K. De Wispelaere

Methanol-to-Propylene: structure performance descriptors and the long-overlooked role of Lewis acidity

I. Yarulina, S. Bailleul, K. De Wispelaere, J. Goetze, M. Radersma, E. Abou-Hamad, I. Vollmer, M. Goesten, B. Mezari, E.J.M. Hensen, J. S. Martínez-Espín, S. Mitchell, J. Perez-Ramirez, U. Olsbye, B.M. Weckhuysen, V. Van Speybroeck, F. Kapteijn, J. Gascon
Nature Chemistry
2017
A1

Hydrogen transfer versus methylation: on the genesis of aromatics formation in the Methanol-To-Hydrocarbons over H-ZSM-5

J. S. Martínez-Espín, K. De Wispelaere, T. V. Janssens, S. Svelle, K. P. Lillerud, P. Beato, V. Van Speybroeck, U. Olsbye
ACS Catalysis
7, 5773–5780
2017
A1

Abstract 

The catalytic conversion of methanol (MeOH) and dimethyl ether (DME) into fuels and chemicals over zeolites (MTH process) is industrially emerging as an alternative route to conventional oil-derived processes. After 40 years of research, a detailed mechanistic understanding of the intricate reaction network is still not fully accomplished. The overall reaction is described as two competitive catalytic cycles, dominated by alkenes and arenes, which are methylated and cracked or dealkylated to form effluent products. Herein, we present the reaction of isobutene with methanol and DME as an efficient tool for measuring the relative formation rates of alkenes and arenes, and we provide detailed mechanistic insight into the hydrogen-transfer reaction. We provide experimental and theoretical evidence that manifest a strong competition of methylation and hydrogen transfer of isobutene by methanol, while methylation is substantially favored by DME. Experiments performed at higher conversion facilitate projection of the results to the product distribution obtained when using MeOH or DME as feedstock during the MTH reaction.

Benzene co-reaction with methanol and dimethyl ether over zeolite and zeotype catalysts: Evidence of parallel reaction paths to toluene and diphenylmethane

J. S. Martínez-Espín, K. De Wispelaere, M. Westgård Erichsen, S. Svelle, T. V. Janssens, V. Van Speybroeck, P. Beato, U. Olsbye
Journal of Catalysis
349, 136-148
2017
A1

Abstract 

The reactivity of methanol (MeOH) and dimethyl ether (DME) toward benzene was studied over zeolitic materials with different topology and acid strength (H-ZSM-5, H-SSZ-24, and H-SAPO-5) at 250–350 °C. Higher rates of methylation, and subsequent de-alkylation reactions, were observed with DME compared to MeOH. In addition, significant differences in product distribution based on the choice of methylating agent were observed. For reactions between MeOH and benzene a fraction of diphenylmethanes (DPMs) was formed, while this product group was nearly absent during reactions between DME and benzene. A range of co-feed and isotopic labeling experiments was performed, mainly over H-ZSM-5, in order to elucidate mechanistic information on the pathway from methanol and benzene to DPMs. Overall, these studies revealed that DPM formation involves the dehydrogenation of methanol to formaldehyde on the Brønsted acid site, followed by subsequent reaction with two benzene molecules. Theoretical calculations confirmed the higher reactivity of DME compared to MeOH toward benzene methylation and suggested a plausible route from formaldehyde and benzene to DPM.

Open Access version available at UGent repository
Green Open Access

Effect of temperature and branching on the nature and stability of alkene cracking intermediates in H-ZSM-5

P. Cnudde, K. De Wispelaere, J. Van der Mynsbrugge, M. Waroquier, V. Van Speybroeck
Journal of Catalysis
345, 53-69
2017
A1

Abstract 

Catalytic cracking of alkenes takes place at elevated temperatures in the order of 773–833 K. In this work, the nature of the reactive intermediates at typical reaction conditions is studied in H-ZSM-5 using a complementary set of modeling tools. Ab initio static and molecular dynamics simulations are performed on different C4single bond C5 alkene cracking intermediates to identify the reactive species in terms of temperature. At 323 K, the prevalent intermediates are linear alkoxides, alkene π-complexes and tertiary carbenium ions. At a typical cracking temperature of 773 K, however, both secondary and tertiary alkoxides are unlikely to exist in the zeolite channels. Instead, more stable carbenium ion intermediates are found. Branched tertiary carbenium ions are very stable, while linear carbenium ions are predicted to be metastable at high temperature. Our findings confirm that carbenium ions, rather than alkoxides, are reactive intermediates in catalytic alkene cracking at 773 K.

