Date of Award

12-1-2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Engineering Science

First Advisor

Wiltowski, Tomasz

Abstract

This dissertation research aimed at evaluating a fly ash zeolite (FAZ) catalyst support for use in heterogeneous catalytic processes. Gas phase Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis (FTS) over a fixed-bed of the prepared catalyst/FAZ support was identified as an appropriate process for evaluation, by comparison with commercial catalyst supports (silica, alumina, and 13X). Fly ash, obtained from the Wabash River Generating Station, was first characterized using XRD, SEM/EDS, particle size, and nitrogen sorption techniques. Then, a parametric study of a two-step alkali fusion/hydrothermal treatment process for converting fly ash to zeolite frameworks was performed by varying the alkali fusion agent, agent:flyash ratio, fusion temperature, fused ash/water solution, aging time, and crystallization time. The optimal conditions for each were determined to be NaOH, 1.4 g NaOH: 1 g fly ash, 550 °C, 200 g/L, 12 hours, and 48 hours. This robust process was applied to the fly ash to obtain a faujasitic zeolite structure with increased crystallinity (40 %) and surface area (434 m2/g). Following the modification of fly ash to FAZ, ion exchange of H+ for Na+ and cobalt incipient wetness impregnation were used to prepare a FTS catalyst. FTS was performed on the catalysts at 250 - 300 °C, 300 psi, and with a syngas ratio H2:CO = 2. The HFAZ catalyst support loaded with 11 wt% cobalt resulted in a 75 % carbon selectivity for C5 - C18 hydrocarbons, while methane and carbon dioxide were limited to 13 and 1 %, respectively. Catalyst characterization was performed by XRD, N2 sorption, TPR, and oxygen pulse titration to provide insight to the behavior of each catalyst. Overall, the HFAZ compared well with silica and 13X supports, and far exceeded the performance of the alumina support under the tested conditions. The successful completion of this research could add value to an underutilized waste product of coal combustion, in the form of catalyst supports in heterogeneous catalytic processes.

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