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NIST Renews Award To Sun Company And Rohm And Haas For Research On Breakthrough Catalyst Technology

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology has announced that it will renew a multiyear research award under the Advanced Technology Program to Sun Company Inc. (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Rohm and Haas Company (Philadelphia, Pa.) to develop new catalyst technology for single-step oxidation of low-cost, light alkanes (simple hydrocarbons) to produce high-value oxygenated chemicals more efficiently and with less waste.

The NIST award renewal is for $2,052,759. The five-year project, begun in 1995, is projected to receive a total of approximately $9,153,000 in ATP funding, matched by approximately $9,153,000 in industry funding.

Advanced Technology Program awards are designed to help industry pursue risky, challenging technologies that have the potential for a big pay-off for the nation’s economy. ATP projects focus on enabling technologies that will create opportunities for new, world-class products, services and industrial processes, benefiting not just the ATP participants but other companies and industries—and ultimately consumers and taxpayers. The ATP’s cost-shared funding enables industry to pursue promising technologies that otherwise would be ignored or developed too slowly to compete in rapidly changing world markets.

Detailed information on this project, Breakthrough Technology for Oxidation of Alkanes, is below.

Breakthrough Technology for Oxidation of Alkanes

High-value oxygenated chemicals used in a wide range of consumer and industrial products currently are produced from relatively costly feedstocks (e.g., olefins.) The use of abundant, low-cost feedstocks with efficient catalysts would lower manufacturing costs and provide "green" technology that would reduce wasteful byproducts and emissions. However, no known catalysts can produce these chemicals cost effectively from such less expensive feedstocks. Sun Company, Inc., and Rohm and Haas Company (Philadelphia, PA) propose to develop radically new catalyst technology for single-step oxidation of low-cost, light alkanes (simple hydrocarbons) to high-valued oxygenated chemical intermediates. Such transformations have precedent, but the project seeks to increase yields from the current less-than-10-percent to commercially viable levels, using only air or molecular oxygen as oxidants. Sun has synthesized and patented a new class of catalysts, which will be used in the research. Technical hurdles include development of a stable, long-life catalyst that cleaves oxygen molecules at low temperatures (i.e., below that of combustion) and selectively activates alkanes. Commercial use of this technology would reduce production costs for specific oxygenated chemicals by 20 to 25 percent and have broad application to other chemical manufacturing processes, enabling U.S. industry to seize a major advantage in a large product area.

Sun Company, Inc. 
Philadelphia, PA

Technologies: Catalysis and Biocatalysis

Project length: 5 years

ATP funds: $9,153 K

Cost-shared funds (est.): $9,153 K

Total project funds (est.): $18,306 K

Contact: Ron W. Reynolds, (215) 977-6816

Released November 3, 1997, Updated November 27, 2017