Nanoparticulates of oxygen transfer materials that are oxides of rare earth metals, combinations of rare earth metals, and combinations of transition metals and rare earth metals are used as catalysts in a variety of processes. Unexpectedly large thermal efficiencies are achieved relative to micron sized particulates. Processes that use these catalysts are exemplified in a multistage reactor. The exemplified reactor cracks C6 to C20 hydrocarbons, desulfurizes the hydrocarbon stream and reforms the hydrocarbons in the stream to produce hydrogen. In a first reactor stage the steam and hydrocarbon are passed through particulate mixed rare earth metal oxide to crack larger hydrocarbon molecules. In a second stage, the steam and hydrocarbon are passed through particulate material that desulfurizes the hydrocarbon. In a third stage, the hydrocarbon and steam are passed through a heated, mixed transition metal/rare earth metal oxide to reform the lower hydrocarbons and thereby produce hydrogen. Stages can be alone or combined. Parallel reactors can provide continuous reactant flow. Each of the processes can be carried out individually.
This invention was made with US Government support under contracts DE-FG02-04ER86219 and FA8501-05-M-0133 awarded by the Department of Energy and the Air Force, respectively. The US Government has certain non-transferable rights in the invention.