|We have a wide spectrum of knowledge base in the field of chemistry, chemical engineering, pollution control, catalysis, green production, energy conversion and storage, new energy sources and new raw materials sources, petroleum and fuel technology, and materials science. Some background knowledge of topics of interests is listed below. Technology transfer is available and joint R&D programs are welcome.
NEW SOURCES FOR BASIC ORGANIC RAW MATERIALS
Most important basic organic raw materials include ethylene, propylene, butadiene (light olefines) and benzene, toluene, and xylene (BTX light aromatics). These raw materials are the base for today's industry. They are feedstocks for polymers, fuel blending components, solvents, and fine and specialty chemicals. Light olefines are usually produced from thermal cracking of naphtha (light oil), which is fraction of crude oil (with about 10%~20% content of naphtha fraction). BTX light aromatics are also from naphtha via a "Pt-reforming" process. It is well konwn that the resources of crude oil, especially naphtha, is limited and the prices of these basic raw materials are soaring.
Propane as an alternative raw material for Propylene
Propylene is produced mainly as a by-product in steam cracking of light oil for ethylene formation and a by-product in FCC petroleum manufacturing. Current global output of propylene is about 70 million metric tons/year. Propylene is mainly used to produce polypropylene, an excellent everyday-used plastic material. It is also widely used to produce epioxides/glycol, acrolein/acrylic acid/acronitrile, etc. Nowadays the output of propylene from normal production is not enough to meet the requirements. It is not easy to effectively increase the output of propylene from the main current pathways because of limitation of current light oil resources. Sometimes people even use ethylene and butene to produce propylene via metathesis reactions.
It is therefore important to seek alternative raw materials for propylene. Among some candidates propane, which is cheaper and more abundant, is arousing extensive attention. As early as in late 1970s, UOP published a process converting propane to propene (Oleflex Process) via direct dehydrogenation. However, the thermodynamics is not favored unless the reaction is done at high temperatures. If oxygen is added to make it into oxydehydrogenation, the formation of water and partially carbon dioxide will offset the energy requirement for dehydrogenation. Propane has been explored to produce acrolein/acrylic acid via selective oxidation. The conversion of propane into light aromatics was developed by BP-UOP (Cyclar process) and has been commercialized by Chevron-SABIC.
Propane can convert to acrolein/acrylic acid via selective oxidation (Scheme 1). It can also convert to produce BTX via dehydrodimericyclization (Scheme 2), and to produce propene via dehydrogenation or oxydehydrogenation.
For the selective oxidation of propane to acrolein (Scheme 1), it is important for catalyst development and process design to increase k1 and k2 (i.e, rate constants for oxydehydrogenation of propane to propene and of propene to acrolein) and at the same time decrease k3, k4, and k5, i.e., to inhibit the total oxidation of the reactant, intermediates, and product to CO2. It is important to design high activity catalysts and modify the surface acidity of the catalysts to achieve these goals.
The aromatization of propane employs a modified ZSM-5 type catalyst. Propane undergoes cracking and dehydrogenation on Metal-ZSM-5 (Metal = Ga or Zn). It is believed that the superacid sites on ZSM-5 account for the cracking (k1), which is an undesired side reaction and that the dehydrogenation of propane (k2)occurs mainly on the metal sites, which are promoted by the acid function of the zeolite. Acid sites are responsible for activation, cracking, oligomerization of propene, and hydrogen transfer of lower alkenes. Metal sites are responsible of activation via dehydrogenation and dehydrocyclization. The adjustment of k1, k2, as well as H-transfer and dehyderocyclization, i.e., the balance of acid and metal sites and the density of acid sites are important for the activation of propane and the selectivity of aromatics. However, the coking and regeneration of the acidic zeolite catalyst is very important for process design.
In addition to propane (major component of liquefied petroleum gas, LPG, and of oilfield condensate, or natural gas condensate, which are all relatively abundant), bioethanol can also be a good source for production of these basic raw materials via various catalytic approaches. We own expertise and unique technologies for these applications. Joint programs are welcome.
Converion of Coal, Natural Gas, Biomass into Basic Raw Materials via Syngas (CO + H2)
Syngas can be readily converted to synthetical oil via Fischer-Tropse synthesis. Synthetical oil (mainly C1 ~ C40 alkanes), like crude oil, can be processed to fuel and basic raw materials like petrochemical procedures. In addition to ordinary F-T synthesis, a so-called MFT process, or two-stage FT synthesis with the first stage ordinary FT and second stage containing a HZSM-5 catalyst, can convert syngas to gasoline products and gaseous hydrocarbons, from which ethylene and propylene can be separated. Some special FT synthesis using modified catalysts such as Cu-Mn spinel structure materials can directly convert syngas to lower olefines. Another approach is to convert syngas to methanol, the latter can easily be converted to gasoline (the famous Mobil MTG process), olefines (MTO), or aromatics (MTA). Modified ZSM-5 type catalysts can be used for these processes.