Open Access version available at UGent repository

Suppression of the Aromatic Cycle in Methanol-to-Olefins Reaction over ZSM-5 by Post-Synthetic Modification Using Calcium

I. Yarulina, S. Bailleul, A. Pustovarenko, J. Ruiz-Martinez, K. De Wispelaere, J. Hajek, B.M. Weckhuysen, K. Houben, M. Baldus, V. Van Speybroeck, F. Kapteijn, J. Gascon
ChemCatChem
8 (19) 3057–3063
2016
A1

Abstract 

Incorporation of Ca in ZSM-5 results in a twofold increase of propylene selectivity (53 %), a total light-olefin selectivity of 90 %, and a nine times longer catalyst lifetime (throughput 792 gMeOH gcatalyst−1) in the methanol-to-olefins (MTO) reaction. Analysis of the product distribution and theoretical calculations reveal that post-synthetic modification with Ca2+ leads to the formation of CaOCaOH+ that strongly weaken the acid strength of the zeolite. As a result, the rate of hydride transfer and oligomerization reactions on these sites is greatly reduced, resulting in the suppression of the aromatic cycle. Our results further highlight the importance of acid strength on product selectivity and zeolite lifetime in MTO chemistry.

Towards molecular control of elementary reactions in zeolite catalysis by advanced molecular simulations mimicking operating conditions

K. De Wispelaere, S. Bailleul, V. Van Speybroeck
Catalysis Science & Technology
6, 2686 – 2705
2016
A1

Abstract 

Zeolites are the workhorses of today’s chemical industry. For decades they have been successfully applied, however many features of zeolite catalysis are only superficially understood and in particular the kinetics and mechanism of individual reaction steps at operating conditions. Herein we use state-of-the-art advanced ab initio molecular dynamics techniques to study the influence of catalyst topology and acidity, reaction temperature and the presence of additional guest molecules on elementary reactions. Such advanced modeling techniques provide complementary insight to experimental knowledge as the impact of individual factors on the reaction mechanism and kinetics of zeolite-catalyzed reactions may be unraveled. We study key reaction steps in the conversion of methanol to hydrocarbons, namely benzene and propene methylation. These reactions may occur either in a concerted or stepwise fashion, i.e. methanol directly transfers its methyl group to a hydrocarbon or the reaction goes through a framework-bound methoxide intermediate. The DFT-based dynamical approach enables mimicking reaction conditions as close as possible and studying the competition between two methylation mechanisms in an integrated fashion. The reactions are studied in the unidirectional AFI-structured H-SSZ-24, H-SAPO-5 and TON-structured H-ZSM-22 materials. We show that varying the temperature, topology, acidity and number of protic molecules surrounding the active site may tune the reaction mechanism at the molecular level. Obtaining molecular control is crucial in optimizing current zeolite processes and designing emerging new technologies bearing alternative feedstocks.

Open Access version available at UGent repository

Shape-selective diffusion of olefins in 8-ring solid acid microporous zeolites

A. Ghysels, S.L. Moors, K. Hemelsoet, K. De Wispelaere, M. Waroquier, G. Sastre, V. Van Speybroeck
Journal of Physical Chemistry C
119, 41, 23721-23734
2015
A1

Abstract 

The diffusion of olefins through 8-ring solid acid microporous zeolites is investigated using molecular dynamics simulations techniques and using a newly developed flexible force field. Within the context of the Methanol to Olefin (MTO) process and the observed product distribution, knowledge on the diffusion paths is essential to obtain molecular level control over the process conditions. Eight-ring zeotype materials are favorably used for the MTO process as they give a selective product distribution towards low carbon olefins. To investigate how composition, acidity and flexibility influence the diffusion paths of ethene and propene, a series of isostructural aluminosilicates (zeolites) and silicoaluminophosphates (AlPOs and SAPOs) are investigated with and without randomly distributed acidic sites. Distinct variations in diffusion of ethene are observed in terms of temperature, composition, acidity, and topology (AEI, CHA, AFX). In general, diffusion of ethene is an activated process for which free energy barriers for individual rings may be determined. We observe ring dependent diffusion behavior which can not solely be described in terms of the composition and topology of the rings. A new descriptor had to be introduced namely the accessible window area (AWA), inspired by implicit solvation models of proteins and small molecules. The AWA may be determined throughout the molecular dynamics trajectories and correlates well with the number of ring crossings at the molecular level and the free energy barriers for ring crossings from one cage to the other. The overall observed diffusivity is determined by molecular characteristics of individual rings for which AWA is a proper descriptor. Temperature-induced changes in framework dynamics and diffusivity may be captured by following the new descriptor throughout the simulations.

