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Heterogeneous Catalysis for Organic Reactions

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This honors thesis is focused on two separate catalysis projects conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Javier Pérez-Ramírez at ETH Zürich. The first project explored ethylene oxychlorination over supported europium oxychloride catalysts. The second project investigated alkyne semihydrogenation over nickel

This honors thesis is focused on two separate catalysis projects conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Javier Pérez-Ramírez at ETH Zürich. The first project explored ethylene oxychlorination over supported europium oxychloride catalysts. The second project investigated alkyne semihydrogenation over nickel phosphide catalysts. This work is the subject of a publication of which I am a co-author, as cited below.

Project 1 Abstract: Ethylene Oxychlorination
The current two-step process for the industrial process of vinyl chloride production involves CuCl2 catalyzed ethylene oxychlorination to ethylene dichloride followed by thermal cracking of the latter to vinyl chloride. To date, no industrial application of a one-step process is available. To close this gap, this work evaluates a wide range of self-prepared supported CeO2 and EuOCl catalysts for one-step production of vinyl chloride from ethylene in a fixed-bed reactor at 623 773 K and 1 bar using feed ratios of C2H4:HCl:O2:Ar:He = 3:3 6:1.5 6:3:82 89.5. Among all studied systems, CeO2/ZrO2 and CeO2/Zeolite MS show the highest activity but suffer from severe combustion of ethylene, forming COx, while 20 wt.% EuOCl/γ-Al2O3 leads to the best vinyl chloride selectivity of 87% at 15.6% C2H4 conversion with complete suppression of CO2 formation and only 4% selectivity to CO conversion for over 100 h on stream. Characterization by XRD and EDX mapping reveals that much of the Eu is present in non-active phases such as Al2Eu or EuAl4, indicating that alternative synthesis methods could be employed to better utilize the metal. A linear relationship between conversion and metal loading is found for this catalyst, indicating that always part of the used Eu is available as EuOCl, while the rest forms inactive europium aluminate species. Zeolite-supported EuOCl slightly outperforms EuOCl/γ Al2O3 in terms of total yield, but is prone to significant coking and is unstable. Even though a lot of Eu seems locked in inactive species on EuOCl/γ Al2O3, these results indicate possible savings of nearly 16,000 USD per kg of catalyst compared to a bulk EuOCl catalyst. These very promising findings constitute a crucial step for process intensification of polyvinyl chloride production and exploring the potential of supported EuOCl catalysts in industrially-relevant reactions.

Project 2 Abstract: Alkyne Semihydrogenation
Despite strongly suffering from poor noble metal utilization and a highly toxic selectivity modifier (Pb), the archetypal catalyst applied for the three-phase alkyne semihydrogenation, the Pb-doped Pd/CaCO3 (Lindlar catalyst), is still being utilized at industrial level. Inspired by the very recent strategies involving the modification of Pd with p-block elements (i.e., S), this work extrapolates the concept by preparing crystalline metal phosphides with controlled stoichiometry. To develop an affordable and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional hydrogenation catalysts, nickel, a metal belonging to the same group as Pd and capable of splitting molecular hydrogen has been selected. Herein, a simple two-step synthesis procedure involving nontoxic precursors was used to synthesize bulk nickel phosphides with different stoichiometries (Ni2P, Ni5P4, and Ni12P5) by controlling the P:Ni ratios. To uncover structural and surface features, this catalyst family is characterized with an array of methods including X-ray diffraction (XRD), 31P magic-angle nuclear magnetic resonance (MAS-NMR) spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Bulk-sensitive techniques prove the successful preparation of pure phases while XPS analysis unravels the facile passivation occurring at the NixPy surface that persists even after reductive treatment. To assess the characteristic surface fingerprints of these materials, Ar sputtering was carried out at different penetration depths, reveling the presence of Ni+ and P-species. Continuous-flow three-phase hydrogenations of short-chain acetylenic compounds display that the oxidized layer covering the surface is reduced under reaction conditions, as evidenced by the induction period before reaching the steady state performance. To assess the impact of the phosphidation treatment on catalytic performance, the catalysts were benchmarked against a commercial Ni/SiO2-Al2O3 sample. While Ni/SiO2-Al2O3 presents very low selectivity to the alkene (the selectivity is about 10% at full conversion) attributed to the well-known tendency of naked nickel nanoparticles to form hydrides, the performance of nickel phosphides is highly selective and independent of P:Ni ratio. In line with previous findings on PdxS, kinetic tests indicate the occurrence of a dual-site mechanism where the alkyne and hydrogen do not compete for the same site.

This work is the subject of a publication of which I am a co-author, as cited below.

