Low-cost catalysts and methodologies for partial and total upgrading of bitumen
In this program, the PI addresses the fundamental chemistry and chemical engineering to accomplish the partial and total upgrading of asphaltene-rich heavy petroleum. Our specific objectives are to develop asphaltene-selective catalytic transformations of bitumen asphaltenes to low-sulfur, low-nitrogen transportation fuels and value-added carbon materials (graphenes, carbon quantum dots, and fibres). Room temperature disaggregation of asphaltene nanoaggregates and decarbonization of tailings and process water.
Three key investigations have come to fruition, demonstrating unprecedented new technology for hydrogen-free bitumen upgrading: (1) electrocatalytic hydrodesulfurization and hydrodenitrogenation of whole bitumen and bitumen asphaltenes – low-sulfur, low-nitrogen transportation fuels directly from raw bitumen froth; (2) electrochemical conversion of bitumen and/or asphaltenes to graphenes and low-oxygen carbon quantum dots; and (3) whole bitumen upcycling – production of reinforced carbon fibres from bitumen mesophase/asphaltene blends. Permament storage of carbon as electronic, photonic, and structural carbon materials.