Open Access version available at UGent repository
Green Open Access

Insight into the Effect of Water on the Methanol-to-Olefins Conversion in H-SAPO-34 from Molecular Simulations and in Situ Microspectroscopy

K. De Wispelaere, C.S. Wondergem, B. Ensing, K. Hemelsoet, E.J. Meijer, B.M. Weckhuysen, V. Van Speybroeck, J. Ruiz-Martinez
ACS Catalysis
6, 1991-2002
2016
A1

Abstract 

The role of water in the methanol-to-olefins (MTO) process over H-SAPO-34 has been elucidated by a combined theoretical and experimental approach, encompassing advanced molecular dynamics simulations and in-situ micro-spectroscopy. First principle calculations at the molecular level point out that water competes with methanol and propene for direct access to the Brønsted acid sites. This results in less efficient activation of these molecules, which are crucial for the formation of the hydrocarbon pool. Furthermore, lower intrinsic methanol reactivity towards methoxide formation has been observed. These observations are in line with a longer induction period observed from in-situ UV-Vis micro-spectroscopy experiments. These experiments revealed a slower and more homogeneous discoloration of H-SAPO-34, while in-situ confocal fluorescence microscopy confirmed the more homogeneous distribution and larger amount of MTO intermediates when co-feeding water. As such it is show that water induces a more efficient use of the H-SAPO-34 catalyst crystals at the microscopic level. The combined experimental theoretical approach gives a profound insight into the role of water on the catalytic process at the molecular and single particle level.

On the stability and nature of adsorbed pentene in Brønsted acid zeolite H-ZSM-5 at 323 K

J. Hajek, J. Van der Mynsbrugge, K. De Wispelaere, P. Cnudde, L. Vanduyfhuys, M. Waroquier, V. Van Speybroeck
Journal of Catalysis
340, 227 - 235
2016
A1

Abstract 

Adsorption of linear pentenes in H-ZSM-5 at 323 K is investigated using contemporary static and molecular dynamics methods. A physisorbed complex corresponding to free pentene, a π-complex and a chemisorbed species may occur. The chemisorbed species can be either a covalently bonded alkoxide or an ion pair, the so-called carbenium ion. Without finite temperature effects, the π-complex is systematically slightly more bound than the chemisorbed alkoxide complex, whereas molecular dynamics calculations at 323 K yield an almost equal stability of both species. The carbenium ion was not observed during simulations at 323 K. The transformation from the π-complex to the chemisorbed complex is activated by a free energy in the range of 33–42 kJ/mol. Our observations yield unprecedented insights into the stability of elusive intermediates in zeolite catalysis, for which experimental data are very hard to measure.

Open Access version available at UGent repository

Complex reaction environments and competing reaction mechanisms in zeolite catalysis: insights from advanced molecular dynamics

K. De Wispelaere, B. Ensing, A. Ghysels, E.J. Meijer, V. Van Speybroeck
Chemistry - A European Journal
21 (26), 9385-9396
2015
A1

Abstract 

The methanol to olefins process is a show case example of complex zeolite-catalyzed chemistry. At real operating conditions, many factors such as framework flexibility, adsorption of various guest molecules and competitive reaction pathways, affect reactivity. In this paper we show the strength of first principle molecular dynamics techniques to capture this complexity by means of two case studies. Firstly, the adsorption behavior of methanol and water in H-SAPO-34 at 350 °C is investigated. Hereby we observed an important degree of framework flexibility and proton mobility. Secondly, we studied the methylation of benzene by methanol via a competitive direct and stepwise pathway in the AFI topology. Both case studies clearly show that a first principle molecular dynamics approach enables to obtain unprecedented insights into zeolite-catalyzed reactions at the nanometer scale.

Open Access version available at UGent repository

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