Structured Reactors with INTensified ENergy Transfer for Breakthrough Catalytic Technologies

What about the project

“INTENT” is a ERC Advanced Grant funded for 66 Months by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme (Grant Agreement No 694919).
The research project, started on November 1st 2016, is coordinated by Prof. Enrico Tronconi and hosted at Politecnico di Milano (Milan – IT) Department of Energy-Laboratory of Catalysis and Catalytic Processes.
Budget: € 2 484 648

State of the Art

Critically important heterogeneous catalytic reactions for energy conversion and chemicals production have been run for decades in fixed bed reactors packed with catalyst pellets, whose operation is intrinsically limited by slow heat removal/supply. There is urgent need for a new generation of chemical reactors to address the current quest for process intensification.

Main Goal of the project

In the INTENT project we propose that a game-changing alternative is provided by structured reactors wherein the catalyst is washcoated onto or packed into structured substrates, like open-cell foams or 3D printed periodic open cellular structures (POCS), fabricated with highly conductive metals (Al, Cu).

The goal of INTENT is to elucidate fundamental and engineering properties of such novel conductive structured catalysts, investigate new concepts for their design, manufacturing, catalytic activation and operation and demonstrate their potential for a quantum leap in the intensification of crucial catalytic processes for the production of sustainable energy vectors:

distributed Hydrogen generation via efficient
small-size methane reformers;

conversion of syngas to clean synthetic fuels in compact Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis reactors;

production of solar Hydrogen.

To this purpose we combine CFD modelling with lab-scale experimentation in order to identify the optimal structure-performance relation of existing and novel substrates, use such new knowledge to design optimized prototypes, apply additive manufacturing technologies for their production, and construct a semi-pilot tubular reactor to test them at a representative scale.

The project results will enable novel reactor designs based on tuning geometry, materials and configurations of the conductive internals to match the activity – selectivity demands of specific process applications, while impacting also other research areas.

The new reactor technology will have significant influence on both the Energy and on the Environment scenarios. Just as an example, it will enable compact Gas-to-Liquids process technologies with potential to drastically reduce flaring of associated and remote Natural Gas.