Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Chemical and Biomedical Engineering

Committee Chair

John W Zondlo

Committee Co-Chair

Robin Hissam

Committee Member

Edward Sabolsky

Committee Member

Dushyant Shekhawat

Committee Member

Charter Stinespring


The steam reforming of methane (SMR) continues to remain an important industrial reaction for large-scale production of H2 as well as synthesis gas mixtures which can be used for the production of useful chemicals (e.g. methanol). Although SMR is a rather mature technology, traditional nickel based catalysts used industrially are subjected to severe temperatures and reaction conditions, which lead to irreversible activity loss through sintering, support collapse, and carbon formation. Pyrochlore-based mixed oxide have been identified as refractory materials that can be modified through the substitution of catalytic metals and other promoting species into the structure to mitigate these issues causing deactivation. For this study, a lanthanum zirconate pyrochlore catalyst was substituted with Ni to determine whether the oxide structure could effectively stabilize the activity of the catalytic metal during the SMR. The effect of different variables including calcination temperature, a comparison of a substituted versus supported Ni pyrochlore catalyst, Ni weight loading, and Sr promotion have been evaluated to determine the location of the Ni in the structure, and their effect on catalytic behavior.;It was revealed that the effect of calcination temperature on a 6wt% Ni substituted pyrochlore produced by the Pechini method demonstrated very little Ni was soluble in the pyrochlore lattice. It was further revealed that by XRD, TEM, and atom probe tomography that, despite the metal loading, Ni exsolves from the structure upon crystallization of the pyrochlore at 700°C, and forms NiO at the surface and grain boundaries. An additional separate La2ZrNiO6 perovskite phase also began to form at higher temperatures (>800°C). Increasing calcination temperature was found to lead to slight sintering of the NiO at the surface, which made the NiO more reducible. Meanwhile decreasing the Ni weight loading was found to produce a lower reduction temperature due to the presence of less lanthanum at the surface. Comparing the XANES and EXAFS profiles for the supported and substituted Ni catalysts showed no detectable difference between the spectra, further confirming the Ni to be present as NiO after substitution.;Activity testing found the NiO on the surface to be the active catalytic form. However, the Ni proved to be highly sensitive to sintering and oxidation by steam, especially under high pressures (1.8 MPa), which caused all catalysts to suffer irreversible activity loss. Low reaction pressures (0.23 MPa) elicited an activation effect in which the Ni initially lost activity, but then recovered to near equilibrium yields after nearly 10 hours time on stream. The activation was correlated with an increase in Ni particle size, as observed by XRD. It is speculated from similar behavior reported in the literature that ability to recovery activity was linked to a redox cycling of the Ni particles under reaction conditions, in which a small amount of the Ni was redistributed over the surface through the volatilization with steam, as well as the exsolution of the Sr from the structure which helped stabilize the Ni. A comparison of the supported and substituted forms of Ni showed the substituted form to have a weaker interaction with the pyrochlore surface, which is the likely cause for the rapid sintering and deactivation by steam. It was also found that the substitution of more Sr into the structure produced only strong basic sites, which resulted in a lower degree of activity loss and more stable activity under high pressure conditions (1.8 MPa) compared to the catalyst with less Sr. Carbon formation was not an issue for these materials, due to the rapid sintering and oxidation of the metal in-situ. Fitting the Ni particle size growth with time showed a parabolic relationship with growth proportional to time by the power 0.28. This value is close to results observed in the literature which indicates the Ni agglomerates via atomic migration.