuOCl catalyst. These very promising findings constitute a crucial step for process intensification of polyvinyl chloride production and exploring the potential of supported EuOCl catalysts in industrially-relevant reactions.

Project 2 Abstract: Alkyne Semihydrogenation
Despite strongly suffering from poor noble metal utilization and a highly toxic selectivity modifier (Pb), the archetypal catalyst applied for the three-phase alkyne semihydrogenation, the Pb-doped Pd/CaCO3 (Lindlar catalyst), is still being utilized at industrial level. Inspired by the very recent strategies involving the modification of Pd with p-block elements (i.e., S), this work extrapolates the concept by preparing crystalline metal phosphides with controlled stoichiometry. To develop an affordable and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional hydrogenation catalysts, nickel, a metal belonging to the same group as Pd and capable of splitting molecular hydrogen has been selected. Herein, a simple two-step synthesis procedure involving nontoxic precursors was used to synthesize bulk nickel phosphides with different stoichiometries (Ni2P, Ni5P4, and Ni12P5) by controlling the P:Ni ratios. To uncover structural and surface features, this catalyst family is characterized with an array of methods including X-ray diffraction (XRD), 31P magic-angle nuclear magnetic resonance (MAS-NMR) spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Bulk-sensitive techniques prove the successful preparation of pure phases while XPS analysis unravels the facile passivation occurring at the NixPy surface that persists even after reductive treatment. To assess the characteristic surface fingerprints of these materials, Ar sputtering was carried out at different penetration depths, reveling the presence of Ni+ and P-species. Continuous-flow three-phase hydrogenations of short-chain acetylenic compounds display that the oxidized layer covering the surface is reduced under reaction conditions, as evidenced by the induction period before reaching the steady state performance. To assess the impact of the phosphidation treatment on catalytic performance, the catalysts were benchmarked against a commercial Ni/SiO2-Al2O3 sample. While Ni/SiO2-Al2O3 presents very low selectivity to the alkene (the selectivity is about 10% at full conversion) attributed to the well-known tendency of naked nickel nanoparticles to form hydrides, the performance of nickel phosphides is highly selective and independent of P:Ni ratio. In line with previous findings on PdxS, kinetic tests indicate the occurrence of a dual-site mechanism where the alkyne and hydrogen do not compete for the same site.

This work is the subject of a publication of which I am a co-author, as cited below.

D. Albani; K. Karajovic; B. Tata; Q. Li; S. Mitchell; N. López; J. Pérez-Ramírez. Ensemble Design in Nickel Phosphide Catalysts for Alkyne Semi-Hydrogenation. ChemCatChem 2019. doi.org/10.1002/cctc.201801430

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2019-05

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Construction and Operation of a Hollow Fiber Membrane Spinning Apparatus

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This study details the construction and operation of a dry-jet wet spinning apparatus for extruding hollow fiber membranes (HFMs). The main components of the apparatus are a spinneret, a coagulation bath, and an automatic collection reel. Continuous fiber formation was

This study details the construction and operation of a dry-jet wet spinning apparatus for extruding hollow fiber membranes (HFMs). The main components of the apparatus are a spinneret, a coagulation bath, and an automatic collection reel. Continuous fiber formation was achieved using two syringe pumps simultaneously delivering polymer dope and bore fluid to the spinneret. Based on apparatus runs performed with Polysulfone (PSF) dopes dissolved in N,N-Dimethylacetamide and supporting rheological analysis, the entanglement concentration, ce, was identified as a minimum processing threshold for creating HFMs. Similarly, significant increases in the ultimate tensile strength, fracture strain, and Young's modulus for extruded HFMs were observed as polymer dope concentration was increased at levels near ce. Beyond this initial increase, subsequent tests at higher PSF concentrations yielded diminishing changes in mechanical properties, suggesting an asymptotic approach to a point where the trend would cease. Without further research, it is theorized that this point falls on a transition from the semidiute entangled to concentrated concentration regimes. SEM imaging of samples revealed the formation of grooved structures on the inner surface of samples, which was determined to be a result of the low flowrate and polymer dope concentrations used in processing the HFMs during apparatus runs. Based on continued operation of the preliminary apparatus design, many areas of improvement were noted. Namely, these consisted of controlling the collector speed, eliminating rubbing of nascent fibers against the edge of the coagulation bath by installing an elevated roller, and replacing tygon tubing for the polymer line with a luer lock adapter for direct syringe attachment to the spinneret.

