Silica supported palladium nanoparticles for the decarboxylation of high-acid feedstocks: design, deactivation and regeneration

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Ping, Eric Wayne
Jones, Christopher W.
Fuller, Thomas F.
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The major goals of this thesis were to (1) design and synthesize a supported catalyst with well-defined monodisperse palladium nanoparticles evenly distributed throughout an inorganic oxide substrate with tunable porosity characteristics, (2) demonstrate the catalytic activity of this material in the decarboxylation of long chain fatty acids and their derivatives to make diesel-length hydrocarbons, (3) elucidate the deactivation mechanism of supported palladium catalysts under decarboxylation conditions via post mortem catalyst characterization and develop a regeneration methodology thereupon, and (4) apply this catalytic system to a real low-value biofeedstock. In an effort to maximize loading and minimize mass transfer limitations, mesoporous silica MCF was synthesized as catalyst support. Functionalization with various silane ligands facilitated even distribution of palladium precursor salts throughout the catalyst particle, and, after reduction, monodisperse palladium nanoparticles approximately 2 nm in diameter. The Pd-MCF catalyst showed high one-time activity in the decarboxylation of fatty acids to hydrocarbons in dodecane at 300 °C. Subsequent reactions were performed on acid derivatives to elucidate a decarboxylation reaction pathway. The catalyst experienced severe deactivation after only one use and substantial effort was put into elucidating the nature of this deactivation via post mortem catalyst characterization. The deactivation was found not to be caused by nanoparticle sintering, agglomeration or ripening, but instead by organic deposition, mainly of reactant acid. A regeneration methodology was developed and subsequent catalyst reuse exhibited high activity. Finally, the Pd-MCF catalyst was applied to a wastewater-derived brown grease from a poultry rendering facility, in an unpolished and polished form. The latter was successfully decarboxylated to diesel-length hydrocarbons with high conversion and selectivity.
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