Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Chemical Engineering


Bruce, David A.

Committee Member

Getman, Rachel B.

Committee Member

Roberts, Mark E.

Committee Member

Stuart, Steven J.


The conversion of methane into syngas (a mixture of CO and H2), which can be further converted into a variety of chemicals and particularly liquid fuels, is of growing importance given recent increases in methane production world-wide. Furthermore, since using CO2 as the co-feed offers many environmental advantages, dry reforming of methane (DRM, CH4 + CO2 ⇌ 2CO + 2H2) has received renewed attention. In recent years, experimentalists have shown that the Rh-substituted lanthanum zirconate pyrochlore (LRhZ) material is catalytically active for DRM, exhibits long-term thermal stability and resists deactivation; however, previous to this doctoral work, a detailed understanding of the reaction mechanism on pyrochlore catalyst surfaces was still scarce, making it difficult to optimize this material. In this work, initial computational efforts employing density functional theory (DFT) showed the plane (111) of the LRhZ crystal structure as the one catalytically active for DRM. In addition, the primary reaction pathway was identified, along with two rate determining steps (RDSs), the CH2 oxygenation step and the CHO dehydrogenation step, which lie on the CH4 dehydrogenation/oxygenation path. The mechanistic understanding of DRM over LRhZ was further developed using steady-state isotopic transient kinetic analysis (SSITKA). Reversible adsorption of CO2 on the surface was observed, along with short surface residence times (< 0.6 s) at 650 and 800 °C, and increasing turnover frequencies with temperature. Comparisons between isotopic responses supported the DFT-derived reaction mechanism. Furthermore, isotopic transient kinetics confirmed that all metal atoms (Rh, Zr and La) on the surface are involved in the reaction mechanism, as previously pointed by DFT calculations. A DFT-based microkinetic model that predicts the reaction performance at different conditions was built. The model was validated against experimental data, showing remarkable agreement, which further confirmed the reliability of the DFT data. Computational analysis of one of the RDSs (the CHO dehydrogenation step) suggested Pd as an effective co-dopant to reduce the activation barrier of this step. This bimetallic Rh-Pd-substituted lanthanum zirconate pyrochlore (Rh-Pd-LZ) was synthesized, characterized and tested. The Rh-Pd-LZ catalyst successfully increased conversions at high temperatures while providing H2 to CO ratios close to unity; thus fostering DRM and inhibiting the competing reaction, the reverse water gas shift reaction (RWGS, CO2 + H2 ⇌ CO + H2O). The Rh-Pd-LZ catalyst outperformed the initial catalyst, the LRhZ, at high temperatures.