Science & Technology

Turning Seawater Into Fuel With a Low-Cost Catalyst

A replenishment oiler, left, refuels a naval ship at sea. The Porosoff analysis group on the College of Rochester has demonstrated that a potassium-promoted molybdenum carbide catalyst might help the US Navy obtain its purpose of changing seawater to gasoline, successfully eliminating the necessity for conventional refueling operations. Credit score: US Navy

For the primary time, Rochester chemical engineers have demonstrated a ‘potassium-promoted’ catalyst’s potential to be used on an industrial scale.

Now, the Navy’s quest to energy its ships by changing seawater into gasoline is nearer to fruition.

This reactor at OxEon Power was used to validate the effectiveness of the potassium-promoted molybdenum carbide catalyst on an industrial scale. Credit score: OxEon Power

College of Rochester chemical engineers—in collaboration with researchers on the Naval Analysis Laboratory, the College of Pittsburgh, and OxEon Power—have demonstrated that a potassium-promoted molybdenum carbide catalyst effectively and reliably converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, a crucial step in turning seawater into gasoline.

“That is the primary demonstration that this sort of molybdenum carbide catalyst can be utilized on an industrial scale,” says Marc Porosoff, assistant professor within the Division of Chemical Engineering at Rochester. In a paper within the journal Power & Environmental Science, the researchers describe an exhaustive sequence of experiments they carried out at molecular, laboratory, and pilot scales to doc the catalyst’s suitability for scale-up.

If navy ships may create their very own gasoline from the seawater they journey by way of, they may stay in steady operation. Aside from a few nuclear-powered plane carriers and submarines, most navy ships should periodically align themselves alongside tanker ships to replenish their gasoline oil, which will be troublesome in tough climate.

In 2014, a Naval Analysis Laboratory staff led by Heather Willauer introduced it had used a catalytic converter to extract carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater after which transformed the gases into liquid hydrocarbons at a 92 p.c effectivity fee.

Since then, the main focus has been on rising the effectivity of the method and scaling it as much as produce gasoline in ample portions.

The carbon dioxide extracted from seawater is extraordinarily troublesome to transform straight into liquid hydrocarbons with present strategies. So, it’s essential to first convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide through the reverse water-gas shift (RWGS) response. The carbon monoxide can then be transformed into liquid hydrocarbons through Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.

Madeline Vonglis ’20, who interned with the Porosoff analysis group final summer time, carried out lots of the laboratory-scale experiments to characterize the potassium-promoted molybdenum carbide catalyst, and is second creator on the Power & Environmental Science paper. She’ll start her PhD in chemical engineering this fall at Pennsylvania State College. Credit score: College of Rochester / J. Adam Fenster

Usually, catalysts for RWGS comprise costly treasured metals and deactivate quickly underneath response situations. Nevertheless, the potassium-modified molybdenum carbide catalyst is synthesized from low-cost parts and didn’t present any indicators of deactivation throughout steady operation of the 10-day pilot-scale research. That’s why this demonstration of the molybdenum carbide catalyst is necessary.

Porosoff, who first started engaged on the mission whereas serving as a postdoctoral analysis affiliate with Willauer’s staff, found that including potassium to a molybdenum carbide catalyst supported on a floor of gamma alumina may function a low-cost, secure, and extremely selective catalyst for changing carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide throughout RWGS.

The potassium lowers the vitality barrier related to the RWGS response, whereas the gamma alumina—marked with grooves and pores, very like a sponge—helps be certain that the molybdenum carbide catalyst particles stay dispersed, maximizing the floor space obtainable for response, Porosoff says.

To find out whether or not potassium-promoted molybdenum carbide may additionally be helpful for capturing and changing carbon dioxide from energy crops, the analysis group will conduct additional experiments to check the catalyst’s stability when uncovered to widespread contaminants present in flue fuel reminiscent of mercury, sulfur, cadmium, and chlorine.


Reference: “Assessing the viability of Ok-Mo2C for reverse water–fuel shift scale-up: molecular to laboratory to pilot scale” by Mitchell Juneau, Madeline Vonglis, Joseph Hartvigsen, Lyman Frost, Dylan Bayerl, Mudit Dixit, Giannis Mpourmpakis, James R. Morse, Jeffrey W. Baldwin, Heather D. Willauer and Marc D. Porosoff, 7 July 2020, Power & Environmental Science.
DOI: 10.1039/D0EE01457E

Rochester coauthors embody lead creator Mitchell Juneau, a PhD pupil within the Porosoff analysis group, and Madeline Vonglis ’20, a former undergraduate researcher.

An Workplace of Naval Analysis award supported this mission.

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