The research at KCK concerns heterogeneous catalysis for environmental applications, in particular exhaust after treatment and sustainable energy solutions. The goal is to make technological and scientific impact.

The programme aims at developing new techniques, based on catalysis, with focus on reduction of emissions from stationary and mobile sources. The research should also contribute to i) increase the energy efficiency in vehicles and industrial processes, ii) increase the use of renewable fuels, and iii) exploratory conduce to other areas where catalytic techniques can contribute to sustainable energy systems.

KCK is an interdisciplinary centre with close collaboration in the fields of chemistry, physics and material science. In order to address each research topic with an appropriate methodology, KCK has developed a research platform that spans over various aspects of catalysis and established a strong position in experimental as well as theoretical research. The experimental methods range from engine-bench tests, over flow reactor measurements with model gases to surface reactions on well-characterized, nanofabricated model catalysts, Experimental and theoretical methods are employed, both integrated and separate. The procedures most frequently used are wet chemical synthesis, electron beam lithography (EBL), colloidal lithography, flow reactor experiments, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), X-ray diffraction (XRD), kinetic modeling, density functional theory (DFT) calculations and computational fluid dynamics (CFD).

The main areas of research within KCK are:

– Catalytic reduction of NOx under lean conditions

The aim of the program is to develop and enhance the methods for reduction of NOx in oxygen excess, which is essential for diesel- and lean-burn engines. Basically the problem is to add a reducing agent, which reacts with the nitrogen oxides but not with the oxygen in the exhaust gases. The amount of reducing agent needs, at the same time, to be low enough to minimise the fuel penalty (i.e. avoid lower fuel effectiveness). At present there are three main concepts to deal with this problem; i) NOx storage and reduction catalysts, ii) continuous catalytic reduction of NOx, and iii) selective catalytic reduction of NOx with urea or ammonia.

– Catalytic oxidation at low temperatures

The objective with the oxidation program is to investigate methods to oxidize hydrocarbons, oxygenates, CO, soot and particulates from stationary and mobile sources at low temperatures. The trend towards more fuel efficient engines results in low-temperature exhaust gases, which increases the demand on the after treatment systems; the critical working temperature for the catalyst (below which the catalyst does not work properly) needs to be lowered. KCK works along different strategies to enhance low-temperature activity in oxidation: i) composition and distribution of the active phase, ii) active control of the exhaust composition and iii) optimization the heat distribution within the catalyst.

– Catalytic techniques for sustainable energy systems

Techniques based on catalysis can be used both for energy supply and increased energy effectiveness as well as in energy transfer processes. Fuel cells is one example of energy transfer applications, where nanotechnology and electro-chemical catalysis are combined in the development of new effective and stable electrodes, which both reduce the need for expensive precious metals and increase the life time of the electrodes. Photo electro-chemical solar cells may be an opportunity for energy supply with solar energy, which uses photo catalysis in nanoparticle systems. However, the latter system is not likely to reach practical use in the near future. More close in time and urgent is the possibility to use catalytic techniques for transformation of fossil and biomass based feedstocks to fuels, like biogas, alcohols, ethers and synthetic diesel.

Published: Wed 25 Nov 2015.