Turning hazardous volatile matter compounds into fuel by catalytic steam reforming: An evolutionary machine learning approach

Alireza Shafizadeh, Hossein Shahbeik, Mohammad Hossein Nadian, Vijai Kumar Gupta, Abdul Sattar Nizami, Su Shiung Lam, Wanxi Peng*, Junting Pan*, Meisam Tabatabaei*, Mortaza Aghbashlo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Chemical and biomass processing systems release volatile matter compounds into the environment daily. Catalytic reforming can convert these compounds into valuable fuels, but developing stable and efficient catalysts is challenging. Machine learning can handle complex relationships in big data and optimize reaction conditions, making it an effective solution for addressing the mentioned issues. This study is the first to develop a machine-learning-based research framework for modeling, understanding, and optimizing the catalytic steam reforming of volatile matter compounds. Toluene catalytic steam reforming is used as a case study to show how chemical/textural analyses (e.g., X-ray diffraction analysis) can be used to obtain input features for machine learning models. Literature is used to compile a database covering a variety of catalyst characteristics and reaction conditions. The process is thoroughly analyzed, mechanistically discussed, modeled by six machine learning models, and optimized using the particle swarm optimization algorithm. Ensemble machine learning provides the best prediction performance (R2 > 0.976) for toluene conversion and product distribution. The optimal tar conversion (higher than 77.2%) is obtained at temperatures between 637.44 and 725.62 °C, with a steam-to-carbon molar ratio of 5.81–7.15 and a catalyst BET surface area of 476.03–638.55 m2/g. The feature importance analysis satisfactorily reveals the effects of input descriptors on model prediction. Operating conditions (50.9%) and catalyst properties (49.1%) are equally important in modeling. The developed framework can expedite the search for optimal catalyst characteristics and reaction conditions, not only for catalytic chemical processing but also for related research areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number137329
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date19 Jun 2023
Publication statusPrint publication - 10 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

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  • Biomass conversion
  • Catalytic steam reforming
  • Ensemble machine learning
  • Syngas
  • Toluene
  • Volatile matter


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