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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Highly-Dispersed Zinc Species on Zeolites for the Continuous and Selective Dehydrogenation of Ethane with CO2as a Soft Oxidant


We report herein the preparation, characterization, and catalytic performance of a series of heterogeneous catalysts featuring highly dispersed zinc sites on zeolitic SSZ-13 and ZSM-5 frameworks. The materials are evaluated in the CO2-assisted oxidative ethane dehydrogenation, a very important reaction for the synthesis of platform chemicals. In particular, we find that Zn2.92/SSZ-13 exhibits high reactivity in the conversion of C2H6 and CO2 and high ethene selectivity. In line with the experimental results, we show that the selective character of the catalyst is due to the characteristic compositional structure of the support and its topology that can effectively confine CO2 molecules. An in-depth molecular analysis via operando studies and DFT calculations shows that the rate-limiting step of the reaction with CO2 is the second C-H bond dissociation to give C2H4. The addition of CO2 effectively reduces the energy barrier of this step, favoring desorption of C2H4 while limiting byproduct formation. Overall, this work demonstrates the breakthrough potential of catalysts made of highly dispersed zinc species on zeolites in relevant transformations.

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