SEM Analysis of a Catalytic Product

SEM Analysis of a Catalytic Product

Catal International is a company that has been developing products and services for the catalytic process industries for more than a quarter of a century. Founded in Sheffield, the company remains based in the city, but its first-class products and expertise are utilised by customers around the world.

The Challenge

Catal International has interacted with Sheffield Hallam University for many years with great success, so when the company needed to refine one of its catalytic products in order to prepare for increasingly rigorous EU HSE regulations, it didn’t hesitate to approach us to see how we might be able to help.

‘We had developed and were producing a catalytic product which incorporates a raw material shown to be fibrous, and current EU HSE regulations do not allow fibrous raw materials usage without stringent dust control and air filtration,’ explained Andrew Holt, who is Company Director at Catal International. ‘The industry view was that the materials would be eventually banned.’

Any such ban would have meant the commercial end of the product in question, and so the company was keen to find a new way of manufacturing the same catalytic product that would also eliminate the problematic presence of the fibrous materials.

What We Did

We gave Catal International access to our state-of-the-art scanning electron microscope (SEM) analytical facilities, and these allowed the company to assess the product research and development progress in the refinement of its catalytic product lines.

In addition, we also gave the company access to the experience and knowledge of our own expert analysts and researchers, who were able to comment on the SEM studies, discuss the results that were obtained and suggest possible ways forward based on those findings.

What We Discovered

The SEM studies that were conducted on the crystal forms of the raw material in question revealed that the process then being used in the manufacture of the catalyst product was playing a key role in the production of fibres. In layman’s terms, the production method was identified as being the real source of the fibrosity problem, rather than the raw material itself.

In light of these findings, our team was able to recommend the development of an alternative manufacturing method. We also recommended the introduction of a modification to the production process that would potentially increase the effectiveness of the catalyst.

How We Helped

Identifying that the existing manufacturing process was facilitating the production of fibres from the raw material made it possible for the company to modify that process in order to avoid the problem. This allowed Catal International to continue producing the catalytic product using the same raw material, but without any of the earlier fibrosity concerns.

As Mr Holt explained: ‘The SEM studies, of the crystal forms of the particular raw material, have allowed us to develop an alternative manufacturing route which removes the production of fibres. The modified production method will allow continued production of the raw material and production of the enhanced catalyst. Production numbers of the catalyst, which is for an air purification process, are increasing.’

This SEM analysis project is just one that we have worked on with Catal International, and so we asked if the company would recommend this approach to problem-solving to other companies. ‘My overwhelming response to this question is yes,’ Mr Holt replied. ‘Catal has always recognised the ability of the University staff, working in associated areas to ourselves, to assist us in solving problems that we have from time to time.’

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