Heterogeneous catalyst engineering ⇒ from stable and deactivation resistant to viable technical catalyst

Problem statement

Advances in heterogeneous catalyst “structure” are driven to improve their “function” or performance, i.e., activity, selectivity, and stability. Cooperative research is required to understand the structure and function relationships: developing new synthesis protocols for heterogeneous catalysts with unique surface properties, defined porosity, identification and understanding of catalytically active sites, reaction mechanisms, and finally, prediction and analysis of the processes using various computational tools.

Our group focuses on developing new catalyst formulations using innovative synthesis routes for various important heterogeneous catalysts. That includes thermal, electro, and bio-electro catalysis.

The active phase cannot be used directly in its final application or reactor for various reasons, including poor mechanical resistance, heat or mass transport, and fluidization features. We must mix the active phase with other ingredients in a matrix of binder and filler, while we shape it into a technical catalyst. We investigate new synthetic protocols for technical catalysis using spray drying and fluidized beds to cover the whole range of sizes. At the same time, we incorporate additional (unconventional) ingredients such as SiC to improve some features even further.


  • Technical catalyst I ⇒ spray drying and extrusion
  • Technical catalyst II ⇒ spray fluidized bed reactor
  • Technical catalyst III ⇒ electrospinning
  • Zeolite catalysts ⇒ with defined structure/porosity
  • Multi-metal (high entropy) alloy catalysts
  • MXene catalysts ⇒ single and multi-dimensional
  • Perovskite catalysts
  • Metal-organic framework (MOFs) catalysts
  • Supported metal/metal-oxide catalysts
  • Aerogel catalyst

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Related Publications

W2N-MXene composite anode catalyst for efficient microbial fuel cells using domestic wastewater

by Kolubah, Mohamed, Ayach, Hari, Alshareef, Saikaly, Chae, Castaño
Chem. Eng. J. Year: 2023 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cej.2023.141821


Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) have enormous potential to treat wastewater and reduce the energy demands of wastewater treatment plants while generating electricity using active microorganisms as biocatalysts. However, the practical application of MFCs is limited by the low power density produced, mainly due to poor anode performance. A tungsten nitride (W2N)-MXene composite catalyst is introduced to modify the anode surface for use in microbial fuel cells during domestic wastewater treatment. The aim is to improve the wettability, electrical conductivity, electron transfer efficiency, and microorganism attachment capability of the anode and ultimately increase the overall performance of the microbial fuel cell to produce electricity during wastewater treatment. In detail, a hydrofluoric acid etching approach is used to synthesize the Ti3C2Tx MXene, the urea glass technique is used to prepare the W2N particles, and an adequate mixing and heat treatment approach is used to produce the W2N-Ti3C2Tx composite catalyst. The W2N-Ti3C2Tx composite on carbon cloth anode provides one of the best performances recorded for MXene in this type of fuel cells and using real domestic wastewater: with a 523 % increase in the power density (548 mW m−2), an 83 % decrease in the chemical oxygen demand (COD), and a 161 % increase in the electron transfer efficiency compared to those of the plain carbon cloth. We demonstrate that this outstanding performance is due to the improvements in hydrophilicity and microorganism attachment, particularly nanowires (or pili) which promote electron transfer. The present work offers an exciting avenue toward the process scale-up and optimization of single-chamber microbial fuel cells.