Computer Simulation of Chemical Reactions in Porous Materials

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Title: Computer Simulation of Chemical Reactions in Porous Materials
Author: Turner, Christoffer Heath
Advisors: Gregory N. Parsons, Committee Member
Keith E. Gubbins, Committee Chair
Carol K. Hall, Committee Member
George W. Roberts, Committee Member
Abstract: Understanding reactions in nanoporous materials from a purely experimental perspective is a difficult task. Measuring the chemical composition of a reacting system within a catalytic material is usually only accomplished through indirect methods, and it is usually impossible to distinguish between true chemical equilibrium and metastable states. In addition, measuring molecular orientation or distribution profiles within porous systems is not easily accomplished. However, molecular simulation techniques are well-suited to these challenges. With appropriate simulation techniques and realistic molecular models, it is possible to validate the dominant physical and chemical forces controlling nanoscale reactivity. Novel nanostructured catalysts and supports can be designed, optimized, and tested using high-performance computing and advanced modeling techniques in order to guide the search for next-generation catalysts - setting new targets for the materials synthesis community. We have simulated the conversion of several different equilibrium-limited reactions within microporous carbons and we find that the pore size, pore geometry, and surface chemistry are important factors for determining the reaction yield. The equilibrium-limited reactions that we have modeled include nitric oxide dimerization, ammonia synthesis, and the esterification of acetic acid, all of which show yield enhancements within microporous carbons. In conjunction with a yield enhancement of the esterification reaction, selective adsorption of ethyl acetate within carbon micropores demonstrates an efficient method for product recovery. Additionally, a new method has been developed for simulating reaction kinetics within porous materials and other heterogeneous environments. The validity of this technique is first demonstrated by reproducing the kinetics of hydrogen iodide decomposition in the gas phase, and then predictions are made within slit-shaped carbon pores and carbon nanotubes. The rate constant is found to increase by a factor of 47 in carbon nanotubes, as compared to the same reaction in the bulk gas phase. Overall, the results of these simulation studies demonstrate improvements in chemical reaction yield and chemical kinetics that are possible by understanding the nature of confined reactions, and applying this knowledge to catalyst design.
Date: 2002-08-21
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Chemical Engineering

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