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Reflections on Structured Catalysts and Reactors

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After their successful introduction in emission control in the form of monoliths, structured catalysts and reactors have been explored the last decades for application in catalytic multiphase processes [1,2]. They facilitate following the optimal reactor selection approach of Krishna and Sie (‘to mix or not to mix’) [3], where conflicting design requirements can still be realized in a structured reactor. An interesting approach is to analyse the relative resistances of the various steps in de overall reaction acting in a multiphase catalytic reactor. Use of structured catalysts/reactor internals can eliminate or alleviate major hurdles, changing their interplay in the process [4,5]. The question then arises what resistance distribution is desired and what are essential guiding rules of thumb to determine the focus for the optimization of the structured catalyst-reactor internal. The quest for process intensification has triggered new directions of improving catalysts for classical reactions. Using metal-organic frameworks as a catalyst precursor has been successful in the preparation of extremely active low- and high-temperature Fischer-Tropsch catalysts [6]. This changes the relative resistances in that process and new challenges arise to accommodate these systems, calling for structured reactors. New technologies, like 3D printing offer new opportunities to meet these requirements.


Freek Kapteijn (1952, Amsterdam) graduated in 1974 at the university of Amsterdam in Chemistry and Mathematics. His Ph.D. on the metathesis of alkenes was received at the same university. As postdoc he focused on Coal Science and Heterogeneous Catalysis. In 1987 he received a tenured position at the University of Amsterdam. In 1992 he moved to Delft University of Technology, where he was appointed ‘Anthonie van Leeuwenhoek’ professor in 1999. He has assumed leadership of the Catalysis Engineering section in 2008, and became emeritus in 2018. Kapteijn had visiting appointments in Nancy, France (Villermaux, ENSIC ) and Zürich, Switzerland (Prins, ETH ), and as guest professor at Zhejiang Normal University, China since 2008. He is co-author of >660 publications in scientific journals, and thesis advisor of over 65 Ph.D. students. Research interests include the synthesis, characterization and application of structured catalysts (metal-organic frameworks, zeolites, monoliths, catalytic membranes) in multiphase and multifunctional conversion processes, adsorption and diffusion in zeolites, MOFs and their membranes, and transient kinetics. Specific examples of heterogeneous catalysis cover Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, MTO , selective hydrogenation and oxidation, hydroisomerization, N2O decomposition, and fine chemicals production. Energy efficient alternatives for alkane-alkene and CO2 separation by membranes and adsorptive heat pumps are subject of development. Light-matter interactions are a special topic with MOFs, targeting photocatalysis and water splitting, next to their use in electrocatalysis for energy storage. Kapteijn coordinated recently the EU-FP7 project M4CO2 (MOF-based mixed matrix membranes for CO2 capture in pre- and post combustion), developing energy efficient membranes to reduce the costs of CO2 capture. The follow-up MEMBER project targets now the demonstration in practice. Received recently the prestigious Golden Hoogewerff medal for his Catalysis Engineering oeuvre and the IChemE Andrew medal for the same.

[1] J. Gascon, J. R. van Ommen, J. A. Moulijn and F. Kapteijn (2015). Catalysis Science & Technology, 5, 807-817. [2] J.A. Moulijn, M.T. Kreutzer, T.A. Nijhuis, F. Kapteijn (2011). Monolithic catalysts and reactors: High precision with low energy consumption, in: B.C. Gates, H. Knözinger, F. Jentoft (Eds.) Advances in Catalysis, Vol. 54, Elsevier, pp. 249-328. [3] R. Krishna and S. T. Sie (1994). Chemical Engineering Science, 49, 4029-4065. [4] K. V. Pangarkar (2010). Solving the heat transport issue in multiphase fixed bed reactors, PhD Thesis, Delft University of Technology. [5] F. Kapteijn, J.A. Moulijn (2020). Structured catalysts and reactors – Perspectives for demanding applications, Catalysis Today, [6] L. Oar-Arteta, T. Wezendonk, X. H. Sun, F. Kapteijn and J. Gascon (2017). Materials Chemistry Frontiers, 1, 1709-1745.

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