NiW and NiRu Bimetallic Catalysts for Ethylene Steam Reforming: Alternative Mechanisms for Sulfur Resistance

Meghana Rangan, Matthew M. Yung, J. Will Medlin

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Previous investigations of Ni-based catalysts for the steam reforming of hydrocarbons have indicated that the addition of a second metal can reduce the effects of sulfur poisoning. Two systems that have previously shown promise for such applications, NiW and NiRu, are considered here for the steam reforming of ethylene, a key component of biomass derived tars. Monometallic and bimetallic Al 2O 3-supported Ni and W catalysts were employed for ethylene steam reforming in the presence and absence of sulfur. The NiW catalysts were less active than Ni in the absence of sulfur, but were more active in the presence of 50 ppm H2S. The mechanism for the W-induced improvements in sulfur resistance appears to be different from that for Ru in NiRu. To probe reasons for the sulfur resistance of NiRu, the adsorption of S and C 2H 4 on several bimetallic NiRu alloy surfaces ranging from 11 to 33 % Ru was studied using density functional theory (DFT). The DFT studies reveal that sulfur adsorption is generally favored on hollow sites containing Ru. Ethylene preferentially adsorbs atop the Ru atom in all the NiRu (111) alloys investigated. By comparing trends across the various bimetallic models considered, sulfur adsorption was observed to be correlated with the density of occupied states near the Fermi level while C 2H 4 adsorption was correlated with the number of unoccupied states in the d-band. The diverging mechanisms for S and C 2H 4 adsorption allow for bimetallic surfaces such as NiRu that enhance ethylene binding without accompanying increases in sulfur binding energy. In contrast, bimetallics such as NiSn and NiW appear to decrease the affinity of the surface for both the reagent and the poison.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)718-727
Number of pages10
JournalCatalysis Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2012

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-55810


  • DFT
  • Electronic structure
  • Ethylene
  • NiRu
  • Sulfur


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