The effects of surface acidity on the cascade ethanol-to-isobutene conversion were studied using ZnxZryOz catalysts. The ethanol-to-isobutene reaction was found to be limited by the secondary reaction of the key intermediate, acetone, namely the acetone-to-isobutene reaction. Although the catalysts with coexisting Brønsted acidity could catalyze the rate-limiting acetone-to-isobutene reaction, the presence of Brønsted acidity is also detrimental. First, secondary isobutene isomerization is favored, producing a mixture of butene isomers. Second, undesired polymerization and coke formation prevail, leading to rapid catalyst deactivation. Most importantly, both steady-state and kinetic reaction studies as well as FTIR analysis of adsorbed acetone-d6 and D2O unambiguously showed that a highly active and selective nature of balanced Lewis acid-base pairs was masked by the coexisting Brønsted acidity in the aldolization and self-deoxygenation of acetone to isobutene. As a result, ZnxZryOz catalysts with only Lewis acid-base pairs were discovered, on which nearly a theoretical selectivity to isobutene (~88.9%) was successfully achieved, which has never been reported before. Moreover, the absence of Brønsted acidity in such ZnxZryOz catalysts also eliminates the side isobutene isomerization and undesired polymerization/coke reactions, resulting in the production of high purity isobutene with significantly improved catalyst stability (
Key Roles of Lewis Acid-base Pairs on ZnxZryOz in Direct Ethanol/Acetone to Isobutene Conversion.
Sun J, RA Baylon, C Liu, D Mei, KJ Martin, P Venkitasubramanian, and Y Wang.2016."Key Roles of Lewis Acid-base Pairs on ZnxZryOz in Direct Ethanol/Acetone to Isobutene Conversion."Journal of the American Chemical Society 138(2):507-517. doi:10.1021/jacs.5b07401