Microwave heating of endothermic catalytic reactions: Reforming of methanol



In an endothermic reaction, such as methanol-steam reforming, the reaction rate can be limited by the ability to supply heat to the reactor. Heat transfer from the reactor wall normally supplies the required energy in such processes. Drawbacks, such as operating temperature constraints and practical heat-transfer restrictions, limit this practice. In such situations, microwave heating could provide an effective and efficient method for transferring heat to the catalyst. To explore this possibility, the methanol-steam reaction performed by conventional heating and microwave heating was studied. Mathematical modeling was performed for 1-D heat transfer in a single catalyst pellet and for 2-D heat transfer in a tubular packed-bed reactor. The single catalyst pellet model indicated that productivity could increase significantly using microwave heating. The 2-D model showed that microwave heating could minimize radial heat-transfer effects. Conducting the methanol-steam reaction in a microwave-heated reactor experimentally verified the improved productivity.