David Hale

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Faculty Advisor: Jason Hicks

Catalyst Screening for the Plasma-Assisted Synthesis of Liquid Chemicals from Ethane

The catalytic plasma synthesis of liquid nitrogen-containing chemicals from ethane presents an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective alternative to the conventional flaring of shale gas. In particular, low temperature (i.e. non-thermal) plasma creates a very reactive chemical environment and has been shown to create valuable compounds at near-ambient conditions. These compounds, particularly aromatic nitrogen-containing compounds such as pyrrole or pyridine, are used in a wide range of fields. Ethane is the second most abundant component of shale gas and is easier to activate than methane, so it is beneficial to understand this ethane-nitrogen coupling reaction. This project will study the Pt-ZSM-5 catalyst, which is known to be active for ethane dehydroaromatization. Coupled with non-thermal plasma that can activate nitrogen, this zeolite catalyst can be used for the synthesis of nitrogen-containing compounds. Varying the silica/alumina ratio of the ZMS-5  alters the Brønsted acidity, and can be used to determine the best ratio for high reactivity with limited coke formation. After determining this optimum ratio, modifications to the zeolite can be made by testing various weight loadings of platinum. The best catalyst will be used to study how varying the amount of catalyst and plasma power affects the rate of production of the nitrogen-containing compounds.