Acid Sites of Phosphorus-Modified Zeosils

Gaurav Kumar, Limin Ren, Yutong Pang, Xinyu Li, Han Chen, Jason Gulbinski, Paul J. Dauenhauer, Michael Tsapatsis, Omar A. Abdelrahman

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9 Scopus citations


The acid sites of phosphorus-containing zeosils were probed through a combination of solid acid characterization, density functional theory calculations, and kinetic interrogations, establishing their weakly Brønsted-acidic character. Because of the disparity in the acid-site strength, P-zeosils catalyzed the probe chemistry of isopropanol dehydration slower than aluminosilicate zeolites by an order of magnitude on an active-site basis. Propene selectivity during isopropanol dehydration remained 20-30% higher than that of aluminosilicates, illustrating the distinct nature of the weakly acidic phosphorus active sites that favored unimolecular dehydration routes. Regardless of the confining siliceous environment, the nature of phosphorus active sites was unchanged, as indicated by the identical apparent uni- and bimolecular dehydration energy barriers. Kinetic isotope experiments with deuterated isopropanol feeds implicated an E2-type elimination in propene formation on phosphorus-containing materials. The comparison of kinetic isotope effects between phosphorus-containing zeosils and aluminosilicates pointed to an unchanged isopropanol dehydration mechanism, with changes in the apparent energetic barriers attributed to weaker binding on phosphorus-active sites that lead to a relatively destabilized alcohol dimer adsorbate. Both ex situ alkylamine Hofmann elimination and in situ pyridine titration characterization methods exhibited a phosphorous acid site count that was dependent on the probe molecules' identity or concentration, underpinning the limitations of extending common characterization techniques for Brønsted acid catalysis to weakly acidic materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9933-9948
Number of pages16
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number15
StatePublished - Jul 23 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge support from the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under award number DE-SC0001004. We acknowledge Dr. Xuekui Duan (UMN) for obtaining SEM images of all catalysts reported and Dr. Dandan Xu (UMass Amherst) for providing the Al-SPP sample. We also thank Dr. Manish Shetty (UMN) and Dr. Alexander M. Ardagh (UMN) for helpful technical discussions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Chemical Society.


  • Brønsted acidity
  • Hofmann elimination
  • dehydration
  • di-isopropyl ether
  • isopropanol
  • phosphorus zeosils
  • propene


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