A.M. Beale

A Critical Assessment on Calculating Vibrational Spectra in Nanostructured Materials

A.E.J. Hoffman, W. Temmerman, E. Campbell, A. A. Damin, I. Lezcano-Gonzalez, A.M. Beale, S. Bordiga, J. Hofkens, V. Van Speybroeck
Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation
Volume: 20, Issue: 2, Pages: 513-531


Vibrational spectroscopy is an omnipresent spectroscopic technique to characterize functional nanostructured materials such as zeolites, metal–organic frameworks (MOFs), and metal–halide perovskites (MHPs). The resulting experimental spectra are usually complex, with both low-frequency framework modes and high-frequency functional group vibrations. Therefore, theoretically calculated spectra are often an essential element to elucidate the vibrational fingerprint. In principle, there are two possible approaches to calculate vibrational spectra: (i) a static approach that approximates the potential energy surface (PES) as a set of independent harmonic oscillators and (ii) a dynamic approach that explicitly samples the PES around equilibrium by integrating Newton’s equations of motions. The dynamic approach considers anharmonic and temperature effects and provides a more genuine representation of materials at true operating conditions; however, such simulations come at a substantially increased computational cost. This is certainly true when forces and energy evaluations are performed at the quantum mechanical level. Molecular dynamics (MD) techniques have become more established within the field of computational chemistry. Yet, for the prediction of infrared (IR) and Raman spectra of nanostructured materials, their usage has been less explored and remain restricted to some isolated successes. Therefore, it is currently not a priori clear which methodology should be used to accurately predict vibrational spectra for a given system. A comprehensive comparative study between various theoretical methods and experimental spectra for a broad set of nanostructured materials is so far lacking. To fill this gap, we herein present a concise overview on which methodology is suited to accurately predict vibrational spectra for a broad range of nanostructured materials and formulate a series of theoretical guidelines to this purpose. To this end, four different case studies are considered, each treating a particular material aspect, namely breathing in flexible MOFs, characterization of defects in the rigid MOF UiO-66, anharmonic vibrations in the metal–halide perovskite CsPbBr3, and guest adsorption on the pores of the zeolite H-SSZ-13. For all four materials, in their guest- and defect-free state and at sufficiently low temperatures, both the static and dynamic approach yield qualitatively similar spectra in agreement with experimental results. When the temperature is increased, the harmonic approximation starts to fail for CsPbBr3 due to the presence of anharmonic phonon modes. Also, the spectroscopic fingerprints of defects and guest species are insufficiently well predicted by a simple harmonic model. Both phenomena flatten the potential energy surface (PES), which facilitates the transitions between metastable states, necessitating dynamic sampling. On the basis of the four case studies treated in this Review, we can propose the following theoretical guidelines to simulate accurate vibrational spectra of functional solid-state materials: (i) For nanostructured crystalline framework materials at low temperature, insights into the lattice dynamics can be obtained using a static approach relying on a few points on the PES and an independent set of harmonic oscillators. (ii) When the material is evaluated at higher temperatures or when additional complexity enters the system, e.g., strong anharmonicity, defects, or guest species, the harmonic regime breaks down and dynamic sampling is required for a correct prediction of the phonon spectrum. These guidelines and their illustrations for prototype material classes can help experimental and theoretical researchers to enhance the knowledge obtained from a lattice dynamics study.

Insight into the effects of confined hydrocarbon species on the lifetime of methanol conversion catalysts

I. Lezcano-Gonzalez, E. Campbell, A.E.J. Hoffman, M. Bocus, I.V. Sazanovich, M. Towrie, M. Agote-Aran, E.K. Gibson, A. Greenaway, K. De Wispelaere, V. Van Speybroeck, A.M. Beale
Nature Materials
19, 1081–1087


The methanol-to-hydrocarbons reaction refers collectively to a series of important industrial catalytic processes to produce either olefins or gasoline. Mechanistically, methanol conversion proceeds through a ‘pool’ of hydrocarbon species. For the methanol-to-olefins process, these species can be delineated broadly into ‘desired’ lighter olefins and ‘undesired’ heavier fractions that cause deactivation in a matter of hours. The crux in further catalyst optimization is the ability to follow the formation of carbonaceous species during operation. Here, we report the combined results of an operando Kerr-gated Raman spectroscopic study with state-of-the-art operando molecular simulations, which allowed us to follow the formation of hydrocarbon species at various stages of methanol conversion. Polyenes are identified as crucial intermediates towards formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, with their fate determined largely by the zeolite topology. Notably, we provide the missing link between active and deactivating species, which allows us to propose potential design rules for future-generation catalysts.

Determining the Storage, Availability and Reactivity of NH3 within Cu-Chabazite-based Ammonia Selective Catalytic Reduction Systems

I. Lezcano-Gonzalez, U. Deka, A. Van Yperen-De Deyne, K. Hemelsoet, M. Waroquier, V. Van Speybroeck, B.M. Weckhuysen, A.M. Beale
Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (PCCP)
16, 1639-1650


Three different types of NH3 species can be simultaneously present on Cu2+-exchanged CHA-type zeolites, commonly used in Ammonia Selective Catalytic Reduction (NH3-SCR) systems. These include ammonium ions (NH4+), formed on the Bronsted acid sites, [Cu(NH3)(4)](2+) complexes, resulting from NH3 coordination with the Cu2+ Lewis sites, and NH3 adsorbed on extra-framework Al ( EFAl) species, in contrast to the only two reacting NH3 species recently reported on Cu-SSZ-13 zeolite. The NH4+ ions react very slowly in comparison to NH3 coordinated to Cu2+ ions and are likely to contribute little to the standard NH3-SCR process, with the Bronsted groups acting primarily as NH3 storage sites. The availability/ reactivity of NH4+ ions can be however, notably improved by submitting the zeolite to repeated exchanges with Cu2+, accompanied by a remarkable enhancement in the low temperature activity. Moreover, the presence of EFAl species could also have a positive influence on the reaction rate of the available NH4+ ions. These results have important implications for NH3 storage and availability in Cu-Chabazite-based NH3-SCR systems.

Mobility of the active centre in Cu-SSZ-13 as catalyst material in the Selective Catalytic Reduction of NOx by ammonia


Conference / event / venue 

Dutch Zeolite Association 2014, Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Tuesday, 7 October, 2014
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