Industrial Catalysts

AETC is pleased to announce a multi-year contract with Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD), an entity created through an agreement between the State of Israel and the US. The objective of the collaboration is to develop a catalyst for the purpose of cracking ammonia, in order to efficiently and safely source hydrogen for use in hydrogen fuel cells

Ammonia, having the chemical formula NH3, needs to decompose over a bed of catalysts in order to yield its separate components, nitrogen and hydrogen. NH3 happens to be the lowest-cost source of hydrogen, as well as the safest way to transport it. In the past, people considered storing hydrogen in tanks, but the element is infamously volatile—storing it thusly would be as precarious as a bomb. That said, finding the proper catalyst to effectively break ammonia is quite complicated.

A catalyst is a complex aggregate of multiple chemicals. Catalysts are used for changing the rate of absorption and de-sorption of various chemicals, usually in gaseous forms. Traditionally, scientists used ruthenium and platinum as catalysts; obviously, these materials work wonders, but are extremely expensive and scarce, and consulting this idle industry no longer makes sense. Silver is a cheaper option, and nickel is even more so, but classic micronized nickel doesn’t seem to work as well as some of the best catalysts based on precious metals. However, we are making nickel work as well as, or even better than, precious metal-based materials, by fine-tuning the surface properties of nickel-based catalyst powders.

While our research is focused on catalysts for breaking ammonia, the same particle engineering principles can be applied to catalysts for other chemicals relevant to the oil and gas industry. The oil and gas industry is concerned with being able to effectively break down hydrocarbon molecules in refining processes, and to selectively produce the byproducts of the catalytic decomposition of crude oil into gases, plastics, and other carbonaceous materials.

One of several ways we achieve superior results with nickel is by delving into the world of single-digit-micron and nanoscale catalysts. We can control the porosity within a granule, and can increase specific surface area and particle size, so the catalytic activity and selectivity of our chemicals stands out in the marketplace. And because all of our catalysts are free of precious metals, they come in at a much lower cost than other compositions. Furthermore, the application of our catalyst into hydrogen fuel cells would have a sorely-needed positive impact on the environment. Ruxi Griza, an AETC R&D engineer, noted, “We are very excited for the opportunity to develop a cutting-edge catalyst that will dramatically improve the applicability of fuel cells, given that fuel cells offer so much potential in the way of clean, renewable energy.” 

Aiding the process of catalyst production is a refined technological production line consisting of particle grinding, particle sizing, classification, and advanced methods of aggregating multiple ingredients into a macroparticle with control-engineered porosity and surface area. Furthermore, sophisticated calcination techniques allow us to make very firm particles which do not degrade, and have very strong mechanical properties and stability in cycling performance.

Thanks to our elaborate and precise analytical capabilities, we are able to measure and control the properties of individual particles down to nanometric proportions with unique accuracy. Our analytical procedures include RoTap RX29 screen analysis, multi-point BET surface area tests, Nova Quantachrome 2200e porosity size distribution measured down to 2 nanometers using CO2, MicroTrac laser particle size analysis, helium pycnometry true density determination, and scanning electron microscope (SEM) imaging.

In conclusion, with our state-of-the-art technology and innovative research, we are developing superior catalysts for numerous potential functions. Our nickel-based compounds offer cheaper options than precious metal-based counterparts, our aggregation and particle-sizing instrumentation and techniques allow us to control particle properties down to nanoscales, and our operation of assorted analytical capabilities ensure that our powders precisely fit our specific criteria. We have mastered the science of particle engineering to ensure that our products are as efficient and effective as possible, and we invite interested parties to explore the world of new material synthesis, and all of the opportunities it promises, with us.