Identifying the nature of the active sites in methanol synthesis over Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 catalysts

Laudenschleger, D. and Ruland, H. and Muhler, M.

Volume: 11 Pages:
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17631-5
Published: 2020

The heterogeneously catalysed reaction of hydrogen with carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide (syngas) to methanol is nearly 100 years old, and the standard methanol catalyst Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 has been applied for more than 50 years. Still, the nature of the Zn species on the metallic Cu0 particles (interface sites) is heavily debated. Here, we show that these Zn species are not metallic, but have a positively charged nature under industrial methanol synthesis conditions. Our kinetic results are based on a self-built high-pressure pulse unit, which allows us to inject selective reversible poisons into the syngas feed passing through a fixed-bed reactor containing an industrial Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 catalyst under high-pressure conditions. This method allows us to perform surface-sensitive operando investigations as a function of the reaction conditions, demonstrating that the rate of methanol formation is only decreased in CO2-containing syngas mixtures when pulsing NH3 or methylamines as basic probe molecules. © 2020, The Author(s).

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