Identification of molybdenum oxide nanostructures on zeolites for natural gas conversion

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Science  08 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6235, pp. 686-690
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa7048

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Waste not, want not

Natural gas often escapes or is deliberately burned at remote exploration sites because there is no economical way to transport it to markets. One route proposed for converting its main component, methane, into a more readily transported liquid is conversion to benzene over zeolites containing molybdenum (Mo). However, this method suffers from low conversion efficiency. Gao et al. identified the active Mo nanostructures as well as deactivated carbide species that form during this reaction. They were also able to recover and even enhance the zeolite catalytic activity after oxygen treatments.

Science, this issue p. 686


Direct methane conversion into aromatic hydrocarbons over catalysts with molybdenum (Mo) nanostructures supported on shape-selective zeolites is a promising technology for natural gas liquefaction. We determined the identity and anchoring sites of the initial Mo structures in such catalysts as isolated oxide species with a single Mo atom on aluminum sites in the zeolite framework and on silicon sites on the zeolite external surface. During the reaction, the initial isolated Mo oxide species agglomerate and convert into carbided Mo nanoparticles. This process is reversible, and the initial isolated Mo oxide species can be restored by a treatment with gas-phase oxygen. Furthermore, the distribution of the Mo nanostructures can be controlled and catalytic performance can be fully restored, even enhanced, by adjusting the oxygen treatment.

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