Researchers in the Pacific Northwest have developed a new catalyst material that could replace chemicals currently derived from petroleum and be the basis for more environmentally friendly products including octane-boosting gas and fuel additives, bio-based rubber for tires and a safer solvent for the chemicals industry.
Full citation for the paper: Junming Sun, Kake Zhu, Feng Gao, Chongmin Wang, Jun Liu, Charles H.F. Peden, Yong Wang, “Direct Conversion of Bio-ethanol to Isobutene on Nanosized ZnxZryOz Mixed Oxides with Balanced Acid-Base Sites”, Journal of the American Chemical Society, July 21, 2011, DOI 10.1021/ja204235v.
Abstract: We report the design and synthesis of nanosized ZnxZryOz mixed oxides for direct and high-yield conversion of bio-ethanol to isobutene (83%). ZnO is addded to ZrO2 to selectively passivate zirconia’s strong Lewis acidic sites and weaken Brnsted acidic sites, while simultaneously introducing basicity. As a result, the undesired reactions of bio-ethanol dehydration and acetone polymerization/coking are suppressed. Instead, a surface basic site-catalyzed ethanol dehydrogenation to acetaldehyde, acetaldehyde to acetone conversion via a complex pathway including aldol-condensation/dehydrogenation, and a Brnsted acidic site-catalyzed acetone-to-isobutene reaction pathway dominates on the nanosized ZnxZryOz mixed oxide catalyst, leading to a highly selective process for direct conversion of bio-ethanol to isobutene.