Additive Manufacturing of Catalyst Substrates for Steam–Methane Reforming
Steam–methane reforming is a highly endothermic reaction, which is carried out at temperatures up to 1100 C and pressures up to 3000 kPa, typically with a Ni-based catalyst distributed over a substrate of discrete alumina pellets or beads. Standard pellet geometries (spheres, hollow cylinders) limit the degree of mass transfer between gaseous reactants and catalyst. Further, heat is supplied to the exterior of the reactor wall, and heat transfer is limited due to the nature of point contacts between the reactor wall and the substrate pellets. This limits the degree to which the process can be intensified, as well as limiting the diameter of the reactor wall. Additive manufacturing now gives us the capability to design structures with tailored heat and mass transfer properties, not only within the packed bed of the reactor, but also at the interface between the reactor wall and the packed bed. In this work, the use of additive manufacturing to produce monolithic-structured catalyst substrate models, made from acrylonitrile–butadiene–styrene, with enhanced conductive heat transfer is described. By integrating the reactor wall into the catalyst substrate structure, the effective thermal conductivity increased by 34% from 0.122 to 0.164 W/(m K).