Computational optimization of catalyst distributions at the nano-scale
Journal article, 2017
Catalysis is a key phenomenon in a great number of energy processes, including feedstock conversion, tar cracking, emission abatement and optimizations of energy use. Within heterogeneous, catalytic nano-scale systems, the chemical reactions typically proceed at very high rates at a gas-solid interface. However, the statistical uncertainties characteristic of molecular processes pose efficiency problems for computational optimizations of such nano-scale systems. The present work investigates the performance of a Direct Simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) code with a stochastic optimization heuristic for evaluations of an optimal catalyst distribution. The DSMC code treats molecular motion with homogeneous and heterogeneous chemical reactions in wall-bounded systems and algorithms have been devised that allow optimization of the distribution of a catalytically active material within a three-dimensional duct (e.g. a pore). The objective function is the outlet concentration of computational molecules that have interacted with the catalytically active surface, and the optimization method used is simulated annealing. The application of a stochastic optimization heuristic is shown to be more efficient within the present DSMC framework than using a macroscopic overlay method. Furthermore, it is shown that the performance of the developed method is superior to that of a gradient search method for the current class of problems. Finally, the advantages and disadvantages of different types of objective functions are discussed.