Coal can be converted to syngas via gasification. So can be biomass. Natural gas can be converted to syngas via steam reforming. Therefore, liquid fuels (gasoline and diesel) and basic raw materials can be produced from coal, natural gas, and biomass. These processes are shown in Scheme 3.
BioEthanol as Starting Raw Material for Chemcials
Bioethanol has now become a big industry and this industry seems to become much bigger in the near future. People regard bioethanol as renewable and sustainable new energy source, although some contraversies such as the rivalry of bioethanol for human food widely exist. Actually, bioethanol can also be a good source of basic raw materials. In early days, ethylene, the most important organic chemical raw material, was produced from dehydration of ethanol. Later, things reversed as petrochemical industry well developed after World War II, when industrial ethanol was mostly produced mainly via hydration of ethylene. Now that bioethanol has already become an important fuel blender, we should well expect that bioethanol should also be new resources for basic organic raw materials, as well as other more valuable fine and specialty chemicals, instead of merely a fuel blender. Nowaday, countless new bioethanol companies are setting up every day. It should lead to more research on bioethanol also as a starting raw chemical material.
NEW MATERIALS: nano ceramics, Li-ion battery materials, and ion-exchangers.
Nowadays "nano" is a fashion. In order to produce nano materials, we may use "post-breaking" techniques to turn a non-nano materials to fine particles, or prepare and maintain nanosize of a substance to obtain nano materials. Generally speaking, post-breaking approaches (such as ball milling, ultrasonic, and cyclone bombbardment) need a lot of energy and probably cause impurities or destruction of the structure of the matreirals processed. What is more, the particle size of the material under process is generally limited to sub-micron level.
In dry reactions it should be relatively easy to retain the formed nano size of particles. However, a lot of materials have to be made via reactions in solutions. It is therefore more important to employ the approach of "form nano and retain nano" in wet synthesis of nanosized materials, however, retaining the nanosize of particles formed in wet reactions is always a challenge in the following separation, drying, and activation steps. In addition, processing nanosized materials, such as filtration and dewatering, is always a difficult task. After all, it is relatively easy to prepare a nano substance in the lab, but it is far more difficult to produce it in large scale. Experience, expertise, and technical know-how are extremely important for an efficient, economic process. We are experienced in both research scale and production scale for preparing and processing nanosized materials. We always design proper procedures to address the two questions: How do we form the specific nanosize in the wet stage? How do we retain the nanosize in the processing and handling of the formed wet-end materials? Consulting, joint R&D, and technology transfer are all available.
Batteries of high energy density for electronic devices (laptops, camcorders, digital cameras, cell phones, etc) and high power for electric devices (electric vehicles, motorcycles, lawn mowers, etc.) are in high demand. Ever-growing quality of these batteries is needed which requires the development of novel battery materials of various properties, such as those suitable for high volumetric capacity for electronic devices and those with high charge-discharge rate for electric devices, as well as where abusing severe conditions are demanded. We have the knowledge and experiences in developing and producing these various cathode materials for Li-ion batteries. Consulting, joint R&D, and technology transfer are all available.
Ion-exchange processes are widely used in purification, de-ionization, metal replacement and enrichment, and catalysis in production, etc. There are various types of classification of ion exchange materials, such as cation exchagers and anion exchagers, or organic polymer type ion exchangers and inorganic ion exchangers. Zeolites and clays are famous inorganic ion-exchangers. Generally speaking, high capacity, fast exchange rate, resistance to extreme conditions (such as high acidity, high basicity, oxidatative media, high temperature), resistance to fouling/foiling from the media, etc are very important factors in designing processes for various applications. We are specialized in this field. Consulting, joint R&D, and technology transfer are all available.
GREEN TECHNOLOGIES AND SUSTAINABILITY
Green processes and sustainable development are among today's hottest topics. We consider the following aspects are characteristic of ideally "being green", which is in favor of sustainable development.
- Zero emission, zero pollution, zero by-products as wastes, zero accident, with minimum energy consumption.
- As simple as possible, as safe as possible, as less cost as possible.
- Abundant, versatile raw materials.
Obviously it is difficult to be ideally green, because thermadynamically we always cause some "effects" to the environment (surroundings) when we perform a chemical process. Therefore, to be more practical, the following is said to be "towards being green": reducing consumption of raw materials and energy, reducing waste and pollution, being safe and environmental-friendly, developing versatile raw materials. We in KL Chemical Technologies have been working hard to design "green chemical processes" to help sustainbale development.