3D Imaging Techniques Reveal Details of Metal Poisoning Process

Three-D imaging is a powerful technology that has implications across many fields, most notably industrial fields where a slight error or interior crack could cause major problems. With 3-D imaging technology, the imperfections on the interiors of casting can be seen and corrected before they cause more problems.

Recently, scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Utrecht University in the Netherlands have discovered important detailed about a process called metal poisoning using two 3-D technology techniques.

Metal poisoning is a process that clogs the pores of certain catalyst particles used in the production of gasoline — rendering them less effective.

The results of this finding were published in Nature Communications, and the research team compiled a video showing the chemistry of the process.

Catalyst particles are known as fluid catalytic cracking or FCC particles and are used in oil refineries to “crack” the large molecules left over after the distillation of crude oil into smaller molecules, which can produce gasoline.

Theoretically, the catalyst particles that are not consumed in the reactions can be reused indefinitely, but the researchers identified the process in which they became clogged up and lost effectiveness.

Sounds like no big deal until you consider that the 400 reactor systems worldwide account for up to half of today’s gasoline production, and every system requires 10 to 40 tons of new FCC catalysts on a daily basis.

The identification of this process could be the key to maximizing and improving gasoline production.

But the implications of this new understanding could surpass more than just the fuel industry.

According to Yijin Liu, a lead author on the paper and a scientist at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), a DOE Office of Science User Facility “the model we created by combining these two imaging methods can readily be applied to studies of rapid changes in the pore networks of similarly structured materials, such as batteries, fuel cells and underground geological formations.”

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