Energy carriers

A clean, sustainable and steady energy supply for next generations will require the development of novel chemical building blocks and materials that provide efficient and safe energy storage solutions. ARC CBBC is exploring the development of such energy carriers, as well as the conversion technology to enable their production processes.

We want to find novel routes to activate small molecules such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen. We will develop both homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts that are able to make larger hydrocarbons from small molecules, like carbon dioxide and water.

Flagship projects on Energy carriers

Pyrolytic upgrading of methane to ethylene, aromatics and carbon materials

Methane has tremendous potential as a chemical feedstock. It is an abundant and relatively cheap carbon source with a lower negative environmental footprint than other fossil resources, such as crude oil and coals. Aiming on this, we are now trying to convert methane, CH4, into ethylene, in both an energy- and atom-efficient way.

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Hans Kuipers

Professor of Multi-scale modelling of multiphase flows
Eindhoven University of Technology

Adrie Huesman

Principal External technology - Collaboration advisor

Bilateral projects on Energy carriers

Photo-electrochemical fuel production: optimizing NiO, light absorber, and catalyst

An attractive approach to produce green fuel is to reduce CO2 using sunlight and protons in a photoelectrochemical (PEC) cell. A component that generally limits solar-to-fuel performance of a PEC cell, is the photocathode where the reduction needs to take place. The aim of this project, supported by Shell, is to develop a cheap, efficient and stable photocathode for the highly selective reduction of CO2 and protons to value added products. The conversion of CO2 into a dense energy carrier using renewable energy (also referred to as solar fuel) is an important element of Shell’s so-called ‘Long Range Research’ program.

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Exploring electrochemical promotion of catalytic oxidation of methane to alcohols

Converting methane – the main component in natural gas, a cheap and abundant feedstock – directly into a chemical such as methanol would have a tremendous impact on the chemical industry. Methanol is a fuel itself but can also be used as a building block for a range of products such as plastics, gasoline and intermediate chemicals. In this project, the researchers will first scrutinize the potential of electrochemical promotion of catalysis (EPOC) on direct methane to methanol conversion, followed by optimizing the nanomaterials that are able to convert methane into methanol. Renewable electricity is used to accelerate the reaction and control the selectivity.

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Reactor technology for reduction of metal oxide catalysts

Catalysts used in industry often contain metal oxides of cobalt, nickel and copper where the final step in the manufacturing process of the catalyst involves the reduction of the metal oxide with hydrogen. The resulting catalysts are widely used in the chemical process industry for the production of base chemicals and energy carriers.

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Electrochemical CO2 conversion: elucidating the role of catalyst, support and electrolyte

Producing a solar fuel, by reaction of water and CO2 captured from the environment is an attractive option to store cheap intermittent renewable electricity in a fuel that can be directly introduced to the market, with net zero CO2 emissions.

This project aims to develop electrochemical technology for this application by fundamental investigation (both computationally and experimentally) of catalysts, including metal alloys and innovative supports, and organic electrolytes. In order to screen materials and to rationalize the effect of each interplaying factor, a new testing unit will be developed wherein materials and operating conditions can be varied, mass transfer can be controlled, and in-situ analysis (both quantitatively and qualitatively) of the products of electrochemical CO2reduction is possible.

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Exploration of non-commodity zeolite frameworks for small molecule activation: acidity, reactivity and coke formation

Zeolites are widely used solid catalysts. Although there are more than 235 zeolite frameworks reported, almost all zeolite-based catalytic processes are performed by a limited number of frameworks. These are the so-called Big Five: FAU, MFI, FER, MOR and BEA. More recently, SAPO-34 and SSZ-13 with the CHA structure became important catalysts in e.g. methanol-to-hydrocarbon process and selective catalytic reduction of NOx.

Since industry wishes to develop more sustainable conversion processes, it is crucial to explore the properties of less conventional zeolite frameworks. In this research project, several non-commodity zeolite framework structures are investigated as examples of small molecule activation processes. To gather detailed physicochemical insights of these materials, a wide variety of bulk and local characterization methods will be used, while their performance is studied in the methanol-to-olefins (MTO) process as showcase. The latter allows making comparisons with current MTO catalysts.

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Unravelling structure sensitivity in CO2 hydrogenation over nickel

Efforts in the fields of materials science have allowed us to create smaller and smaller metal nanoparticles, creating new opportunities to study catalytic properties that depend on the metal particle size. Structure sensitivity is the phenomenon where not all surface atoms in a supported metal catalyst have the same activity. Understanding the structure sensitivity can assist in the rational design of heterogeneous catalysts allowing to control mechanisms, activity and selectivity.

By making use of advanced characterization methods and a set of well-defined silica-supported Ni clusters (ranging from 1 Ni atom to ~ 10 nm Ni nanoparticles), we wish to investigate how structure sensitivity influences hydrogenation catalysis by taking CO2 reduction as a showcase. These findings may bring new understanding in selective reactant adsorption (e.g. H2, CO2 and olefins) and allow controlling both activity and selectivity hydrogenation catalysis over supported Ni catalysts, which can be a means for CO2 emission abatement.

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Fundamentals of reduction of nickel-based catalysts

Heterogeneous metal catalysts are amongst the most important industrial catalysts. During catalyst preparation it is of high interest to yield a stable and highly dispersed active metal phase. The reduction of these catalysts is a vital step in the catalyst preparation as it determines the dispersion and thereby activity. There has been a wealth of investigations on the mechanism of reduction, however, most studies were performed either ex-situ or with model systems.

This project focuses on gaining insights into the reduction mechanisms of nickel catalysts. In that respect, it is vital to study the evolution of the active phases of typical catalysts with a combination of complementary techniques. Along with the understanding thus generated, the project aims at improving the synthesis of current catalysts by influencing the reduction processes and beyond that leading to new and improved catalyst properties.

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Perovskite crystallization for stable and large scale printable solar cells

The project aims at obtaining fundamental insights in the processes that govern perovskite thin film formation and crystallization for photovoltaic applications. Crystallite size, crystallite orientation, surface coverage, surface roughness and interaction with the receiving surface are crucial parameters that determine the solar cell performance. One of the principal issues in perovskites currently revolves around stability. The significant strides made in recent time provide the opportunity to comfortably think of large scale deployment.

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