(244a) Cu-CHA Materials For The Selective Catalytic Reduction Of NOx With NH3: Catalyst Structure/Function and Mechanistic Studies

Peden, C. H. F., Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Gao, F., Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Walter, E. D., Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Szanyi, J., Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Washton, N. M., Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) of NOx with ammonia using metal-exchanged molecular sieves with a Chabazite (CHA) structure has recently been commercialized on diesel vehicles [1-3]. Catalysts with outstanding SCR performance (activity, hydrothermal stability, etc.) include the aluminosilicate zeolite, SSZ-13, and the silico-alumino-phosphate, SAPO-34, with ion-exchanged Cu. Apart from the commercial success, detailed catalyst structures, reaction mechanisms, and structure-activity relationships are still lacking. We recently published the first open-literature paper [1] describing the comparative performance of a Cu-CHA (SSZ-13) catalyst relative to Cu-Beta and Cu-ZSM-5 for the SCR of NOx with NH3, particularly focusing on the activity and N2 selectivity. In this presentation, we will describe results of more recent studies of this and another CHA zeolite, SAPO-34, that address a number of additional aspects of the reactivity of these catalysts, as well as structural studies that account for the relative performance of these materials. We use a number of characterization methods including electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy, a technique ideally suited for studying Cu2+ exchanged zeolites, to study hydrated Cu-SSZ-13 catalysts at various Cu loadings in order to gain further insights into their locations. Also, NH3-SCR and NH3 oxidation kinetics are investigated over these catalysts at high space velocity conditions for the development of structure-activity relationships. The implications of these results for understanding the NH3SCR reaction mechanisms will also be discussed.


Na/SSZ-13 was synthesized using a procedure detailed in reference [2]. After exchange of Na+ for NH4+, aqueous CuSO4 solutions with varying concentrations were used to prepare Cu/SSZ-13 catalysts with Cu loadings. SAPO-34 substrates were synthesized hydrothermally using H3PO4, Al(OH)3, fumed SiO2, and with various structure directing agents (SDAs) including tetraethyl ammonium hydroxide (TEAOH), triethyl amine (TEA), diethyl amine (DEA), morpholine (MOR) and their mixtures. Cu incorporation to SAPO-34 was via solution ion exchange as just described, or via solid-state ion exchange, SSIE, where SAPO-34 substrates were thoroughly mixed with nanosized CuO particles and subsequently calcined at elevated temperatures (600-800ºC) for various periods (1-16 hrs). Reaction tests were performed using a plug-flow reactor and products were measured using an online FTIR detector. Catalysts were characterized with surface area/pore volume measurements, temperature programmed reduction (TPR), electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and chemisorption monitored with FTIR.

Results and Discussion

For EPR measurements on the Cu-SSZ-13 samples, low temperatures (~150K) were used in order to decrease Cu2+ ion mobility and allow only dipole-dipole interactions to be monitored. The results are consistent with an octahedral coordination of Cu2+ ions and the integrated signal areas are linearly dependent on IE levels further confirming that Cu in all samples are predominately EPR active Cu2+ monomers. The observed dipolar broadening in the spectra, can be used to estimate the fraction of the copper population that has a nearest neighbor within some distance range. This analysis gives three Cu-Cu distance groups, i.e. >20, 5-10 and 4-5 Å (none fell in the 10-20 Å range) as a function of Cu loading.  Along with TPR results, the EPR studies demonstrate the presence of Cu2+ ions in at least two locations within the SSZ‑13 zeolite cages. At low ion-exchange levels (e.g. IE 23%), Cu2+ ions are far apart suggesting one Cu2+ ion within one hexagonal unit cell, and coordinated with lattice oxygen atoms of the CHA zeolite 6-membered rings.  As the Cu loading increases, it is possible for two Cu2+ ions to reside in one unit cell. The estimated Cu-Cu distances from EPR, as well as TPR results suggest some Cu2+ions are located in the large CHA cages and close to 8-membered rings.

Standard NH3-SCR reaction kinetics were measured at high space velocities. Within the differential kinetic regime and in the absence of inter-particles diffusion limitations, NOx TOFs decrease with increasing Cu loading, indicating that the reaction kinetics are controlled by intra-particle diffusion limitations. Catalyst effectiveness factors are estimated using the Thiele relationship, yielding reasonable estimated effective diffusivities of the reactants by comparing to CH4diffusivities within 4A molecular sieves. These results suggest that for the CHA SCR system, both washcoat and pore diffusion limitations should be considered during practical applications.

For the much slower, non-selective NH3 oxidation, reaction rates increase with increasing Cu loading. This behavior is attributed to:  (1) weaker interaction between Cu ions and the zeolite framework at higher Cu loadings that allows more facile Cu2+ « Cu+ redox cycling thus facilitating NH3 oxidation; and (2)at higher Cu loadings, the catalytic centers are located closer to pore openings and, thus, more accessible to reactants. Even under differential reaction conditions free from inter-particle limitation, two kinetic regimes are found with dramatically different apparent activation energies below and above 523 K. This is due either to a change in the rate limiting mechanism or, alternatively, a change in the nature of the active site (e.g., coordination of the Cu ion catalytic centers).

Acknowledgement.  This work was supported by the U.S. DOE/EERE/Vehicle Technologies Office.


(1)  Kwak, J.H., Tonkyn, R.G., Kim, D.H., Szanyi, J., Peden, C.H.F.  J. Catal., 2010, 275, 187.

(2)  Fickel, D.W., Lobo, R.F. J. Phys. Chem. C, 2010, 114, 1633.

(3)  Schmieg, S.J., Oh, S.H., Kim, C.H., Brown, D.W., Lee, J.H., Peden, C.H.F., Kim, D.H. Catal. Today, 2012, 184, 252.