New catalyst features unsurpassed selectivity

New catalyst features unsurpassed selectivity

4:41 AM, 2nd November 2015
New catalyst features unsurpassed selectivity
New catalyst is capable of selective oxidation of cyclohexane to cyclohexanol and cyclohexanone.

OAK RIDGE, US: The catalyst developed by researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) features unprecedented selectivity and a conversion rate nearly twice that of conventional catalysts. Selectivity refers to the ability to target a specific chemical bond. It is also significant that the catalyst can break the carbon-hydrogen bonds in hydrocarbons such as cyclohexane, the precursor of nylon, without using noble metals. This has been considered a bottle-neck step in the production of nylon.

This research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

“The greater the selectivity, the more products that can be derived,” said Sheng Dai, ORNL chemist and lead author of the paper. “The catalyst is the main ingredient to speed up desired chemical reactions and we have created one for synthesizing the nylon precursor that is especially effective at activating the carbon-hydrogen bonds.”

ORNL’s successful approach lies in the formation of an ultra- high concentration of active sites for breaking the carbon-hydrogen bonds from a 50-50 atomistic mixture of manganese oxide and cerium oxide.

This creates a catalyst that is extremely porous and features a high surface area, making it efficient at breaking these bonds. The high efficiency or conversion rate, of the catalyst means more nylon can be produced from cyclohexane in less time.

Dai emphasized that this success was a team effort as he enlisted the help of ORNL postdoctoral research associate Pengfei Zhang, visiting scholar Hanfeng Lu of Zhejiang University and others to test his concept.

“Our catalyst has created a sustainable way to prepare complex mesoporous metal oxides and demonstrates outstanding performance in the selective oxidation of various hydrocarbons by oxidation,” Zhang said.

Other authors were Li Zhang, Zilu Wu, Shize Yang and Hongliang Shi of ORNL, Ying Zhou, Quilian Zhu and Yinfei Chen of Zhejiang University and Shize Yang and Hongliang Shi of the University of Tennessee.

This research was funded by DOE’s Office of Science.

© Oak Ridge National Laboratory News

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