The Freecats project

Freecats is a R&D project whose objective is to develop new metal-free catalysts, either in the form of bulk nanomaterials or in hierarchically organized structures both capable to replce traditional noble metal-based catalysts in catalytic transformations of strategic importance. The new metal-free catalytic materials will be applied to specific processes traditionally carried out by means of precious metal-based materials. The application of the new materials will eliminate the use for platinum group metals and rare earth elements such as ceria used in fuel cell technology (automotive applications and others), production of light olefins, and in wastewater and water purification. Replacing platinum group metal alternatives in these three emerging technologies, will significantly reduce the demand of platinum group metals in Europe, at least mounting to the current automotive platinum group metal demand that is estimated to be in the order of 50-100 tons per year by replacing the platinum group metal. 

The Freecats project will: 

  • Prepare nitrogen and boron-doped nanocarbons using an optimized and scalable procedure giving controllable nitrogen content presenting the following physical properties: 
    • High surface reactivity with an homogeneous dispersion of the dopant on the material surface
    • Strong and stable interface with the macrostructured host matrix (SiC and C foam and cordierite monolith) at the targeted reaction conditions
    • Efficient heat and electron transfer for the subsequence catalytic applications
  • Develop comprehensive process models for three main case studies. The results will allow for determination of the optimum operation conditions. The case studies are: 
    • Oxygen reduction reaction for use in proton exchange membrane fuel cells, using N-CNT
    • Oxidative dehydrogenation of short chain alkanes using P and B doped CNF.
    • Advanced oxidation processes for water and wastewater treatment: catalytic ozonation of organic micropollutants  and catalytic wet air oxidation using N-CNT
  • Evaluate and test at lab-scale the catalytic performance of the metal-free catalysts in the three cases and compare the results with the performance of traditional noble or rare-earth metal-based systems
  • Explore and scale-up of one or more processes to microplant scale for the demonstration of the long-term stability of these metal-free nanocarbon catalysts.
  • Assess performances of the microplants against the expected performances based on lab-scale results and simulation results.
  • Generate technical data regarding catalyst scale-up (to full commercial scale), catalytic performances and durability, leading to a Technical, Economic and Ecologic assessment.

Freecats is a 3 years projects consisting of a consortium of 9 partners, including European R&D organisations and a group of small and medium sized enterprises. The project is supported by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Program Contract No: 280658 and is coordinated by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Read more about the R&D activities by clicking here.