Heterogeneous catalysis

The initially team was focused on development of methodology for testing adsorption and desorption processes of probe molecules and alkali from solid surfaces with vacuum and high pressure systems equipped with FTIR in situ spectrometers and unique field and surface ionization detectors. Nowadays these gave way to new research topics. Our interest can now be placed on the border of biological, chemical and engineering sciences.

The team specializes in in situ and operando spectroscopy, and microscopy for studying catalytic solids under realistic conditions. This approach provides a unique insight into the mechanisms of operation and deactivation of catalytic processes, as well as the internal architecture of solid catalysts. The tests are performed in terms of their application for the needs of existing technological processes (e.g. combustion of methane, ammonia synthesis, dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene) as well as the search for new materials (e.g. hybrid and functional materials), new synthesis methods (e.g. application of low-temperature plasma, electrospinning) and new reactor solutions (e.g. new structures as reactor fillers).

"I am among those who believe that Science is very beautiful." Maria Sklodowska-Curie

In situ and operando studies
material testing for
industry use

Synthesis of functional materials
Development of synthesis methods
of materials for applications
in chemistry, medicine etc.

Reactor engineering
for environmental protection processes

Offer of cooperation
with industry and research units
in the field of material chemistry

Currently, the subject of heterogeneous catalysis is covered by research projects:

Currently, research is carried out in cooperation with:

  • Institute of Chemical Engineering of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Gliwice,
  • Faculty of Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath (Great Britain (prof. Kołaczkowski).
  • Faculty of Ceramics and Materials Engineering at AGH.

More research projects

Scope of the research

Development and use of advanced spectroscopic methods (in situ)

The knowledge limitation of the surface structure of materials can be overcome by using surface probe molecules and observing their behavior using in situ and operando spectroscopy methods (several spectroscopic methods used simultaneously with additional analysis of gas products).

Among the available methods we use UV-Vis spectroscopy, FTIR (Fourier Transformed Infrared Spectroscopy) and Raman microscopy, which allows tracking changes in the metal oxide structure. Complementarily Raman and FTIR microscopy enables the assessment of adsorbate structure and reaction intermediates. UV / VIS spectroscopy is used to evaluate the work of the electron oxide output, and thus to classify catalyst activity.

In the field of oxidation and reduction reactions in which we move, the main molecules of the probes are methane, methanol and carbon monoxide.

Catalytic conversion of biomass, methane and nitrogen oxides

The catalytic combustion of volatile organic compounds in recent years has been the subject of intensive research by scientists. Because catalysts commonly used in industry, as the main active element contain precious metals (e.g. platinum or palladium), current research aims to minimize the share of the abovementioned metals and for the construction of catalysts based on widely available components (and thus reduction of the final price of the catalyst). The desired feature of the catalyst is mainly high catalytic activity. Current catalysts are very susceptible to poisoning through improper combustion and the production of after-products. Thus, their use requires preliminary gas analysis and elimination of factors that may reduce their activity. Despite many years of intensive research, the mechanism of hydrocarbons combustion carried out on the catalyst bed is not fully understood. Various mechanisms discussed extensively in the literature (reaction paths according to Langmuir-Hinshelwood, Mars van Krevelen or Eley-Rideal must be confirmed by researching the intermediate products formed during the hydrocarbon after-burning process).

Engineering of catalytic reactors

In the field of catalysis, we deal with structural reactors in processes related to environmental protection. Structural reactors are an idea for increasing the mass and heat transport parameters of reagents, as well as for any scale enlargement of processes, which is a fundamental engineering problem in large-scale process design.

The practical use of this type of structure depends on the invention of active nanocomposite catalysts that would meet increased transport properties, as well as precise methods for the preparation of catalysts with a given structure and properties on metal substrates (structural reactor fillings) that would not change their geometry. These are the two main tasks that the Team deals with. Catalysts based on metal oxides are tested for their use in the processes of burning volatile organic compounds and reducing nitrogen oxides. So far, the Langmuir film method and the low-temperature plasma method have proved successful for applying catalytic material to solid substrates.

The development of heterogeneous catalysis has reached a level at which for many processes the improvement of their efficiency depends only on overcoming the heat, momentum and mass transport barriers. In traditional heterogeneous catalysis carried out in fixed beds in tubular reactors, transport processes are considered on a scale imposed by the grain size (> 10-3 m). Scale reduction in a conventional tubular reactor by reducing its diameter (10-2 m) and grain size.

The microstructural fillings of reactors are usually made of specially shaped meshes, wires or sheets with specific (geometrical) surfaces from 500 to over 10,000 m2 / m3. A catalyst layer with properties corresponding to the requirements of a given chemical process is deposited on properly prepared surfaces of such fillings.

Compared with ceramic monoliths, structured packed reactors can provide much better performance. In particular, they can achieve lower diffusion and flow resistance, lower thermal inertia and greater resistance to thermal deactivation. Their advantage is also that the filling geometry can be optimized for a specific catalytic process. It has been shown that in mesh and short-channel microstructures, working in the area of ​​developing laminar flow and designed for hydrocarbon after-burning reactions, high transport coefficients at low flow resistances can be obtained, and the reactor dimensions can be substantially reduced. In addition, microstructures practically eliminate the possibility of coke agglomerates settling and clogging the channels, which is important in the case of hydrocarbon conversion processes.

Very small channel sizes in microstructures pose special requirements for the preparation of the catalyst on their surface. From the point of view of microstructure design, the catalyst, including all primer layers, should meet three conditions:

  • have a small, even, strictly controlled and reproducible thickness to enable it to be taken into account at the design stage of the structure,
  • have very good adhesion to the ground, mechanical and thermal durability,
  • have high activity, adapted to the increased transport parameters of the reactor.

These requirements eliminate in advance many commonly used preparation methods.

Molecular engineering of catalytic materials

Synthesis and characterization of porous materials with catalytic potential and using transition metal oxides. We focus on basic understanding of porous oxide formation processes, development of spectroscopic tools to evaluate synthesis parameters and structural aspects of materials. This is a kind of prelude to the Engineering of Catalytic Materials, because the correlation of structural properties of materials with their catalytic properties (efficiency, stability, etc.) allows for rational design and creation of catalysts.

Functional nanomaterials - design and characterization

Nanotechnology of functional materials is a new branch of our interest, but very exciting. Research topics are focused on development of new materials designed at the nanoscale (e.g. nanoparticles, nanofibers) for biological, chemical and other applications.

Offer of cooperation

Are you looking for specialists to carry out research related to material analysis, spectroscopic characteristics, catalysis or do you need consultations in conducting research using instrumental methods? Write to us!

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