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2017-05

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A Stability Study of the MOF-5 Membrane

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Within recent years, metal-organic frameworks, or MOF’s, have gained a lot of attention in the materials research community. These micro-porous materials are constructed of a metal oxide core and organic linkers, and have a wide-variety of applications due to their

Within recent years, metal-organic frameworks, or MOF’s, have gained a lot of attention in the materials research community. These micro-porous materials are constructed of a metal oxide core and organic linkers, and have a wide-variety of applications due to their extensive material characteristic possibilities. The focus of this study is the MOF-5 material, specifically its chemical stability in air. The MOF-5 material has a large pore size of 8 Å, and aperture sizes of 15 and 12 Å. The pore size, pore functionality, and physically stable structure makes MOF-5 a desirable material. MOF-5 holds applications in gas/liquid separation, catalysis, and gas storage. The main problem with the MOF-5 material, however, is its instability in atmospheric air. This inherent instability is due to the water in air binding to the zinc-oxide core, effectively changing the material and its structure. Because of this material weakness, the MOF-5 material is difficult to be utilized in industrial applications. Through the research efforts proposed by this study, the stability of the MOF-5 powder and membrane were studied. MOF-5 powder and a MOF-5 membrane were synthesized and characterized using XRD analysis. In an attempt to improve the stability of MOF-5 in air, methyl groups were added to the organic linker in order to hinder the interaction of water with the Zn4O core. This was done by replacing the terepthalic acid organic linker with 2,5-dimethyl terephthalic acid in the powder and membrane synthesis steps. The methyl-modified MOF-5 powder was found to be stable after several days of exposure to air while the MOF-5 powder exhibited significant crystalline change. The methyl-modified membrane was found to be unstable when synthesized using the same procedure as the MOF-5 membrane.

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2016-05

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Bi-phase Synthesis of the Zirconium Metal-Organic Framework, UiO-66

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Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a new set of porous materials comprised of metals or metal clusters bonded together in a coordination system by organic linkers. They are becoming popular for gas separations due to their abilities to be tailored toward

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a new set of porous materials comprised of metals or metal clusters bonded together in a coordination system by organic linkers. They are becoming popular for gas separations due to their abilities to be tailored toward specific applications. Zirconium MOFs in particular are known for their high stability under standard temperature and pressure due to the strength of the Zirconium-Oxygen coordination bond. However, the acid modulator needed to ensure long range order of the product also prevents complete linker deprotonation. This leads to a powder product that cannot easily be incorporated into continuous MOF membranes. This study therefore implemented a new bi-phase synthesis technique with a deprotonating agent to achieve intergrowth in UiO-66 membranes. Crystal intergrowth will allow for effective gas separations and future permeation testing. During experimentation, successful intergrown UiO-66 membranes were synthesized and characterized. The degree of intergrowth and crystal orientations varied with changing deprotonating agent concentration, modulator concentration, and ligand:modulator ratios. Further studies will focus on achieving the same results on porous substrates.

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2016-12

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Styrene Oxide Adsorption on Commercial Resins

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The goals of the styrene oxide adsorption experiments were to develop reliable isotherms of styrene oxide onto Dowex Optipore L-493 resin and onto mesoporous carbon adsorbents, in addition to determining the ideal conditions for styrene oxide production from E. coli.

The goals of the styrene oxide adsorption experiments were to develop reliable isotherms of styrene oxide onto Dowex Optipore L-493 resin and onto mesoporous carbon adsorbents, in addition to determining the ideal conditions for styrene oxide production from E. coli. Adsorption is an effective means of separation used in industry to separate compounds, often organics from air and water. Styrene oxide adsorption runs without E. coli were conducted at concentrations ranging from 0.15 to 3.00 g/L with resin masses ranging from 0.1 to 0.5 g of Dowex Optipore L-493 and 0.5 to 0.75 g of mesoporous carbon adsorbent. Runs were conducted on a shake plate operating at 80 rpm for 24 hours at ambient temperature. Isotherms were developed from the results and then adsorption experiments with E. coli and L-493 were performed. Runs were conducted at glucose concentrations ranging from 20-40 g/L and resin masses of 0.100 g to 0.800 g. Samples were incubated for 72 hours and styrene oxide production was measured using an HPLC device. Specific loading values reached up to 0.356 g/g for runs without E. coli and nearly 0.003 g of styrene oxide was adsorbed by L-493 during runs with E. coli. Styrene oxide production was most effective at low resin masses and medium glucose concentrations when produced by E. coli.

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2014-05

Strategies for Recovery of Biosynthetic Styrene

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Styrene, a component of many rubber products, is currently synthesized from petroleum in a highly energy-intensive process. The Nielsen Laboratory at Arizona State has demonstrated a biochemical pathway by which E. coli can be engineered to produce styrene from the

Styrene, a component of many rubber products, is currently synthesized from petroleum in a highly energy-intensive process. The Nielsen Laboratory at Arizona State has demonstrated a biochemical pathway by which E. coli can be engineered to produce styrene from the amino acid phenylalanine, which E. coli naturally synthesizes from glucose. However, styrene becomes toxic to E. coli above concentrations of 300 mg/L, severely limiting the large-scale applicability of the pathway. Thus, styrene must somehow be continuously removed from the system to facilitate higher yields and for the purposes of scale-up. The separation methods of pervaporation and solvent extraction were investigated to this end. Furthermore, the styrene pathway was extended by one step to produce styrene oxide, which is less volatile than styrene and theoretically simpler to recover. Adsorption of styrene oxide using the hydrophobic resin L-493 was attempted in order to improve the yield of styrene oxide and to provide additional proof of concept that the flux through the styrene pathway can be increased. The maximum styrene titer achieved was 1.2 g/L using the method of solvent extraction, but this yield was only possible when additional phenylalanine was supplemented to the system.

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2013-05