The decline of petroleum resources and environmental motivations call for the development of a new chemical industry, capable of providing the fuels and commodity chemicals our society demands through the conversion of alternative carbon resources such as natural (or shale) gas, lignocellulosic biomass, or carbon dioxide. This shift in the raw materials paradigm requires the development of novel catalytic processes.
While petroleum processing has traditionally involved the conversion of heavy hydrocarbons into less bulky compounds, future chemical processes should rather "bottom-up build" the target products from small platform molecules, e.g. CO (in synthesis gas), CO2, methanol, ethylene, etc, which can be obtained from the aforementioned oil-alternative carbon resources. Our research concentrates on the conception and synthesis of catalysts to enable a (selective) chain-propagation from these C1 and C2 platform compounds into commodity chemicals and liquid fuels.
Gonzalo Prieto, J. Manuel Serra, Agustin Martinez, J. Luis Sanz, Jose Caraballo, Ricardo Arjona: Method for obtaining a multimetallic sulfureous catalyst and use thereof in a method for producing higher alcohols by catalytic conversion of synthesis gas. ES 2355465 B1, concession date 23.02.2012); PCT/ES2010/070553; US patent application No 13/395096, application date 03.08.2012.
Gonzalo Prieto, J. Manuel Serra, Agustin Martinez, J. Luis Sanz, Jose Caraballo, Ricardo Arjona: Method for producing a multimetallic sulfureous solid and use thereof as a catalyst in a method for producing higher alcohols from synthesis gas. ES 2355464 B1, concession date 24.01.2012; PCT/ES2010/070554; US patent application No 13/395108, application date 03.08.2012.
Synthesis gas, a mixture comprising primarily carbon monoxide and hydrogen, can be obtained from natural gas or lignocellulosic biomass raw materials, and then be catalytically converted into hydrocarbons through the so-called Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. Almost one century after its discovery at our institute, this reaction receives currently renewed technological and scientific interests. In particular, incentives exist to expand its scope to exploit unconventional, delocalized carbon resources such as biomass or off-shore natural gas wells. Such diversification requires a significant re-conception of the process, which in turn calls for novel reactor and catalyst designs. Another remaining challenge is the development of solid catalysts able to effectively and selectively produce high value-added, long-chain oxygenated compounds, rather than hydrocarbons. Our task is to glean fundamental understanding on the relationships between the structure of solid catalysts (at different length scales) and their performance, as a means to devise advanced catalysts able to maximize the selectivity to given target products. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding the impact of catalyst porosity and related mass transport phenomena on the ultimate performance.
Our group develops solid catalysts incorporating multiple catalytic functionalities to effect several reactions, concomitantly, in a sequential manner. The development of multifunctional catalysts contributes to process intensification by avoiding intermediate separation and isolation steps. It additionally opens the door towards unique catalytic performances by circumventing thermodynamic and/or kinetic limitations inherent to single catalytic steps. Besides the nature, intrinsic activity and relative proportion of the co-existing catalytic functions, a challenge remains to additionally tune the rate of mass transport between them. Our current interest is to understand the catalytic implications of the relative spatial location of different catalytic functionalities within a catalyst particle, as well as the nature of the porous network connecting them, particularly in solids with porosity extending over several length scales (as illustrated in the figure). Such knowledge is highly valuable to set new basis to optimize the overall reaction rate and selectivity.
Dr. Prieto, Gonzalo
Dr. Sarma, Bidyut Bikash