K. De Wispelaere

First principle chemical kinetics in zeolites: The Methanol-to-Olefin process as a case study

V. Van Speybroeck, K. De Wispelaere, J. Van der Mynsbrugge, M. Vandichel, K. Hemelsoet, M. Waroquier
Chemical Society Reviews
43 (21), 7326-7357
2014
A1

Abstract 

To optimally design next generation catalysts a thorough understanding of the chemical phenomena at the molecular scale is a prerequisite. Apart from qualitative knowledge on the reaction mechanism, it is also essential to be able to predict accurate rate constants. Molecular modeling has become a ubiquitous tool within the field of heterogeneous catalysis. Herein, we review current computational procedures to determine chemical kinetics from first principles, thus by using no experimental input and by modeling the catalyst and reacting species at the molecular level. Therefore, we use the methanol-to-olefin (MTO) process as a case study to illustrate the various theoretical concepts. This process is a showcase example where rational design of the catalyst was for a long time performed on the basis of trial and error, due to insufficient knowledge of the mechanism. For theoreticians the MTO process is particularly challenging as the catalyst has an inherent supramolecular nature, for which not only the Brønsted acidic site is important but also organic species, trapped in the zeolite pores, must be essentially present during active catalyst operation. All these aspects give rise to specific challenges for theoretical modeling. It is shown that present computational techniques have matured to a level where accurate enthalpy barriers and rate constants can be predicted for reactions occurring at a single active site. The comparison with experimental data such as apparent kinetic data for well-defined elementary reactions has become feasible as current computational techniques also allow predicting adsorption enthalpies with reasonable accuracy. Real catalysts are truly heterogeneous in a space- and time-like manner. Future theory developments should focus on extending our view towards phenomena occurring at longer length and time scales and integrating information from various scales towards a unified understanding of the catalyst. Within this respect molecular dynamics methods complemented with additional techniques to simulate rare events are now gradually making their entrance within zeolite catalysis. Recent applications have already given a flavor of the benefit of such techniques to simulate chemical reactions in complex molecular environments.

Insight into the Formation and Reactivity of Framework-Bound Methoxide Species in H-ZSM-5 from Static and Dynamic Molecular Simulations

J. Van der Mynsbrugge, S.L. Moors, K. De Wispelaere, V. Van Speybroeck
ChemCatChem
6 (7), 1906-1918
2014
A1

Abstract 

Framework-bound methoxides occur as intermediates in the stepwise mechanism for zeolite-catalyzed methylation reactions. Herein, the formation of methoxides from methanol or dimethyl ether in H-ZSM-5 is investigated by a combination of static and dynamic simulations, with particular focus on the effect of additional water and methanol molecules on the mechanism and kinetics. Metadynamics simulations allow partitioning the reaction path into distinct phases. Proton transfer from the zeolite to the reactants is found to be the rate-limiting phase in the methoxide formation. Additional methanol molecules only assist the proton transfer in the methoxide formation from methanol, whereas the reaction from dimethyl ether does not benefit from methanol assistance. Once formed, methoxides are found to be as reactive toward alkene methylation as methanol and dimethyl ether.

Molecular dynamics kinetic study on the zeolite-catalyzed benzene methylation in ZSM-5

S.L. Moors, K. De Wispelaere, J. Van der Mynsbrugge, M. Waroquier, V. Van Speybroeck
ACS Catalysis
2013 (3), 2556–2567
2013
A1

Abstract 

The methylation of arenes is a key step in the production of hydrocarbons from methanol over acidic zeolites. We performed ab initio static and molecular dynamics free energy simulations of the benzene methylation in H-ZSM-5 to determine the factors that influence the reaction kinetics. Special emphasis is given to the effect of surrounding methanol molecules on the methylation kinetics. It is found that for higher methanol loadings methylation may also occur from a protonated methanol cluster, indicating that the exact location of the Brønsted acid site is not essential for the zeolite-catalyzed methylation reaction. However, methylations from a protonated methanol cluster exhibit higher free energy barriers than a methylation from a single methanol molecule. Finally, comparison with a pure methanol solvent reaction environment indicates that the main role of the zeolite during the methylation of benzene is to provide the acidic proton and to create a polar environment for the reaction. The metadynamics approach, which is specifically designed to sample rare events, allows exploring new reaction pathways, which take into account the flexibility of the framework and additional guest molecules in the pores and channels of the zeolite framework. This approach goes beyond the often applied static calculations to determine reaction kinetics.

