Researchers make new catalyst to transform propane into propene

May 7, 2014 By    

A new catalyst to transform propane into propene (propylene) was developed by researcher Adam Hock and his colleagues from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and Northwestern University, IIT announced.

Adam Hock

Headshot: Adam Hock

Propene, a crucial product for the petrochemical industry, is used to make plastics, packaging and other products. The catalysts currently used are very active for the production of propene, however they also produce methane and ethylene (smaller hydrocarbon fragments) through unwanted side reactions. Separating the desired products adds to the energy demand and cost of the propene production process, IIT says.

The new catalyst, a silica-supported single-site zinc (II) catalyst, is more selective for the desired propane-to-propene transformation, reducing waste, increasing efficiency, and potentially lowering production costs, IIT adds. Propane dehydrogenation (PDH) for propene production is used in the United States and worldwide, particularly in the Middle East, and many PDH plants are currently being built.

“Chemists have long sought to transform one substance into another; however, chemical transformations often result in mixtures of products,” says Hock. “This is especially true for difficult reactions that require the input of large amounts of energy because excess energy can cause side or subsequent reactions. Therefore, very selective catalysts for difficult reactions are highly sought-after.”

Hock and his team used isolated zinc atoms rather than the particles of metal typically used as the catalyst. Because the zinc atoms are isolated, they have a small number of available reaction pathways to follow and therefore are very selective for the removal of hydrogen from the short-chain alkane propane to yield propene and hydrogen.

The new catalyst Hock and his team developed is described in an article published in the scientific journal ACS Catalysis and is the subject of a patent application by IIT and ANL. The ACS Catalysis article is the first in a series that will explore these types of catalysts.

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1 Comment on "Researchers make new catalyst to transform propane into propene"

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  1. Quitterie says:

    Does this new catalyst use some Platinum Group Metals (Platinum, palladium, rhodium…)?

    Thank you.