Non-equilibrium plasmas, also known as low-temperature plasmas, are highly reactive and can be used in catalytic chemical processes. Chemical looping processes can convert natural gas into electricity, liquid fuels, hydrogen, or chemicals while providing capture of carbon dioxide (CO2). The use of non-equilibrium plasma-catalysis (NEPC) for chemical looping and methane processing can have a global impact on energy conversion infrastructure such as small-scale reactors for chemical synthesis, power plants, gas-to-liquid technology, oil exploration, and fuel cells, etc. This project will study the shape effects (such as rods, cubes, octahedra, and fibers) of ceria-supported catalysts (CuOx and RuOx) on performance and selectivity in non-equilibrium low-temperature plasma-enhanced chemical looping hydrogen production from water, using CO2, water and natural gas as feedstock. The proposed research could lead to economically viable approaches for synthesis of sustainable fuels from CO2 obtained directly from power plants, water and natural gas feedstock, thus providing alternatives to fossil fuels while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposed research will test the hypothesis that gaseous non-equilibrium low temperature plasma containing vibrationally and electronically excited species/radicals/hot electrons etc. together with the metal oxide catalysts supported on different ceria nano-shapes can synergistically enhance heterogeneous reactions leading to low temperature performance and selectivity in products which can include syngas (CO+H2) and larger hydrocarbons (C2H4, C2H6, C2H2) during the reduction cycle and H2 during the oxidation cycle. The plasma-catalysis synergy can enhance the yield at low temperatures and also lead to understanding towards catalyst design for product selectivity. For example, the plasma can dissociate CH4 to CH3+H at low temperatures. With the right docking sites on catalysts or interfaces, two CH3 radicals can combine to form C2H4 after losing H2. The RF discharge plasma can by sustained using solar energy or wind energy and novel high efficiency surface discharge techniques can be developed. The proposed outreach program will be aimed at teachers and students in rural Alabama to increase participation of underrepresented minority students in science and engineering research.

This project is jointly funded by Process Systems, Reaction Engineering and Molecular Thermodynamics and the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
United States
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