Catalysts, materials, and processes for the energy and transportation of tomorrow
Energy will be one of the major challenges that our country must address in the next two decades. Global demand for petroleum is increasing even as production capacity is leveling off. There is also now consensus on the undesirable side-effects of fossil energy consumption, particularly emissions of CO2, NOx and SOx.
Research in the Schwank group is directed toward finding and developing novel solutions to the problem of energy production, storage, and utilization in the transportation, distributed generation, and chemical process sectors.
An advanced catalytic Fischer-Tropsch process is under development to create clean-burning synthetic fuels from domestic resources, including coal and biomass. A second major research thrust is the fuel reforming of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel in compact reactor modules, either on board of a vehicle, or in small stationary systems. This is a smaller scale approach for supplying hydrogen or syngas mixtures to fuel cell auxiliary power systems for trucks or military vehicles, or small stationary fuel cells in electric microgrids. This research also explores the interface between mobile and stationary energy conversion systems. Another project aims at generating syngas from biomass-derived gas mixtures for solid oxide fuel cells. In collaboration with Professor Linic, a combined experimental and theoretical approach is taken for developing carbon and sulfur tolerant anode catalysts for solid oxide fuel cells. Novel energy harvesting and conversion concepts are being evaluated to improve the efficiency of large-scale industrial processes. The group is also working on advanced automotive emission control catalysts with emphasis on NOx traps and selective catalytic reduction.
The group has expertise in catalyst synthesis, multifaceted physical and chemical characterization, and kinetic and mechanistic studies of catalytic reactions. The group is also involved in research on advanced thin film and nanotube materials, with applications in high-performance lithium-ion battery technology for energy storage, and gas sensors.