Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) is a major conversion process in oil refineries that facilitates the conversion of crude oil to gasoline and diesel. The ever increasing demand for transportation fuels drives extensive research aimed at creating more efficient catalytic solids with increased activity.
Until now, research was limited to activity measurements, model studies and analyses of spent catalysts. A collaboration between catalyst researchers from Utrecht University, The Netherlands and Albemarle Corporation has led to an innovative analytical approach to visualize the active catalyst components by selective staining.The research has been published online 18 September in Nature Chemistry.
The coloration method, as illustrated in the figure, shows that it is possible to pinpoint the active sites (green domains in the red colored FCC sphere) in FCC catalysts without destroying the catalyst materials and follow their deactivation behavior in detail. The spectroscopic tools and selective staining methods developed allow researchers now for the first time to study both the accessibility towards active sites as well as view the active sites within practically used catalyst materials. In this manner, a diagnostic tool emerges to assess the spatial distribution of active domains within individual catalyst particles throughout their lifetime and in this manner evaluate existing industrial deactivation protocols.
Katalysatordeeltje In additional to providing catalyst materials, Albemarle Corporation supplied catalytic performance as well as bulk characterization data. “Our collaboration with the group of Prof. Bert Weckhuysen at Utrecht University has been very successful and has led in the past years to new valuable insights benefiting both Hydroprocessing as well as FCC Catalysis,” says Dr. Eelco Vogt, R&D Director at Albemarle Corporation. “The new tools developed in this collaboration make it possible to study active sites in real commercial catalysts, rather than the models normally described in literature. This allows us to translate developments into real catalysts much faster, and maintain our technology leadership in this highly competitive field.”
PhD student Inge Buurmans and postdoctoral fellow Javier Ruiz-Martínez of Utrecht University are equally enthusiastic. “Due to this fruitful collaboration fundamental academic research can be applied on industrially relevant problems. This is very rewarding and enriches our education as young researchers.” Prof. Bert Weckhuysen adds “Working with Albemarle Catalysts has been a clear win-win situation. In our case, we have learned a lot about practical FCC catalyst technology and with this knowledge in mind we have been able to develop the novel and powerful coloration method for individual catalyst particles.”