The influence of pore structure on fluid flow across large length scales (ca. 104 m) in silica-alumina pellet-based catalysts is significant for understanding their performance. In this project, multiscale tomography (MT) methods were used to acquire images of catalyst pellets from the nanometre to the millimetre scale. The specimens used were sintered/calcined at different temperatures. The images were then analysed and segmented into binarised datasets before the nano/microstructure for each length scale was meshed in Simpleware software. Permeability calculations were carried out in ANSYS Fluent on the effect of different pore sizes on flow, enabling new insights to be made into the transport properties of catalysts.
Two pellet-based catalysts were extruded to create trilobed pellets, which were calcined at different temperatures to produce two samples for scanning. Synchrotron X-ray microtomography (XMT), dual beam-focused ion tomography (DBFIB) and electron tomography (ET) were used to obtain 3D images at different length scales.
Following 3D tomographic reconstruction, the data was processed to reduce noise and segment bulk material and voids, resulting in a binarised dataset. The pellet samples were also experimentally measured to determine permeability.
For modelling permeability through the catalyst pellets, the tomographic volumes were mirrored using MATLAB®, with Simpleware ScanIP+FE then used to convert the nano/microstructure at each length scale into a volume mesh. Regions of interest were selected using flood-fill, with fluid boundary interfaces meshed finer than the bulk, and a buffer region added in upstream and downstream directions for the mesh, which was exported to ANSYS Fluent ready for CFD analysis of permeability. The simulated results from the finer length scales were inputted into the structure for the next length scale until the simulation had considered all relevant scales in the catalysts.