CRE Group Research
Our research embraces the entire breadth of catalytic reaction engineering across length scales, ranging from the development of advanced reactor concepts to the design and study of functional nanomaterials for catalysis and related applications. In our research, we aim to combine fundamental scientific studies with application to realistic technical process conditions. Our current esearch focus is on natural gas utilization and emerging clean energy technologies.
Below is a brief overview over some of our current research topics. Please check our publications or inquire by email about more detailed information.
Traditionally, the defining paradigm of chemical engineering is the unit operations approach, in which a process is broken down into individual unit operations (hence the name!), such as mixing, preheating, reacting, and separating, and an individual apparatus is devoted to each of this operations.
In recent years, a novel approach has gained much traction, in which several unit operations are integrated into one apparatus, which thus becomes multifunctional, with the aim of achieving a process with reduced energy, envionmental, and/or physical foot-print - typically referred to as 'process intensification'. Well-established examples are heat-exchange reactors (combination of heat exchanger with a chemical reactor), membrane reactors (mixing/separation and reaction) and reactive distillation (separation and reaction).We are currently focussing much of our attention on 'chemical looping' as a rapidly emerging technoogy for clean combustion, and its application to reactions beyond combustion (including hydrogen production, syngas production, and CO2 conversion).
Engineered nanomaterials are revolutionizing technology across a broad range of industries. The engineering of materials properties on the molecular scale has enbled tailoring of physical and chemical - and hence the functional - properties of many materials with unprecedented precision, opening a vast array of exciting novel opportunities.
Beyond the investigation of structure-property relationships (such as impact of size, shape, and composition of materials on their reactive properties) in catalysis and related reactive applications, our research focusses on the development of cost-effective and scalable synthesis pathways which result in robust nanomaterials that can survive the conditions of typical industrial applications. Current work is focused on metal nanocatalysts for oxidation reactions and metal@zeolite core-shell materials for non-oxidative conversion of natural gas, synthesis of nanostructured CO2 sorbents, and the design of homogeneous-heterogeneous hybrid catalysts.
We have partnered with colleagues in our department and at the University of Pittsburgh's Medical School to investigate the toxicity of nanomaterials and develop protocols for rapid screening of nanotoxicity, with the aim to improve our fundamental understanding of the physical and chemical processes underlying nanotoxic effects and to identify design strategies that would allow harvesting the huge benefits of nanomaterials while mitigating potential toxic effects.
Microengineering is a fascinating area of engineering with substantial impact on many areas of science and engineering. Micromachined chemical reactors offer a whole new range of possibilities as research tools for a better understanding of catalytic reactions due to a very precise control of reaction conditions in micro reaction channels. At the same time, microreactors also hold a great potential for industrial application, particularly for small scale, decentralized on-site processes due to the reduced risk in handling explosive or highly toxic materials.We are working on the design and utilization of catalytic microreactors for the detailed study of heterogeneous catalysts, including in particular the coupling between catalytic surface reactions and homogeneous gas phase reaction.
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