ORNL team develops more efficient ethanol-to-C3+ olefins catalyst; 88% selectivity
03 August 2021
Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have developed a new catalyst for converting ethanol into C3+ olefins—the chemical building blocks for renewable jet fuel and diesel—that pushes selectivity to a record-high 88%, a more than 10% gain over their previously developed catalyst. (Earlier post.)
A paper on the new work is published in the journal ACS Catalysis.
Here, we report a Cu–Zn–Y/Beta catalyst for selective ethanol conversion to butene-rich C3+ olefins (88% selectivity at 100% ethanol conversion, 623 K), where the Cu, Zn, and Y sites are all highly dispersed. The ethanol-to-butene reaction network includes ethanol dehydrogenation, aldol condensation to crotonaldehyde, and hydrogenation to butyraldehyde, followed by further hydrogenation and dehydration reactions to form butenes.—Zhang et al.
Increasing the yield from this conversion can advance cost-effective production of renewable transportation fuels.
In the search for new catalysts, ORNL’s Zhenglong Li achieved the record yield by exploring a new reaction pathway using a metal mix of copper, zinc and yttrium. His experiments add to fundamental understanding of how various metals behave in complex chemical reactions while also indicating potential for developing new catalysts and reducing carbon deposits that decrease yield in the catalysis process.
The new research builds on previous work with a conversion process now licensed to Prometheus Fuels (earlier post) and more recent research using a zinc-yttrium beta catalyst combined with a single-atom alloy catalyst.
Junyan Zhang, Evan C. Wegener, Nohor River Samad, James W. Harris, Kinga A. Unocic, Lawrence F. Allard, Stephen Purdy, Shiba Adhikari, Michael J. Cordon, Jeffrey T. Miller, Theodore R. Krause, Sichao Cheng, Dongxia Liu, Meijun Li, Xiao Jiang, Zili Wu, and Zhenglong Li (2021) “Isolated Metal Sites in Cu–Zn–Y/Beta for Direct and Selective Butene-Rich C3+ Olefin Formation from Ethanol” ACS Catalysis doi: 10.1021/acscatal.1c02177