Issue Date: March 17, 2008
Methane Activation Site Revealed For Zeolite Catalyst
By coupling materials synthesis and catalytic activity studies with a powerful NMR spectroscopy method, a team of researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and China's Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics has identified the active species in a molybdenum-based zeolite (aluminosilicate) catalyst that converts methane to benzene: It's an Al-O-Mo linkage (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2008, 130, 3722). The study could lead to efficient methods for transforming methane into more valuable and easily transported liquid fuels and chemicals, which in turn could provide the chemical industry with incentives to tap supplies of natural gas in remote areas. To boost ordinarily weak molybdenum NMR signals, Heng Zheng, Xinhe Bao, and coworkers prepared a series of catalysts from a 95Mo-enriched precursor material, evaluated the materials' catalytic activities, and used an ultra-high-field NMR method to probe the samples. On the basis of those measurements, the team concluded that during catalyst preparation molybdenum atoms migrate into the zeolite's channels and anchor onto acidic aluminum sites, thereby forming Al-O-Mo linkages. These structures serve as catalytically active centers in the methane conversion reactions.
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