Tuneable catalysis: Solving the particle measurement puzzle


Palladium nanocrystals on aluminum oxide. Some sides allow isomerisation of 1-butene to 2-butene, others favor hydogenation to butane. Credit: Vienna University of Technology

Chemical reactions could be studied at completely different ranges: At the extent of particular person atoms and molecules, new compounds could be designed. At the extent of tiny particles on the nano and micrometer scale, one can perceive how catalyst supplies affect chemical reactions. And so as to use chemical reactions in trade, it’s obligatory to take a look at the macroscopic scale.

Typically, completely different approaches are used for every space. But this isn’t enough for complicated chemical reactions on catalyst surfaces. At TU Wien (Vienna), an essential step has now been taken: for the primary time, it was potential to attach all ranges from the microscopic to the macroscopic degree so as to describe a technologically essential chemical response beneath reasonable situations. This permits to grasp why the dimensions of catalyst particles performs a decisive position. The outcomes have now been printed within the scientific journal Nature Communications.

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Isomers: Same composition, completely different molecules

Many molecules come in several variants: The identical set of atoms could be organized in several methods, that are then known as “isomers.” It is essential to differentiate between these isomers—for instance, a sure isomer of the hydrocarbon butene is favorable for gasoline manufacturing, however one other butene variant is most well-liked for polymer manufacturing. Producing precisely the specified isomers or changing one isomer into one other is a difficult job that may be achieved with very particular catalysts.

“A particularly important catalyst for such processes is palladium,” says Prof. Günther Rupprechter from the Institute of Materials Chemistry at TU Wien. “Normally, palladium is placed on a surface in the form of tiny nanocrystals. Certain molecules then bind to these granules, and this enables the chemical reaction.”

It is a well known indisputable fact that the particle measurement is commonly essential for a selected catalytic operate, however largely there was no detailed rationalization of how this works. “It is impossible to create a full-scale quantum-chemical model of these particles on a computer, because they simply consist of too many atoms,” says Dr. Alexander Genest, the primary writer of the present research. “We therefore have to find alternatives to combine the different methods to study chemical catalysis.”

Realistic situations as an alternative of idealized techniques

The analysis group at TU Wien and its cooperation companions from Singapore, Alicante and Munich selected a posh however essential response for his or her investigations: The isomerisation of alkenes. “This is particularly challenging because there are several reaction pathways that play a role at the same time,” says Günther Rupprechter. “It was important for us to study the reaction under realistic conditions: In previous basic research, reactions were often analyzed in (ultra-)high vacuum, at low temperatures. But in an industrial setting, you have to deal with completely different parameters. We therefore wanted to find out how this isomerisation takes place at atmospheric pressure and 100°C.”

The group began on the degree of atoms and molecules: “With the help of density functional theory, we can model elementary reaction steps of the molecules that attach to various facets of the palladium crystals,” says Alexander Genest. These calculations yield parameters for so-called microkinetic fashions, which can be utilized to foretell the dynamics of chemical reactions on a a lot bigger time scale on a pc. And from these outcomes, in flip, it’s then potential to deduce the total quantity of desired chemical merchandise that shall be current after a sure time at sure parameters.

“The model calculations agree very well with our experimental measurements, not only qualitatively but also quantitatively,” emphasizes Prof. Günther Rupprechter. “This is an important breakthrough—such agreement was not possible like this before.” Now it may be defined intimately why varied sizes of palladium particles have completely different results on the chemical processes: Large particles have easy surfaces, whereas smaller ones are extra spherical and stepped. The association of the palladium atoms in different geometries influences the response power and thus the catalytic conduct.

Optimal outcomes as an alternative of simply trial and error

“When you optimize a chemical process in industry, you often have to rely on trial and error,” says Günther Rupprechter. “Which external parameters should be chosen? Which catalysts do you use—and in what form? These are questions that could hardly be answered on a theoretical level until now.” Usually a number of variants are examined after which essentially the most profitable one is chosen. But if a course of is then alleged to be scaled up from laboratory scale to industrial scale, fully completely different parameters could also be required.

“We have now shown that you can comprehensively understand such processes if you link several time- and length scales,” says Alexander Genest. “This approach is of course also applicable to many other catalytic reactions.” In the chemical trade, it ought to thus change into potential to optimize chemical manufacturing processes by way of laptop modeling and on the identical time scale back costly and time-consuming benchmarking to a minimal.

Nanoparticles: The complex rhythm of chemistry

More info:
Alexander Genest et al, The origin of the particle-size-dependent selectivity in 1-butene isomerization and hydrogenation on Pd/Al2O3 catalysts, Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-26411-8

Tuneable catalysis: Solving the particle measurement puzzle (2021, October 27)
retrieved 27 October 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-10-tuneable-catalysis-particle-size-puzzle.html

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