Chemicals & Distribution

Transforming the World of Activated Metal Catalysts with the Nickel Foam Technology

Nickel Foam Catalysts for Fixed Bed Hydrogenation Reactions: A Novel Activated Metal Catalyst Technology

Catalysts are as individual as the chemical processes for which they have been developed. As a leading provider of catalysts and technologies we offer solutions to your needs and wants. Together we will find the catalyst that matches your process technology, striving for services and solutions which focus on performance and sustainability.

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Fixed-bed hydrogenation reactions have been traditionally performed using nickel catalysts as activated chunks or nickel supported on metal oxide extrudates. The conventional nickel catalysts often demonstrate challenges associated with the oxidic support and oxidic nickel, like high pressure drop, safety concerns during handling, the need for on-site activation before use and overall process efficiency. Evonik’s nickel foam Metalyst MC 9 catalyst series provides a unique way to overcome these challenges.1)

As the name suggests, nickel (Ni) foam catalysts are novel structures that show an open-porous macrostructure which leads to a very high void volume and a high dispersion rate of catalytic active centers within reactor volumes. They come in uniform and customizable shapes that allow for a desirable low filling density in the reactor, while at the same time their high mechanical strength ensures lower attrition, lower pressure drop across the catalyst bed and an overall higher lifetime. In addition to these superior physical characteristics and the overall easy handling, Ni foam exhibits significantly higher catalytic activity and selectivity. The unprecedented combination of these advantages make the Ni foams an attractive catalyst for gas and liquid-phase hydrogenation reactions.

The Ni foams are Raney-type catalysts for fixed-bed applications, and they are composed of 80-95% nickel and 5-20% aluminium. In addition to this standard composition, Evonik offers another grade which contains Molybdenum as promoter. For both, the typical shape is small 4 x 4 mm cubes. 

Evonik has tested the Metalyst MC 9 catalyst series in model hydrogenation reactions to produce butanediol, oxo-alcohols and sugar alcohols. In these tests, the Metalyst MC 9 catalysts have demonstrated significantly higher conversion and selectivity compared to the incumbent catalysts. Beyond the tested model reactions, the Ni foam technology can generally be considered a 1:1 replacement (drop-in) solution for all hydrogenation processes conducted in fixed-bed reactors.

Nickel foam catalyst is a pre-activated catalyst that makes use of the well-known Raney-type technology which was only available in powder or granular form until now. Fine chemical producers that typically resort to powder catalysts are now enabled to transfer their process technology to the much more resource and cost-efficient fixed-bed mode without compromising on activity or selectivity.

The superior performance of the foam catalysts in terms of activity and selectivity as well as its low bulk density lowers the catalyst demand needed to produce a certain amount of a hydrogenation product. Vice versa, by retaining common catalyst volumes, space-time-yield of hydrogenation reactions can significantly be increased by increasing the feed load. It therefore provides a catalytic solution of high material efficiency, which underlines Evonik’s strong commitment to resource conservation, environmental focus, and sustainability. The Metalyst MC 9 catalyst series marks the development of next-generation materials in the domain of activated metals.

At Evonik, we have the ability to custom-tailor the composition, shape, and size of the Ni foams to meet your specific requirements. We have the technical expertise to support you for a smooth transition from the conventional Ni catalysts to Ni foams. Our global presence allows us to assist you at your research and production facilities across the world. With more than 75 years of experience in catalyst development, Evonik is the right partner to cater to your catalyst and process development needs. Let’s make a difference with Evonik Catalysts as your reliable partner in all aspects.

1) The Ni foam catalyst technology is manufactured under a license from Alantum Europe GmbH.

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Evonik Industries AG

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45128 Essen

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