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MOFs Serve As Catalyst Precursor

Pyrolyzing iron-based framework compound leads to stable, active Fischer-Tropsch catalyst

by Mitch Jacoby
March 16, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 11

Pyrolyzing Basolite F-300, which is a MOF also known as iron 1,3,5-benzenetricarboxylate, converts the Fe-containing porous carbon material to spatially confined iron carbide nanoparticules, as shown in this schematic. The product is a low-cost stable Fischer-Tropsch catalyst.
Credit: Jorge Gascon/Delft U Technology
Pyrolyzing this framework compound, which is composed of iron ions and benzenetricarboxylate linker groups, leads to spatially confined iron carbide nanoparticles. The product functions as an active and stable Fischer-Tropsch catalyst.

Iron’s abundance and low cost make it an attractive substitute for costly cobalt catalysts used for mediating Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis. That industrial-scale carbon coupling process converts mixtures of CO and hydrogen to liquid fuels and other valuable organic products. But iron catalysts deactivate quickly during FT synthesis. The metal nanoparticles agglomerate, undergo phase changes, and accumulate a carbon buildup, all of which render iron catalysts inactive. Those problems can be avoided by preparing the catalyst from an iron-based metal-organic framework (MOF) compound, according to a research team headed by Jorge Gascon of Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands (Nat. Commun. 2015, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7451). The team, which includes researchers at Dow Chemical, treated a commercially available MOF (Basolite F300) with furfuryl alcohol to tune the ratio of iron to carbon, then pyrolyzed the crystalline material, which contains a network of pores and channels. Analysis shows that the procedure yields catalytically active, confined iron carbide particles that outperform standard reference catalysts. The new catalysts resist sintering, degradation of the carbide phase, and other forms of deactivation, the team reports.


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