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Toward Direct Thermal-to-Electric Conversion: On-chip Microreactors for Catalytic Combustion of Methanol-Air Mixture Open Access


Other title
Catalytic Combustion
Direct Thermal-to-Electric Conversion
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Tian, Sheng
Supervisor and department
Mitra, Sushanta (Mechanical Engineering)
Thundat, Thomas (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Chung, Hyun-Joong (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Nazemifard, Neda (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Mitra, Sushanta (Mechanical Engineering)
Thundat, Thomas (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Science
Degree level
In this thesis, on-chip microreactors for catalytic combustion of methanol-air mixture were designed, fabricated and characterized. Using standard optical lithography, deep reactive-ion etching (DRIE) and other fabrication techniques, microreactors with integrated micropillars having four different types of designs, viz., square and staggered pillar arrangements along with axial and diagonal flow configurations were generated. The diameter and height of the micropillars are both 100 um and the available internal surface area of the reactor is 629.77 mm^2. Such microfabricated microreactors have a high surface-area-to-volume-ratio in the order of 27.80 mm^-1. A wash-coating procedure was adopted to deposit Pt on Al2O3 catalyst onto the reactor surfaces. After a preheating procedure, by introducing methanol-air mixture into the reactors, an autonomous and stable on-chip catalytic combustion could be sustained. This work shows that apart from the catalyst, fuel type, fuel and air flow rates, the geometric configuration of the microreactor plays a significant role in terms of achieving highest on-chip temperature. It was found that the on-chip microreactor with squared pillar arrangement coupled with diagonal flow configuration provided the best performance for the catalytic combustion of methanol-air mixture. It was also demonstrated that the well-known transition from heterogeneous catalytic combustion to a mixed heterogeneous-catalytic-and-homogeneous-gas-phase combustion exists during the combustion process in these on-chip microreactors. Such sustained catalytic combustion can be utilized as future heat source for direct thermal-to-electric energy conversion platform where the on-chip microreactors can be packaged with commercial thermoelectric modules to achieve power generation on-chip.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Tian, Sheng, et al. "On-Chip Power Generation: Microfluidic-Based Reactor for Catalytic Combustion of Methanol." ASME 2013 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2013.

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