Following the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act ban on their manufacture, PCBs remain an environmental threat. PCBs are known to bio-accumulate and concentrate in fatty tissues. Further complications arise from the potential for contamination of commercial mixtures with other more toxic chlorinated compounds such as polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). Until recently, only one option was available for the treatment of PCB-contaminated materials: incineration. This may prove to be more detrimental to the environment than the PCBs themselves due to the potential for formation of PCDDs.

Metals have been used for the past ten years for the remediation of halogenated solvents and other contaminants in the environment; however, zero-valent metals alone do not possess the activity required to dehalogenate PCBs. Palladium has been shown to act as an excellent catalyst for the dechlorination of PCBs with active metals. This invention is a method for the production of a palladium/magnesium bimetal capable of dechlorinating PCBs using mechanical milling/mechanical alloying. Other base metals and catalysts may also be alloyed together (e.g., nickel or zinc) to create a similarly functioning catalyst system. Several bimetal catalyst systems currently can be used for processes such as hydrogen peroxide synthesis, oxidation of ethane, selective oxidation, hydrogenation, and production of syngas for further conversion to clean fuels. The processes for making these bimetal catalysts often involve vapor deposition. This technology provides an alternative to vapor deposition that may provide equally active catalysts.

A hydrogenation catalyst including a base material coated with a catalytic metal is made using mechanical milling techniques. The hydrogenation catalysts are used as an excellent catalyst for the dehalogenation of contaminated compounds and the remediation of other industrial compounds. The mechanical milling technique is simpler and cheaper than previously used methods for producing hydrogenation catalysts.

Preferably, the hydrogenation catalyst is a bimetallic particle formed from a zero-valent iron or zero-valent magnesium particle coated with palladium that is impregnated onto a high-surface-area graphite support. The zero-valent metal particles should be microscale or nanoscale zero-valent magnesium or zero-valent iron particles. Other zerovalent metal particles and combinations may be used. Additionally, the base material may be selected from a variety of minerals including, but not limited to, alumina and zeolites. The catalytic metal is preferably selected from the group consisting of noble metals and transition metals, preferably palladium.

The mechanical milling process includes milling the base material with a catalytic metal impregnated into a high-surface-area support to form the hydrogenation catalyst. In a preferred mechanical milling process, a zerovalent metal particle is provided as the base material, preferably having a particle size of less than about 10 microns, preferably 0.1 to 10 microns or smaller, prior to milling. The catalytic metal is supported on a conductive carbon support structure prior to milling. For example, palladium may be impregnated on a graphite support. Other support structures such as semiconductive metal oxides may also be used.

This work was done by Jacqueline Quinn of Kennedy Space Center and Cherie Geiger and Christian Clausen of the University of Central Florida. For more information, contact the KSC Technology Transfer Office at (321) 867-5033. KSC-12978