Philip Kester

Graduate Research Assistant

Advised by Professor Rajamani Gounder

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The Ohio State University, B.S. Chemical Engineering (2014)
Purdue University, Ph.D. Chemical Engineering (2014 – present)



  • Ross Fellowship - Purdue University (2014)

Project Description (high level)

With the current abundance of shale gas in the United States, the chemical industry must find new ways to upgrade light alkanes (C1-C4) to fuels and chemicals. An early step in these transformations is often dehydrogenation to alkenes. These dehydrogenation reactions are also used in endothermic fuel reforming, where the engine is cooled to improve the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. The goal of my project is to use solid acid molecular sieves to selectively dehydrogenate alkanes found in shale gas. This will be done with isolated Lewis acid sites on zeolites and aluminophosphates. The type of active site and the surrounding environment are studied to determine the effects of each on dehydrogenation rates and selectivity. The structures of these materials are studied with a variety of characterization techniques available within the Purdue Catalysis Center (PCC). Kinetic studies are performed in a gas-phase flow reactor with online analysis instrumentation (gas chromatograph, mass spectrometer) to determine the ability of these catalysts to selectively dehydrogenate alkanes.

Project Description (detailed)

My project will focus on using Zn2+ and Cr3+ Lewis acid sites, which have been shown to be highly selective for the dehydrogenation of propane, on zeolites and molecular sieves. These materials will be prepared to minimize the number of Brønsted acid sites to prevent the catalysis of additional side-reactions of the alkene products. By utilizing the geometric constraints provided by the micropores of molecular sieves, the selectivity of the dehydrogenation pathway can be further directed by minimizing the free energy of its transition state over those involved in competing pathways. The materials synthesized in my research will be characterized with X-ray diffraction (XRD), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), UV-Visible spectroscopy, nitrogen and argon physisorption, temperature programmed desorption (TPD), and probe reactions of the proposed active sites. Kinetic analysis will be performed in a gas phase flow reactor, from which the mechanisms of the dehydrogenation reaction can be studied.