The group studies the role of zeolite in syngas conversion catalysts

The fuels used today are heavily dependent on petroleum. As demand grows, scientists are looking for ways to produce fuels that don’t require petroleum. A research team set out to study the role of zeolites in converting synthetic gas to fuel. Wanting to better understand how zeolites regulate reaction pathways, they reviewed recent advances in synthetic gas shifting with catalysts containing zeolites.

Their research paper is published in the journal The carbon future On July 28, 2023.

As an alternative to petroleum-based fuels, scientists have long looked to synthetic gas, or syngas, as a solution. Syngas is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gasEasily obtained from coal, natural gas and biomass. For nearly 100 years, scientists have studied the transformation of zincs into valuable fuels and chemicals.

Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS) is a successful route that scientists use to convert syngas to hydrocarbons. This popular replacement method was invented in the 1920s by Franz Fischer and Hans Drupch. A series of chemical reactions in this process produce hydrocarbons. Scientists use various models to determine the selectivity of this FTS process. The simplest and most widely used is the Anderson-Schulz-Flory (ASF) model.

The products resulting from the conventional FTS method generally adhere to the Anderson-Schulz-Flory model and are finite. For example, olefins, alkanes and gasoline fraction have a limited value of content of 58% and 48% only. Scientists need a way to improve product distributions from the FTS process. But it remains a challenge.

Scientists have found that zeolite effectively enhances reaction pathways beyond the conventional FTS method. Zeolites are hydrated aluminosilicate minerals. They are solids, but have a three-dimensional crystal structure that allows them to easily take up and lose liquid.

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Zeolite works to regulate the reaction process. With zeolites, scientists have been able to improve the selectivity of gasoline, jet fuel and diesel. These results are an improvement over the results observed with the Anderson-Schulz-Flory model. They have also achieved a large number of aromatics using zeolite catalysts. „In light of these results, we thought it would be appropriate to review and discuss recent developments on the importance of zeolites in syngas conversion,” said Liang Wang, a professor at Zhejiang University’s College of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

The research team reviewed the most recent advances in FTS over catalysts containing zeolites. They studied the role of zeolites and their structure-performance interplay. „Based on the catalytic mechanism, the rational design of zeolites is expected to be helpful for the development of more effective catalysts and reaction processes,” Wang said.

From their study, the team determined that zeolite effectively enhances reaction pathways beyond the conventional FTS process. They believe that zeolite-assisted syngas conversion is still developing. They make several suggestions for areas that future research could focus on. Aluminosilicate zeolites are mostly used to work with FTS catalyst so far. The team recommends that more zeolite properties be considered in future studies.

Scientists investigating the structure–activity relationship of catalytic materials at the atomic scale have benefited greatly from advances in the use of in situ characterization and theoretical simulation methods. The team recommends that future research in this area should focus on combining artificial intelligence and big data. Focusing in this way will allow researchers to design catalyst structures by better understanding the initial steps. „This will provide the foundation and research direction for understanding the reaction mechanism and finally designing the corresponding zeolites,” Wang said.

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The research team includes Hangjie Li, Liang Wang and Feng-Shou Xiao from the Ministry of Education’s Key Laboratory of Biochemical Engineering, College of Chemistry and Bioengineering, Zhejiang University.

This research is funded by the National Key Research and Development Program of China and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

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About The carbon future

Carbon Futures is an open-access, peer-reviewed and international interdisciplinary journal that reports on carbon-related materials and processes, including catalysis, energy conversion and storage, as well as low-carbon process and engineering. Carbon Future publishes research articles, reviews, overviews, highlights, perspectives and news and views on all aspects of carbon. Carbon Future will publish articles focusing on the following areas, but not limited to: carbon-related or derived materials, carbon-related catalysis and fundamentals, low-carbon energy conversion and storage, low-carbon emission chemical processes.

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