Chemicals & Distribution

Improve Profitability And Sustainability with Activated Nickel Foam Catalysts

With foam, hydrogenation reactions are easier, more profitable and safer.

The global economy continues to face challenges – increasing prices, rising interest rates, stubborn inflation – which is impacting almost all economic sectors around the world, at every level.

For the chemical industry, solutions that can offer better efficiency, improved performance and reduced waste – without increasing costs – are therefore warmly welcomed.

Catalytic processes are used to manufacture more than 80% of all chemical products. For businesses requiring hydrogenation catalysts, activated nickel offers one of the most attractive options; it boasts a comparatively low cost and high catalytic activity in various hydrogenation reactions.

Different Forms of Nickel Catalysts

The most suitable type of activated nickel catalyst is dependent on application and the plant’s reactor. Traditionally, the most prevalent form is powder, particularly suitable for applications using a batch reactor – more typical for smaller plants.

In large, high-throughput plants, fixed bed reactors are more common and require a material that does not move inside the reactor. Historically, it has not been possible to use activated nickel for these applications unless they are suited to activated nickel granules – but these have a very limited commercial usage.

A World First of Activated Nickel Foam

© Evonik


Evonik has developed a first-of-its-kind activated nickel foam for fixed bed applications, transferring the tried-and-tested activated nickel technology from powder form catalysts to apply it to new applications. The foam, manufactured under a license from Alantum Europe GmbH, is a new generation of lightweight fixed bed catalysts made from almost pure nickel, with no supporting element (i.e., carrier).

The benefits of Evonik’s Metalyst MC 9 series include:

  • Low weight solution
  • High surface area
  • Increased reaction rate
  • Same product output with less quantities of catalyst required.

Moreover, unlike powder or granule form catalysts, the size and shape of activated nickel foam can be customized (in principle). This reduces undesired byproducts, prolongs catalyst lifetime and broadens its application.

Cost Saving Benefits

Because of the absence of any oxidic carrier (support), nickel foam catalysts also allow for faster and simpler refining and reclamation. The extremely low pressure drop over the reactor bed and reduced abrasion makes them conducive to reducing downstream equipment maintenance costs and a plant’s environmental footprint. Moreover, as a pre-activated catalyst, production teams also benefit from easier and safer handling compared to other forms.


Significantly, this innovation paves the way for new or adapted processes to be built around this new technology and presents an opportunity to improve plant profitability or sustainability further still. For example, as the catalyst delivers higher activity and requires a catalyst bed of less volume, smaller reactors may be required for processes, ultimately reducing costs.


While activated nickel powder remains an effective and popular option for batch processes, nickel foam catalysts – Evonik’s Metalyst MC 9 series – provide clear economic and sustainability benefits for fixed bed hydrogenation processes. The foam makes hydrogenation reactions easier, more profitable and safer. Moreover, due to the lack of an inert support, nickel foam catalysts can be easily reclaimed – reinforcing an all-important circular economy.

Read more about Evonik Catalysts.