Infoscience

Thesis

Fast temperature cycling of the catalytic CO oxidation using microstructure reactors

The possibility to increase the performance (productivity or selectivity) of a chemical reactor by using periodic variations of reaction parameters (e.g. reactant concentration or temperature) has been theoretically envisaged since the beginning of the 70th. The experimental validation of the predicted positive effects was successful in the case of concentration variation but failed for temperature variation. This was mainly due to the high thermal inertia of the conventional chemical reactors used for the measurements which prevented to create variations having a sufficiently high frequency. Microstructure reactors own, at the contrary to conventional reactors, a very low thermal inertia and allow to generate temperature oscillations with an amplitude of about ten to hundred Kelvin at a frequency in the order of magnitude of 10-1 to 4 Hz. These properties, coupled with the possibility to introduce a catalytic active material within the devices, seem to make them well suited for the study of the effects of fast periodic temperature variations of a catalytic reaction. The objective of this work was to demonstrate that non-stationary temperature conditions may increase the reaction rate of a heterogeneously catalyzed reaction up to values not predicted by the classical Arrhenius dependency towards the temperature. Two different types of microstructure reactors have been used. The reaction was taking place in the first one (FTC-type 2) in microstructured channels on whose walls a catalytic layer was deposed. In the second one (FTC-type 3), the reaction was taking place on a piece of sintered metal fibres (SMF) plate placed in a reaction chamber. The catalytic active material was deposed on the SMF plate filaments. Both devices where permanently heated by electrical resistors and periodically cooled down with water flowing through cooling channels incorporated in the devices. The test reaction chosen for the experimental measurements was the CO oxidation reaction, heterogeneously catalyzed by platinum supported on alumina (Pt/Al2O3). The reaction behaviour under stationary thermal conditions was consistent with the one predicted by the Arrhenius law. The dependency of the reaction rate with the temperature was exponential with an apparent activation energy of 104 kJ·mol-1, a negative partial reaction order for CO and a positive one for O2. The measurements effectuated under quasi-stationary thermal conditions (slow temperature ramps) have shown that a temperature change rate between 7 and 14 K·min-1 was not sufficient to observe any non-trivial effect of the temperature. The reaction behaviour was always predicted by the Arrhenius law. The surface coverage of the reactive species is, in this case, always able to follow the slow temperature changes and the reaction behaves as being always under steady-state conditions. The experiments realized under non-stationary thermal conditions using the FTC-type 2 reactor have also failed to demonstrate any non-trivial effects of the temperature oscillations. This device allows indeed to generate temperature oscillations with an amplitude of up to 120 K with a frequency of 0.1 Hz but unfortunately correlated with a very high thermal inhomogeneity. A temperature difference of up to 80 K was measured between a cold spot and a hot spot inside the device. Due to their very low local reaction rate the colder areas of the reactor have attenuated the product concentration (CO2) oscillations which should have been created by the temperature variations. This attenuation prevented the temperature oscillations to have any positive effect compared to the stationary thermal conditions. The FTC-type 3 reactor allowed temperature changes of lower amplitude but the thermal homogeneity was much better. The maximal temperature difference measured between two points within the reactor was only 15 K. Under temperature oscillation conditions, the measured instantaneous CO2 concentration was higher for any temperature within the oscillation range compared to the one recorded under stationary thermal conditions. The increase obtained in the mean CO2 concentration was ranging from 34% for a frequency of the oscillations of 0.035 Hz to 85% for a frequency of 0.052 Hz. The amplitude of the oscillations was kept constant at approximately 40 K and the mean temperature value at 437 K. The simulations effectuated using a theoretical model for the catalytic CO oxidation including a feed-back step in the form of the oxidation-reduction of the catalyst have shown that the experimentally observed increase may be qualitatively explained. Above a certain frequency, the temperature oscillations are fast enough compared to the characteristic time of the feedback step and are able to perturb the stationary established reactive species surface coverage. The formation of a transient surface coverage more favourable for the reaction than the surface coverage at high temperature allows during the transient period to reach an instantaneous surface reaction rate values higher than the one at high temperature. This reaction rate peak is then responsible for the increase of the mean reaction rate under non-stationary thermal conditions and, thus, for an increased yield.

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