Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Gerald P. Huffman


Non-oxidative dehydrogenation of hydrocarbons is an attractive alternative route for the production of CO- and CO2-free hydrogen. It will satisfy a major requirement for successful utilization of polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells (< 10 ppm CO) and sequestering carbon as a potentially valuable by-product, carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Due to the deposition of carbon on the surface of catalyst particles during the reaction, catalyst performance, life-time, and purification of the generated carbon product, are significant issues to solve in order to make the process practically feasible. The scope of this thesis includes: the development of novel Fe, Ni, and Fe-Ni catalysts supported on a Mg(Al)O support to achieve improved catalytic performance with easily-purified CNTs; evaluation of catalysts for ethane/methane dehydrogenation at moderate reaction temperatures; and study of activation and deactivation mechanisms by a variety of characterization techniques including TEM, HRTEM, XRD, Mössbauer spectroscopy, and x-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) spectroscopy. The Mg(Al)O support was prepared by calcination of synthetic MgAl-hydrotalcite with a Mg to Al ratio of 5. The catalysts were prepared either by conventional incipient wetness method or by a novel nanoparticle impregnation method, where the monodisperse catalyst nanoparticles were prepared in advance by thermal decomposition of a metal-organic complex in an organic-phase solution and then dispersed onto the Mg(Al)O support. Dehydrogenation of undiluted methane was conducted in a fix-bed plug-flow reactor. Before reaction, the catalysts were activated by reduction in hydrogen. Fe-based catalysts exhibit a higher hydrogen yield at temperature above 600ºC compared with monometallic Ni catalyst. FeNi-9 nm/Mg(Al)O, Fe-10 nm/Mg(Al)O and Fe-5 nm/ Mg(Al)O nanoparticle catalysts show much improved performance and longer life-times compared with the corresponding FeNi IW/Mg(Al)O and Fe IW/Mg(Al)O catalysts prepared by incipient wetness. 10 nm is the optimum particle size for methane dehydrogenation. Addition of Ni to Fe forming a bimetallic FeNi alloy catalyst enhances the catalytic performance at the temperatures below 650ºC. Metallic Fe, Ni, FeNi alloy and Fe-Ni-C alloy, unstable iron carbide are all catalytically active components. Catalysts deactivation is due to the carbon encapsulation. The carbon products are in the form of stack-cone CNTs (SCNTs) and multi-walled CNTs (MWNTs), depending on the reaction temperature and catalyst composition. The growth of CNTs follows a tip growth mechanism and the purity of cleaned CNTs is more than 99.5%.