EAGER:GOALI: Bulk Intermetallics with well-defined active sites for selectivity control in selective hydrogenations

Project: Research project

Project Details


This research project investigates a new class of heterogeneous catalysts for the selective hydrogenation reactions of light hydrocarbons to higher-value chemical intermediates of value to the petrochemical industry. Selectivity refers to the ability of a catalyst to favor one product over another when multiple products are possible. As such, it is possible to control selectivity by changing the surface composition of a catalyst. This research project investigates a class of inorganic solids, intermetallic compounds, that have ordered assemblies of small metal clusters of various size and composition. These intermetallic compounds have potential as highly selective catalysts for important hydrocarbon hydrogenation reactions. Computational studies and experiment studies are being combined to identify catalyst compositions that display both high catalytic activity and high selectivity toward the desired products.

Crystallographically well-defined intermetallic compounds are being utilized to understand the impact of catalytically-active metal atom nuclearity on catalytic selectivity. Intermetallic compounds are being synthesized with varying compositions across the gamma-brass phase to control both nuclearity and the number of clusters. Intermetallics of the form M-Zn (M = Pd, Cu and Ag) have been carefully chosen since they contain contiguous cluster sizes of catalytic metal from monomers to hexamers. M-Zn bulk intermetallics are being examined for partial hydrogenation reactions of mixed feedstocks (alkyne plus alkene and alkene plus aromatic). The results will demonstrate the impact of cluster size on catalyst selectivity. The results can be used to identify selective cluster sizes for hydrogenation that will then become targets for synthesis in a high surface area nanoparticle form. The study is being conducted in collaboration with an industrial partner (ExxonMobil) who provides access to synchrotron-based X-ray absorption catalyst characterization tools, while also delivering industrially-relevant guidance to the graduate students involved in the project.

Effective start/end date10/1/179/30/20


  • National Science Foundation: $234,211.00


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