Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory

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Characterization and Development of a Ag/ZrO2/SiO2 Catalyst for the Conversion of Bio-Derived Ethanol to Linear Butenes

Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Principal Investigator: 
Robert Dagle
Lead Institution: 
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Closed Date: 
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Project ID: 

The overall objective of this study is to further investigate our recent catalyst innovation enabling the selective, single-step conversion of bio-derived ethanol to 1- and 2-butene (linear butenes). We intend to continue to improve the technology through advanced characterization to provide a better understanding of the mechanism and active sites for further catalyst development. The creation of multi-functional heterogeneous catalysts for the conversion of bio-derived light oxygenates to fuels and chemicals are of great significance to the R&D community. This work will not only benefit the specific reactions of interest (e.g., ethanol-to-butenes and to butadiene) but also the emerging larger discipline. Furthermore, our research group has several publications in this area and is keen to publish findings from these studies as well (particularly now that a patent has been filed for this particular catalytic conversion). Thus, this characterization study will most likely have a large impact in the catalysis and surface science community. The requested resources are necessary for performing advanced catalyst characterization of our Ag/ZrO2/SiO2 system to gain a fundamental understanding of the catalytic structure enabling butene formation. Computational simulations using models developed in FY19 will assist with improving catalyst design. Complimentary tools including XRD, XPS, and HRTEM will provide information about the physio-chemical properties of the catalyst before and after our reactions have occurred. Increasing selectivity to butene formation and improving catalytic durability are our two catalyst design objectives in FY20. Optimizing Ag metal loading and particle size in addition to the acidity of the catalyst—done in part by adjusting ZrO2 loading or through the addition of dopants—are key design variables. Well-defined synthesis techniques will be coupled with experimental and theoretical tools in EMSL to assist with development efforts. In conclusion, we have developed a multifunctional catalyst with unique activity and stability for bio-derived ethanol into butenes and the value-added commodity chemical butadiene; however, its characterization is a challenging task. Studies while under operating under reducing conditions to form linear butenes are ongoing. Gaining a fundamental understanding at molecular resolution of catalyst active sites using the state-of-the-art characterization capabilities and expert staff at EMSL will help us understand what physicochemical properties are relevant for catalytic reactivity. This knowledge will guide the development of new catalytic materials and applications.