Atomic Layer Deposition for Improved Biomass Conversion Catalysts

Research output: NRELPresentation


Heterogeneous catalysts are a key enabler of the transition towards a sustainable, bio-based economy for fuels and chemicals. However, the harsh conditions in many biomass conversion processes lead to nanoparticle sintering, support collapse, and metal leaching in conventional PGM catalysts. Next-generation catalysts must be developed to address these stability challenges. This presentation will discuss ongoing work between the Catalytic Carbon Transformation & Scale-Up Center at NREL and various industrial partners to develop scalable, cost-effective atomic layer deposition (ALD) coatings for improving the performance of biomass conversion catalysts. Substantial focus will be devoted to the benefits of TiO2 ALD coatings on supported Pd hydrogenation catalysts. Ten cycles of TiO2 ALD were found to dramatically improve the activity of a conventional Pd/Al2O3 catalyst towards aromatic hydrogenation, despite partial coverage of the Pd sites by the ALD layer. Subsequent advanced characterization and atomic-scale computational modeling revealed that the ALD coating influenced the adsorption strength of hydrogenation surface intermediates in unexpected ways, leading to higher reaction rates. Reaction testing after exposure to sulfur impurities, high temperature oxidation, and hydrothermal treatment demonstrated the improved stability of the ALD-coated catalyst. Additionally, the ALD synthesis process was found to be scalable over two orders of magnitude with minimal deviation in synthesized catalyst properties. These results were contextualized with cost models of industrial ALD coating and aromatic hydrogenation processes to further refine the value proposition of ALD coatings. Given the demonstrated improvements in hydrogenation, TiO2 ALD coatings have also been applied to supported Pt catalysts for use in other biomass conversion reactions, such as hydrodeoxygenation for production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and the oxidation of glucose for bio-derived gluconic acid. Recent findings from these experimental campaigns will also be shared. ALD technology holds great potential in the development of next-generation catalysts for biofuels and bioproducts and this work constitutes an important examination of the impact of ALD coatings in a variety of reaction environments.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePresented at ACS Spring 2021, 15-16 April 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5100-79621


  • bioenergy
  • decarbonization


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