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International Journal of Advanced Engineering Research and Studies E-ISSN2249 8974

Review Article
INDUSTRIAL APPLICATION OF MONOLITH CATALYSTS/
REACTORS
Mosleh M. Manfea*, K. S. Kulkarnib, A. D. Kulkarnic

Address for Correspondence


a*bc
Department of Chemical Engineering, Bharati Vidyapeeth University College of Engineering, Pune-43.
ABSTRACT
Monolithic catalysts are the standard catalyst shape in most environmental applications. In the processes of the
chemical industry, however, their current use is very limited. In this paper, advantage and disadvantages of
monolith catalysts/reactors with convectional reactors and monolith technology for applications in the chemical
industry is reviewed.
INTRODUCTION: which is the product of the volumetric catalyst
Monoliths are structures that contain various types of fraction and catalyst effectiveness factor. The reactor
interconnected or separated channels (straight, wavy effectiveness factor can be optimized to get the
or crimped) in a single block of material (e.g. maximum catalyst efficiency per unit volume of the
honeycombs, foams or interconnected fibers). The reactor by manipulating the parameters describing
channels of the most common honeycomb monoliths monolith geometry subject to hydrodynamic and
normally have circular, square or triangular cross- CPSI constrains.
sections. Monolithic reactors are those filled with ADVANTAGES AND DIS ADVANTAGES:
monoliths that are either made of porous catalytic Monolith catalysts or monolith reactors have some
material or the catalytic material is deposited (wash- common features in most of the applications for
coated) in the channels of an inert monolithic which they are used. Compared with pellet-packed
support. In both arrangements, the channel walls fixed-bed reactors commonly used in the petroleum
function as catalyst and the channels provide space refining industry, or other multiphase reactors, they
for flow of gas and/or liquid. Currently, ceramic and have the following advantages for typical
metallic monoliths are the two major types of applications:
monolith supports used in industry and research. 1. Lower pressure drop especially under high
Ceramic monoliths are mostly prepared by extrusion fluid throughputs;
while metallic monoliths are normally made by 2. Higher specific external catalyst surface area
corrugation. for mass transfer and reactions;
In the case of the square-channel monolith, the 3. Reduction of external mass transfer when
monolith geometry is fully defined by two used for multiphase reactors and elimination
parameters: channel size (dh) and either wall of internal diffusion limitations when thin
thickness (tw) or cell density (n), which is defined as walls are used;
number of cells per square inch (CPSI). If the 4. Lower axial dispersion and back-mixing,
monolith is extruded from a catalytic material, the and therefore high product selectivity;
amount of catalyst in the unit volume of the reactor is 5. Reduction of fouling and plugging, and thus
fully determined by the monolith geometry. If the extended catalyst lifetime;
catalyst is wash-coated, another parameter, the wash 6. Easier cleaning of particulates accumulated
coat thickness (Tw) is necessary. All other parameters on the channel walls; and
commonly used to characterize the monolith structure 7. Easy scale-up.
(i.e. open front area (OFA) geometry surface area For a specific application, this list would have to be
(GSA) and hydraulic diameter (Dh)) can be calculated carefully re-examined since some of the advantages
from the above set. The specific definitions can be mentioned above have to be considered in relation to
found in the open literature. Among these parameters, the rate of the chemical reaction of interest. Monolith
channel size and shape affect the pressure drop across reactors could also have disadvantages:
the channel and the hydrodynamics of the fluid 1. Potential low radial heat transfer rate and,
phases. The channel wall thickness or wash coat thus, difficulty in temperature control for
thickness affect the catalyst effectiveness factor. To thin-wall ceramic monolith supports;
compare the performance of the monolithic reactors 2. Heat transfer from the monolith to the
with reactors holding the catalyst in different forms, internal reactor wall;
it is important to define another parameter that would 3. Potential non-uniform fluid distribution and,
quantify the reactor volume utilization. This is thus, lower reactor effectiveness;
particularly important in the case of high-pressure 4. Difficulty and higher cost in extruding and
reactors where a unit reactor volume is more installation of large industrial scale;
expensive. One way to compare the reactor volume 5. Lack of experience in large-scale processes.
utilization is to define the reactor effectiveness factor, One has to balance the advantages and disadvantages

IJAERS/Vol. I/ Issue I/October-December, 2011/1-3


International Journal of Advanced Engineering Research and Studies E-ISSN2249 8974

when considering a specific application. In this application, SiO2 is used as the monolith
APPLICATION OF MONOLITH CATALYSTS/ support material and Palladium as the active catalyst
REACTORS: component. Pd is deposited onto the monolith wall
Monolith reactors were initially developed and surface by a method called electro less deposition.
applied in mid 1970s for the automotive industry as Compared with packed bed and slurry reactors, the
vehicle engine emission converters to remove NOx, monolith reactor offers significantly higher product
CO and hydrocarbons through gas-solid reactions. selectivity and longer catalyst life with high activity.
Compared to the traditional catalysts used for gas The monolith reactor is operated in co-current down
phase reactions, monolith offered much lower flow mode in the Taylor flow regime. Other
pressure drop, which obviously was very applications of monoliths in multiphase reactors that
advantageous in this application. Beyond the low have been proposed or are being explored include:
pressure drop, the application of the monolith results 1. Hydro processing of petroleum fractions and
in high selectivity, elimination of hot-spots, and liquefied coals;
improving catalyst effectiveness factor. With the fast 2. Hydrogenation or dehydrogenation
development of computer technology and numerical associated with various aromatic compounds
computation tools, computational fluid dynamics and other organic compounds, such as
(CFD) and other modeling/simulation methods have nitrobenzene, cyclo-hexene, acetylene and
been successfully used to optimize the design and ethyl benzene, etc.; and
operation of monolith catalytic converters to achieve 3. Oxidation of aqueous phenols, acetic acid,
highest performance. glucose and cellulose, etc. Applications of
In the last two decades, the success of monoliths as monolith structured packed beds used in
engine emission converters has encouraged distillation and adsorption have also been
researchers to investigate how to improve other gas reported.
reactions by using monolithic reactors. Such CONCLUSION
applications include catalytic combustion of methane, Monolith catalysts have been playing a major role in
catalytic oxidation, hydrogenation or dehydro- the automotive industry as vehicle engine emission
genation of aromatic compounds, hydrogen converters. As a novel type of chemical rectors with
generation for fuel cells, steam reforming of light significant advantages over conventional types of
hydrocarbons and methanol, water-gas shift reactors, monoliths will likely find more applications
reactions, etc. Although most of these applications that may involve gas phase, gas-liquid phase or gas-
have not been implemented commercially, great liquid-solid phase reactions in the environmental,
progresses have been made in research and chemical/petrochemical/biochemical and petroleum
development (R&D) in these areas. refining industries. To successfully realize
In recently years, monoliths have received significant commercial applications, much R&D work has to be
attention as multiphase reactors to replace trickle-bed done in the areas of monolith preparation,
and slurry reactors. With multiphase flow, the hydrodynamics, mass and heat transfer, reactor
monolith reactor can be operated in either co-current engineering design and reactor modeling and
down-flow, co-current up-flow or counter-current simulation.
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