D. Albani; K. Karajovic; B. Tata; Q. Li; S. Mitchell; N. López; J. Pérez-Ramírez. Ensemble Design in Nickel Phosphide Catalysts for Alkyne Semi-Hydrogenation. ChemCatChem 2019. doi.org/10.1002/cctc.201801430

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2019-05

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Development of homogeneous manganese and iron catalysts for organic transformations and renewable fuel production

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The late first row transition metals, being inexpensive and environmentally benign, have become very attractive for sustainable catalyst development. However, to overcome the detrimental one electron redox processes exhibited by these metals, the employment of redox non-innocent chelates turned out

The late first row transition metals, being inexpensive and environmentally benign, have become very attractive for sustainable catalyst development. However, to overcome the detrimental one electron redox processes exhibited by these metals, the employment of redox non-innocent chelates turned out to be very useful. The Trovitch group has designed a series of pentadentate bis(imino)pyridine ligands (pyridine diimine, PDI) that are capable of binding the metal center beyond their 3-N,N,N core and also possess coordination flexibility. My research is focused on developing PDI-supported manganese catalysts for organic transformations and renewable fuel production.

The thesis presents synthesis and characterization of a family of low valent (PDI)Mn complexes. Detailed electronic structure evaluation from spectroscopic and crystallographic data revealed electron transfer from the reduced metal center to the accessible ligand orbitals. One particular (PDI)Mn variant, (5-Ph2PPrPDI)Mn has been found to be the most efficient carbonyl hydrosilylation catalyst reported till date, achieving a maximum turnover frequency of up to 4950 min-1. This observation demanded a thorough investigation of the operative mechanism. A series of controlled stoichiometric reactions, detailed kinetic analysis, and relevant intermediate isolation suggest a mechanism that involves oxidative addition, carbonyl insertion, and reductive elimination. Noticing such remarkable efficiency of the (PDI)Mn system, it has been tested for application in renewable fuel generation. A modest efficiency for H2 production at an apparent pH of 8.4 have been achieved using a cationic Mn complex, [(Ph2PPrPDI)Mn(CO)]Br. Although, a detailed mechanistic investigation remained challenging due to complex instability, a set of relevant Mn(-I) intermediates have been isolated and characterized thoroughly.

The dissertation also includes synthesis, characterization, and electronic structure evaluation of a series of Triphos supported iron complexes. Using this pincer chelate and either 2,2’-bipyridine (bpy) or 1,3,5,7-cyclooctatetraene (COT), a set of electronically interesting complexes have been isolated. Detailed electronic structure investigation using spectroscopy, magnetometry, crystallography, and DFT calculations revealed redox non-innocent behavior in the Bpy and COT ligands. Additionally, CO binding to the (Triphos)Fe system followed by reaction with borohydride reagents allowed for the isolation of some catalytically relevant and reactive iron hydride complexes.

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2016

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Evaluation of k4-diimine nickel and cobalt hydrofunctionalization catalysts

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The search for highly active, inexpensive, and earth abundant replacements for existing transition metal catalysts is ongoing. Our group has utilized several redox non-innocent ligands that feature flexible arms with donor substituents. These ligands allow for coordinative flexibility about the

The search for highly active, inexpensive, and earth abundant replacements for existing transition metal catalysts is ongoing. Our group has utilized several redox non-innocent ligands that feature flexible arms with donor substituents. These ligands allow for coordinative flexibility about the metal centre, while the redox non-innocent core helps to overcome the one electron chemistry that is prevalent in first row transition metals. This dissertation focuses on the use of Ph2PPrDI, which can adopt a κ4-configuration when bound to a metal. One reaction that is industrially useful is hydrosilylation, which allows for the preparation of silicones that are useful in the lubrication, adhesive, and cosmetics industries. Typically, this reaction relies on highly active, platinum-based catalysts. However, the high cost of this metal has inspired the search for base metal replacements. In Chapter One, an overview of existing alkene and carbonyl hydrosilylation catalysts is presented. Chapter Two focuses on exploring the reactivity of (Ph2PPrDI)Ni towards carbonyl hydrosilylation, as well as the development of the 2nd generation catalysts, (iPr2PPrDI)Ni and (tBu2PPrDI)Ni. Chapter Three presents a new C-O bond hydrosilylation reaction for the formation of silyl esters. It was found the (Ph2PPrDI)Ni is the most active catalyst in the literature for this transformation, with turnover frequencies of up to 900 h-1. Chapter Four explores the activity and selectivity of (Ph2PPrDI)Ni for alkene hydrosilylation, including the first large scope of gem-olefins for a nickel-based catalyst. Chapter Five explores the chemistry of (Ph2PPrDI)CoH, first through electronic structure determinations and crystallography, followed by an investigation of its reactivity towards alkyne hydroboration and nitrile dihydroboration. (Ph2PPrDI)CoH is the first reported cobalt nitrile dihydroboration catalyst.

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2018