The development of ceria-based catalysts for automotive after-treatment applications

  • Ruairi O'Donnell

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Ceria (cerium oxide) based materials have been widely used for catalytic applications including; fluid catalytic cracking, water gas shift reactions, solid oxide fuel cells and automotive catalytic after-treatment. It has often been the material of choice for supporting precious metals in many of the applications previously mentioned, as it can provide a high surface area and has excellent redox properties. This enables ceria to absorb oxygen into its structure and release it again, to facilitate oxidation reactions. Cerium is also one of the most abundant rare earth metals, making it a relatively cost effective material to use in industrial applications. For these reasons, cerium oxide remains to be a material of high interest for the development of cost-effective industrial catalysts and is, therefore, the focal material for this work.

Modern internal combustion engine technology is being directed towards lean burn operation, involving higher air-fuel ratios in order to improve thermal efficiency. In turn, the operating temperature of modern engines is being reduced, providing less of the heat energy required to activate the catalysts in the after-treatment system. Therefore, in order to mitigate the emission from efficient lean burn engines and comply with emission regulations, the requirement for low temperature automotive catalysts is apparent. The objective of this work is to develop effective ceria based materials for the application of modern automotive after-treatment catalysis.

The first approach is the use of a novel method for the preparation of a mixed oxide catalysts, which show high activity for CO and HC oxidation at low temperature. The preparation of ceria/manganese mixed oxide catalysts using a novel synthesis method has been studied and the materials were characterised to gain insights of their structure and morphology. Temperature programmed reactions using a complex mixture of reactants, before and after hydrothermal aging, were carried out to investigate their application for automotive emission control. The results from these studies were compared with more conventional ceria based materials that are often used for automotive after-treatment.

A second approach used in this work is a post synthesis technique for the surface modification of ceria catalysts using ion bombardment. This technique was carried out on a commercially sourced, model catalyst. A Pt-CeO2/ZrO2 was treated with nitrogen ion irradiation and the effects of the adjustable parameters of the ion beam were investigated by carrying out temperature programmed reactions. The samples were also extensively characterised using XAFS and XPS techniques to understand the effects of the ion beam treatment on the structure, morphology and Pt dispersion of the materials.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorNancy Artioli (Supervisor)


  • Ceria
  • manganese oxide
  • catalysis
  • emission control
  • OMS-2
  • Ion bombardment
  • ion beam sputtering
  • catalytic convertor
  • diesel oxidation catalyst
  • three-way catalyst

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