Development of Catalyst Characterisation Techniques

  • Navin Gopinathan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Standard catalyst characterisation techniques such as gas adsorption porosimetry and mercury porosimetry only account for some of the physical heterogeneity of the catalyst surface. They completely ignore the chemical heterogeneity present and in most cases consider pores present in the medium to be independent of each other. Thus, most results of characterisation (pore space descriptors such as BET surface area, BJH pore size distribution, mercury porosimetry surface area, etc.) are not accurate. This has been a major issue that remains to be resolved during the characterisation of fresh and coked catalysts. In this thesis, the use of a multi-component adsorption system is recommended as a step-change solution to this limitation. Two approaches are adopted. Firstly, integrated nitrogen-waternitrogen gas adsorption experiments are performed on fresh and coked catalysts. This established the significance of pore coupling by showing the presence of advanced adsorption. The method also helped to determine the location of coke deposits within catalysts and indicated that water vapour adsorption was a good probe to understand the sites responsible for coking. Secondly, coadsorption of immiscible liquids – cyclohexane and water – was performed on fresh and coked catalysts following which the displacement of cyclohexane by water was studied using NMR relaxometry and diffusometry. This novel approach takes the wettability of the surface into consideration, unlike the former methods. It is therefore a method that accounts for the chemical heterogeneity of the surface. It also helped determine the location of coke within catalysts. The different approaches are presented in the context of combustion of heavy oil in bitumen reservoirs, and the use of supercritical conditions that help to dissolve coke precursors in the isomerisation of 1-hexene. Thus, the solutions provided in this thesis are directions in which catalyst characterisation, especially distinguishing fresh and coked catalysts, and other porous materials, must be carried out.
Date of Award4 Feb 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSean Rigby (Supervisor), Malcolm Greaves (Supervisor), Pawel Plucinski (Supervisor) & John Lowe (Supervisor)


  • gas adsorption
  • mercury porosimetry
  • NMR relaxation
  • diffusion

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