Staining Makes Catalytic Sites Fluoresce | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 38 | p. 28 | Concentrates
Issue Date: September 19, 2011

Staining Makes Catalytic Sites Fluoresce

Imaging method correlates fluorescence intensity with catalytic activity in individual particles
Department: Science & Technology
Keywords: catalyst, fluid catalytic cracking, FCC, fluorescence microscopy
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Intense fluorescence from a single fresh catalyst particle (left) decreases as the catalyst ages and it catalytic activity decreases.
Credit: Nat. Chem.
Intense fluorescence from a single fresh catalyst particle.
 
Intense fluorescence from a single fresh catalyst particle (left) decreases as the catalyst ages and it catalytic activity decreases.
Credit: Nat. Chem.

A fluorescence microscopy method can be used to image catalytically active regions of selectively stained industrial catalyst particles, according to a team of researchers in the Netherlands and the U.S. (Nat. Chem., DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1148). The method, which was developed to probe acidic functionality in solid catalysts, provides a new diagnostic imaging tool for monitoring catalyst aging and deactivation. Motivated by biological tissue staining methods, Inge L. C. Buurmans, Javier Ruiz-Martínez, and Bert M. Weckhuysen of Utrecht University, and coworkers selectively delivered the heterocyclic compound thiophene to acid sites in fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) catalysts, a workhorse petroleum refining catalyst. Commercial FCC catalysts are typically formulated as micrometer-sized particles of zeolite Y in a matrix of clay, alumina, and silica. Then by applying a thermal treatment, the team oligomerized thiophene at the zeolite acid sites to form fluorescent probe molecules at those catalytically active positions. They selectively treated the matrix with a different dye. In that way, the team was able to compare fluorescence signals from individual fresh catalyst particles with various aged and deactivated ones and develop a correlation between fluorescence intensity and catalytic cracking activity.

 
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