Argonne’s catalysis program covers both basic and applied R&D focusing on developing new catalyst technologies for converting biomass or shale gas into higher-value chemicals and fuels, as well as developing a fundamental understanding of catalytic processes.
Argonne’s catalysis program is spread across multiple divisions and is comprehensive in scope, covering catalyst synthesis techniques including: atomic layer deposition (ALD) and flame spray pyrolysis (FSP), catalyst characterization, catalyst performance evaluation (mechanistic and kinetic studies), and computational/theoretical chemistry.
The incorporation of new feed stocks, such as biomass and shale gas, into the chemical industry will require new catalyst technologies different from those currently used for processing petroleum-based feed stocks. Many of the new catalyst technologies being developed are mixed oxides formed by processes such as co-precipitation followed by thermal processing. There is minimal understanding of how these catalysts form at the molecular level, which makes optimizing the synthesis procedure, particularly at commercially-relevant scales, an expensive trial-and-error process. Furthermore, modern laboratory-scale synthetic techniques have yielded catalysts with unique structural features that greatly influence catalyst performance but have been shown to be difficult to reproduce when scaled-up.
ALD and FSP are two techniques that offer the ability to control catalyst formation at the molecular level, assuming one has a comprehensive understanding of the chemical and physical processes that control the catalyst synthesis process. High performance computing coupled with advanced characterization techniques available at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) can provide the understanding necessary to enable ALD and FSP to produce high performance catalysts at commercially relevant scales.
Core competencies include:
- Synthesis of organic, inorganic and organometallic-based catalysts involving a wide range of synthetic techniques including the application of ALD and FSP
- Catalyst characterization using a wide range of advanced X-ray absorption, diffraction and scattering techniques available at the APS as well as transmission electron microscopy techniques available at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM)
- Computational/theoretical chemistry
- Reaction mechanisms and kinetic studies
- High-throughput testing and evaluation of catalyst performance