Identification of intermediates in zeolite-catalyzed reactions using in-situ UV/Vis micro-spectroscopy and a complementary set of molecular simulations

K. Hemelsoet, Q. Qian, T. De Meyer, K. De Wispelaere, B. De Sterck, B.M. Weckhuysen, M. Waroquier, V. Van Speybroeck
Chemistry - A European Journal
19, 49, 16595-16606
2013
A1

Abstract 

The optical absorption properties of (poly)aromatic hydrocarbons occluded in a nanoporous environment were investigated by theoretical and experimental methods. The carbonaceous species are an essential part of a working catalyst for the methanol-to-olefins (MTO) process. In situ UV/Vis microscopy measurements on methanol conversion over the acidic solid catalysts H-SAPO-34 and H-SSZ-13 revealed the growth of various broad absorption bands around 400, 480, and 580 nm. The cationic nature of the involved species was determined by interaction of ammonia with the methanol-treated samples. To determine which organic species contribute to the various bands, a systematic series of aromatics was analyzed by means of time-dependent density functional theory (TDDFT) calculations. Static gas-phase simulations revealed the influence of structurally different hydrocarbons on the absorption spectra, whereas the influence of the zeolitic framework was examined by using supramolecular models within a quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics framework. To fully understand the origin of the main absorption peaks, a molecular dynamics (MD) study on the organic species trapped in the inorganic host was essential. During such simulation the flexibility is fully taken into account and the effect on the UV/Vis spectra is determined by performing TDDFT calculations on various snapshots of the MD run. This procedure allows an energy absorption scale to be provided and the various absorption bands determined from in situ UV/Vis spectra to be assigned to structurally different species.

Complete low-barrier side-chain route for olefin formation during methanol conversion in H-SAPO-34

K. De Wispelaere, K. Hemelsoet, M. Waroquier, V. Van Speybroeck
Journal of Catalysis
305, 76-80
2013
A1

Abstract 

The methanol to olefins process is an alternative for oil-based production of ethene and propene. However, detailed information on the reaction mechanisms of olefin formation in different zeolite is lacking. Herein a first principle kinetic study allows elucidating the importance of a side-chain mechanism during methanol conversion in H-SAPO-34. Starting from the experimentally observed hexamethylbenzene, a full low-barrier catalytic cycle for ethene and propene formation is found. The olefin elimination steps exhibit low free energy barriers due to a subtle interplay between an sp3 carbon center of the organic intermediate, stabilizing non-bonding interactions and assisting water molecules in the zeolite material.

Open Access version available at UGent repository

Unraveling the Reaction Mechanisms Governing Methanol-to-Olefins Catalysis by Theory and Experiment

K. Hemelsoet, J. Van der Mynsbrugge, K. De Wispelaere, M. Waroquier, V. Van Speybroeck
ChemPhysChem
14 (8),1526-1545
2013
A1

Abstract 

The conversion of methanol to olefins (MTO) over a heterogeneous nanoporous catalyst material is a highly complex process involving a cascade of elementary reactions. The elucidation of the reaction mechanisms leading to either the desired production of ethene and/or propene or undesired deactivation has challenged researchers for many decades. Clearly, catalyst choice, in particular topology and acidity, as well as the specific process conditions determine the overall MTO activity and selectivity; however, the subtle balances between these factors remain not fully understood. In this review, an overview of proposed reaction mechanisms for the MTO process is given, focusing on the archetypal MTO catalysts, H-ZSM-5 and H-SAPO-34. The presence of organic species, that is, the so-called hydrocarbon pool, in the inorganic framework forms the starting point for the majority of the mechanistic routes. The combination of theory and experiment enables a detailed description of reaction mechanisms and corresponding reaction intermediates. The identification of such intermediates occurs by different spectroscopic techniques, for which theory and experiment also complement each other. Depending on the catalyst topology, reaction mechanisms proposed thus far involve aromatic or aliphatic intermediates. Ab initio simulations taking into account the zeolitic environment can nowadays be used to obtain reliable reaction barriers and chemical kinetics of individual reactions. As a result, computational chemistry and by extension computational spectroscopy have matured to the level at which reliable theoretical data can be obtained, supplying information that is very hard to acquire experimentally. Special emphasis is given to theoretical developments that open new perspectives and possibilities that aid to unravel a process as complex as methanol conversion over an acidic porous material.

