(655f) Mechanism and Kinetics of Isobutene Production over Zirconia-Supported Zinc Oxides

Authors: 
Rorrer, J., University of California, Berkeley
Bell, A. T., University of California
Toste, D., UC Berkeley
Growing interest in utilizing biomass-derived platform chemicals to produce fuels and specialty chemicals has motivated the investigation of the reaction of ethanol or acetone to form isobutene, a valuable specialty chemical used in the production of fuel additives, polymers, and other high-value products. Reports in the literature have identified zinc-zirconium mixed oxides as effective and selective catalysts for the production of isobutene from ethanol at 723 K. In this investigation, zinc-zirconium mixed oxides prepared via incipient wetness impregnation were selective and highly active catalysts for the acetone to isobutene reaction, reaching near-theoretical isobutene selectivities of over 86%. The mechanism and kinetics of the acetone and ethanol to isobutene reactions were studied in order to elucidate the reaction pathway, the roles of active acidic and basic sites, and the role of water in promoting stability and selectivity. Zinc-zirconium mixed oxide catalysts with varying zinc loadings were synthesized and characterized with XRD, BET, CO2-TPD, and DRIFTS FTIR with pyridine adsorption. Kinetic studies suggested that the ethanol to isobutene reaction proceeds via dehydrogenation to acetaldehyde, followed by condensation to form acetic acid, aldol condensation to produce acetone, dimerization of acetone to form diacetone alcohol, dehydration to form mesityl oxide, then finally hydrolysis of mesityl oxide to produce isobutene and acetic acid, which undergoes further aldol condensation to produce acetone. Understanding the reaction pathway, mechanism, and roles of the acidic and basic sites can help to define the catalyst properties required to selectively produce isobutene from a variety of sustainably-derived platform molecules.