This project is a collaboration between The Ohio State University and ABSMaterials, which is a company located in Wooster, Ohio. ABSMaterials, founded in 2009, specializes in the development of novel organosilica materials, and employs 28 people. The total sales the company had in 2013 was $2.1 million. A unique class of materials developed by ABS materials are swellable organosilicate frameworks. These materials, commercialized as OsorbÂ® and manufactured on a ton/month scale, have the capability to swell to 3-4 times their original volume in the presence of organics. Another important characteristic are their high hydrophobicity. The primary application of these materials to date has been their use to clean out organic impurities in water by absorption. While this application has large commercialization potential in water purification, another potential application is their use as catalyst scaffolds that can be used in reactions where water and/or common solutes have a hindrance or deactivation effect on the catalytic rate. This potential application is what brought the Ozkan group at Ohio State Chemical Engineering and the scientists at ABSMaterials together. While the Ozkan group has over 30 years of experience in heterogeneous catalysis, ABS Materials have the know-how for manufacturing these materials on a large scale, exploring the markets for applications, and commercializing different processes that will be based on the unique characteristics of these materials.
The proposed work will investigate novel catalyst systems to transform water contaminants into environmentally acceptable compounds. Focus will be placed on hydrodechlorination of chlorinated hydrocarbons, such as trichloroethylene, and hydrogenation of aromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzene. Catalytic systems to be developed will make use of highly hydrophobic swellable organosilica materials as catalyst scaffolds. Swellable organosilica have unique properties that differentiate them from traditional catalyst supports, including high hydrophobicity and the ability to reversibly expand and contract upon absorption and desorption of organic liquids. The materials do not absorb water, but the porous media extract organic solutes from water with high affinity and capacity. Due to the novelty of swellable organosilica, their use as catalyst scaffolds has not been thoroughly explored. This research will study: (i) methods to incorporate metals into the porous architecture, (ii) the kinetics of hydrodechlorination and hydrogenation reactions by metal catalysts supported on SOMS; (iii) mass transfer limitations in swellable hydrophobic media, and (iv) deactivation characteristics of metal catalysts sequestered in a porous hydrophobic matrix. The work will combine expertise from the fields of material science, catalysis, kinetics and transport phenomena. Experiments will be conducted to provide the knowledge base needed for the commercial development of a water purification system designed to treat EPA-regulated organic contaminants in water.
Development of catalytic systems to address water contamination issues have been previously studied with the path to commercialization hindered by the limited lifetime of catalyst beds due to poisoning. A key working hypothesis here is that catalyst poisoning by water solutes will be prevented by sequestering metal catalysts in a porous hydrophobic matrix. The GOALI partnership integrates the company's material science innovation with expertise from the academic participants to solve a commercially important problems in a multi-billion dollar industry. Treatment of waters contaminated by chlorinated hydrocarbons and aromatics, both known carcinogens, represents a major challenge in ensuring a safe drinking water supply for U.S. citizens. The findings of the project, which will combine the fundamental aspects of academic research with real-life applications driven by industry are likely to be translated to commercial processes as there exist market pulls for such remediation technologies. This catalysis-based technology is expected to lead to a much more cost efficient solution to a large water treatment industry. The project will also have an impact in enhancing the educational infrastructure and helping to develop the human resources. The PI has developed a course titled "Catalysis and Catalytic Processes". The industrial collaborators will be guest lecturers for the course, bringing their industrial expertise and experience directly to the classroom. In terms of the impact on the human resources development, the PI has well-established partnerships with two local high schools to provide research internship experiences to senior high school students prior to graduation.