Selective conversion of syngas to light olefins

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Science  04 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6277, pp. 1065-1068
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf1835

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Small olefins from syngas

The conversion of coal or natural gas to liquid fuels or chemicals often proceeds through the production of CO and H2. This mixture, known as syngas, is then converted to hydrocarbons with Fischer-Tropsch catalysts. For the light olefins (ethylene to butylenes) needed for chemical and polymer synthesis, conventional catalysts are mechanistically limited to <60% conversion and deactivate through carbon buildup. Jiao et al. developed a bifunctional catalyst that achieves higher conversions and avoids deactivation (see the Perspective by de Jong). A zinc-chromium oxide creates ketene intermediates that are then coupled over a zeolite.

Science, this issue p. 1065, see also p. 1030


Although considerable progress has been made in direct synthesis gas (syngas) conversion to light olefins (C2=–C4=) via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS), the wide product distribution remains a challenge, with a theoretical limit of only 58% for C2–C4 hydrocarbons. We present a process that reaches C2=–C4= selectivity as high as 80% and C2–C4 94% at carbon monoxide (CO) conversion of 17%. This is enabled by a bifunctional catalyst affording two types of active sites with complementary properties. The partially reduced oxide surface (ZnCrOx) activates CO and H2, and C−C coupling is subsequently manipulated within the confined acidic pores of zeolites. No obvious deactivation is observed within 110 hours. Furthermore, this composite catalyst and the process may allow use of coal- and biomass-derived syngas with a low H2/CO ratio.

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