The objective of the team connected to RCGI is to improve both the supports for catalyzes and the active phases and the promoters of reactions.
Hydrocarbons are composites in whose infrastructure is made up of only carbon and hydrogen atoms, from which it is possible to generate a large number of products that we use in our daily lives: plastics, rubber, paraffin, fuels…. The main sources of hydrocarbons are fossil fuels, especially petroleum. But there is another way to obtain hydrocarbons, besides removing them from fossil fuels: that is by the conversion of so-called synthesis gas, or syngas, which is form by CO and H2 (carbon monoxide and hydrogen).
According to him, the capacity to obtain hydrocarbons from larger or smaller carbon chains is connected to the type and performance of the catalyzer used. “Depending on the type of catalyzer and its performance, it is possible to generate different hydrocarbons of different sizes. For that reason, our main objective in this project is to generate more efficient catalyzers,” Giudici summarizes.
The engineer says that the catalyzer selects the chemical route for the reactions, offering an intermediate chemical reaction that favors the formation of the desired product. “The catalyzer is not consumed in the process, but it takes part in the reaction, connected with the reagent and forming an intermediary for that specific product. It is generally a solid device, because it is an expensive material and should be reused several times. It is changed only when it goes through a deactivation process. They can take years, weeks, days, and even fractions of a second to deactivate. It depends on the process, the reagents, and the conditions of its operation.”
By “operating conditions” we mean concentrations of the components that are used, temperature, pressure…. “These are variables that can affect the performance of the process, both in terms of kinetics (conversion speed of those reagents) and in terms of selectivity (what is the chemical route and the products that are favored under given conditions). And the idea is to have a catalyzer with which we are able to vary the range of hydrocarbons produced, by altering these conditions.”
The duration of the project is for five years and there are eight researchers involved, all of whom from the Polytechnical School. “Our objective is to create the catalyzers, analyze their performance in the processing unit, and also to generate process models, which allow working with the variables and arrive at excellent operating conditions so as to arrive at the products we want to obtain. We will also simulate scenarios involving the available materials.”
Methane – The objective of another project, also in the program coordinated by Giudici, is to develop more efficient catalyzers for generating methane from the CO2 that forms natural gas. Methane is a chemical intermediary that serves a as material for producing biofuels and a number of other intermediaries that are used, for example, by the furniture industry and pesticides.
The idea is to take advantage of the CO2 that comes from natural gas and make it react with hydrogen (H2) to form methane. The process is called hydrogenation and the project has similar characteristics to the previously described one. “The objective is the development and characterization of a more efficient catalyzer, from the standpoint of both support and the active phase and of the promoters of the reaction. Then, come the kinetic tests and the creation of a mathematical model of the reactor for synthesizing methane,” Giudici summarized.
He explains that, despite natural gas being composed mainly by methane gas (CH4), there are reservoirs in which the portion of CO2 contained in natural gas could reach up to 50% of the composition of the energy source. “Traditionally, methane is obtained by chemical processes, one of which comes out of syngas itself. In a way, this process that will initiate is a little different from the traditional ones, because we are not using CO and H2, but CO2 and H2. This results in the same product, but the route is different.”