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Promising new nanoscale catalyst synthesized for fuel production


Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is a potentially renewable and industrially relevant way of producing hydrocarbon fuels from synthesis gas, a mixture of H2 and CO. David Roe, an IGERT trainee working for Dean Christopher B. Roberts at Auburn University, has synthesized and tested a new Fischer-Tropsch catalyst consisting of iron-based nanoparticles supported on carbon nanotubes. The Fischer-Tropsch reaction takes place on the metal surface and generates a large amount of heat, which can have a negative impact on reaction performance. The large surface area and high thermal conductivity of the new catalyst are expected to increase activity and mitigate the effects of the large heat of reaction. Preliminary results show that the catalyst is both active and stable with low selectivity toward CO2 and CH4, which suggests that the high surface area and improved heat management are beneficial. These findings represent an important step toward a more optimized iron catalyst—a key component in the IGERT team’s interdisciplinary goal of sustainable fuel production.