Skip to main content
Log in

Effect of Copper Loading in Copper-Alumina Aerogels on Three-Way Catalytic Performance

  • Special Issue: 2019 CLEERS October 17 - 19, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  • Published:
Emission Control Science and Technology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

A Correction to this article was published on 19 October 2020

This article has been updated


Aerogels are high surface area, low density, low thermal mass, nanoporous materials that are stable at high temperatures. This unique combination of physical characteristics makes them promising for use in three-way catalyst systems. Their high surface area has the potential to result in more active sites and improved gas/solid interaction. Their high temperature stability may reduce active site diffusion/sintering and allow for close coupling, which combined with the low thermal inertia may lead to a reduced time to light-off. It is relatively easy to incorporate a variety of metals, including non-precious group metals, into an aerogel backbone. We have developed a series of copper-alumina (CuAl) aerogels via sol-gel synthesis and rapid supercritical extraction drying. Different amounts of copper were incorporated into the alumina gel, resulting in materials with 20% to 40% copper by mass. Scanning electron microscopy imaging shows copper-containing particles distributed in the material, and powder X-ray diffraction indicates that the copper may be in the copper aluminate spinel phase after heat treatment. The materials were tested in the Union Catalytic Aerogel Testbed (UCAT), which evaluates catalytic material performance for conversion of NO, HCs, and CO over a range of temperatures from 200 to 700 °C using a simulated exhaust gas mixture with and without air. UCAT test results indicate that adding more copper to the aerogel lowers the light-off temperature from 350 to 225–250 °C for the conversion of CO and from 500 to 425–450 °C for the conversion of HCs (in the presence of air) and from 425 to 325 °C for NO (without air).

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9

Similar content being viewed by others

Change history

  • 19 October 2020

    The original version of this article contained 2 errors.


  1. Johnson, T.V.: SAE 2012 world congress, vehicular emission control highlights of the annual Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) international congress. Platin. Met. Rev. 57(2), 117–122 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Cooper, J., Beecham, J.: A study of platinum group metals in three-way autocatalysts. Platin. Met. Rev. 57(4), 281–288 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bosteels, D., Searles, R.A.: Exhaust emission catalyst technology. Platin. Met. Rev. 46(1), 27–36 (2002)

    Google Scholar 

  4. He, J.J., Wang, C.X., Zheng, T.T., Zhao, Y.K.: Thermally induced deactivation and the corresponding strategies for improving durability in automotive three-way catalysts. Johnson Matthey Technology Review. 60(3), 196–203 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. González-Marcos, M.P., Pereda-Ayo, B., Aranzabal, A., González-Marcos, J.A., González-Velasco, J.R.: On the effect of reduction and ageing on the TWC activity of Pd/Ce0.68Zr0.32O2 under simulated automotive exhausts. Catal. Today. 180(1), 88–95 (2012)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Heck, R. M., Farrauto, R. J., & Gulati, S. T. (2009). Catalytic Air Pollution Control: Commercial Technology. John Wiley & Sons

  7. Pajonk, G.M.: Aerogel catalysts. Appl. Catal. 72(2), 217–266 (1991)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Pajonk, G.M.: Catalytic aerogels. Catal. Today. 35(3), 319–337 (1997)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Pajonk, G.M.: Some catalytic applications of aerogels for environmental purposes. Catal. Today. 52(1), 3–13 (1999)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Pajonk, G.M. (2007). Aerogel synthesis. Ch. 3 in Catalyst Preparation, CRC press

  11. Choi, J., Suh, D.J.: Catalytic applications of aerogels. Catal. Surv. Jpn. 11(3), 123–133 (2007)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Gash, A.E., Tillotson, T.M., Satcher Jr., J.H., Hrubesh, L.W., Simpson, R.L.: New sol–gel synthetic route to transition and main-group metal oxide aerogels using inorganic salt precursors. J. Non-Cryst. Solids. 285(1–3), 22–28 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Keysar, S., Shter, G.E., de Hazan, Y., Cohen, Y., Grader, G.S.: Heat treatment of alumina aerogels. Chem. Mater. 9(11), 2464–2467 (1997)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Horiuchi, T., Osaki, T., Sugiyama, T., Suzuki, K., Mori, T.: Maintenance of large surface area of alumina heated at elevated temperatures above 1300° C by preparing silica-containing pseudoboehmite aerogel. J. Non-Cryst. Solids. 291(3), 187–198 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Bouck, R.M., Anderson, A.M., Prasad, C., Hagerman, M.E., Carroll, M.K.: Cobalt-alumina sol gels: effects of heat treatment on structure and catalytic ability. J. Non-Cryst. Solids. 453, 94–102 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Gauthier, B.M., Bakrania, S.D., Anderson, A.M., Carroll, M.K.: A fast supercritical extraction technique for aerogel fabrication. J. Non-Cryst. Solids. 350, 238–243 (2004)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Carroll, M.K., Anderson, A.M., Gorka, C.A.: Preparing silica aerogel monoliths via a rapid supercritical extraction method. JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments). 84, e51421 (2014)

