Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Chemical Engineering

Major Professor

John T. Wolan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Babu Joseph, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elias Stefanakos, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Vinay K. Gupta, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stephen E. Saddow, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Casey W. Miller, Ph.D.


exothermic reaction, adsorption, fixed-bed reactor, synthetic liquid fuel, incipient wetness impregnation


This work begins with an introduction to catalysis focusing on heterogeneous systems and surface science phenomena. A study on the partial oxidation reaction of n-butane to maleic anhydride (MA) is presented in the first part. MA supplies are barely adequate for market requirements due to continued strong demand. Only slight improvement in catalytic performance would be welcome in the industrial community. The vanadium phosphorus oxide (VPO) catalyst was used in this work. The reaction is highly exothermic and the need to properly support the catalyst, not only for good dispersion but adequate heat dissipation is of crucial importance. For this, alpha-SiC commercial powders were used in synthesizing the catalyst due to its high thermal conductivity. Up to 25% MA yields were obtained and the reaction temperature was lowered by up to 28% using SiC/VPO mixed catalysts.

The second part of this work is focused on the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS) process using cobalt silica supported catalysts. The main objective is the production of synthetic ultra high purity jet fuel (JP5). This is a very timely topic given the energy issues our world is facing. Almost all aspects of the FTS process have been extensively studied, however the effects of calcination temperature and silica support structure on the catalyst performance are lacking in literature. The catalysts were prepared using various silica supports. The catalysts had different drying and calcination temperatures. It was found that lower support surface area and calcination temperature catalysts exhibited higher activity due to lower support cobalt phase interaction. Co/silica catalysts calcined at 573K showed the highest CO conversion and the lowest CH4 selectivity. Catalysts prepared with 300m²/g support surface area exhibited 79.5% C5+ selectivity due to higher reducibility and less metal support interaction.

The properties and performance of various prepared catalysts in both VPO and Co/silica systems are characterized by FTIR, XRD, BET, GC and XPS techniques. Theoretical FTS deactivation by sintering calculations and SiC/VPO particle temperature gradient calculations are presented as well. Finally, conclusions and future work on improving the yield and selectivity and scaling up the bench top setups are also presented.