Multi-Scale Simulation of Reaction, Transport and Deactivation in a SBA-16 Supported Catalyst for the Conversion of Ethanol to Butadiene

Peter Ciesielski, Vivek Bharadwaj, Michael Pecha, Lintao Bu, Vanessa Dagle, Robert Dagle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus Citations


Effective design of heterogeneous catalytic systems requires careful coordination of physiochemical phenomena that span orders or magnitude in length and time scales. Multiscale modelling and simulation tools can provide useful insight for understanding and improving the performance of such systems. Mesoporous silica catalyst support materials present a versatile platform wherein support attributes may be tuned to control transport phenomena throughout the system. In this study we develop an integrated multiscale modelling approach for the conversion of ethanol to butadiene over a SBA-16 mesoporous silica supported catalyst. We use molecular dynamics simulations to calculate domain specific diffusivities of reactants and products in the various domains of SBA-16′s nanostructure. This is used to calculate a resultant effective diffusivity (Deffintra) through its microstructure using finite element method (FEM) models of the tessellated unit cell. The resultant intraparticle effective diffusivity enables the development of a reduced-order reactor level FEM model that is able to implicitly account for the SBA-16′s transport effects without the explicit consideration of its detailed geometry. Experimental bench-scale conversion data for the ethanol to butadiene process over SBA-16 is used to extract intrinsic kinetic rate constants for a simplified reaction mechanism using this reduced order bench-scale reactor FEM model. The model is able to reproduce experimental trends in conversion and activity lifetimes. The impact of varying key support attributes such as pore-size and particle size on catalytic activity lifetimes is then explored. We demonstrate the utility of this multi-scale modelling strategy in guiding catalyst design for the development of rational strategies to improve the performance of heterogeneous supported catalytic systems.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)141-151
Number of pages11
JournalCatalysis Today
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-74122


  • Catalyst design
  • Deactivation
  • Diffusion
  • Finite element method
  • Molecular dynamics
  • Multi-scale catalysis
  • Reaction


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