A method of heating a foam-based catalyst bed has been developed using silicon carbide as the catalyst support due to its readily accessible, high surface area that is oxidation-resistant and is electrically conductive. The foam support may be resistively heated by passing an electric current through it. This allows the catalyst bed to be heated directly, requiring less power to reach the desired temperature more quickly. Designed for heterogeneous catalysis, the method can be used by the petrochemical, chemical processing, and power-generating industries, as well as automotive catalytic converters. Catalyst beds must be heated to a lightoff temperature before they catalyze the desired reactions. This typically is done by heating the assembly that contains the catalyst bed, which results in much of the power being wasted and/or lost to the surrounding environment. The catalyst bed is heated indirectly, thus requiring excessive power. With the electrically heated catalyst bed, virtually all of the power is used to heat the support, and only a small fraction is lost to the surroundings.

Although the light-off temperature of most catalysts is only a few hundred degrees Celsius, the electrically heated foam is able to achieve temperatures of 1,200 ºC. Lower temperatures are achievable by supplying less electrical power to the foam. Furthermore, because of the foam’s open-cell structure, the catalyst can be applied either directly to the foam ligaments or in the form of a catalyst- containing washcoat. This innovation would be very useful for heterogeneous catalysis where elevated temperatures are needed to drive the reaction.

This work was done by Arthur J. Fortini, Brian E. Williams, and Shawn R. McNeal of Ultramet for John Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18155-1.