Holly Butcher is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Benjamin Wilhite’s group, and she is working on the design of a novel annular microchannel reactor (AMR) for the production of hydrogen and/or syngas. Due to the highly endothermic nature of steam reforming of methane, microreactor technology is a more appropriate choice for small scale distributed conversion of natural gas to hydrogen, syngas and/or liquids, owing to the ability to provide breakthroughs in process intensification through order-of-magnitude improvements in available heat transfer surface area per unit process volume. The AMR, originally developed by Power+Energy Inc., features a tube in tube design where the steam reforming reaction is carried out in the annulus produced by the inner and outer tube, while the combustion reaction proceeds in the volume between the AMR tubes.
The steam reforming reaction is catalyzed by a thin film catalyst coating placed on the outer wall of the annulus, and the combustion reaction is catalyzed by a thin film catalyst coating on the outside of each AMR tube. By coupling endothermic steam reforming and exothermic combustion of methane into one reactor system, a reactor capable of stand-alone, self-sustaining operation is produced. Holly’s research focuses on using Computational Fluid Dynamics in order to prototype different design changes to the reactor quickly and without need for iteratively rebuilding. Her model has been validated by experiments, allowing for performance predictions for multiple well compositions or inlet conditions and the investigation of the effects of catalyst thickness, as well as, ideal placement of the catalyst coatings.
Holly is from Haughton, Louisiana, and she attended Louisiana Tech University earning a B.S. in Nanosystems Engineering with a concentration in chemical engineering where she conducted research as an undergraduate student in molecular modeling under Dr. Daniela Mainardi. She also attended a REU program at Texas A&M University in the chemical engineering department under Dr. Daniel Shantz studying ionic liquid membranes, which fueled her interest in attending the university for graduate school. During her time in Dr. Wilhite’s group, she has had the opportunity to present at multiple conferences including AIChE and ISCRE and receiving travel grants to attend these conferences. Additionally, Holly has presented her research at ChEGSA’s Research Symposium and won Best Oral Presenter in both 2014 and 2016. She has several academic publications including one in collaboration with Dr. Floudas’ group members on the efficacy of using the AMR in place of conventional technology in a small scale operation. Outside of her research, she has attended two company internships and intends to pursue a career in the energy industry in a reaction engineering capacity. During her free time she enjoys playing strategy board games, playing video games, and spending time with her family, friends, and pets.