Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Mark Crocker

Second Advisor

Dr. David Atwood


Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are atmospheric pollutants that pose a serious threat to both the environment and human health. Although catalytic deNOx technologies for engines working under stoichiometric air-to-fuel ratios (i.e., most gasoline engines) are already available, their performance is unsatisfactory under excess air conditions like those under which diesel engines operate.

The selective catalytic reduction of NOx with hydrocarbon reductants (HC-SCR) is a potential deNOxsolution for diesel engines, whose operating temperatures are 150-500 ºC. Given that is unlikely for a single catalyst to show acceptable activity throughout this entire temperature span, the use of two catalysts is proposed in this dissertation. Whereas several catalysts active at high temperatures (>300 ºC) are already available, a catalyst showing an acceptable performance at low temperatures (<300 ºC) is yet to be found.

Platinum group metals (PGMs) supported on activated carbon have been identified as promising low temperature HC-SCR catalysts. However, these materials show three main drawbacks: 1) the propensity of the carbon support to undergo combustion in an oxidizing environment, 2) a narrow temperature window of operation; and 3) a high selectivity towards N2O (as opposed to N2).

To address the first limitation, the use of multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) as the support has been investigated and found to yield catalysts displaying a higher resistance to oxidation. Further, the acid activation of MWCNTs prior to their use as catalyst support has been explored, following reports than link carrier acidity with improved catalyst performance. In turn, the use of PGM alloys as the active phase has been examined as a means to improve catalyst activity and selectivity.

Additionally, kinetic, spectroscopic and mechanistic studies have been performed in an attempt to probe structure-activity relationships in the MWCNTs-based formulations showing the best deNOx performance. The fundamental insights gained through these studies may inform further improvements to HC-SCR catalysts. Finally, the synthesis of the most promising formulations has been scaled-up using commercial metal monoliths as the catalyst substrate and the resulting monolithic catalysts have been tested in a diesel engine for activity in the HC-SCR reaction.

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Chemistry Commons