Experimental and theoretical IR study of methanol and ethanol conversion over H-SAPO-34

K. Hemelsoet, A. Ghysels, D. Mores, K. De Wispelaere, V. Van Speybroeck, B.M. Weckhuysen, M. Waroquier
Catalysis Today
177 (1), 12-24
2011
A1

Abstract 

Theoretical and experimental IR data are combined to gain insight into the methanol and ethanol conversion over an acidic H-SAPO-34 catalyst. The theoretical simulations use a large finite cluster and the initial physisorption energy of both alcohols is calculated. Dispersive contributions turn out to be vital and ethanol adsorbs stronger than methanol with approximately 14 kJ mol(-1). Calculated IR spectra of the alcohols and of formed aromatic cations upon conversion are also analyzed and support the peak assignment of the experimental in situ DRIFT spectra, in particular for the C-H and C=C regions. Theoretical IR spectra of the gas phase compounds are compared with those of the molecules loaded in a SAPO cluster and the observed shifts of the peak positions are discussed. To get a better understanding of these framework-guest interactions, a new theoretical procedure is proposed based on a normal mode analysis. A cumulative overlap function is defined and enables the characterization of individual peaks as well as induced frequency shifts upon adsorption. (C) 2010 Elsevier B. V. All rights reserved.

Open Access version available at UGent repository

Mechanistic Studies on Chabazite-Type Methanol-to-Olefin Catalysts: Insights from Time-Resolved UV/Vis Microspectroscopy Combined with Theoretical Simulations

V. Van Speybroeck, K. Hemelsoet, K. De Wispelaere, Q. Qian, J. Van der Mynsbrugge, B. De Sterck, B.M. Weckhuysen, M. Waroquier
ChemCatChem
5 (1), 173-184
2013
A1

Abstract 

The formation and nature of active sites for methanol conversion over solid acid catalyst materials are studied by using a unique combined spectroscopic and theoretical approach. A working catalyst for the methanol-to-olefin conversion has a hybrid organic–inorganic nature in which a cocatalytic organic species is trapped in zeolite pores. As a case study, microporous materials with the chabazite topology, namely, H-SAPO-34 and H-SSZ-13, are considered with trapped (poly)aromatic species. First-principle rate calculations on methylation reactions and in situ UV/Vis spectroscopy measurements are performed. The theoretical results show that the structure of the organic compound and zeolite composition determine the methylation rates: 1) the rate increases by 6 orders of magnitude if more methyl groups are added on benzenic species, 2) transition state selectivity occurs for organic species with more than one aromatic core and bearing more than three methyl groups, 3) methylation rates for H-SSZ-13 are approximately 3 orders of magnitude higher than on H-SAPO-34 owing to its higher acidity. The formation of (poly)aromatic cationic compounds can be followed by using in situ UV/Vis spectroscopy because these species yield characteristic absorption bands in the visible region of the spectrum. We have monitored the growth of characteristic peaks and derived activation energies of formation for various sets of (poly)aromatic compounds trapped in the zeolite host. The formation–activation barriers deduced by using UV/Vis microspectroscopy correlate well with the activation energies for the methylation of the benzenic species and the lower methylated naphthalenic species. This study shows that a fundamental insight at the molecular level can be obtained by using a combined in situ spectroscopic and theoretical approach for a complex catalyst of industrial relevance.

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