Interactions of biomass derived oxygenates with heterogeneous catalysts in aqueous and vacuum environments

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Copeland, John Robert
Sievers, Carsten
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Biomass is one of the most promising replacements for fossil fuels as a feedstock for chemical and transportation fuel production. The combination of low vapor pressure and high polarity of most biomass derived molecules makes water the ideal solvent for biomass upgrading reaction schemes. Metal oxide and metal oxide supported catalysts are heavily used in oil refining and petrochemical production, and are capable of upgrading biomass molecules as well. However, the surface chemistries that dictate the behavior of aqueous phase biomass upgrading reactions over metal oxide catalysts are not nearly as well understood as in the case of gas phase hydrocarbon refining systems. This dissertation aims to investigate the surface chemistries of biomass derived oxygenate molecules on metal oxide and metal oxide supported metal catalysts. There are three main objectives in this dissertation: to understand how two and three carbon polyols interact with metal oxide surfaces, to elucidate the role of various surface sites on polyol-metal oxide interactions, and to discover the surface species of kinetic importance in aqueous phase reforming reactions of biomass molecules. Transmission infrared spectroscopy and density functional theory modeling were the major techniques used to demonstrate that polyols with alcohol groups on the first and third carbons, 1,3-propanediol and glycerol, form a multidentate surface species with a bridging alkoxide bond and an acid/base interaction through their two primary alcohol groups with Lewis acid sites of g-Al₂O₃. These interactions occur in the presence of bulk water. Polyols with alcohol groups only on the first and second carbons, ethylene glycol and 1,2-propanediol, only formed alkoxy bonds with the g-Al₂O₃ surface when bulk water was not coadsorbed, and these bonds were removed by re-adsorbing water. Glycerol also forms the same surface species on other metal oxides with strong Lewis acidic character: TiO₂ anatase, ZrO₂, and CeO₂. Glycerol only forms hydrogen bonds with MgO, which lacks strongly Lewis acidic sites. Basic surface hydroxyls and surface oxygen atoms of the metal oxides only played a minor role in interacting with the adsorbed glycerol. In-situ attenuated total reflectance infrared spectroscopy demonstrated that the aqueous phase reforming of glycerol over a 5 wt% Pt on g-Al₂O₃ catalyst is hindered by residual platinum bound hydrogen or oxygen atoms from commonly utilized catalyst reduction or cleaning procedures, respectively. A pretreatment consisting of multiple iterations of dissolved oxygen, dissolved hydrogen, and dissolved helium in water flow periods provides the cleanest Pt surface for monitoring carbon monoxide formation dynamics, and allows for observing the rate limiting step of the aqueous phase reforming reactions water-gas shift removal of Pt bound carbon monoxide. The bridging bound carbon monoxide is preferentially removed over the linearly bound species via water gas shift reactions even at room temperature.
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