In the joint project "ReAlSelOx", innovative heterogeneous catalysts were developed for the highly selective and resource-efficient oxidation of short-chain alkanes. Short-chain alkanes are found at the beginning of widely ramified value added chains and are therefore highly relevant for the chemical industry.
Above all, the natural gas components n-butane, propane and ethane are used as basic substances in different sectors and will become even more important in the course of the shift in raw materials. This is why the project focused on converting these short-chain alkanes to maleic anhydride, acrolein/acrylic acid and acetic acid using heterogeneous catalysts. The project partners pooled their know-how from the fields of process engineering, inorganic chemistry and systems engineering in order to achieve a significant improvement compared to the current state of technology.
The objective of the project was to raise the efficiency of the existing process for the oxidation of n-butane to maleic anhydride in order to conserve butane and reduce CO2.
The project partners produced and tested more than 300 catalysts and discovered more than 20 new phases. Three patent applications were made and five manuscripts were published in scientific journals. Due to the complexity of the reactions, it was not possible to identify a better catalyst. Nevertheless, important new insights were gained into the effectiveness of catalysts. In addition a new contactless method was developed to measure electrical conductivity in-situ. This method allows conclusions to be drawn with respect to identifying structural reactivity relationships in oxidation catalysis.
These new insights can be applied to other important oxidation processes, for example when manufacturing phthalic anhydride and acrylonitrile as well as when producing methanol from methane.