The Schwank Group

-Research Projects-

Research in The Schwank Group combines expertise in catalysis and reaction engineering to important energy related problems. Currently, our efforts are focused in the following general areas:

Catalyst Design and Synthesis Hydrocarbon Reforming
Synthetic Fuel Production Vehicle Pollution Control

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Micrograph of Titanium Nanotubes

Scanning Transmission Electron
Micrograph of Titania Nanotubes

Novel Catalyst Design and Synthesis

Motivation:

Advanced techniques for nano-engineering of solid materials and surfaces coupled with our ability to characterize these materials have opened up tremendous opportunities for the development of better catalysts, fuel cell components, and batteries.

Goal:

Work in our group is aimed at developing correlations for controlling the local environment of surface sites for optimum functions. Catalyst and fuel cell electrode design guided by theoretical models forms the basis for an iterative approach, where theoretical and experimental work can complement each other, ultimately leading to a rational design of surfaces with desired catalytic or electrochemical properties. We are also investigating novel approaches to regenerate spent catalysts and thus recover the desired surface properties.

Research Projects in this Field:


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Reforming of Hydrocarbon Fuels to Produce Hydrogen for Fuel Cell Applications

Micrograph of Carbon Filaments on a spent ATR catalyst

Scanning Electron Micrograph of Carbon Filaments
Formed during the Refroming of i-Octane
over a Ni Catalyst

Motivation:

Fuel processors capable of converting fuels such as gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel into a hydrogen rich gas stream are important for the development of solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC)-based auxiliary power units. Our approach combines the high efficiencies of fuel cells with the existing liquid fuel distribution infrastructure. This fuel processor technology could lead to a decrease in global oil consumption and a lowering of carbon and other harmful combustion emissions.

Goal:

Our group uses specially formulated nickel based catalysts to produce hydrogen from hydrocarbons using the autothermal reforming (ATR) reaction. Our research aims at tackling the biggest impediments to fuel processor technology, namely carbon formation which plagues Ni based catalysts and sulfur poisoning of active sites.

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Production of Synthetic Fuels

ASF product distribution

Typical Anderson-Schulz-Flory product
distribution for a Fischer-Tropsch process

Motivation:

The increasing dependence of the United States on imported petroleum provides major incentives to examine other energy source such as coal or biomass. These materials can be gasified and converted into syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, that in turn can be converted, via Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis, into methane and larger hydrocarbons in the gasoline and diesel product ranges.

Goal:

Our research is aimed at finding ways to alter the product distribution of the FT process. We use innovative approaches to reevaluate the reactor and catalyst design of the traditional gasification and FT processes.

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Lean NOx reduction

Disperse and bulk-like features of NOx storage catalyst

Quantification of dispersed and
bulk-like NOx storage components
on an alumina support

Motivation:

Reducing automotive emissions while increasing the fuel economy of cars requires a robust exhaust after-treatment solutions to meet stringent NOx emission standards.

Goal:

Our approach is aimed at answering the fundamental questions regarding NOx reduction catalysis. We are deceloping ways to make the catalysts more effective for a wider operating temperature window while assuring a prolonged catalyst lifetime.

Research Projects in this field:


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