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Reforming of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic compounds that can easily evaporate at room temperatures. Many VOCs are hazardous to human health and environment. Our project focuses on VOCs emitted during industrial process, such as car painting, that are hazardous and cannot be sent to atmosphere directly. In the current process, the VOC abatement is achieved by thermal oxidation.  However, the concentration of the VOCs in the exhaust is not high enough to sustain oxidation; so, natural gas is used to heat the oxidation unit, adding to the net annual loss. 

An alternative process involves concentrating the VOCs and steam reforming them to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. This mixture can then be fed to a solid oxide fuel cell for electricity generation.  The project involves steam reforming of model molecules present in the exhaust of the car paint operation.  Tests are also being conducted with gas mixtures to see the effect of having several VOCs together on the steam reforming process. Co/CeO2 and Ni/Al2O3 are being tested as catalysts for this reaction. Multi-functional catalyst beds composed of two or more catalysts may also be used for this process, which would allow different molecules to be reformed effectively.