September 1, 2006-August 31, 2011
Level of Access
In recent years novel diffusion controlled catalytic processes and non-conventional separation processes such as adsorption and membrane processes have gained an increasingly important place in the petroleum and petrochemicals industries. Several factors have driven this trend, including the need to improve the energy efficiency and throughput of refineries, stricter limits on the allowable composition of gasoline and diesel fuel requiring the removal of aromatics and sulfur containing compounds to extremely low levels, the need to process increasingly complex deposits of both natural gas and liquid hydrocarbons, and the possibility of producing liquid fuels from non-traditional sources such as biomass. Although progress has been made, significant challenges remain. Most of the newer processes have been developed by extensive trial and error experimentation with only limited attempts to develop a fundamental understanding of the underlying phenomena. This project is a three-year, three-way research program involving the University of Maine (UMaine), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and ExxonMobil Corporation (EM) to study molecular transport in nanoporous materials of industrial interest. A major objective is to develop a fundamental understanding of how the transport properties are modified in multicomponent systems due to interference effects. The proposed collaboration will produce a more fundamental understanding of the major factors that control intracrystalline diffusion in multicomponent systems under sterically hindered conditions. This knowledge will provide a valuable platform for the development of new adsorption processes and the optimization of existing processes. The proposed research will directly impact existing efforts to develop a robust process for upgrading CO2-rich natural gas and to develop the methanol to olefins (MTO) process to the point of economic viability. By its collaborative nature, the work will address two major defects in previous studies of molecular transport in nanoporous materials:
(1) The conditions of the (past) experimental studies are often far removed from conditions of practical interest and
(2) The integration between experimental and molecular modeling studies has generally involved post facto comparisons of results, rather than an integrated collaborative program of research.
The projects overall aim is to generate the underlying science needed to develop the nanoporous adsorbents, membranes, and catalysts required for advanced catalytic and/or separation processes of importance to the petrochemical industries. The students working on the project will benefit from in-depth research training and outstanding research facilities at the two universities and at EM. EM is providing cost free access to the research and technical facilities at their Clinton N.J. laboratory, half the time of one research professional for project supervision, a part time post-doc or research technician to work with the students, support for the students living expenses while at Exxon Mobil and partial summer salaries for Ruthven and Sholl. The nations science and engineering workforce will be strengthened through student participation in industrial research and the integration of research results into courses at UMaine and CMU.
Ruthven, Douglas M.; Sholl, David; and Chance, Ronald, "GOALI: Multicomponent Molecular Transport in Nanoporous Materials" (2012). University of Maine Office of Research and Sponsored Programs: Grant Reports. 263.