Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (MSChE)


Chemical Engineering

Document Type



Biomass or coal gasification are promising processes for renewable energy. However, a major operating problem in gasification is what to do with syngas byproducts such as H2S and tars (heavy hydrocarbons) that cause catalyst deactivation downstream. Studies have shown that rare earth oxides (REOs) doped with transition metals are promising catalysts for tar reforming in the presence of sulfur.(R. Li, Roy, Bridges, & Dooley, 2014) In Chapter 1, propane is studied as a model compound for tar reforming with transition metal-doped (e.g., Mn, Fe) REOs. These are compared to a typical commercial Ni/Al2O3 catalyst. The results showed that REO/TM catalysts have higher reforming activity over the temperature range 920-1000 K, with no significant deactivation in non-sulfur containing feeds. In particular, Mn/Ce4, Mn1.1/Ce3/La and La/Ce3 (the numbers are elemental ratios) showed good reforming activity with relatively low carbon, CO2 and CH4 yields. Mn/Ce4 showed some, but not complete, deactivation when tested with an H2S-containing feed. All used catalysts were subjected to TPO analysis and H2 chemisorption. No correlation could be found between either reforming activity or carbon yield (as calculated from the mass balances), or the TPO or dispersion (chemisorption) results, although the dispersions did show that the transition metals remained doped in the REOs. Kinetics calculations showed that most of the catalysts have near zero-order kinetics with respect to water. In Chapter 2, educational modules related to biomass unit operations are presented, as part of the Energy Sustainability Remote Laboratory (ESRL) project. The modules relate to a biological pH-swing crystallization and a sugar-milling process. Brief introductions to the fundamental theories of both unit operations are provided to aid students’ understanding of them. Laboratory assignments and exercises are designed to focus on enhancing students’ experiences in typical operating problems, such as analyzing and finding discrepancies in experimental data, building mass balances around units, and analyzing relevant probability distributions related to the data. Students can utilize mathematical software such as Excel’s Solver and Matlab to complete certain assignments. Written solutions, Excel spreadsheets and Matlab codes for laboratory assignments and exercises are provided in Appendix C.



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Committee Chair

Dooley, Kerry M.