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Catalyzing the Propylene Industry's Move to Carbon Neutralization

Researchers at Hokkaido University have discovered a new, more energy-efficient method of making propylene, an important industrial material, which also converts carbon dioxide into another useful resource. Their innovative catalyst design aids in the petrochemical industry’s carbon neutralization.

Catalyzing the Propylene Industry

A new approach to the production of the industry-critical propylene contributes to the carbon neutralization of petrochemistry. Image Credit: Dr Marek Piwnicki/Unsplash. Edited by Daniel Schenz

The second-most significant starting product in petrochemical engineering is propylene, a gas utilized to create a wide range of packing and containers. However, it currently requires a lot of energy to produce from propane. Additionally, the process produces undesirable byproducts that must be routinely burned off.

Finding a different method to make this valuable molecule more effective, creates fewer byproducts, and still employs stable materials at high temperatures is therefore highly desirable.

Shinya Furukawa, a Material Chemist at Hokkaido University, and his group have recently developed a new catalyst that enables them to convert propane into propylene using carbon dioxide rather than oxygen, which is more frequently used.

A catalyst is a substance that serves as an indication of chemical reactions and can open up otherwise difficult-to-access reaction pathways.

They not only showed that the catalyst was highly effective, selective, and stable at high temperatures in their Nature Communications paper, but they also showed that using it had the unintended side effect of converting carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, which is a resource that can be used to produce a variety of bulk chemicals.

Using a platinum alloy and tin on ceria support as the base, the researchers replaced some of these atoms with the metals such as cobalt, nickel, indium, and gallium. The researchers built on their earlier studies on catalyst design, but this time they decided to try something new.

Each of these components was selected with a particular goal: the catalyst’s capacity to activate carbon dioxide and its selectivity to the desired reaction were improved by adding nickel and cobalt to platinum-tin alloys, which were already well-known to be effective for the reaction.

However, adding indium and gallium improved the catalyst’s stability at high temperatures. Finally, carbon dioxide capture and catalyst purging were simplified by the ceria support. The study group also established that the catalyst could be renewed and utilized again without losing effectiveness.

This work not only demonstrates the outstanding performance of our catalyst, but it also opens up a new window of catalyst design concepts based on our technique. The new catalyst outperforms our previous Pt-Co-In catalyst by a large margin. These insights will contribute to the carbon neutralization of the industrial production of small petrochemicals.

Shinya Furukawa, Associate Professor, Institute for Catalysis, Hokkaido University

The Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) CREST (JPMJCR17J3), JST PRESTO (JPMJPR19T7), and JST SPRING provided funding for this research. The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI (17H04965, 20H02517, and 22J11748) also provided assistance (JPMJSP2119).

The Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute (JASRI; 2021A1541, 2021A1571, 2021B1795, 2021B1962) gave their consent for the XAFS analysis to be carried out.

Journal Reference:

Xing, F., et al. (2022) High-entropy intermetallics on ceria as efficient catalysts for the oxidative dehydrogenation of propane using CO2. Nature Communications. doi:10.1038/s41467-022-32842-8.


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