Deactivation of Zeolites and Zeotypes in Methanol-to-Hydrocarbons Catalysis: Mechanisms and Circumvention

Andrew Hwang, Aditya Bhan

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Solid catalysts deployed in industrial processes often undergo deactivation, requiring frequent replacement or regeneration to recover the loss in activity. Regeneration occurs under conditions distinct from, and typically more harsh than, the catalysis, placing strict requirements on physicochemical material properties that divert catalyst optimization toward addressing regenerability over high activity and selectivity. Deactivation arises from mechanical, structural, or chemical modifications to active sites, promoters, and their surrounding matrices, and the prevailing mechanism for deactivation varies with the reaction, the catalyst, and the reaction conditions. Methanol-to-hydrocarbons processes utilize zeolites and zeotypes-crystalline, microporous oxides widely deployed as catalysts in the refining and petrochemical industries-as solid acid catalysts. Deposition and growth of highly unsaturated carbonaceous residues within the micropores congest molecular transport and block active sites, resulting in deactivation. In this Account, we describe studies probing the underlying mechanisms of deactivation in methanol-to-hydrocarbons catalysis and discuss examples of leveraging the acquired mechanistic insights to mitigate deactivation and prolong catalyst lifetime. These fundamental principles governing carbon deposition within zeolites and zeotypes provide opportunity to broaden versatility of processes for C 1 valorization and to relax constraints imposed by hydrothermal catalyst stability considerations to achieve more active and more selective catalysis. Methanol-to-hydrocarbons catalysis occurs via a chain carrier mechanism. A zeolite/zeotype cavity hosts an unsaturated hydrocarbon guest to together constitute the supramolecular chain carrier that engages in a complex network of reactions for chain carrier propagation. Productive propagation reactions include olefin methylation, aromatic methylation, and aromatic dealkylation. Methanol undergoes unproductive dehydrogenation to formaldehyde via methanol disproportionation and olefin transfer hydrogenation. Subsequent alkylation reactions between formaldehyde and active olefinic/aromatic cocatalysts instigate cascades for dehydrocyclization, resulting in the formation of inactive polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and termination of the chain carrier. Addition of a distinct catalytic function that selectively decomposes formaldehyde mitigates chain carrier termination without disrupting the high selectivity to ethylene and propylene in methanol-to-hydrocarbons catalysis on small-pore zeolites and zeotypes. The efficacy of this bifunctional strategy to prolong catalyst lifetime increases with increasing proximity between the active sites for formaldehyde decomposition and the H + sites of the zeolite/zeotype. Coprocessing sacrifical hydrogen donors mitigates chain carrier termination by intercepting, via saturation, intermediates along dehydrocyclization cascades. This strategy increases in efficacy with increasing concentration of the hydrogen donor and provides opportunity to realize steady-state methanol-to-hydrocarbons catalysis on small-pore zeolites and zeotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 22 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge support from Dow through the University Partnership Initiative and the National Science Foundation (CBET 1701534). We also acknowledge Rachit Khare, Dario Prieto-Centurion, Sukaran Arora, Praveen Bollini, Brandon Foley, and Zhichen Shi for their contributions to the research predicating this Account.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Chemical Society.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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