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PhD student-Fine control of catalyst structure - Belgium  

Ghent University (company)


Posted on : 08 March 2017

Project Description

The aim is to obtain an experimental descriptor for the intrinsic activity of the active site and its utilization. 

  • Today’s challenge for the chemical industry is ensuring sustainable supplies of fuels, chemicals and materials for a growing global population, while limiting global warming and climate change. Catalytic technologies will play a pivotal role in addressing this challenge throughout the 21st century by enabling the utilization of alternative energy sources and feedstocks. 
  • In order to improve existing and develop novel industrial catalytic processes, tailored catalysts are needed for a number of chemical reactions.
  •  Therefore, rational catalyst design and optimization must be advanced beyond their current abilities based on sound scientific knowledge about phenomena underlying catalysis. 
  • Heterogeneous catalytic processes are most often optimized by determining the optimum temperature, pressure and composition of the reaction mixture. 
  • The distribution of active material within the solid catalyst particles is an additional variable in the design of optimal catalysts. 
  • Uniform composition and even spreading of active sites on catalyst pellets seldom yield the optimum configuration. 
  • Previously, it was found that pellets demonstrate maximum efficiency when the active metal component is accumulated inside the pellet at a definite distance from the pellet surface. 
  • At the level of a packed bed of catalyst pellets, the distribution of active components over the catalyst bed can be tuned such as to master temperature gradients and overall activity and reaction selectivity. 
  • There is a great deal of interest in the use of nanostructured heterogeneous catalysts, particularly those based on expensive precious metals, in order to maximize the surface to volume ratio of the catalyst, potentially reducing the cost without sacrificing performance.
  •  The ability to precisely control nanoscale features is increasingly being exploited to develop and improve catalysts. 

  • The Temporal Analysis of Products (TAP) reactor system will serve as an experimental core, and will allow us to conduct a variety of transient as well as steady-state kinetic measurements. TAP transient experiments will be performed under low-pressure Knudsen and molecular regimes. 
  • A comprehensive transient kinetic study of the effect of active component distribution over the support. 
  • Two model reactions will be investigated:
    •  CO oxidation over a Pt catalyst;
    •  n-Hexane hydrocracking using a bifunctional catalyst. 
  • Microkinetic modelling will be performed to determine the kinetic parameters and reaction mechanism. 
  • A better understanding of the reaction mechanism is implemented in the models to provide guidelines for catalyst optimization.  

Profile of the candidate 
  • Applicants must possess a MSc in Chemical Engineering or related subject and a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 95(iBT) or equivalent. 
  • Relevant experience in the area of reactor engineering, kinetics, and/or computational chemistry is strongly recommended. 
  • Candidates must have a strong mathematical background and be willing to focus on obtaining quantitative rather than qualitative results.