The development of fuel cells comes along with an expected increase in the demand for hydrogen. Ethanol reforming is more attractive than other related processes to produce highly pure hydrogen, since it has several advantages such as the use of renewably energy sources and the easy storage and handling of ethanol. Some of the catalysts used in this process are lanthanum oxide-supported nickel, as well as magnesium oxide-supported nickel, which exhibit high activity, selectivity to hydrogen and excellent stability. In order to find alternative catalysts to this reaction, the effect of magnesium on the properties of nickel and lanthanum-based catalyst was studied in the present work. Samples with 15% Ni and La/Mg (molar)=20, 10 and 5 were prepared by precipitation, followed by impregnation; solids without nickel and/or magnesium waere also obtained for comparison. In the free-magnesium sample, lanthanum oxide and hydroxide were produced but in the other samples only lanthanum oxide was produced. On the other hand, nickel-containing solids also produced the La2NiO4 compound. By adding small amounts of magnesium to solids (La/Mg=20, 10), the specific surface area decreased but higher amounts (La/Mg=5) did not change it. However, the addition of both nickel and magnesium led to an increase of it. These results were related to the stresses and imperfection generated during the solid preparation; in this case, magnesium is supposed to favor the increase of the particle size while the combined action of magnesium and nickel contributes to avoid sinterization. All solids showed basic sites on the surface. It can be concluded that the method used in this work can be useful to control the structural and textural properties of lanthana allowing the production of tailored catalysts.
Fuel cells; ethanol reforming; nickel catalyst