    Google Scholar 

  18. Anderson, A.M., Bruno, B.A., Donlon, E.A., Posada, L.F., Carroll, M.K.: Fabrication and testing of catalytic aerogels prepared via rapid supercritical extraction. JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments). 138, e57075 (2018)

    Google Scholar 

  19. Bono, M.S., Anderson, A.M., Carroll, M.K.: Alumina aerogels prepared via rapid supercritical extraction. J. Sol-Gel Sci. Technol. 53(2), 216–226 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Dunn, N.J.H., Carroll, M.K., Anderson, A.M.: Characterization of alumina and nickel-alumina aerogels prepared via rapid supercritical extraction. Polym. Prepr. 52(1), 250–251 (2011)

    Google Scholar 

  21. Brown, L.B., Anderson, A.M., Carroll, M.K.: Fabrication of titania and titania–silica aerogels using rapid supercritical extraction. J. Sol-Gel Sci. Technol. 62(3), 404–413 (2012)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Bruno, B. A., Madero, J. E., Juhl, S. J., Rodriguez, J. Dunn, N. J. H., Carroll, M. K., & Anderson, A. M. (2012). Alumina-based aerogels as three-way catalysts. Proceedings of the 9th Int‘l Congress on Catalysis and Automotive Pollution Control (CAPoC9), August 29–31, Brussels, Belgium

  23. Juhl, S.J., Dunn, N.J., Carroll, M.K., Anderson, A.M., Bruno, B.A., Madero, J.E., Bono, M.S.: Epoxide-assisted alumina aerogels by rapid supercritical extraction. J. Non-Cryst. Solids. 426, 141–149 (2015)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Smith, L.C., Anderson, A.M., Carroll, M.K.: Preparation of vanadia-containing aerogels by rapid supercritical extraction for applications in catalysis. J. Sol-Gel Sci. Technol. 77(1), 160–171 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Bruno, B. A., Anderson, A. M., Carroll, M., Swanton, T., Brockmann, P., Palace, T., & Ramphal, I. A. (2016). Benchtop scale testing of aerogel catalysts: preliminary results. SAE Technical Paper No. 2016-01-0920

  26. Tobin, Z.M., Posada, L.F., Bechu, A.M., Carroll, M.K., Bouck, R.M., Anderson, A.M., Bruno, B.A.: Preparation and characterization of copper-containing alumina and silica aerogels for catalytic applications. J. Sol-Gel Sci. Technol. 84(3), 432–445 (2017)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Anderson, A.M., Donlon, E.A., Forti, A.A., Silva, V.P., Bruno, B.A., Carroll, M.K.: Synthesis and characterization of copper-nanoparticle-containing silica aerogel prepared via rapid supercritical extraction for applications in three-way catalysis. MRS Advances. 2(57), 3485–3490 (2017)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Posada, L.F., Carroll, M.K., Anderson, A.M., Bruno, B.A.: Inclusion of ceria in alumina- and silica-based aerogels for catalytic applications. J. Supercrit. Fluids. 152, 104536 (2019)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Harris, D.C.: Quantitative Chemical Analysis, 9th edn. W. H. Freeman, New York (2016)

    Google Scholar 

  30. Reichenauer, G., Scherer, G.W.: Nitrogen sorption in aerogels. J. Non-Cryst. Solids. 285(1–3), 167–174 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Hirakawa, T., Shimokawa, Y., Tokuzumi, W., Sato, T., Tsushida, M., Yoshida, H., Hinokuma, S., Ohyama, J., Machida, M.: Multicomponent spinel oxide solid solutions: a possible alternative to platinum group metal three-way catalysts. ACS Catal. 9(12), 11763–11773 (2019)

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grants No. IIP-1918217, IIP-1823899, DMR-1828144 and CBET-1228851. The authors thank Diana E. Lang, Ryan Puglisi, and Christopher O’Brien for assistance with experimental work. MTL and CA are grateful for funding from Union College through the Summer Research Fellowship program. FD acknowledges summer funding from the Union College Mechanical Engineering Department and the Union College Chemistry Department’s Kane Fund.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ann M. Anderson.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Anderson, A.M., Bruno, B.A., Dilone, F. et al. Effect of Copper Loading in Copper-Alumina Aerogels on Three-Way Catalytic Performance. Emiss. Control Sci. Technol. 6, 324–335 (2020).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: