In the present study, a catalyst produced by flame spray pyrolysis (FSP) was evaluated for its ability to produce hydrogen-rich gas mixtures. Catalyst particles fabricated by a novel flame spray pyrolysis method resulting in a highly active catalyst with high surface-to-volume ratio were compared to a commercially produced catalyst (BASF F3-01). Both catalysts consisted of CuO/ZnO/Al2O3 of identical composition (CuO 40wt%, ZnO 40wt%, Al2O3 20wt%). Reaction temperatures between 220 and 295 °C, methanol-water inlet flow rates between 2 and 50 μl/min, and reactor masses between 25 and 100 mg were tested for their effect on methanol conversion and the production of undesired carbon monoxide. 100% methanol conversion can be easily achieved within the operational conditions mentioned for this flame-made catalyst — at reactor temperatures of 255 °C (achievable with non-concentrating solar collectors) more than 80% methanol conversion can be reached for methanol-water inlet flow rates as high as 10 μl/min. The FSP catalyst demonstrates similar catalytic abilities as the BASF, produces a consistent gas composition and produces lower overall CO production. Furthermore, the FSP catalyst demonstrates a better suitability to fuel cell use through its higher resistance to degradation and smaller production of carbon monoxide over long-term use.

In the present study, the merits of using flame spray pyrolysis to produce CuO/ZnO/Al2O3 methanol steam reforming catalysts are examined, and directly compared to catalysts that are commercially produced in bulk pellet form, and then ground and sieved. The comparison is performed from several different perspectives: catalytic activity and CO production at various temperatures and fuel inlet flow rates; surface and structure characteristics are determined via scanning electron and transmission electron microscopy; surface area characteristics are determined via Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) tests.

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